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Caring for your down sleeping bag

The change in seasons is not a reason to stop enjoying and experiencing the outdoors, or prevent you from undertaking a weekend camp or a challenging expedition. You just need the right gear and if you plan to be sleeping out under the stars then a quality down sleeping bag is definitely an essential item in the colder months.

Down is a great choice for sleeping bags as it provides lightweight yet effective insulation to keep you warm when you need it most. Warm air from your body heat gets trapped between the filaments of down, helping to keep you toasty! It’s also easier to transport than synthetic bags which are bulkier.

Depending upon your outdoor requirements, there are many types of down filled sleeping bags to choose from, with factors such as temperature rating, weight, design and size to take into consideration. By and large sleeping bags are categorised by Season Ratings – 1 to 4: with 1 being used generally in summer months with warm weather, 2 for late spring or early autumn, 3 for autumn and early winter with chilly nights, and finally 4, for extreme cold winter nights with chance of frost or snow.

Combine this with comfort ratings and you can start to find your perfect sleeping bag. Comfort ratings relate to the optimum temperature for you to feel warm and comfortable when sleeping, whilst the Extreme rating will be the limit the temperature of the bag will work to keep you alive without causing ailments; think climbing a mountain such as Everest, you would need a high extreme rating sleeping bag!

Recently introduced to the market is Nikwax Hydrophobic Down (NHD). This is the PFC-free, high performance water resistant down fill that you can now find in a number of sleeping bags and down apparel by Berghaus, Rab and Therm-a-rest, amongst others.


NHD uses a specialised environmentally friendly formulation which adds no weight to the down, but enhances the performance by absorbing 90% less water than regular (untreated) down, due to the water repellent treatment covering each individual down filament. This ensures that your down sleeping bag would stay dry and retain loft up to 60 times longer than standard non-treated down filled sleeping bags.

Once you have found what you consider is your perfect down filled sleeping bag you may face one more slight challenge – maintaining its performance. If a sleeping bag is filled with regular down you can quickly find that if it gets wet, you will be cold and uncomfortable, and be at risk if sleeping in very cold conditions. This is because down absorbs moisture, causing it to clump together, gain weight and rapidly reduce its loft and level of insulation. It will also take a long time to dry out. Down can be easily ruined if it’s not dried as quickly possible.

But don’t let this put you off owning a down sleeping bag, help is at hand, and with the correct aftercare you can enjoy your down items and keep them performing better, for longer.

Nikwax Down Wash Direct is a specially formulated cleaner for down filled items. Regular detergents can impair down – stripping it of its natural properties, whereas Down Wash Direct protects these. Follow our simple guide below to caring for your down sleeping bag:

1: Washing.
Sleeping bags are best hand-washed in a bath (or equivalent) but check the manufacturer’s aftercare recommendation on the label. Clean with Down Wash Direct – applying 150ml in medium/hard water areas, or 100ml in soft water areas. Before you wash the item, be sure to remove all excess loose mud or dirt and do up zips / close flaps.

2: Spinning.
After washing it is best to spin-dry the item multiple times, each time increasing the speed of the cycle. This will ensure the maximum amount of water will be expelled from the sleeping bag. As down gains weight when wet you could find by spinning the item too quickly it ruptures the internal baffles of the down.

3: Drying.
If the care label allows, tumble drying on a low setting is recommended as you want to dry the down as swiftly as possible. You can add drying balls (or tennis balls!) in to the drying process to help reduce any clumps gathering in the down fill. If tumble drying is not an option then place the sleeping bag flat on a drying rack in a warm, ventilated room, but regularly tease apart clumps to help restore the loft to the down fill. This way could take up to 24 hours to guarantee the down has dried completely. Once the item is dry it is best to leave it to air in a warm, dry space for at least a day before looking to store it away.

4: Storage.
Any down items should be stored loosely in a dry place. The compression sacks provided with sleeping bags are for use when carrying them but are not appropriate to store them in for a long period of time, as the compression will reduce the loft and subsequently its insulation.


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A personal letter from Nick Brown, founder of Nikwax, about PFC pollution, and Greenpeace

Dear Outdoor Enthusiast,

I am writing to you about something which I do not think has received enough attention in the UK, in the hope that you will help us to publicise it.

PFC pollution – Britain lags behind in awareness

Most people in Britain would have no idea what I am talking about, whereas in Germany, Central Europe and Scandinavia a group of chemicals called PFCs are often in the news.

In short, they are chemicals that combine Carbon and Fluorine and are widely used in the manufacture of Outdoor clothing. They are also used in food packaging, carpets and many household chemicals.

