How to Layer for Skiing

It’s always a good idea to wash ski outerwear when dirt and oil is visible in the face fabric. Doing so doesn’t just keep your ski clothes looking new, but it also helps them maintain a high level of waterproof, breathable performance. Our How to Wash Ski Outerwear Guide details all the steps you can take to keep your gear performing its best.

Why Clean Outerwear Matters

More than just a matter of appearance and odor, washing and drying outerwear actually restores the waterproofing and breathability of your ski outerwear. That’s because dirt lodged within the fabric’s fibers, or the pores of the waterproof membrane, acts as a conduit for water to penetrate the protective layers. Removing this dirt will prevent water that lingers on the fabric surface from seeping inside layers.

Prepping to Wash

All fabric and insulation types call for different washing methods, so before tossing your ski jacket into the machine, call your local shop or visit the manufacturer’s website for detailed cleaning instructions. One constant to keep in mind is that commercial detergents—especially those in powder form—are never a good idea. These can clog up the pores of your outerwear’s membrane, compromise breathability, and further degrade its waterproofness.

The Federal Trade Commission even has specific symbols printed on garment tags for additional cleaning. The graphic below breaks down these symbols for easy reference.

Washing and Drying Ski Outerwear

Behind GORE-TEX is expanded-Polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE), a material that acts as a microporous membrane. When this membrane gets dirty, it gets clogged with dirt and oil that negatively impacts the membrane’s ability to breathe and protect against precipitation. ePTFE is an inert material. This means sending it through the washer on a standard warm water cycle will not harm it. The face fabric, which is typically made of nylon, can also be washed.

Drying the fabric actually rehabilitates the durable water-repellent (DWR) treatment.Tumble dry for 20 minutes to reactivate the DWR treatment on the outer fabric. After 5-10 cycles, the DWR treatment can no longer be reactivated. Manufacturers like Nikwax make water-repellent treatments that can be sprayed onto the garment’s outer fabric.

Nikwax makes a variety of wash-in products that help clean and waterproof jackets. Image courtesy of Nikwax.

Down Insulation

As usual, follow the wash instructions on the garment’s tag or manufacturer website. However, there are two critical pieces to remember when washing down insulation. 1.) You need to remove any soap residue, 2.) never use fabric softener, and 3.) never use a top-loading washing machine since the agitator can easily tear the face fabric. Use a cold water cycle and then run your garments through again without detergent to remove any leftover soap. To dry, use a low heat setting and toss in a few tennis balls to break up any clumps of feathers.

Synthetic Insulation

Synthetic insulated pieces ideally should be washed by hand. Never use a top-loading washing machine as the agitator can easily tear the face fabric. Use a cool water cycle with a synthetic-specific detergent like Woolite. When you move your garment to the dryer, it will be soaked and heavy. Dry on tumble and low with the tennis ball trick mentioned above. And check it often to ensure it isn’t overheating.

Merino Wool

Merino wool is naturally odor-resistant so it can go a little longer between washings. Your go-to detergent is fine (although a mild detergent is preferable), but wash in cold water, don’t use fabric softener, and always hang dry. Some manufacturers say it is ok to tumble dry low. But check your garment tag before tossing it into the dryer.


Stains are usually from greasy fingers or sunscreen. Dish soap like Dawn, dabbed on the garment and then washed in warm water, is most effective at removing a stain. Then reference the garment tag for washing steps.