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Keeping your shoes clean, it’s easier than you might think!

Now, I’m not one to normally clean my shoes with regularity, however, not too long ago I acquired a pair of super cool 5.10 approach/ parkour shoes. I’m no parkour aficionado, but I do get out to climb a bit, so I was psyched for some new kicks. The downside was that these shoes were white, meaning they would stay white for about 5 minutes after I took them out of the box. Sure enough, after an outing or two, they were downright filthy.

My awesome 5.10 kicks, while a stylish white, turned a dirty grey brown.

In order to bring my shoes back to a state that would at least be appropriate for frequenting a dive bar, I turned to my Nikwax arsenal to get them clean. In order to prepare for the overhaul, I removed the laces and insoles in order to get better access to all parts of the shoe. Good thing too, as you can see the tongue was particularly filthy.

removing the laces makes the shoes easier to clean

Remove the laces and insoles.

The next step was to get the shoes good and wet- like wetting your hands before soaping them up.

wetting your shoes help the cleaning gel to work properly

Get those shoes good and wet!

Then, I grabbed Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel and went to town.

Great for all types of footwear!

Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel to the rescue!

I scrubbed like a mad person.

Footwear Cleaning Gel gets sudsy!

Scrub your shoes!

Then, I rinsed off the Cleaning Gel suds. I was amazed at how much cleaner they were!

Rinse all the soap off

Sparkly!

Now, these shoes will never be waterproof. As you can see, they have holes all over them and there is no Gore-Tex membrane either. However, in order to help prevent further dirt and mud from corrupting my shoes, I thought, “it couldn’t hurt”! So I grabbed a bottle of Nikwax Nubuck & Suede Proof Spray-On (as the shoes are of the textured leather persuasion). I sprayed the shoes thoroughly and evenly.

Nubuck and Suede Proof waterproofing

I used the spray-on version.

Then, I set the shoes on a protected surface so they could dry. I also put some paper towel (newspaper works too) inside them in order to help them dry faster and soak up any water that got inside. You never want to accelerate the drying of your shoes with heat, as it can damage the uppers, as well as compromise any glued parts.

Dry your shoes with paper towel or newspaper in them

Drying time!

After a couple minutes I checked on them and removed any excess (pooling, etc.).

Make sure to remove all excess product

Dab to remove excess.

I let them dry over night. the next day gave them a little spritz to check the water repellency- They look great!

waterproof suede

Look at that beading action!

Now to go get them filthy again!

Climbing a dog and a beer

Ready for action!

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The Nikwax Spring Break Checklist

2palmsIt’s that time of year again: spring break! After drifting drearily through the murky winter months, it’s finally time to get out and go somewhere exciting. You know you want spring adventure, but where to go? Head to the mountains for some spring snow? Catch surf and sun in some tropical country? Wherever it is that you decide to go, we’ve got your gear covered. Here’s our handy checklist to help you prep for your trip:

 Mountain adventures:

  • Re-waterproof your ski skins. You won’t know your skins need this until they fail. Hit ‘em up proactively.
  • Substitute your big, insulated ski jacket with a shell and a light insulated layer for layering versatility. Wash both in Tech Wash to get ahead of the game.
  •  Consider wool for your base layers in the volatile spring weather. Wool is an effective thermo-regulator, keeping you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold. Plus, since warmer springtime temps mean more sweat, wool is naturally anti-bacterial and won’t stink as much as synthetics. Bonus: Nikwax has a special Wool Wash that will preserve all of these awesome qualities.

 Tropical adventures:

  • Pack enough sunscreen to cover every inch of your lilywhite body. While you’re at it, find your sunglasses and a sun hat. Your eyes and head need as much protection from the sun as the rest of your body.
  •  Go get yourself an ENO Hammock. These super packable little hammocks hang very nicely between two palm trees.
  • Bring a tube of Nikwax BaseWash Travel Gel. It’s packaged to be TSA compliant, and it will come in handy to keep swimsuits, swim trunks, and your other travel clothes from smelling sour. Bonus: no washing machine needed! With the travel gel, you can do your wash in the sink.

