This is a guest review from Alex D, winner of the Nikwax giveaway.
I started cycling regularly with an old mountain bike with flat pedals. I wasn’t fit for the bike and made the seat height adjustment to what felt “right.” Soon enough, I had discovered parts of my pelvic region I didn’t even know existed. As such, being on this journey, the next step was to get a pair of cycling shorts with a chamois. I found I was riding more on the street than dirt so I made the move to a road bike. This time, I went through a bike fit (in my padded shorts) and discovered clipless pedals, an amazing revelation in efficiency and power transfer! Soon I was happily pedaling my way everywhere which was great – until it started to get hot outside. I was riding in cotton socks, cycling shorts and whatever t-shirt was at hand. As those of you that have ridden in cotton are aware that, frankly, it sucks.
I discovered that wearing a cycling jersey allowed me to stay dry by wicking the sweat off of my skin which made riding much, much more enjoyable. Now these “technical garments” do require cleaning and as such I have evaluated a few Nikwax products.
First up is the Basewash, which is designed for cleaning synthetic base layers. The bottle is 10oz, which I report so that those frequent travelers among you will not be able to carry this product in your carry-on. Nikwax instructs the use of 2 capfuls of Basewash per load; by my math (and theirs) this is enough for 60 washes. The Basewash has an incredibly strong chemical smell. I am personally averse to smells, and as such only put 1 cap full in the first time I used it. I ended up using the Baswash on 2 jerseys, (1 made by V-Wear and 1 made by Primal) which I mention because the style of jersey is very different, one is more of a mesh while the other is more “solid”. I also washed 2 pairs of shorts, (1 made by Specialized and 1 by Primal) which are also different in material and chamois style. 3 pairs of socks were also washed, a thick pair from Specialized, a medium weight sock from Primal and an incredibly thin sock that I bought at the Philadelphia Gran Fondo last year.
After a wash and extra rinse, I hung the garments to dry for 3 days. After three days I noticed an incredibly strong chemical smell still present. I suited up in the V-Wear jersey, Specialized shorts and socks. On my way to the club ride (in the car) I noticed that my back was wet (leather seats) which I normally do not notice. I deemed the product a failure at that time. However, I was incredibly wrong. After my ride (96 degrees Fahrenheit) I was able to take my jersey off without a problem, I am usually tangled up and stuck in a wet jersey over my head after a ride. My jersey, shorts (including chamois) and socks were DRY as was I! The Basewash actually cleaned the material and improved wicking properties. Amazing! Despite the chemical smell, the product is awesome for its purpose.
Next up is Nikwax’s Tech Wash, (10 oz again) a product designed to clean and treat waterproof-yet-breathable outdoor textile garments. I do not own any cycling garments of this variety but I do own quite a few motorcycle jackets of this type. Now for those of you that do not know this, many waterproof-but-breathable materials work at their best when they are clean. Dirty garments have clogged pores which allow moisture to come trapped as well as water to penetrate. I have a motorcycle jacket from First Gear that has close to 60,000 miles on it and isn’t as semi-permeable as it used to be. Again, the Tech Wash has a smell similar to the Basewash and I followed the directions on the bottle. After a machine wash and air/drip dry, I tested the jacket out on a few rainy rides and through thick fog. Awesome. That’s the most appropriate adjective here. The jacket was good as new, no water penetration and zero clammy feeling inside either. The product works as advertised and I love it.
Third, we have the “Tent & Gear Solarproof” a product designed for tents and outdoor gear: rucksacks, fabric panniers, camera bags etc to prevent deterioration and fading from UV rays. Since I do not own a tent (I camp at The Holiday Inn, thankyouverymuch) I used it on a Bike Barn. My usual motorized transport is a World War II military motorcycle with a sidecar. My house does not have a garage and the homeowner’s association does not allow for the construct of garages. The Bike Barn is basically a tent for a motorcycle with a few air dryers/warmers inside. It is made of tent material over a galvanized frame. This product is not as easy to use as the previous two products in that it requires mixing: 2 parts product to 5 parts water. The chemical odor is present but since you’ll be doing this outside it isn’t too bad. I personally used a brush to apply the products and ended up using all 5 ounces of the product to cover the Bike Barn. The Bike Barn has stopped fading as fast as it had been; it was originally a dark gray color and lightened a bit. Since the application of this product, no further fading has been noticed.
Last up is the Wool Wash which is useful for wool garments – in my case, merino wool socks. The idea behind the Wool Wash is similar to the Basewash clean – restore and freshen up the garment. If you’ve worn merino wool socks or other wool base garments, you know that over time they’ll get kind of “unsoft” and will start to retain odors. The wool wash rectifies this. I believe that the Wool Wash is probably the best product on the market for this purpose and have not found any other products that can restore the “softness” of merino wool as well as the Wool Wash.
So bottom line, is Nikwax putting out a good product on the market? I believe so and will use Nikwax instead of my previous cleaning products. I do find the chemical odor a bit offensive, but the trade-off of great performing garments is well worth the smell. I look at it this way, you’ll buy an expensive pair of bibs, outdoor jacket or tent designed to withstand extreme weather; why wouldn’t you want to take care of that garment so it performs as well as it can? I do, and as such will use a cleaning treatment product designed solely for that purpose.