This happens to be a commonly asked question amongst those shopping for the right styles of water resistant materials. From searching for a new outdoor jacket to creating cushions for outdoor deck chairs, knowing the difference between what’s water resistant and waterproof is important.
So, what does water resistant mean? The plain definition advises that water resistance is an item that’s able to detract from water penetration, but not entirely. However, there is a larger dynamic surrounding the topic overall.
What does water resistant mean to us in our day to day lives? Learn more on what defines water resistance and how it will benefit certain areas of your day to day fabric use.
To define what makes a fabric water resistant, first we must review its origins. There are quite a few fabrics that contain water resistant properties. Their beginnings are all slightly different.
Let’s consider polyester. Patented around 1941 by British scientists, the first polyester based fiber (terylene) led the way for many different materials and their birth. From plastic materials to textiles, polyester paved the way for water resistant fabric’s growth.
Nylon, created by the DuPont company in the late 1930’s was one of the first synthetic materials to make a wave. Made for things like tires and various items for the military like parachutes, it eventually was spun and woven into textiles. Nylon’s water repellent properties helped the textile become one of the most popular fabrics used when constructing water resistant clothing and adventure gear alike.
Both of these fabrics measure by Denier (D). Basically, denier classifies the fiber woven into the fabric by strand. When woven together at a higher rate of denier, this helps the fabric’s overall water resistance and tensile strength. For example, our offering of 600D polyester has the tensile strength of 600 strands of polyester in ONE strand!
With the creation of synthetic fibers like those mentioned and many more came the dawn of properties like water resistance. Today, these fabrics stand against many damaging elements and come out winning every time.
As previously mentioned, most water resistant fabrics derive from synthetically made materials. These man made fabrics like nylon, polyester or otherwise process differently from their natural counterparts.
Fabrics like cotton or linen are naturally harvested, spun and woven into the fabrics we know today. Fabrics like poly or nylon start in labs.
For example, nylon fibers form when bonded with other chemicals. When these chemicals bond, they create the polymer that’s able to eventually form the fibers. These fibers become converted into strands and woven into nylon cloth.
The water resistant features of a fabric like nylon bond when their formed into the polymer. This also occurs in fabrics like polyester, however they may become coated in PVC for an added layer of water resistance and other properties like abrasion resistance.
Overall, while natural fabrics start through natural, organic growth. Fibers like nylon, polyester, rayon and others build via molecules bonding to form polymers. Special processing converts them into the water resistant fabrics we know and love.
“Water resistant” and “water repellent”, often used interchangeably, is incorrect. There’s a slight difference between the two terms. While they’re closely associated, they also have their own independent classifications.
Water resistant fabrics resist water, but are not impermeable to water entirely. Water repellency, used to describe the same resistance, is also hydrophobic. Hydrophobia is a term to describe the fear of water, lends itself as a descriptor of water repellent fabrics.
Water repellent fabrics repel water better than their water resistant counterparts as a result. The chemical compounds used in water repellent textiles withstand water more effectively than fabrics classified as water resistant.
Water repellent properties are found in various finishes. Durable water repellent finishes become chemically created to enhance a textile’s repellency to water.
For instance, if you required a canopy tent that was water repellent and durable, our lightweight tent fabric would work best. There are also natural water repellent textiles that would work for various needs.
Water repellent textiles are synthetic fabrics that become manufactured to be naturally repellent to water. Regardless of the need, both styles of fabrics can work for you.
This subjective question may plague do-it-yourselfers and professionals alike! Whether you’re making a sturdy duffel bag for travelling or a cover for your outdoor furniture, the way the fabric becomes finished determines how well it’ll stand against many factors.
For a DIYer, having the right fabric for a project is key. If you’re working on something that requires water resistance, finding the best water resistant fabric will be high on your list. What does water resistant mean to your final product?
The right water resistant fabric will do as it’s intended: reduce the penetration of water, but not completely. If you’re making a daypack for your backpacking adventures, preparing a bag from ripstop nylon maintains a light weight to your bag while adding water resistance to the mix!
If you’re a commercial vendor requiring water resistant fabrics for certain product offerings, knowing what you’re getting will ensure your product specifications remain true. For example, if you know you’ll need polyester coated in an additional layer of PVC for added water resistance, speaking with the right experts for your needs ensures you’re getting exactly what you’re paying for.
Overall, doing your research never hurts when trying to figure out what water resistant fabric will work best for your applications. Speaking to your friendly local fabric connoisseur never hurts either!
Water repellency and water resistance finishes are not permanent. Waterproof finishes are meant to withstand water and hold up over time. For fabrics to continue to hold up against water, sometimes textiles will have to go through the chemical finishing process again.
Preservatives became created to restore the repellency or waterproof quality back into the textile. For instance, for our canvas offerings, a preservative that restores repellency to our cotton canvas textiles is applicable for protection. Although finishes may fade over time, there’s an easy way to restore worn fabrics that allows you to retain the value of your product.
Water resistant, repellent, and waterproof textiles are put to the test daily. Their finishes, while different, have the same goal in mind: to resist the entry of water. Whatever the medium or textile, these finishes become processed to withstand whatever water may come their way.
While they’re are many products that benefit from water resistant fabrics, some great applications utilizing water resistant textiles are:
These applications and more make using water resistant fabrics easy and practical. Need more information on what makes something water resistant? Contact us today and one of our experts will be happy to help you!