PFCs are persistent and incredibly toxic and Nikwax does not use them – why not?

In the year 2000 Nikwax was looking into using fluorocarbon, PFC water repellents. Around that time, 3M, at a stroke, decided to pull all of their PFC fluorocarbon water repellents off the market – this raised alarm bells. The main reason given at the time was that PFCs are persistent in the environment. This seemed to me to be good enough information to embargo them for Nikwax. However, as a company, we continued to be offered different versions of PFCs by chemical suppliers, with the promise that they were “perfectly safe”. We have continued to reject them for 15 years.

15 years later different variants of these PFC toxic chemicals are used by almost all manufacturers in the Outdoor Industry – and their use is still increasing – why?

PFCs are big business. And they are complicated. And they are invisible. And the same kinds of professional PR companies have been adopted to protect them as those which are used by the tobacco companies, to great effect.

Who is fighting against this PFC pollution? – Greenpeace have taken the lead

Greenpeace are an organisation which takes no money from business. Their goal is to protect the environment and us, and to take up battles against impossibly powerful organisations. Greenpeace have recognised that textile manufacture is creating terrible water pollution, including PFC pollution, throughout the world, and it is their intention to do something about it. To that end, they created their campaign Chemistry for any Weather.

Nikwax invited Greenpeace to speak to the Outdoor Press at the ISPO sport trade show in Munich in February

To make the Outdoor Industry more aware of the issue, Nikwax decided to give a talk at the recent ISPO sports trade fair in Munich, to explain the PFC issue in simple terms, and to invite along Greenpeace to speak about their campaigns. The fluorochemical industry has largely managed the issue by adding layer after layer of complexity. Our intention was to lay out the issues as simply and clearly as possible. To see me on the podium with the representatives from Greenpeace, go here!

Who does NOT use PFCs in Outdoor Clothing?

Almost no one. All of the major outdoor brands use PFCs. But, some outstanding companies like H&M have already taken the lead in terms of streetwear. In the UK, only one purely outdoor brand has controlled the exclusion of all PFC water repellents from their production, and that is Páramo. To find out which major brands are working with Greenpeace to remove PFCs, watch our video!

How long will it take to exclude PFCs from the whole Outdoor business?

That depends entirely upon you. At one level, business is a great democracy: you can vote with your wallet. Most serious outdoor companies now have a plan to try to remove some PFCs from their production by 2020. They recognise the problem, but in reality many are often hiding behind a smokescreen of “environmental labels” or statements like “PFOA-free” which do not mean PFC-free.

How do I know something is PFC-free? Does Bluesign mean PFC-free?

Bluesign most definitely does not mean PFC-free. The vast majority of Bluesign approved waterproof garments contain PFCs.

Demand PFC and fluorocarbon-free from your retailers and the business will change, and fast. You have the power, as consumers. But most of all, take your information from Greenpeace, and not from the PR statements and eco-labels which have been crafted by the PFC industry to protect textile companies.

Isn’t Nikwax just another chemical company – what gives YOU the authority to point the finger?

I believe that here is such a thing as responsible business, but only if business is held to account. As a businessman I can be a force for positive change.

However business cannot hold business to account. You cannot be poacher as well as gamekeeper. I recognise that we need independent campaigners like Greenpeace to force the issues, create the publicity, and drive the less responsible businesses towards a more positive environmental future. I do not agree with all of Greenpeace’s positions, but I thoroughly support their advocacy and campaigning. As a lonely voice in the Outdoor Industry on this issue I have often been drowned out by the bigger brands and accused of raising the issue for commercial reasons. That is not the case. At Nikwax we make millions of units of waterproofing. I believe that if I had gone down the PFC route 15 years ago, someone would have died by now from cancer as a consequence. It is not a responsibility I wanted to take. So I support Greenpeace in that they make it easier for all of us to do the right thing.

Please, pass the word and send this to your friends.



Nick Brown

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How to clean and waterproof your winter jacket

We often get asked how to use our products effectively. And while we love answering your questions, we thought it might be useful to create a ‘How To Use’ guide for two of our most popular products – Tech Wash and TX.Direct Wash-In.

Nikwax Tech Wash

  •  First, remove all detergent build-up from your detergent draw (regular detergent is water attracting so the draw must be cleaned out thoroughly)
  • For cost-effective cleaning, place up to two items in your washing machine
  • Add either 100ml of Tech Wash (soft water area) or 150ml (medium/hard water area) into your detergent tray, or in the drum with a Nikwax wash ball
  • Set your washing machine and wash according to the garment’s care label.

