What is waterproof fabric?
Waterproof fabric and waterproof material fabric is a generalised term for any materials which are resistant, either fully or partially, to penetration by water. There is a difference between “waterproof” and “water-resistant”: Fabrics and materials which are described as waterproof are fully resistant to the penetration of water, whereas water-resistant fabrics can only withstand partially for a limited time.
Waterproof fabric is usually a textile which is compounded with polymer waterproof, breathable materials.
How is it manufactured?
Waterproof fabric can be produced in several different ways. There are some fabrics and materials which are naturally waterproof, such as rubber and plastic. Others have protective, waterproof coatings, such as oilcloth, some are laminated with thin, waterproof films.
The original waterproofing of textiles dates to the 13th century when South American natives covered their clothing in latex to make them resistant to water. Waterproof fabrics and clothing used to be heavy and cumbersome, however with the development of modern technology and chemistry they are now lighter, some are breathable and more flexible.
There are 4 main types of waterproof, breathable fabrics which are manufactured slightly differently:
- Tightly Woven Fabrics – great for the outdoors; an Egyptian cotton, woven very tightly. When it gets wet the cotton swells and makes the weave even tighter.
- Fabrics with Membranes – PTFE and PU are polymers most frequently used to make microporous coatings for fabrics.
- Fabrics with a Continuous Hydrophilic Coating – made from a solid, water-repellent coating which has no pores but it is impermeable to air. Normally a mix of PU and PEO.
- Biocomponent Microporous and Hydrophilic Laminates – modern Gore-Tex. Impermeable to air with excellent breathability. Very durable.
Water-repellent fabrics are usually woven materials, that have been manufactured to partially repel water.
Purposes of waterproof fabric
The purposes of waterproof fabric are wide and quite extent. Waterproofing is required to keep us dry and comfortable, while allowing skin to breathe and to resist annoyances such as mildew and rot. Thanks to its multitude of useful characteristics, some of the most sought after uses of waterproof material fabric include:
- Outdoor Wear
- Ski Wear
- Protective Clothing
Waterproof fabrics have many desirable qualities which make them appealing and necessary for a wide range of uses. They completely prevent the penetration and absorption of water in contrast to water-repellent materials.
They also have excellent heat resistant properties and hold up well in cold temperatures.
Different kinds of waterproof textiles suit different projects. Here are some frequently used ones:
- Oilcloth – 100% vinyl, completely waterproof, shiny, durable, doesn’t fray
- Ripstop – tough, nylon threaded material, resistant, good waterproof outdoor fabric
- Waterproof Cotton Fabric – waterproof, breathable, moisture-wicking, pliable, drapes well
- Waterproof Canvas Fabric – used for outdoors, strong, breathable, mildew and rot resistant
- Sandwich PUL – composed of 3 layers, laminate layer sandwiched between knitted layers
- Polyurethane Laminate – waterproof, breathable, 2-sided, slight stretch, laminate coating
Advantages of waterproof fabric
From making raincoats and tents to umbrellas, tablecloths and sportswear, waterproof fabric has so many advantages. These materials won’t allow water seepage and are generally easy to clean and care for.
Thanks to the advances in polymer chemistry which is how waterproof fabrics have become so much more advanced, modern waterproof textiles can now be breathable. They let perspiration out while preventing water penetration.