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What Makes a Material Waterproof?

Updated April 17, 2017

Waterproof material repels water without allowing it to pass through the weave of the fabric. Some fabrics are manufactured with a coating while others can be treated at home to become waterproof.

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Fabrics manufactured and marketed as waterproof are tightly woven. The gaps between the woven threads are smaller than a drop of water, preventing the liquid from passing through. Ripstop nylon is an example of this type of material.

Other waterproof fabrics are coated, usually with rubber. The rubber seals the gaps between the thread. The most common rubberised material available is vinyl.

Temporary Waterproofing

Cottons, polyesters and combinations of the two can be treated at home to have temporary waterproof characteristics. Multiple products exist under different brand names. The material is washed with these chemicals, which coat the fabric or item. Over time, the waterproofing wears off and will need to be reapplied.

Speciality Fabrics

Fabrics such as Gore-Tex have revolutionised the waterproof fabric industry. While vinyl is waterproof, it is not breathable. Gore-Tex offers both waterproofing and breathability. It is a top material for recreation and sport outdoor applications, according to its manufacturer, W.L. Gore & Associates.

Gore-Tex has three layers which create the waterproof effect. Between the three layers, drops of water are kept from penetrating.

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About the Author

Edith Hignutt has written professionally since 1998. Her work has appeared in "Her Sports & Fitness," "Maritime Life & Traditions" and "BMXer." Hignutt holds a USA Cycling Coaching License and works with athletes in addition to owning a small plant nursery. She specializes in health and wellness, recreation and home and garden topics. Hignutt attended Rutgers University.

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