General camping and biking adventures:

  • Set up your tent BEFORE you go. Did you lose some stakes? Snap a tent pole? Pack the rainfly when it was wet? Figure it out before you’re racing against nighttime and an incoming storm. While you have that tent up, consider spraying it with Tent & Gear SolarProof. We know you aren’t praying for rain on your vacay, but it never hurts to be prepared for it.
  • Air out your sleeping bags. Though it’s recommended that you store down bags by hanging them up in the open air, who has that kind of space? Pull them out and shake lightly to loft the down. If needed, wash them with Down Wash and Down Proof. The combo will add loft and water repellency, and leave your bag smelling sweet after a winter of exile.
  • If cycling is on the agenda, it’s time for a tune-up. If you rely on professionals for regular maintenance, hit them up before the spring break rush.
  •  They call it “mud season” for a reason. Even if you’ll be exploring a relatively dry area, the shaded areas will likely still have some snow or mud. Waterproof your shoes and boots now, so spring break happy hour can legitimately live up to its name.

Like the wise Helen Keller once quoted, “Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” Now get out there and have some fun, you crazy kids!


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Nikwax Guide to Giving Gifts that Keep on Giving

Christmaspresents

In terms of gift-giving, what is important this holiday season is giving your beloved family something they’ll love and that will last. The best gifts have a personal, perhaps even hidden, meaning that take the art of giving to inspired levels. And we’ve got a few thoughtful gift ideas that will leave those on your list feeling merry and bright! 

For: Your mom who is always cold

Gift: Merino wool sweater

Stocking stuffer accompaniment for longevity: Nikwax Wool Wash

Brownie Points: 10 of 10

Wool hasn’t experienced this level of popularity since the Shackleton era. It’s not the cycles of fashion. It’s because wool is nature’s star performer and top of the line Merino wool apparel companies are sticklers for quality. The soft hand, the sleek silhouette and the incomparable warmth will earn you an extra slice of pie, if not a larger slice of the inheritance.

For: Your dad who complains about the thermostat being too high

Gift: A lightweight, stretch fleece

Stocking stuffer accompaniment for longevity: Nikwax Polar Proof

Brownie Points: 8 of 10 from Dad and 10 of 10 from Mom

Let’s face it. As a gross generalization, dads don’t get overly excited about clothes. Just explain that this comfy piece of Americana will go directly from his morning jog, to watching football on the couch, to working on his pet project in the backyard. One-stop dressing=brilliant! Bonus: Mom’s Merino wool get-up is bound to be warmer than Dad’s lightweight fleece, thereby solving the age-old argument of where to keep the indoor temperature. You’ve saved Christmas and a marriage. Well done, you!

For: Your recent college graduate sister who is moving to a resort town for “just one year” while she finds herself

Gift: A down puffy jacket

Stocking stuffer accompaniment: Nikwax Down Wash and Down Proof

Brownie Points: 10 of 10… eventually

She doesn’t know this yet, but no one escapes the siren song of a resort town in “just one year.” She also doesn’t realize that her rent and heating bills will be exorbitant, even after splitting them evenly among her five roommates. Nor has it settled in that her down jacket will be her go-to layer every day this winter. It may take her some time to accept these realities, but she’ll thank you eventually.

For: The annoying uncle who snorts with laughter over the humiliating stories of you as an awkward pre-teen

Gift: Nikwax Rug Proof

Stocking stuffer accompaniment: Nothing! He’s lucky you kept him on your list in the first place.

Brownie Points: Depends how earnestly you can deliver the present

You’ll say it’s for protecting the horse blankets at the thoroughbred stables he bought for your bratty, spoiled cousin. But we all know it’s for that rat-tastic toupee he sports with no sense of irony or dignity.

