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Washing a vintage N-3B parka?

Raul

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104
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I would like to know if any of you has ever washed a vintage vietnam era N-3B parka.
Even though the internal label says "dry clean only" I don't see why, especially the 100% wool/cotton ones with authentic fur, cannot be gently washed with water and soap, even in the washer. It would take some time to dry but I don't think it can be damaged. I would fear more a careless dry cleaning.
Any experience or advice is very appreciated
 

Blackadder

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I believe the fur part is the part that needs extra care. Often times washing the fur causes the fur to curl up, not really damaged but simply curled.
 

Raul

One of the Regulars
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104
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Italy
I agree that it's the more delicate part, unfortunately in these the fur cannot be easily removed, anyway if washed at 30°C (85 F°) I don't think that fur will suffer that much
 

Doctor Damage

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I would like to know if any of you has ever washed a vintage vietnam era N-3B parka.
Even though the internal label says "dry clean only" I don't see why, especially the 100% wool/cotton ones with authentic fur, cannot be gently washed with water and soap, even in the washer. It would take some time to dry but I don't think it can be damaged. I would fear more a careless dry cleaning.
Any experience or advice is very appreciated
I wish that guy on At The Front still had his rants about customers not following his cleaning instructions and then blaming him. Never, ever wash wool clothing in a washing machine. Hand-wash it in a bathtub, with lukewarm water and a soft soap.
 

Ernest P Shackleton

One Too Many
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Front loader washers often have handwash and/or delicate cycles. I've only had one problem using this method, and it wasn't with wool. A jacket with a quilted lining had some kind of additional backing adhered to the batting to help it from moving around or riding from the outer layer. The jacket was older, probably from the 50s or 60s. That backing gave way from the batting and wanted to collect and bundle. That's where washing these garments in water can create problems. All these materials shrink at different rates and react to water in different ways. Even the various threads and stitching patterns can react differently. It's why sometimes even with the greatest care, wool garments can get thrown out of shape because the wool shrank every so slightly, but the threading didn't. The wool crinkles up in the seams because the threading went unchanged.

I believe some of these older military jackets have odd backings and materials used in concert with the wool linings, and that is where I would be most concerned. The fur will also likely change a little, but I wouldn't be as worried about it as the lining getting funky. Also, the wool is going to shrink more than the outer cotton shell. That could be a problem. No matter what you do with wool and water, there is some shrinking. Having said that, I wouldn't hesitate to hand wash, or use that aforementioned handwash cycle on a front loader with a specialty soap or baby shampoo. I've done it a lot.

Dry cleaning is your best shot, but who knows? Not all dry cleaners are created equal. These chain cleaners don't usually have the experience or know-how to deal with special items. They're fine for shirts or trousers, but they get iffy with jackets and vintage items. If you go the dry cleaning route, I'd recommend finding an old, established dry cleaners. A family cleaner that has been doing it for decades. They've done it all.
 
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Peacoat

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If it has wool insulation, that may well shrink. Don't know as I have never washed one. I do know that the flight jackets of that era had the wool insulation. They would shrink quite a bit and become shorter in the process. That's why the labels said "Dry Clean Only." If it were mine, I would follow the instructions on the label.
 

Raul

One of the Regulars
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104
Location
Italy
Well, at the end I had it dry cleaned in a good laundry of my area, the stains cleaned well including the yellowish areas near the collar and end of sleeves probably due to contact with skin, just a few very light and minor mark are still visible, fur came out great and also that not-so-good old closet smell was reduced a lot. I am very happy with the result, and it cost me only 15 euros (about $17)
 

Dumpster Diver

Practically Family
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I would have recommended hand washing, spot cleaning...that's the best way.

layer up, it's cold out there!!!

I'm glad you sorted it out, clean garments are warm garments.

Generally I don't wash mine, and I have enough jackets to rotate between so I don't wear out a cherished article. I've worn an N-2B in the shower once...It was my Daily wearer and I rode a bike a lot in the winter and sweat about 30 pounds down while riding my bike that year....It seemed to be fine with that...the Jacket I mean...I was in rough shape after so much biking...I mean I was in *Good* shape but I felt pretty exhausted that is.

