Now there's gear, and there's good gear. A favourite t-shirt vs a Henri Lloyd jacket, for example. Ideally, over time you want all of your gear to be extremely well made, functional and fit for purpose. When you're sailing the last thing you need is water seeping in through a poorly taped seam.
But in reality, we all end up with a range of extremely good items, and a lot of pretty average bits & pieces. Which is just fine in my book.
So for the items you've paid a decent amount for, and even to make the lower cost items last a little longer - here's a few tips we've picked up along the way that should help.
Washing your gear
Read the label first!
Seems obvious but needs to be said. Different brands use different fabrics and different waterproofing chemicals, so always, always read the label.
Only wash when they become a health hazard
Now some family members may not agree with this statement, but if you want your high performance items to last a long as possible, then don't wash them too often. Only if they get seriously stained, or start to smell really bad. Otherwise, just leave them as they are.
Washing machines are pretty much always bad news
The problem with most of your waterproof kit is that washing machines will destroy the waterproof, breathability functionality. A mistake you'll only ever make once, truth be told, but you'd be better off not making such an expensive mistake at all.
If the label says you can use a washing machine
Then as a rule of thumb, only wash one item at a time, don't use a fabric softener, and don't use biological detergents. Close all the zippers, and then a low temperature wash will probably be the way to go, but be guided by the label once again.
How to wash without the washing machine?
Brush off any dirt or sand, rinse thoroughly with fresh water, and then wash by hand in lukewarm water with a soap or cleaner that's specifically for marine clothing.
Drying your gear?
Just let it air dry, and not in full sun. It may take a few days but it's the best way. Never use the tumble dryer, and don't iron your technical equipment either.
Rinse off the salt water
Whenever you're finished for the day, rinse off anything that's been sprayed by the ocean. salt water, literally, eats away at everything.
Base layers and gloves
Rinse with fresh water, and then (checking the label first) these items are usually OK to put through the washing machine on a low temperature wash, with no fabric softener and then left to dry on the line - not in direct sunlight.
Looking after shoes
Rub off any dirt with a soft brush, rinse or soak in fresh water and then leave to dry naturally. Stuff with newspaper if you want, to speed the process up a little bit.
Getting rid of mould
Pretty common when gear is stored in a damp room for a while. There are lots of ways to deal with it, but we prefer mixing warm water with 1 part white vinegar, and 2 parts baking soda, then using a wet cloth to wipe all the mould off. Does the job almost every time.
Service as per the manufacturer's instructions, then hang in a wardrobe at home over the off-season rather than leaving them stuffed in a bag or on the boat.