Exploring Fabric Waterproofing Treatment for the Best Results

One of the latest innovations in high-performance outdoor fabrics is fabric waterproofing treatment. Water-resistant and waterproof fabrics have become an integral to our daily products, from outdoor jackets, work-wear uniforms, hiking backpacks, and outdoor furnishings and upholstery. These fabrics are designed to resist the penetration and the absorption of liquids, permitting us to stay dry and comfortable even in the wet conditions. 

Water-resistant coatings and treatments 

Another significant approach to water-resistant fabrics involves applying polymer coatings and treatments. These coatings modify the surface chemistry of the fabrics to make them the hydrophobic or water-repellent. Common polymers for this include the polyurethane, silicone, and fluoro-polymers like Teflon. 

These coatings form a protective barrier against water and the other liquids when applied to fabrics. Polyurethane coatings are versatile and very durable, used on the materials ranging from the cotton canvas tents to modern technical apparel. Silicone coatings can provide excellent flexibility, breathability, and the seam sealing. Fluoro-polymers are highly waterproof and oil-resistant but the more expensive, limiting their use to very high-performance niche products. 

Besides polymer coatings, fabrics can undergo specific fabric waterproofing treatments, such as flame retardant or durable water-repellent treatments. These treatments work by heating the fibres and then exposing them to certain chemicals that alter the surface of the fibres to be hydrophobic. The therapy can penetrate a few microns into the fabric, changing its wetting properties. These fabric treatments can provide longevity of water resistance as compared to the surface coatings. 

Waterproof coatings and fabric treatments have revolutionized the water resistance of such fabrics. Still, they also bring some downsides, like the reduced breathability, much higher cost, and the likelihood of the breakdown over repeated washings or use. Coated or treated fabrics offer the perfect blend of functionality and durability for many applications. However, for some uses, woven water-resistant fabrics remain optimal. Water resistance in fabrics continues to be a very active area of innovation, with high-performance yet breathable and budget-friendly options on the horizon. 

Effectiveness of fabric waterproofing treatments

The effectiveness of water resistance also depends very heavily on factors like the fabric weight, weave density, number of fabric coatings, and quality of materials used. Lighter-weight and looser weave fabrics and heavy, tightly woven blends will not repel water. Cheaper, very lower-grade coatings and treatments that may break down more quickly. The seams, filters, zippers, and the other features in fabric constructions also introduce multiple pathways for water to reach the inner layers. The water resistance can gradually degrade with use and washing as coatings break down and fibres relax. 

While improving water resistance, the dense weaves and coatings often come at the cost of the reduced breathability, flexibility, and comfort. Waterproofing membranes and certain coatings create a plastic barrier, preventing moisture vapour from escaping. Densely woven textiles are stiffer and less prone to the draping and softness. For several uses like outdoor activity apparel, high water resistance is critical. However, breathability is also vital in keeping the wearer comfortable as they move. There remains a consistent struggle to achieve an optimal balance of these properties. 

What does the millimetre (mm) waterproofing rating mean?

A fabric’s waterproof rating, measured in millimetres (mmH20), refers not to the density of the fabric or its polyurethane coating but to the pressure at which water can press through the fabric. The standard waterproofing test consists of applying water pressure behind a fabric sample until three drops of water can pass through the fabric. For example, a 1500 mmH20 rating means that the fabric can sustain 1,500 mm of water on top of the textile before it can leak. The measurement can then be transformed into pounds per square inch (a 1,500 mmH20 rating would translate into 2.18 psi). 

Are higher waterproofing ratings always better?

A more significant number isn’t better in all cases. A higher waterproofing rating doesn’t always translate into durability. The more coating you add, the heavier and more rigid the fabric becomes, and—after a point—the more susceptible to tearing. The lighter-weight fabric shouldn’t be made too severe with waterproof coating as the fabric must withstand dynamic and sustained forces like wind gusts and being guy-lined out. 


Water-resistant and waterproof fabrics have redefined what is possible with clothing, shelter, footwear, bags, and other products. They let us stay dry, comfortable, and very moisture-free in several situations and environments. While limitations remain around the complete water-proofness, flexibility, and cost, research advances these materials to offer more excellent performance, breathability, and value. 

Water resistance can be customized to different needs and applications through engineered fabrics, effective coatings, and clever construction techniques, bringing welcome functionality to products of almost every kind. Water-resistant textiles represent a technology that will shape the future of remaining dry and venture further in future adventures.