Want to help protect the longevity of your gear? GIVE IT SOME LOVE. Yes, your sailing gear (or kayaking or paddling gear) needs some TLC every once in a while. It takes care of you so take care of it (which will also make mom and dad happy - just saying).
Here's some helpful tips on how to take care of all that lovely gear of yours!
Let's start off with the obvious but sometimes not necessarily followed first step: ALWAYS READ THE LABEL and follow the care instructions. Second, if any of your gear has been in salt water, it's best to rinse it off with fresh water right after you've used it.
The question we get a lot of is can you wash your gear in the washing machine, especially outer shells like jackets, trousers, or mid layers? For the most part, yes you can wash your gear in the washing machine but it all depends on the piece itself and what it's made out of. Just put them through separately and on a delicate cycle, then let them hang dry or lay flat to dry. You can always wash your gear by hand, or at least your outer shells, if you're weary of putting it through the machine. Do not iron or tumble dry. And fabric softener? Skip it. It can breakdown the waterproof and UV coating. Our Gill rep recommends not dry cleaning your gear or using regular detergent as it too can breakdown the UV coating, waterproof coating and breathability of the garment. Kirsten, our resident Chemist and past summer staff, explains that the regular soap reacts with the coating(s) and can hurt your gear. She says the regular soap "is [like] a pair of scissors" attacking your gear, breaking down what you love most about the garment - the breathability, UV protection and marine grade waterproof-ness. Thus, it's best to use the wash in cleaners that are designed specifically for the marine grade clothing. If you have some grease or oil stains that needs to come off, try the Gill Intensive Spot Cleaner.
I washed my Gill Key West Jacket (yes, old school but I like to think of it as Vintage) the other day and it turned out great. I washed it on a rinse cycle with cold water (nothing added to it, just water), then let it air dry on a drying rack. I will warn you it can take a while for the garments to dry so allow yourself a day or two to complete the entire process; mine took about two days from start to finish. When it comes to foul weather trousers, do the same thing!
Louisa's Tip: If your jacket or trousers are heavy with water after putting them through the machine, lay the garment on a towel to dry as it will help absorb some of the water. You can also roll the garment up in a towel to help absorb some of the excess water and then hang it up to drip dry.
When it comes to drysuits or any gear with neoprene (e.g. hiking pants, harnesses, wetsuit), do NOT put it through the washing machine - hand wash only! Make sure to rinse with fresh water after use, paying particular attention to any zippers. Get all the sand and dirt out so the zipper runs smoothly. Let garments and/or boots air dry out of the sunlight.
Now for the good 'ole booties. Rinse 'em off with fresh water and then clean away any sand or dirt that way be in them, both inside and out. You can use non-detergent soap with fresh water to help with any stubborn dirt. Once sparkly clean, let them air dry, away from direct sources of heat (aka out of the sunlight, not next to a radiator, etc...). Allow up to 48 hours for them to dry completely, but if you want to help speed up the drying time, Gill suggests "[putting scrunched up] newspaper inside the boots." 
If you've got a pair of sneakers that you use for racing, like the Sperry Sea Racer, you can wash them by hand with some mild soap and then let them air dry! To help the shoes keep their shape, stuff them with newspaper while they dry.
Tip: Take out the insoles (if removable) after each use (if wet or damp) and let them dry separately from the shoes themselves. Why? Let's both the shoe and insole dry thoroughly so both are dry for the next time you use your shoes!
I usually rinse off my Zhik ZKG's after I've used them to get any dirt or sand out of them, then lean them against the wall in my the back porch with the insoles next to them. Come morning, they're dry and good to go for the next adventure!
Gloves - rinse with fresh water after use or hand wash if they need a good cleaning. Lay flat to dry!
For base layers, like the long sleeve shirt from Gill Race Collection and technical shirts from Gul and Helly Hansen, I've washed all mine in the washing machine in cold water and then hung them on a hanger to air dry; works every time! Some companies may recommend washing them on a delicate cycle, or by hand, or at a specific temperature so just make sure to read the label of the garment or check the companies website for care instructions. For the most part though, you can wash them in the machine and be good to go. Again, skip the fabric softener to keep the UV protection and waterproof coating lasting longer.
If you've had your gear for a while and it's starting to lose it's waterproof-ness (is that a word?), you can always use a reproofing spray to bring the garment back to life. Both the Gill Reproofing Spray or the Nikwax Fabric Restorer are great options.
For brand specific garment care, see links below:
 “Product Care”, Gill North America, accessed June 8m 2015. http://canada.gillna.com/t-b2c_productcare.aspx