Have you ever washed your waders? If you never have, why haven’t you? Periodically washing your waders is a good way to extend the life of your waders, help maintain their water repellency, and prevent nasty stink accumulation. Thankfully, most stockingfoot waders these days are machine-washable. With some simple preparation steps, your waders will come out of the wash looking (and feeling) like new. There are many ways to wash your waders, but here’s how I like to do it:
1. Remove shoulder strap, belt, and close all zippers.
This will help prevent damaging the inside of the washing machine, and prevent the buckles from breaking. Set the shoulder straps and belt aside. Also remember to check any pockets on the waders for anything you’d rather not have go through the wash, such as: leader packets, fly boxes, tools, and so on.
2. Put waders into washing machine.
Set washing machine cycle setting to delicate cycle using cold water. Use a concentrated detergent specifically designed to clean waterproof breathable materials, such as Gore Tex. I like the Nikwax Tech Wash cleaner for this. DO NOT use your standard laundry detergent, as it can damage the wader material and waterproof coating on it. Add the concentrated cleaner to your washing machine’s detergent dispenser and start the washing cycle.
3. Drying the Waders
Once the washing cycle is complete, remove your waders and bring them either outside or over a bathtub. Turn the waders inside-out (there will be water inside the waders, hence doing this step outside or over a bathtub). Let the majority of the residual water drain out of them, then put them in the dryer. Set dryer cycle to delicates/low heat and start. Do not add fabric softener or dryer sheets.
**Optional Additional Step: If you notice the water hasn’t been beading off of the waders while you are using them, the factory waterproof coating (also known as D.W.R. coating) may be wearing off. This is normal wear-and-tear, but it’s easy to re-apply this coating. You can use a wash-in treatment after washing your waders, such as Nikwax TX.Direct Wash-In or spray-on application such as Nikwax TX.Direct Spray-On. I like the wash-in a bit more since it more evenly-distributes the water-repelling coating than the spray-on option, and it’s less messy. Skip this drying step if you are doing this optional step and follow treatment instructions on the bottle.
4. Hang Up Waders to Finish Drying
Now that the dryer has done its job drying out what is the actual inside of the waders, take the waders out of the dryer, turn them right side-out, and hang them up to finish drying. The exterior of the waters and neoprene booties will still be a little damp, but the inside will be sufficiently dry. In the dryness of the Denver area, the waders will finish drying naturally in about 30 seconds. Keep them hung up for about a day until they are completely dry to the touch and pack them back up. You now have squeaky clean, happy waders!
The expected disclaimer: These care tips are just my opinion after years of wearing and washing my waders. These tips may not be suitable for your waders and washing machine/dryer, and I take no responsibility for any damage done to anything while following these steps. If your waders, washing machine, dryer, and so on are damaged, that is completely on you. I won’t be reimbursing you or replacing anything if damage occurs. Always follow recommended care instructions that are usually found printed in your waders or provided by the wader manufacturer.