Editor’s Note: Nikwax neither recommends nor condones use of Rug Proof as a toupee cleaner. 


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Soft Shell 101

softshell_blog1

In the late 1990’s, soft shell (also spelled “softshell”) outerwear hit the marketplace with a bang. Almost overnight, the stretchy fabric became the telltale mark of “serious” outdoorspeople. Soft shells continue to excel as a go-to piece for outdoor play. Today we present: everything you’ve always wanted to know about soft shell fabrics…

1. What exactly is a “soft shell” anyway?

Any synthetic outerwear with stretch, moderate water- and wind-resistance, and high breathability can be considered a soft shell. As fabric technology evolves, the line between hard shell and soft shell gets murkier. Today, there are hard shells that feel a bit like traditional soft shells with high breathability and stretch. There are also membrane soft shells, which will feel like a hard shell with a bit more stretch.

Recognizable ingredient brand names: Polartec, Shoeller and Gore-Tex Soft Shell, plus many branded options from manufacturers.

2. What are the pros and cons soft shells?

  • Pros
    • Breathability. Soft shells provide plenty of protection from (most of) the elements with greater breathability than hard shells. Excellent for aerobic activities like running and ski touring.
    • Stretch. When you need to have greater freedom of movement, such as with climbing or Nordic skiing, added stretch is a huge bonus.
    • Warmth. Soft shells are not sold as insulators, per se, but in moderate temperatures one soft shell can do the job of a hard shell and a fleece combo.
  • Cons
    • Resistance. Soft shells can be slightly less wind and water resistant than hard shells.
    • Weight. If you require super light gear for your latest epic, soft shells generally aren’t as light as hard shells.

3. Do soft shells require special care?

Nothing beyond proper cleaning and occasional waterproofing! The vast majority of soft shells can and should be washed in the home washing machine (always double check the label). Wash with Nikwax Tech Wash – alone or with other gear for which Tech Wash is appropriate. As needed, do a secondary wash with Nikwax SoftShell Proof to revive your soft shell’s water-resistance back to original levels.

4. Do I need soft shell gear?

If you can answer yes to either of the following questions it may be time to add soft shell gear to your performance wardrobe.

  • Do I participate in sports where I’m likely to sweat a lot?
  • When I’m outside, is it usually snowy or clear, as opposed to rainy or sleety?

Here’s to fun, warm, safe and dry outdoor play!


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Attack of the killer detergent: The Nikwax Difference

killer-detergent

It begins innocently enough. First, you figure what harm could it possibly do? I’ll wash my jacket just this once with my regular laundry detergent. Before long, that harmless “regular” laundry detergent has become a gateway to the serious stuff: fabric softeners, boosters, oxidizers…

And your outdoor excursions become significantly less comfortable.

We’re not out to bash grocery store detergents. They are effective cleaners for a good majority of our clothes, just not our performance gear.

Think of it this way: You don’t buy a $200,000 Ferrari for use as a family truckster. You buy it for performance. It follows that you wouldn’t toss 200-Gs on a car and fill it up with regular gas that’s designed for a Ford Fiesta. You maintain the Ferrari with premium gas and oil that will keep it performing as it’s designed to perform.

Let’s bring that example a little closer to home. The average cost for a high performance, all-weather jacket is about $400. Washing it with detergent equates to diminishing returns on your investment with every rinse and spin cycle. The basis of all of this boils down to the chemistry of soaps and detergents.

Gettin’ down with chemistry

Believe it or not, but the first barrier to cleaning any garment is water. Specifically it’s the surface tension of water. When left to its own devices, water prefers to stick together by forming droplets. Good when you’re outside in a storm. Bad when you’re trying to clean your jacket.

To remove the oils, sweat, dirt and grime that inhibit our gear’s performance, we need a cleaner of some sort. Water alone will not cut the mustard. Literally.

