This is the time of year to cast an eye over your shooting kit and see what needs cleaning, repairing and replacing. Here's our guide to shooting kit maintenance.
Washing machine dos and don’ts
More and more clothes for shooting are machine washable, but it’s not simply a case of bunging everything into the washing machine together: waterproofing and visibility can be adversely affected if the wrong temperature, spin setting or detergent is used. Tumble drying, or drying too close to a heat source, can also damage the material’s performance.
Many detergents contain brighteners and scents so that clothes look bright and smell fresh. Of course, this isn’t really what you’re after when washing stalking kit. Look for unscented powders or liquids, such as Ecover, without brighteners.
Schöffel, which manufactures machine-washable tweed, says: “In general, never use biological powder when washing your technical clothing and always follow the indicated temperature. When washing our Schöffel washable tweed, never use fabric conditioner. Dry naturally in a warm room.”
Keeping those tweeds tidy and smart
Let any mud dry out, then use a good, stiff brush and the mud should just brush off. Good, heavyweight tweed will withstand an eventful day out fishing, hunting, shooting or stalking and once brushed should look as good as new. The colours in a well-made tweed will not fade and should stay as vibrant as they were on the day it came out of the mill.
Getting wildfowling decoys out of a tangle
This is the time to untangle and clean your wildfowling decoys and lines. Otherwise you will be emptying out a bag of knotted nylon, rotting seaweed and mud-caked decoys come the autumn. Painted decoys last much longer if they are washed off and stored properly during the summer, and split rings, swivels and clips are much less likely to succumb to rust. With care you are more likely to pull duck and less likely to see your expensive decoys disappearing on the tide as a critical piece of your rig gives way.
Cleaning cartridge bags
Clean a leather cartridge bag or gunslip at the end of the season by sponging it off with warm water and saddle soap. An old toothbrush is good for removing caked-on mud. Wipe off and dry at room temperature. You can apply a specialist leather dressing on any areas of hard wear, let it soak in and then wipe remainder with kitchen roll. Then buff the leather to shine it up.
Cream for leather
Here’s a method of making your own leather cream and dressing.
Take a bar of normal glycerine saddle soap and cut it into small pieces. Put this in a pan with half-a-pint of milk, then melt the soap slowly over a low heat. Once completely melted, pour into a plastic container and allow to set. Apply this with a dry cloth, having first removed any mud with a damp sponge.
Best foot forward in clean leather boots
Give the boots a thorough cleaning to ensure there are no residues of corrosive substances such as manure, fertilisers, salt or seawater that could cause long-term damage. Whether you wash them in clean water or use a leather footwear cleaning solution, make sure you avoid over-soaking the leather. Rinse with plenty of clean water, then leave to dry naturally for a minimum of 48 hours. Never stand boots in front of a radiator or open fire as extreme heat can cause the leather to dry out and crack. Once dry, apply a specialist leather footwear conditioner and/or protector to help preserve and soften the boots before storing them away, ideally somewhere cool and dry, away from direct sunlight, heat sources and damp. Use boot trees or stuff them with newspaper to help maintain their shape.
Don’t forget your gaiters
Whilst gaiters will take the brunt of the hills and woods, you can’t take the hose to them like wellies. Fortunately, some can be machine washed. Hamish Cromarty of Black Islander says its highly regarded gaiters can be machine washed at a low temperature using non- biological detergent. The MacGaiter company’s neoprene gaiters can also be put in the machine and washed at 30° or 40°, with no need for detergent. However, Trailwise says that its popular Canvas Snolock gaiter should never be machine washed, but will clean up nicely if cool handwashed, or given a good brushing down once dry.
Caring for your wellies
Wellies are easy to wash – a good hosing down is usually sufficient. However if you want to extend their lifespan and reduce the risk of the rubber splitting, follow the following routine.
* Clean boots with nothing more than water and a brush.
* Let them dry naturally.
* Use a cleaning spray and polish with a soft, dry cloth.
* Keep boots in a dry and ventilated place, away from direct sunlight and heat sources.
* If the boots get wet, dry the lining thoroughly before using them again. Putting crumpled newspaper inside helps.
* Don’t dry boots in direct contact with a heat source such as a radiator or a fireplace.
* Don’t tore boots while damp, folded or creased.
* Don’t use aggressive products, such as detergents or solvents, to clean your boots.
For boots with zips:
* Use a cleaning spray to lubricate the zip before the first use and after each use.
* Keep the zip clean – dirt will cause wear and significantly reduce its lifespan.
* Don’t leave the zip undone when wearing the boots – this will increase the chances of dirt getting into the zip.
* Don’t force the zip.
Follow these tips and put your shooting kit away now clean and tidy and you’ll be rewarded when you open the cloakroom doors again come next season.