Friday, November 07, 2008

Gear Wash from Nikwax

All these scientific fabrics and organic fiber blends now prevalent in our travel gear and clothing are a wonderful thing, except when it's time to wash them. At the two ends of the scale---hi-tech and organic---the laundry instructions go far beyond what's required with your usual wardrobe. You can't just drop those Gore-tex and bamboo items off at the back alley laundry shop in Cusco. If you're away from home, you'll probably need to hand-wash them in a sink.

Nikwax, the people best known for their waterproofing liquids, has put out a line of washing gels to meet the needs of these fabrics. As the clothing has gotten more specialized, so has the washing, apparently. There's a Base Wash for synthetic base layers like fleece, a Tech Wash for waterproof items, and Wool Wash for Merino and other natural fibers.

These come in a size small enough for travel, but unfortunately not quite small enough: each is 3.4 ounces and doesn't meet TSA limits for carry-on items. Be advised you need to use a lot of it too in some cases. With the recommended amount of 33ml for 1-2 items with the Tech Wash, you'll get exactly three uses out of the $5.95 container. For the Base Wash though, you only need 5ml.

I tried out my sample of Wool Wash on my Ex-Officio soy blend sweater, an item that comes with more care warnings than a newborn baby. The wash got the stink out, left the sweater feeling fresh, and seems to have preserved its fragile temperament. Since I couldn't remember when, if ever, I had washed my GoLite Ether wind jacket, I used that to try out the Tech Wash. The water in my sink looked like the Blue Lagoon in Iceland after it got going and it was a strange slick sensation. My jacket is now clean though and the waterproofing is intact.

I have no idea what's really in any of these gels since the ingredients listed all comprise 5% or less of the total. The packaging says "data sheets are available upon request," but that part of the website is blank. They don't use petroleum though and at least try to have a strong environmental ethos, so I'll willing to give Nikwax the benefit of the doubt.

While I wish the company had gone all the way and made these packages 3-ounce travel-friendly, I guess if you're geared up to go skiing or hike the Andes, you're probably packing more than a carry-on anyway.

See more about the products at the Nikwax site. The gels seem to just be trickling out there at retail, but search REI.com or Backcountry.com as they carry the larger sizes and will likely be stocking these soon.

1 comment:

Mikey B said...

Some TSA agents will cut you some slack with something 3.3 ounces, but that seems to be the limit of their stretch. I wouldn't risk trying to carry these on the plane. I've seen too many things like this get pulled and left on the counter. Seems dumb they didn't just make them 3 ounces since that's what's on the TSA 3-1-1 site.