That leaves two options: a soap (such as Nikwax products) or a detergent (typical grocery store brands laundry cleaners). Soaps are derived from botanical oils or animal fats. Detergents are derived from synthetic or petroleum-based oils. They both work to break down the surface tension of water so the cleaners can connect with the dirt and oils on the fabrics.

You can see where this is leading, right? A life of confusion.

Soaps and detergents each have molecules that are amphiphilic – having both hydrophilic (water-loving) and hydrophobic (water-hating) ends. One side distracts the water by breaking down its surface tension, while the other side makes a pass at the oils the water won’t associate with.

As the hydrophobic side of the cleaner (chemical energy) dances with the oils, the warmth of the water (thermal energy) and the agitation of washing machine (mechanical energy) helps to break down and separate the mess.

At this stage it may seem like the only advantage soap has over detergent is the “natural” derivation.

Just wait. There’s more.

Along comes the rinse cycle

Remember how the molecules of both soaps and detergents have hydrophilic and hydrophobic sides? No big deal if you’re washing a cotton T-shirt. But if you’re washing a $400 jacket, you want that puppy to exit the washing machine with a serious case of hydrophobia.

This is where Nikwax cleaners excel.

Conventional laundry detergents can leave behind hydrophilic (umm… water-loving) residue, which counters the performance of the durable water repellency (DWR). Nikwax soap-based cleaners do not.

Nikwax cleaners are specially formulated for the different types of fabrics they treat. In the case of waterproof/breathable fabrics, like Gore-Tex, Nikwax Tech Wash is a soap-based cleaner that will not leave behind hydrophilic residue.

Since Nikwax does not leave that residue, it will not impede your jacket’s water-repelling performance. Great, right?

We think so.

Bottom line

With your safety and comfort on the line, not to mention the notable economic investment of your outdoor apparel, it is worth the effort to wash your jacket with Nikwax. This guarantees not only a clean piece of gear, but also additional protection and enhanced performance. And who can argue with that?


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The Fine Art of Tailgating

tailgate

The ball crosses into the End Zone. High fives and cheers surround you. Someone picks you up and raises you over the crowd. A cooler full of Gatorade pours down over your head.

Wait a minute.

That’s not Gatorade. You didn’t score the winning touchdown. You’re in the parking lot listening to the big game on the radio with the rest of your fellow coeds who would rather save money for tuition, books or a ski pass.

And don’t fool yourself; that was a can of PBR your buddy shook over your head. Just because you’re not throwing down for tickets at the fifty-yard line, doesn’t mean you’re not going to tailgate with the best of ‘em.

This. Is. College.

Tailgating is an art, albeit an interpretative one. There are a few non-negotiables: a cooler, a barbeque within a three-car range, some body paint, beer (or sodas, naturally, for the parents who are reading) and a die-hard attitude. Tailgaters don’t give up if sun beats down. Tailgaters don’t run for cover when the skies open up. You are a tenacious breed; you are a fan.

For ice, go cubes only, no blocks. The barbeque? Charcoal hibachi all the way. Body paint is up to you, but please remember photos on the Internet are forever.

Where does Nikwax come into the ritual?

Nikwax gives you the confidence of knowing that you’ll be dry and comfortable regardless of what the skies serve up. Whether you show up to campus with the swankiest waterproof/breathable jacket, or you pack your trusty fleece pullover that’s been with you since your Sweet 16. We’ve got you covered.

Since you’re in the mode, here’s a pop quiz:

1. What Nikwax product should you use to waterproof your outerwear?

a)    TX.Direct, for waterproof/breathable fabrics and synthetics

b)    Down Proof, for down jackets and vests

c)    Softshell Proof, for… use your applied logic

d)    Cotton Proof, to add oomph to a fabric not known for it’s water-beading ability

e)    Polar Proof, for fleece

f)      All of the above

2. Is applying Nikwax as easy as running a cycle in the dorm washing machine?

a)    Yes.

b)    No

Answers:

1.    F

2.    A

Let’s hope that’s not a duplicate to your first semester grades.