The Jacket in Question was an ALPHA brand modern repro and I highly highly recommend getting one of those and retiring the Original one, and keeping it handy on a Sunday once in a blue moon.
 

Doctor Damage

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The Jacket in Question was an ALPHA brand modern repro and I highly highly recommend getting one of those and retiring the Original one, and keeping it handy on a Sunday once in a blue moon.
THIS.

Also, on a more practical note, modern replicas and homage jackets are as good as vintage jackets in many respects, so wearing a vintage original is not necessary.
 

Raul

One of the Regulars
Messages
104
Location
Italy
Well, I actually had tried to hand wash the part of the sleeve closer to cuff but some yellowish water came out (maybe from the wool filling?) that stained a bit the sleeve, so I dried it quickly and went directly to the laundry, now that stains are pretty gone but I will not try anymore to wash it.
As I paid for it €150 shipped from UK, I actually don't care too much to treat it as a precious vintage jacket so I can easily wear it this winter. It is a medium and probably a small would have been better for me (I am usually a 40R) but it's not easy to find here in europe, moreover a friend has one in small and while the body fitted me well (slimmer and more modern looking) its sleeves were very short for me (I don't know if it was altered or not). Then there is always the problems of the shoulders' cut that always make them too big, but this occurred also with the small.
Here is a pic, some areas seem more brownish but it's a light effect as the pic was shot in the evening with artificial light, the color is even on all the jacket

9Oa82mM.jpg


T2hi2x6.jpg
 

Dumpster Diver

Practically Family
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THIS.

Also, on a more practical note, modern replicas and homage jackets are as good as vintage jackets in many respects, so wearing a vintage original is not necessary.


If I'm being COMPLETELY honest, I like the ALPHA Jacket *better* than original save that it's got plastic Zippers and fake fur hood...The reason behind this is that modern food, modern clothes like all things have evolved. I'm a few sizes up than people who lived back in the 50's lets be honest I'm a size 36-38 these days as I'm getting older and exercising less and eating more.

The Alpha Repro Is cut to fit with modern Pants and clothing which is a little more bulky and less tailored and high cut stuff worn at the TRUE waist size is non-existing, and Military spec clothing tends to fit a size DOWN from it's label un-like civilian clothing. It's a more comfortable Jacket because the original N2-B Jackets are HIGH cut I mean HIIIGH CUT!!! so this Jacket has the right amount of give and length to it. I feel at home in this Jacket....It's definitely one of the greatest Winter Jackets of all time IMHO. The Alpha is much lighter...a lot lighter. You can get one at you local Army Navy stores, and if they don't stock them then they are not a true Military surplus shop.
 

Doctor Damage

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As I paid for it €150 shipped from UK, I actually don't care too much to treat it as a precious vintage jacket so I can easily wear it this winter. It is a medium and probably a small would have been better for me (I am usually a 40R) but it's not easy to find here in europe, moreover a friend has one in small and while the body fitted me well (slimmer and more modern looking) its sleeves were very short for me (I don't know if it was altered or not). Then there is always the problems of the shoulders' cut that always make them too big, but this occurred also with the small.
Your coat looks really good and I'm glad you've got it cleaned and it's wearable! There's a lot of these out there in a wide range of conditions, so it appears you got lucky.

Regarding fit, for slim and/or tall people N3 parkas are badly fitting. I have a similar problem to you: a Medium is a good fit in the torso, but the sleeves are way too short; a Large gives sleeves which are just barely long enough, but the chest is too large unless I wear five layers underneath; an Extra-Large the sleeves are right but I could literally fit two of me inside the torso. It's basically a flawed design. You just have to accept these things only fit people who are Regular length only. I suspect they might have been originally conceived to wear an MA-1 underneath given their absurdly large chest measurements, but that's just wild speculation.
 

Doctor Damage

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If I'm being COMPLETELY honest, I like the ALPHA Jacket *better* than original save that it's got plastic Zippers and fake fur hood...The reason behind this is that modern food, modern clothes like all things have evolved. I'm a few sizes up than people who lived back in the 50's lets be honest I'm a size 36-38 these days as I'm getting older and exercising less and eating more.

