Outdoors is a great place to be regardless of the weather. The key ingredient that makes the difference between whether we huddle up inside on cold, windy or wet days or carry on with our outdoorsy plans, is the quality of our gear. Armed with insulated and/or waterproof coats, shoes, tents and sleeping bags, the outdoors is always accessible. New clothes and fabrics designed for the great outdoors generally have wax or sealant built in to them directly but over time and use this starts to fade. I am hesitant to replace them – our waterproof gear is some our least eco-friendly items and I’d like to extend their lives as long as possible.
Nikwax caught my eye for three reasons. First, it’s waterproofing and cleaning products have the potential to add a few more years to our current gear and secondly, it’s a waterbased product with no propellant gases and no fluorocarbons, making it a more eco-friendly choice and third – it’s affordable. We’re no experts, so we experimented with Nikwax on a range of older products – leather and Gore-Tex boots, a favourite old backpack that used to be waterproof and a few camping bits and pieces.
Price: ± From £2.99 upwards depending on which product and the size.
Nikwax was formed in 1977 when Nick Brown was dissatisfied with the commercial boot wax available and cooked up his own order on a Primus in an old tea urn. He got the formula perfect and the wax quickly became popular. In the early 80’s the company launched environmentally friendly options and due to their popularity, has switched their whole product line over to be environmentally friendly.
We tried out a range of Nikwax products – Down wash direct, Footwear cleaning gel, Down proof, Waterproof wax for leather, TX direct wash-in and tech wash. We couldn’t find a single piece of our outdoor kit that couldn’t be cleaned and waterproofed with this selection. It was easy to use and we opted for the hand washing route (machine washing is also an option). After a good rinse or scrub with Nikwax detergents, we then added the waterproofing.
The results were pretty good. The wash alone removed years of impacted dirt and grime, particularly from our hiking boots and we rediscovered what colour our shoes used to be. The waterproofing worked as well – we’ve used the products over the last few weeks on rainy days and everything remained dry. We even stuck a few things in the shower for a few minutes and the water just ran off, no leaks at all.
Environment & People
Companies that make waterproofing have gotten a reputation for using chemicals that, whilst enduring and keep the water out, aren’t good for the environment. Nikwax jumped on the environmental movement early on and it’s whole range is now water based. They also are aerosol free, not tested on animals and have been carbon neutral for 40 years and use guaranteed PFC free chemicals in the whole range. Nikwax also offer Safety data sheets on request and publish the ingredients in all their products.
Nikwax also make a regular donation with every product sold to the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme.
An outdoor coat that looses its waterproofing is likely to be far less useful and will need replacing much faster. Boots that let in water will need replacing. A tent that isn’t waterproof will need replacing. Reapplying waterproofing is an excellent way to extend the life of outdoor products, but if I’m going to keep things close to my skin or sleep inside it, I want it it to be as non-toxic as possible. Nikwax products range from £3-9 for a 300ml bottle, which we think is excellent value for money.
It’s a product with a high quality build, made ethically, sustainably and not just the range, but the company has an eco-friendly philosophy. For those interested in trying it, Nikwax also offer free samples of some of their products at nikwax.com. This requires you to fill in a quiz and they only offer one specific type of waterproofing at a time, but having spent time with a range of their products, all were of equal high quality. It is worth checking out if you’re considering waterproofing and are concerned about either allergies or chemical sensitivities, before investing in a range.
Some level dexterity and patience is required to apply Nikwax to items. It doesn’t require a great amount of skill, but it’s a small job and its success depends on not missing any bits which would then not be waterproof. We found that the simplest place to apply it manually was in the shower. The applied wax also takes several hours to dry in properly – this isn’t something to consider the night before you need freshly waterproofed boots!
Nikwax has made a range of detergents and waterproofing products that are not only environmentally responsible, but also easy to use, cost-effective and durable. It’s great credentials are added to the fact that both the detergent and waterproofing works incredibly well. We’ll keep walking on our Nikwax proofed shoes this summer and I am optimistic that come Autumn, our toes will remain dry and toasty warm. The detergent will definitely be pulled out regularly as well – it’s given our beloved old shoes, bags and camping gear a shine they hadn’t seen for years.
The review is based on the Nikwax range kindly provided by Nikwax. This article was first published on 7th April 2017.