You are now tested, proven and ready, uber fan! Waterproofing for game day may mean protecting your outerwear for more than inclement weather. We’re just sayin’.

So save money, be confident and suit up. There’s a game going on and a bratwurst with your name on it. Get out there and have fun. Your team needs you to be worry-free, come rain, snow or carbonated adult beverage.


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True confessions: we’ve neglected our gear, too

Just like "Old Yellow," this faithful jacket was abused and forgotten—for a while. Fortunately, we salvaged it before it crawled into the dumpster.

Just like “Old Yellow,” this faithful jacket was abused and forgotten—for a while. Fortunately, we salvaged it before it crawled into the dumpster.

The smell was ungodly. Every time I cracked open my dry bag, the stench brought tears of disgust and pain to my eyes. At first, the smell just made me feel a little dirty – nothing over the top.

It wasn’t until Day 13 of a 16-day mid-August Grand Canyon river trip that I realized the bag had taken on a life of its own. This odor was different. It wasn’t just unpleasant; it was downright rancid. While I recognized something was amiss, I ignored the warning signs. But on that fateful day, the sky opened up and the first rain shower we’d had since the put-in sent us scattering to grab rain gear.

I excavated my cherished lemon yellow raincoat from the offending bag.

Some background: I had coveted this coat since childhood. It was a classic happy yellow, just what the Morton salt girl would wear if she were a Gore-Tex junkie. This coat was my partner. One time, its near-neon yellow visibility saved a group of 30 tourists from careening off a cliff on fog-encased glacier in Switzerland. True story. It held up on a backpacking trip to hell and back. It was neither flattering, nor stylish, but I loved this raincoat with all my heart.

As the rain pummeled us, I slipped it on without a care, though I couldn’t help gagging on the smell.

“Dummy,” I thought to myself. “You put a damp coat into a compressed dry bag for 13 days in 100-degree heat. It’s molded and ruined!” It was moldy, alright, but this mold had nothing to do with being put away wet.

This mold was the result of absolute neglect: a slice of cheese and a dry bag warming to incomprehensible heat in the hot Arizona sun.

You see, the night before the put-in on a raft trip is always hectic event, especially in the rain. You’ve been planning the trip for ages and you’re jockeying to rig boats. When I picked up the cheese slice that someone dropped, I threw it in my pocket… until I could make my way to the garbage cans. At least that was the plan.

I’ve not researched the full catalog of fibers cheese mold can adhere to and successfully colonize, but I can now say with confidence that waterproof/durable, lemon yellow raincoat fiber is one. In the petri dish of a rubber dry bag, heated to a consistency far above average body temperature for a fortnight, that mold will not only survive, it will flourish.

Too mortified to tell anyone that I’d been conducting inadvertent chemical experiments the entirety of our trip, I stealthily pushed my raincoat into a plastic trash bag and rode out the remaining three days of the trip with a lingering odor that people noticed but were too kind to mention.

Back at home, there were only two options for Old Yellow: the trashcan or the washing machine. First, I turned the jet hose on it. The stink was stronger than my will.

As a last ditch effort, I threw it the washing machine and poured in some Tech Wash, as that was my habit. Had I stopped to think about it, I would have poured in the most toxic stink-fighter I could find. Instead, I berated myself for “wasting” the Tech Wash.

One wash with Tech Wash gave me hope. We weren’t in the clear, but you had to bury your nose in the jacket in order to smell the cheesy aftereffects. The second wash brought the world back into equilibrium: zero stink and no evidence of mold. The third wash was really just a hopeful attempt to erase the mold hangover in my mind.

Six years later and I’m proud the say my yellow raincoat is still with me and performing like a champion. I may have put her through the ringer, but sweet redemption is ours from the Great Grand Canyon Cheese Episode. —Brook Sutton