How To Wash Your Base Layers – My Top Maintenance Tips

If you’ve recently bought base layers for cold weather hunting then you’re probably wondering how to maintain them in order to keep their properties intact. Learning how to wash your base layers is a bit tricky since it primarily depends on the type of materials they have. Furthermore, there are different ironing and drying procedures for each layer depending on its composition and manufacturer recommendations.

There are three main types of base layers that are used for hunting. They are made of:

  • Synthetic
  • Bamboo
  • Merino wool

Let’s take a look at how to take care of each of those types and dive deeper into the specifics…

Washing synthetic base layers

Synthetic base layers are the ones made from man-made fibers like nylon, spandex, elastane, polyester, polypropylene, and others. Some more expensive models will have synthetic fibers woven into natural materials. Those will require a bit of extra attention but as a whole, all synthetic base layers come with specific manufacturer’s instructions on their labels.

Washing and drying

Most synthetic base layers nowadays can be washed at a temperature of around 30 degrees (86 degrees Fahrenheit). On most washing machines, that is the low-temperature program. There are a few exceptions, however, which have to be treated with a special base layer detergent and/or even hand-washed.

In terms of drying them, it is best to hang-dry all of your base layers no matter the type. Avoid drying them under direct sunlight or on a radiator as that might destroy some of the elastic fibers and discolor your layers. Either way, base layers aren’t known for absorbing too much water anyway, so drying them is the easiest part. If you are set on tumble drying them, make sure you check with the manufacturer’s label. Shrinking your layers is irreversible.


While you might want to have your base layers ironed, I suggest avoiding this step as a whole. While some wool models can withstand light ironing, synthetic ones simply don’t like too much heat. Ironing them on a high heat setting can literally melt your base layer or glaze it in the best-case scenario. In most cases, hanging them tidily and folding them neatly removes all potential creases.

Bamboo base layers maintenance tips

Although bamboo base layers are one of the most durable types, they are still vulnerable to some common washing practices. Just like with synthetic models, they need to be treated with a special base layer detergent. Common detergents and fabric softeners can damage the base layer protective coating which, in most cases, is responsible for the layer’s waterproofing. The best practice you can develop for all of these clothes is hand-washing them with a special base layer detergent.

If you’re set on machine-washing and machine-drying, use mild programs up to 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit) and a cool setting in the drier. Under no circumstances don’t use bleach or harsh detergents.

How to wash merino wool base layers

Merino wool base layers are among the most expensive ones. They also have excellent thermal and moisture-wicking properties but are really rare in the sub-100$ price bracket. This is why ruining them will hurt disproportionally more than ruining a 20$ base layer.

There are four major steps to washing merino wool base layers:

  1. Turn them inside out. Turning your merino wool layers inside out will protect their outer layer.
  2. Machine wash on cool and gentle cycles. If you’re putting them in the washing machine, use cool and mild programs that won’t use hot water.
  3. Use mild detergents and/or soaps. If you’re using the washing machine, don’t use bleach or fabric softeners. Use mild detergents or simple pH-neutral soap. The reason for that is that bleach destroys the fibers in the Merino wool. Fabric softeners, on the other hand, coat these fibers and ruin their moisture-wicking and thermal properties. If you hand wash, use mild soap with cold or lukewarm water.
  4. Avoid hanging wet merino wool base layers. hanging your merino wool base layers might distort the wool. Tumble-drying and air-drying them are both good options, although I recommend air-drying as the safer alternative. Tumble-drying should happen only on the lowest settings. Still, check with the label before you put them in the drier.

How To Store Your Base Layers

No matter the materials used in your base layers, there are a few common rules you should follow when you’re storing them for the off-season. The first thing is that it is best to store them hanging. This will allow them to be properly ventilated at all times. Merino wool can also be hanged but I’d recommend tidying them neatly at the bottom of your wardrobe without nothing on top of them.

Make sure that the place you’re storing the base layers isn’t full of moisture or mold, as that can transfer to the clothes and make them unhygienic to wear. Not to mention that this can let them absorb scents that you won’t pick up but the animals will. Getting a dehumidifier for the wardrobe along with a moth repellent is the safest way to ensure that your base layers will remain untouched until the next time you need them.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should you wash your base layers and shells?

This really depends on how often you’re using them. As a rule of thumb, if you wear your base layers every week, try washing them once a week as well. Don’t let them be worn more than a few times without being washed as that can create scents that can hinder your hunting efforts.

At what temperature should you generally wash your base layers?

As a whole, don’t wash your base layers at a temperature of more than 90 degrees (Fahrenheit). Even if they are super dirty and haven’t been washed in a long time rather select a long program than a very warm one.


Knowing how to wash your base layers is an essential part of keeping good care of your gear. Not only will those clothes feel better and last longer if you treat them properly but they will also pick up fewer body scents and have a smaller chance of ruining your hunting cover. Apart from washing them properly, make sure that you pay attention to storing them as instructed as well.


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Jack Simons

Jack is a retired policeman who loves spending his free time around weapons and hunting across the state of Colorado with friends. His goal is to help newcomers find their way into the world of guns & hunting as well as review all the current best products and accessories for bow and rifle hunting.

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