Can You Machine Wash a Waxed Jacket? [Explaining Care Instructions]

While waxed jackets are usually pretty sturdy, they’ll get dirty sooner or later, especially if you wear yours out often. But how do you clean a waxed jacket? Can you machine wash a waxed jacket?

No, you cannot machine wash a waxed jacket. Harsh machine wash cycles can ruin the outer oil or paraffin wax coating that gives the jacket its waterproofing characteristic. This is how you can properly care for a waxed jacket.

You can also have your waxed jacket cleaned by a professional. This is where you can learn more about having a professional clean your jacket.

In this article let’s take a closer look why you can’t machine wash a waxed jacket and discuss how to properly clean a waxed jacket.

Can You Wash a Waxed Jacket in the Washing Machine?

No, as we discussed above, you cannot machine wash a waxed jacket. The harsh wash cycles can damage the oil or paraffin wax coating that gives the jacket its waterproofing characteristic.

It is best to use a manual cleaning process, or have the jacket cleaned by a professional. This is how you can have a professional clean your jacket.

Why Can’t You Machine Wash a Waxed Jacket?

It would be wildly convenient to just throw your waxed jacket into the washing machine with the rest of the load and call it a day, but that’s not possible.

From the origins of waxed fabrics in 1795, the main material, coatings, and processing techniques changed over time. However, one thing remains constant: the outer oil or paraffin wax coat is susceptible to harsh cleaning.

How Does Machine Washing Damage Waxed Jackets?

If you’re wondering what’s the worst that could happen if you machine wash your jacket, take a look at two possible risks:

The Waxed Jacket Will Lose Its Functionality

Stripping the wax out of the jacket with detergent means it’ll no longer be waterproof or windproof, which can greatly affect the functionality and warmth of a wax jacket.

Sure, you can re-wax it yourself later, but odds are, it won’t be as repellent as it once was. Remember that the waxing is impregnated into the cotton, not just coating the surface layer.

Keep in mind that if your washing cycle uses hot water, the results will be even worse since it’ll speed up the melting process. Plus, the fabric itself might shrink, too!

The Waxed Jacket Will Look Stonewashed

Asides from losing its waterproofing character, you might also lose the aesthetic aspect of the jacket.

That happens because the detergent and hot water break the bonds between the fabric and the wax. Then, when the material gets a chance to cool down, the wax re-settles on the surface unevenly, giving the impression that it was stonewashed.

In some cases, using an iron and parchment paper can make it look slightly better, but it won’t get back to its original state. Either way, that’s not a risk you want to take, especially with costly jackets.

How Do You Properly Care for a Waxed Jacket at Home?

So, machine washing a waxed jacket is a no-go, but how can you actually clean them at home?

Thankfully, the primary maintenance process is a once-a-year kind of thing, and here’s how you do it:

1.   Start With a Dry Wipe

Start by wiping the jacket with a dry cloth. It might not sound like much, but you always want to opt for the least harsh treatment possible. So, if wiping it removes enough dirt, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle!

2.   Rinse With Cold Water Only

While you can’t get soap on the fabric, cold water is fine—it’s been waterproofed, after all.

You can either hose it down, hang it in your shower, or go at it slowly with a spray bottle. They’re all valid options if you avoid hot water and detergent.

3.   Tackle the Stains With Spot Cleaning

Now that your jacket is all rinsed, it should be easier to spot any stubborn stains that need a little more elbow grease.

To stay on the safe side and avoid over-scrubbing, look for the softest brush you can get your hands on. Alternatively, a microfiber cloth or a damp sponge will do the job.

4.   Let It Air Dry

Once you’re happy with the cleaning job, you can let the waxed jacket dry in a drafty room before you move on to the re-waxing step.

Some people like to speed up the process with a hair dryer. If you use it, keep it on a low-heat setting.

5.   Rewax the Top Layers

Rewaxing is arguably the most challenging step, but it’s crucial for maintaining the material. Even if you haven’t cleaned your jacket, you can test its water resistance to check if it needs reproofing.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Order a wax can from the jacket’s manufacturer or get a fabric wax bar.
  • If you’re using a can, grab a lint-free cloth.
  • If you live somewhere cold, you might need to warm up the wax a bit before applying it to the jacket, but don’t get too hot or runny. Ideally, it should be just soft enough to spread evenly over the fabric.
  • Get to all the nooks and crannies of the jacket. If you leave behind exposed spots, you’ll end up with leaks. It’s tedious, but it’ll be worth it!
  • Once you’re all done, go over the whole thing with a clean cloth to get rid of any excesses.
  • Of course, even after wiping it down, you’ll have to let it sit for at least 24 hours before you can actually wear it.

6.   Freshen up the Odor

If you can still detect unpleasant smells from the waxed jacket, there are a few tricks to try.

For one, you can sprinkle some baking soda on the spots with the intense odors, especially the lining on the underarms. On the other hand, fabric freshers are always a possible fix.

7.   Hang It for the Upcoming Season

Use a plastic hanger to protect the jacket from snags and bend marks. Folding it up and storing it in sealable bags is also a valid option, as long as you dry it completely first.

Can a Waxed Jacket Be Professionally Cleaned?

You can definitely take your jacket to be cleaned by a professional service. In fact, that’s a widespread choice for people who don’t have enough experience and don’t want to risk it.

A skilled cleaner can help you with:

  • Tackling difficult stains and lingering aromas
  • Annual reproofing sessions for expensive jackets
  • Finding the perfect waxing material for each brand
  • Fixing severe signs of wear and tear, like rips and holes

Can you Dry Clean a Waxed Jacket?

No, you cannot dry clean a waxed jacket. The dry cleaning process can damage the jacket. There are, however, some local dry cleaners that will also clean waxed jackets through a separate cleaning process.

If you are looking for a professional to clean you waxed jacket, it is probably best to reach out to local cleaners and ask them if they have a special cleaning process for waxed jackets.

Depending on who made your jacket, you may be able to send it off to that company for cleaning and repair. You also may be able to send it off to a professional re-proofing company which specializes in waxed jackets (click here for example).

To read more, visit my article that discusses dry cleaning wax jackets.

Paul Johnson

Paul is a lead content creator for Workwear Command. He has had several blue-collar jobs which have provided him a wide range of experience with tools and gear. He also has a business degree and has spent time in business casual office settings.

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