The Alpha Repro Is cut to fit with modern Pants and clothing which is a little more bulky and less tailored and high cut stuff worn at the TRUE waist size is non-existing, and Military spec clothing tends to fit a size DOWN from it's label un-like civilian clothing. It's a more comfortable Jacket because the original N2-B Jackets are HIGH cut I mean HIIIGH CUT!!! so this Jacket has the right amount of give and length to it. I feel at home in this Jacket....It's definitely one of the greatest Winter Jackets of all time IMHO. The Alpha is much lighter...a lot lighter. You can get one at you local Army Navy stores, and if they don't stock them then they are not a true Military surplus shop.
THIS again. And I'll add that Alpha's current products are extremely well made in terms of construction. I've had a few go through my hands in recent years and all have been flawlessly constructed. You can't say that about originals! And yes, I have the same issue about aging and getting a bit bigger, and at some point you get older and you just want stuff to fit and keep the wind out, originality be damned. I have an Alpha civvy N2B jacket from the 1990s (USA made) which has a metal zipper. It's got another inch in the sleeves and about 2 or 3 inches more in the torso than military originals, so I can wear it fine. Military N2B jackets, are as you say, super short and would barely cover my belly button. The thin polyfill isn't in the same league as military jackets, but having a jacket that actually covers my wrists and my belt is more important to me than wool insulation, etc.

All that said, if you can fit into an original, then find one and wear it. Just don't abuse it. and if it's a "named" jacket (like Colonel Whoever who flew in Korea) then maybe just put it in the closet and fondle it from time to time instead of wearing it. If I didn't already have too much sh*t and was just starting out, I'd find a nice original nylon and keep it as a history item, but I'd go buy a couple of modern day Alpha jackets as daily drivers that I don't need to worry about spilling coffee on, etc.
 

Cornelius

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Great Lakes
These parkas are intentionally cut large with the expectation that troops would be wearing many layers underneath. They were designed with the scenario in mind of someone working outside all day on open ground with no windbreaks at, say, Thule AFB, wearing this over a jacket, overalls, heavy sweater, 2 shirts, etc. The N3Bs later became ubiquitous across the working civilian population of the northern US due to their ready availability & affordable price at surplus stores, but no one expected a fashion fit - they just wanted something to keep them alive at -20f if the car broke down.
 

Dumpster Diver

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I have a few N2-B Jackets, one's original 50's or 60's I don't wear, It's got real fur on the hood and its NOS condition, don't ever wear it, It's Just for lookin' at....I have one from the 70's that been through the wringer and it's about to blow...I retired it but wore it heavily...it was very worn when I got it...like it had been washed and put in the dryer it was really bad the fake white fur was destroyed (came from a vintage shop in Toronto) the pockets are bare of thread. The Alpha I got at a thrift and it's one of my DD's which is holding up very well...but I haven't worn it much this winter yet...I live in a trashed Russian MIG Leather flight Jacket or my Trusy Avirex B-3 for the time being.
 

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D.Crash

New in Town
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4
This is my first post here, so I'd like to say hello to everyone. I hope I didn't miss any introduction thread.
Maybe I'll find an answer for a thing that bothers me right now. I took my 78' Lancer (no wool, 80% cotton, 20% nylon, fake fur) to local dry cleaners. Lady refused to take it, saying that tetrachloroethylene (from what I see on wiki this is a common solvent) will destroy it. Especially pigments in fabric and metal buttons. She said that I should take it to a place, where petroleum is used. I find it weird because I believe that military doesn't use any special or gentle solvents, just anything that removes heavy oils and mud from clothes.

Does anyone have an idea what solvents where used, when you've dry cleaned your parka? Maybe I should convince her to do it anyway? Or petroleum in fact is the answer?

English is not my first language, so please forgive me if I've made any mistakes.
 

Ernest P Shackleton

One Too Many
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1,187
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Midwest
This is my first post here, so I'd like to say hello to everyone. I hope I didn't miss any introduction thread.
Maybe I'll find an answer for a thing that bothers me right now. I took my 78' Lancer (no wool, 80% cotton, 20% nylon, fake fur) to local dry cleaners. Lady refused to take it, saying that tetrachloroethylene (from what I see on wiki this is a common solvent) will destroy it. Especially pigments in fabric and metal buttons. She said that I should take it to a place, where petroleum is used. I find it weird because I believe that military doesn't use any special or gentle solvents, just anything that removes heavy oils and mud from clothes.

