February 16, 2016

Is DWR as Dangerous as Scotchguard for Your Outerwear?

Interstate 5 in southern Oregon, with a sign reading "San Francisco."
When I was a college student — and for a while afterwards — I had this two-layer Egyptian cotton anorak — from REI, as I remember. It was a well-made garment in a sort of burnt-orange color.

I loved it. It was my magic hitch-hiking anorak. But it was cotton — and I lived then in the Pacific Northwest.

It had a waterproof coating, which wore out, so I think that I sprayed it with Scotchguard. Later we learned that Scotchguard was bad stuff to be around. (See comments.)

Now it is 2016, and there is a debate around another waterproofing compound for outdoor gear,  DWR, "Durable Waterproofing Repellent."

In this article at the Section Hiker blog, "Why Does DWR Suck?" Phillip Werner raises questios about both cost and health:
When water soaks into the fabric of a rain jacket, you can just forget about breathability. The system is a complete sham but people keep buying into it, including the need to reapply the DWR coating several times a year. It’s the hidden cost of owning a waterproof/breathable rain jacket: the need to keep buying Nikwax TX-Direct or Gear-Aid Revivex to repair the DWR when it wears out so the (really expensive) breathable fabric part of your jacket can work.
The debate continues in the comments.

Everyone is looking for the magic waterproof-but-light-and-breathable combination. I am glad that I live now in Colorado where rains rarely last all day, and I can put on a poncho (even a heavy old coated-nylon Army poncho) and then put it away again. What would I do if I still lived in Oregon?

2 comments:

Philip Werner said...

Scotchguard has voluntarily removed all the bad stuff. They did so before the outdoor industry. You can use it again.

Chas Clifton said...

You're right, Philip. The impetus was probably to keep the domestic market — advertising told you to spray all your upholstered furniture.

As for my cotton anorak, it has long since died of UV damage. :(