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For centuries, humanity has utilized various forms of water-resistant and waterproof fabrics as protection from the elements. Our technology and knowledge of fabrics have come a long way, especially in the last few decades. Today, there are a myriad of fabrics in production that fall under the category of waterproof. To help you understand the options available and which ones are best suited to your needs, we have compiled this list of the top waterproof fabrics.
Many fabrics can be labeled as water-resistant, giving your project a lot of versatility. From natural wool to synthetic materials, it can be hard to keep track of all your options. Simply put, waterproof or water-resistant fabric is any fabric that can stop water or reduce the amount of water passing through the material. A rating system was developed to evaluate the many fabric options and how capable they are of preventing this passage of water.
To rate water resistance, scientists measure, in millimeters (mm), how much water can be held with and above the fabric before seepage occurs. To be deemed waterproof, a standard threshold is to resist over 1,000 millimeters of water pressure without leaking. High-end fabrics are often much higher than this. Another rating you may see is the breathability of the fabric. This is how much air and moisture exit the fabric. While creating a breathable and resistant material was incredibly tricky (hence the popularity of wool), modern technology has begun to produce some very advanced fabrics. Now fabrics that are both water-resistant and breathable work together to keep moisture out and to wick away any moisture that gets inside.
While these terms are used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Waterproof means that no water can penetrate it. Water-resistant is a term more often used with porous fabrics that still need to remain breathable. These fabrics need to be versatile -so they can never be impervious to water, but they can be highly resistant to the point of being near waterproof. GoreTex, for example, is nearly waterproof.
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The following are water-resistant or waterproof materials that you are likely to run into and may consider utilizing.
Perhaps one of the oldest fabrics utilized by humans, wool is still widely used for undergarments to napkins. When prepared correctly, wool is also highly water-resistant. The fibers of wool are great at absorbing water and can soak up roughly 30% of their original weight. Natural wool has a thin coating of lanolin oil that makes the fiber water-resistant. However, it is not abrasion resistant, which means that it is typically not used for heavy-duty applications.
Made from a chemical known as Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the same used to create music records, vinyl fabrics have been used in many iconic clothing items ranging from catsuits to punk-rock jackets. In some cases, vinyl clothing can also be referred to as pleather. A vast assortment of accessories from rain jackets to handbags are made from PVC. Vinyl clothing is very resistant to water but doesn’t hold up well at all to heat.
Extra-long-staple (ELS) cotton is a specially grown crop with extra-long fibers woven to create a very dense cotton textile. The result is an exceptionally waterproof fabric that expands to form tighter protection when presented with harsh weather. This fabric is often referred to by the founding brand name Ventile. Historically, the plant was referred to as Sea Island cotton, and there was a great deal of difficulty getting it to grow in the United States. Crops of the plant are now located primarily in California.
Invented in 1969, Gore-tex® is a fabric created from stretched Teflon (also known as polytetrafluoroethylene). This fabric can be made incredibly durable and is used in a wide range of camping equipment and parts of the space program and medical replacements. Gore-tex® is so waterproof that the U.S. Marine Corps used it for their field rain jackets. Many appreciate Gore-tex® not just for the toughness and water resistance but the fact that it also allows for quite a bit of breathability. This helps items, and people both dry off easier underneath and stay cooler while moving.
Sometimes called enameled cloth, oilcloth is traditionally made by taking cloth and coating it in boiled linseed oil. This coating makes the fabric stiffer but much more resilient to the elements. For this reason, waxed cotton eventually replaced most oilcloth in clothing.
Latex refers to both synthetic rubber products as well as the natural sap of the rubber tree. Both variations provide near-perfect water protection but require a skilled hand to make comfortable clothing. Clothing is only a small sample of what latex is used for -from gloves to seat covers; there is no shortage of latex products.
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In many cases, a typically non-waterproof fabric will be coated in a polymer like PTFE or PU. The result will be a hybrid material that retains some of the characteristics of the original fabric but with a thin element-proof surface.There are a considerable amount of these creations out there, and many companies have proprietary versions. For example, Dermizax™ and Rainskin™. These fabrics are used in many things ranging from clothing and bags to semi-permanent tents and construction sites.
At CarCovers.com, our all-weather outdoor car covers are treated with polyurethane to ensure they are waterproof yet breathable. This coating works to repel water while allowing any trapped moisture to evaporate and prevent mold buildup and corrosion.
Waterproof and water-resistant fabrics have numerous applications, including vehicle protection. At CarCovers.com, our all-weather car rain covers protect your car or truck from unsightly watermarks and rust to keep your vehicle looking and performing its best. Explore our range online and use our convenient search tool to find the perfect fitting cover for your car’s make and model.