Is fabric waterproofing treatment something worth considering?

Waterproofing is simple: if water on the outer side of the piece of fabric doesn’t get inside, the thing is waterproof, right? Well, yes and no too. There are diverse degrees of waterproofness in outdoor clothing, and here’s why. We all know that the waterproof garments are nothing without their breathability. After all, a black bin bag is waterproof, but you wouldn’t wear one when going hiking. So what is this mystical breathability in fabric waterproofing treatment, and where does it come from?


Waterproofing and Breathability Measures

Waterproof and breathable fabric technology is ever-changing and evolving. In the last ten years, we have seen many new fabric technologies come onto the market. Every different brand has its way of doing things. They will also have their positives and negatives. Many outerwear manufacturers have teamed up with big names to bring the best products to our customers. The fabrics are used primarily to keep us dry and comfortable in various weather conditions, from light rain and snow to monsoonal rain and blizzards.

These two terms will come up a lot when researching outerwear, and they refer to any fabric with a ‘PTFE’ or Polytetrafluoroethylene coating or laminate membrane inside the garment. PTFE treatment repels water, moisture, and other external elements. It allows for transferring smoke and vapour created by body heat or sweating from the inside of the fabric to the outside. Heaps of fabric coating or laminate brands and processes are available to the companies, and they all perform similarly depending on the desired waterproofing or breathability for the price point of the garment.

This ‘membrane’ we are banging on about is applied directly to the inside of the garment and can look like a clear or milky plastic bag when opening up the garment. The process works as water drops are too big to penetrate the membrane, keeping the fabric waterproof and win-resistant. However, sweat vapours are tiny and will be expelled out like a one-way door situation.

Breathability, insulation and waterproof ratings are all words you will hear while dealing with waterproof fabric.


How is waterproofing achieved?

Waterproof materials and fabrics are generally obtained using surface finishing treatments. Covering is a general term for applying one or more layers of the adherent polymeric products on one or both sides of a fabric. This way, a film of polymeric substance is formed on the surface of the textile.


There are two technologies used in fabric protection treatment:

  • In fabric protection treatment, Coating technology, where the polymer is directly applied by layering and impregnation. The polymer is generally in the form of a paste or a high-viscosity liquid. Such coatings are fragile – in the range of 10-100μm.
  • Laminating technology involves the formation of a laminating layer on the surface/surfaces of the textile material. The membrane is fragile so the final thickness of the film remains within the range of 10-100μm.

Waterproof and breathable fabrics are impervious to water and transfer moisture vapour from the material’s inner side to the outer side. They prevent the penetration and absorption of water from outside while allowing water vapour to be transmitted to the external part of the fabric. Waterproof, breathable fabrics also try to tackle the paradox of protection versus comfort. They are doing well, as waterproof, breathable textiles provide reasonable safety and better thermal comfort in a cold and wet environment.


In conclusion

Functional clothing and breathability management principles have gained made fabric waterproofing a versatile process used in a large number of industries and commercial use fabrics. Thus, companies and researchers have been incentivised to develop further the technology for manufacturing waterproof and water-repellent fabrics. The technology is still far from perfect, but it’s improving.

If you want a reliable waterproofing fabric treatment, contact now!