For those stubborn stains that just won’t come out, use Nikwax Tech Wash neat with a sponge or nylon brush and scrub lightly before cleaning with Tech Wash as normal.

 Nikwax TX.Direct Wash-In

  • As with Tech Wash, thoroughly clean your detergent draw
  • After cleaning with Tech Wash, add one or two items to your washing machine
  • Add 100ml of TX.Direct per item to your detergent tray or wash ball
  • Set your washing machine and wash according to the garment’s care label

And voila! Clean and waterproof garments with minimal hassle and great results.

Hopefully this will clear up some FAQs, but feel free to fire across any other question you have. Contact us by:

Twitter: @nikwax


Phone: 01892 768400


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Nikwax has today received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development. The award is the UK’s highest accolade for business success and celebrates the consistent development of products and approaches to management that are commercially successful and have major benefits for the environment, society and British economy.

If you’ve ever noticed your coat soaking up water in a rainstorm and you feel cold and clammy, you’re a potential Nikwax customer. Nikwax manufactures water-based waterproofing solutions that revive the waterproofing performance of outdoor clothing such as rain jackets and walking boots. Our products offer an easy way of restoring the performance of your rain jacket in a washing machine at home, by running a normal cycle and using Nikwax TX.Direct in place of washing powder.

In contrast to industry norm, Nikwax is the only established water proofing aftercare business in the world never to have used aerosols or perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). The whole Nikwax range is non-flammable and is free of the harmful raw materials commonly used in the waterproofing of outdoor clothing.

We have always identified environmental and social responsibility as a priority. From the company’s inception in 1977, Nikwax has been driven by the passion and commitment of founder and current Managing Director, Nick Brown, to protect our outdoor surroundings.

Nick said: “We must stop to think about the fuel we burn to arrive at our walk, the energy and materials consumed in the clothing used to protect us from the elements and the wear on the pathway.  We may be destroying the very hills that we care so much about. Restoring the waterproofing of your outdoor clothing is in itself a sustainable act; using far less energy and money than replacing equipment.”

You CAN lead with green

Nikwax has a stringent restricted chemicals policy that prohibits the use of flammable and aromatic solvents and potentially persistent materials – chemicals widely used by other companies producing water repellent treatments. We have continuously campaigned against the use of PFCs, knowing that these chemicals persist in the environment, can bioaccumulate and are linked to serious negative health impacts. PFCs have been linked to serious negative health impacts such as damage to the immune systems of children, compromised female fertility and an increased incidence of cancer. For more information on this please see our environmental pages here.

For over 35 years Nikwax has been developing alternative waterproofing solutions, and our products – such as market leading TX.Direct – have consistently been shown to outperform the competition, both practically and commercially. Nick’s determination to avoid aerosols could have posed a risk to the business at a time when going green was against the grain, but the challenge to produce innovative solutions has allowed Nikwax to constantly sit at the forefront of waterproofing technology.

To deliver sustainable processes, Nikwax harvests rainwater for use in the manufacture of our core products, has invested in a solar generation system that virtually provides the entire electrical usage of its main office unit, and is carbon balanced though the World Land Trust, matching all offsetting donations with an annual donation to preserve standing rainforest. Our waste reduction initiative has seen the company’s proportion of waste recycled go from 16% in 2006 to 71% in 2013, with a target this year of 80% and a five year goal to become waste and landfill free.

This award is testament to our continued commitment to sustainable development over many years, but for us it doesn’t stop there.

Nick said: “Taking the ethical route rather than the easy-money road is a difficult decision for some, but the minimising our environmental impact was always the way for me. I feel immense pride when I see our product on the high street and know they are going some way to preserving the environment around us – it’s a win for the customer and conservation.  The Queen’s Award is a great endorsement that says, yes, you’re doing alright, keep going”.


Photo: Nick Brown, Nikwax Managing Director

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Nikwax demonstrates that High Performance outerwear does not depend upon PFC technology

Nikwax Waterproofing has until now been best known as a world leader for its waterproofing aftercare products. However, Nikwax is now entering the international world of supplying PFC free water-repellent technology to manufacturers of outdoor clothing.

Nikwax is launching two new garment component products at ISPO 2014: Nikwax Hydrophobic Down, which is being built into Rab Down garments, and the Nikwax Analogy Waterproof System which is being used to construct Páramo waterproof clothing. Both products are completely PFC free, and both have been shown to function at a high level in extreme conditions. Continue reading Nikwax demonstrates that High Performance outerwear does not depend upon PFC technology