Does anyone have an idea what solvents where used, when you've dry cleaned your parka? Maybe I should convince her to do it anyway? Or petroleum in fact is the answer?

English is not my first language, so please forgive me if I've made any mistakes.
I believe that new cleaners, like the chain cleaners, use a newly developed process that uses solvents (because they're less expensive), and older cleaners, like family-operated cleaners use the same process from decades ago, which is petroleum chemicals. I looked into this a few years ago in my city, and only two cleaners still used the old process, which they proudly stated in their yellow page ads and on their front windows. It's a specialized market now. I wouldn't swear to this, but I think I remember them also telling me that the old process was more environmentally friendly than the new process. Google that, and don't take my word for it if that is important to you. Both of these cleaners that used the old petroleum process were in the business for generations.

Another consideration is maybe a dry cleaning kit that they sell for home. I've never used one, but because it is designed for home and front-loader machines, I can't imagine the chemicals are as harsh as you'd find at a commercial business. Again, look into that for yourself.
 

Dumpster Diver

Practically Family
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Is it really *that* dirty?

I'm looking at those photos you posted of the Parka, it looks absolutely fine!

In what way is the Jacket needing to be cleaned?

It doesn't appear to need a wash IMHO. you might want to let it air out if it's gone stale or has an aroma of old military clothing. (Which is a Salt smell, generally that is a clean smell that ages. It's an air of familiarity to Military clothing, my theory is that it's the salt "Mordant" used when the textiles are dyed with OD green, it helps the dye set to the fabric.)


Honestly Don't wash it unless you absolutely have to!

You might leave it hanging outside for awhile, and let it air out.


Worst case, Just hand wash it gently in the bad spots with some mild detergent, and give a rinse... then carefully! put the wet Jacket between two Towels and walk on it or dab it until most of the water is wrung out. (yes some dye or colour may run so do not use hot water, do not use cold water. Just room temperature warm water will do!..Hand washing could fade the Jacket slightly but it should be ok if you are careful) hang it to air-dry, and let it dry completely! The Jacket might still smell dirty until it's completely Dry!

. I never wash my Nylon Jackets and I'm careful not to soil them badly. If the garment is soiled the problem is that it will let the cold in, that is a functional Drawback, the other is Just aesthetic.

For the price of the Dry cleaning..instead you could simply buy a second Jacket that you can Wear out and Just spot-clean it by hand when it's soiled or stained, otherwise wear it dirty and proud!!!
 
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Doctor Damage

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I find it weird because I believe that military doesn't use any special or gentle solvents, just anything that removes heavy oils and mud from clothes.
I doubt the military ever cleans them, actually. I've had a bunch of nomex flight jackets go through my hands and none had ever shown signs of being cleaned. And N3B parkas are for super-cold weather only and most are going to be "loaners" (handed out temporarily as needed), and never worn next to the skin, so I doubt they ever get cleaned. And to be honest, if they're only used in extreme cold and over a dozen layers of clothing, they won't really need to be cleaned.
 

Dumpster Diver

Practically Family
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941
Location
Ontario
Exactly...Layer up, wear a scarf, you'll never put a grease ring around the collar with a nice military cotton scarf, the worse will be a slight film build up around the hood from exhaling frosty breath, shake the frost out vigorously, you'll never need to clean the Jacket, and if you spill your coffee or broth on it, Then don't let the stain set, or dry...immediately spot clean it with a damp cloth and a little soap maybe..that's it.

Don't clean it, green is one of the only colours that looks good when it's dirty.

If you want a clean jacket, get one that you can machine wash, get a new Jacket...you have a vintage military Jacket...It honestly doesn't need any attention, it will look after itself almost.

Does the liner make you sneeze when you wear it?

If not, then it's alright, you know?
Not exaggerating.. I've travelled around....Once my N2-B Jacket spent a few weeks with me at my friends "cottage" and I slept in the Jacket and the mice there were so bad we were sneezing back and fourth.. when I got travelling by bus on the way home, ANYONE who sat near me started sneezing too! Haha...Before you ask yes, he got a cat, now the place smells like a cat box too. :eek:
 
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