How do I clean my raincoat?

With a good women's raincoat, you can survive a wet day in style. All that nasty weather can take its toll though, and your coat will need cleaning from time to time. Even walking along a rain-soaked sidewalk can result in kick-back crud on the back of your raincoat. How do you restore it to its rain-shielding luster? Some raingear has special needs when it comes to washing, and you might have to visit the dry cleaner. Here are a few helpful tips.

If your raincoat has a few surface stains, try wiping them off with a damp paper towel. A sponge soaked in water and vinegar works, too. For stubborn spots, or to clean around the seams and zippers, dip a toothbrush in soapy water and gently scrub them away.

Plastic raincoats, like the kind your kids probably wear, can also be cleaned with a soapy sponge. If the coat is really grimy, fill your sink with water, add half a cup of baking soda and let it soak for an hour or so. Finally, rinse it thoroughly.

Before tossing a raincoat in the washing machine, check (and follow!) the directions on its label. Certain jackets require special detergent that won't weaken the waterproof coating. Others can be cleaned like almost anything else in your closet.

Also, try not to wash your raincoat too often. If it doesn't look dirty or smell funky, hang it in the closet and wear it again. Repeated washings can weaken a coat's ability to keep you from getting drenched, so don't rush to clean it after every use.

Prep a washing machine-safe rain coat by zipping it up, fastening all the buttons and closing any Velcro openings to prevent damage. If you can use regular detergent to wash it, choose one made for delicate clothing that's bleach-free. However, don't use fabric softener, as it can damage a waterproof treatment.

Always clean your washing machine's detergent dispenser to remove old residue before putting in your raincoat. For a little padding, add a couple of towels to keep it safe during the spin cycle. Don't forget to review the user manual if you have a high-efficiency, top loader machine, as some models can't handle waterproof clothing.

Don't forget that mens rain jackets usually can't be ironed. High heat can destroy the coatings that keep you dry, and a plastic coat might turn into melted goo. Instead, put your coat on a hanger or let it lay flat to reduce wrinkling.

If that doesn't work, try placing a cotton press cloth over your jacket and then ironing it. You can also give it a few blasts of steam to remove deep-set creases, but never let the iron touch the jacket directly. Alternately, you can cover the coat with one of your bath towels instead, or you can even try blasting the wrinkles with a hair dryer set on low.

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