GORE-TEX® – The membrane that changed the world
The idea is incredibly simple but, as so often, the devil is in the detail. The famous GORE-TEX® membrane, the heart of all GORE-TEX® garments, is an extremely thin layer of stretched polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE). It has an unbelievable number of pores: more than 1.4 billion pores per square centimetre structure the surface. They are too small for water to penetrate but large enough to allow water molecules to evaporate from the inside. It is these pores that provide GORE-TEX® material with its special properties.
The structure of the GORE-TEX membrane is similar to that of a hedge. The wind is caught up entirely in the branching and thus averted from the body. This way, GORE-TEX® offers optimum breathability while remaining waterproof and windproof for reliable weather protection and maximum comfort in a wide range of activities.
Body climate is key
You could, of course, also protect yourself against water by using a simple plastic film. But what you would experience in this case is like rain from the inside. The moisture released by the skin has no chance to escape, sweat accumulates. The more strenuous the activity, the more so. And that's exactly what GORE-TEX® prevents. Moisture is removed, no cold-causing humidity accumulates. It maintains a pleasant body climate even under extreme conditions. This is the only way an athlete can continue to perform. The material allows moisture to escape and keeps the body dry. This ensures cooling during exercise and keeps you comfortably warm during breaks.
GORE-TEX® – naturally windproof!
Alongside waterproofing, wind protection is the decisive factor. The wind chill effect exhausts your body as a result of cold air blowing away the warming air layers close to your skin. This does, of course, result in a loss of energy which is intensified by the fact that evaporation is accelerated. This cooling down effect may be welcome when the weather is warm but it will make you freeze when it isn‘t. Not only cyclists but all outdoor athletes are affected by these adverse effects of wind.
The development of waterproof and windproof breathability
To use the GORE-TEX® membrane in the manufacture of textiles, it must be firmly bonded to a high performance inner layer and outer material. The combination of membrane and backing material is called GORE-TEX® laminate. Its structure can vary depending on the application. Different textiles and construction methods include laminates with and without insulation, 2-layer, 3-layer, and Z-liner options.
But there’s still something missing which can have a big effect on the waterproofness of a garment: seams. They’re naturally weak points because, to put it bluntly, they cause holes in the textile. The membrane is powerless here. Every stitch of a seam represents a potential leak. This is why the so-called GORE-SEAM® tape is used for maximum waterproofing. Every seam of a garment, glove or shoe equipped with GORE-TEX® is sealed by specially trained manufacturers in certified factories with a patented Gore machine – and is therefore permanently waterproof.
Waterproof and yet DWR?
However, the outer textile is not waterproof in itself. This is why it often features a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment in order to absorb as little water as possible. If the upper material lying over the GORE-TEX® membrane is "soaked", i.e. by absorbing moisture, you will have a damp feeling. It looks as if the clothing was wet, as i fit were leaking – but this is not the case, because the membrane is guaranteed to hold. However, a wet outer fabric is not good. To prevent soaking, all GORE-TEX® materials are water- and dirt-repellent. The impregnating agent penetrates into the fibres and reduces the surface tension of the outer fabric. Water will roll off and not be absorbed by the fabric.
The GORE-TEX® quality
GORE-TEX® garments can withstand high water pressures which can occur in extreme weather conditions and challenging environments. However, the waterproofing properties of a garment do not only depend on the laminate itself. This is why all new GORE-TEX® product prototypes have to pass a variety of tests by licensees in Gore laboratories. Only textiles that meet Gore's high performance waterproofing standards are approved for production in a Gore certified facility.
Clothing featuring GORE-TEX® technology is extremely easy care and dries quickly — perfect for an active lifestyle. It is recommended to close all zippers before washing. In the case of outerwear that’s the front zipper, the pocket zippers and maybe zippers in the armpit area. Please also pay attention to cover strips and ribbons.
Gore recommends a normal household washing cycle, preferably a gentle cycle, with a maximum of 40 ºC and a little liquid detergent. Rinse twice to remove any detergent residue. Spin as little as possible to avoid creases. Washing powders or products containing fabric softeners, stain removers and bleach should be avoided as they impair the performance of the garment. Gloves can also be machine washed, although hand washing does not harm, of course. GORE-TEX® items should not be washed together with heavily soiled garments. It is of course advisable to also follow the manufacturer's special care instructions on the sewn-in labels.
GORE-TEX® garments should preferably be dried in the open air. A tip for gloves: to dry them, squeeze the water out from the fingertips to the wrist. Do not wring. Let them dry with the fingertips pointing upwards. After this first drying step, they can be dried in the tumble dryer using the gentle cycle at low temperature for 20 minutes to reactivate the durable water repellent (DWR) effect of the outer fabric. If no tumble dryer is available, the dry garment can also be ironed at a low temperature (warm, without steam). Just place a towel or other cloth between the garment and the iron — and you're ready to go outside again.
However, the waterproof effect does not last indefinitely. Of course, regular wearing has an impact: abrasion, dirt, detergents, insect repellents and impurities can impair the effectiveness. But don't worry, it can be easily restored with special impregnating agents. If the originally applied impregnation can no longer be reactivated, it is possible to treat the outer fabric with a DWR impregnation. Nikwax offers an impregnating agent designed especially for the treatment of GORE-TEX® textiles. For next-to-skin outerwear, however, Gore recommends not to use wash-in impregnation products.