Since its invention in 1938, Teflon has impacted our lives in countless ways.
One of the most practical uses when winter rolls around (In the UK especially) is Waterproof Fabric…
Mostly used on activewear and outwear such as jackets, windbreakers, raincoats, and in other applications such as backpacks, umbrellas it keeps us comfortable and dry outside.
But do you know what makes them repel water?
Well, here’s our guide on what waterproof fabric is, its history, and how it’s made…
What is Waterproof Fabric?
Simply put, waterproof fabric is any type of fabric that repels water.
These fabrics are either inherently water-resistant or have been treated to repel the absorption of water and other liquids.
However, it must be noted that there’s a major difference between waterproof and water-resistant fabrics. Waterproof fabric is 100% resistant to water while water-resistant fabrics can only withstand liquids for a limited time.
What makes waterproof fabrics unique is that they have the ability to block liquids from passing through but they also have the ability to evaporate sweat from the body by being diffused into the fabric, making them comfortable and breathable.
Not A Modern Idea…
The earliest record of waterproof fabric comes from the 13th century.
It is said that South American natives covered their clothing in latex (a form of rubber), to make them resistant to water.
However, the earliest effective waterproof and breathable fabric made for commercial use came about in the 1940s, which was called ‘Ventile‘, and was a great solution for military purposes in pilots’ immersion suits.
It wasn’t until 1978 though, that waterproof-breathable fabrics were first introduced through outdoor wear, with the introduction of Gore-Tex.
Gore-Tex waterproof fabric was manufactured using a laminate technology that is still being used today.
What is Waterproof Fabric Made Of?
There are usually 2 to 3 layers in a waterproof fabric:
This is the outer layer of the fabric and made commonly of nylon or polyester that’s designed to repel and protect the fabric.
Teflon (ePTFE) or Polyurethane (PU)
The second layer is usually made of Teflon or PU, and its job is to keep water out but also allow water vapour to escape, making the fabric breathable.
Mesh or Lining
If the fabric has a 3rd layer, it’s usually made of fabric that’s designed to add comfort for the user.
How Is Waterproof Fabric Manufactured?
There are several methods used to achieve waterproof fabrics and these can be grouped according to these three types of treatments:
Densely Woven Fabrics
These are fabrics that have been processed to become so dense that water penetration is difficult to achieve. Cotton is usually processed into combed yarn and then piled, leaving very little pores in between the fibres.
When the fabric is exposed to water, the fibres swell up, making the pores even smaller, and making it impossible for water to pass through unless there’s extremely high pressure. This method makes the fabric waterproof without the need for waterproof finishing.
These are made by laminating any conventional textile with extremely thin films made from a polymeric material. Membranes include Teflon and PU that are laminated onto regular fabric.
The process involves coating a layer of polymeric material on one surface of the fabric. The fabric is passed over a roller where a liquid coating is poured over the roller, and the fabric is then passed through a dryer, followed by having it pass through an oven to solidify the coating.
Today, more and more modern fabric technologies are being developed.
These innovations will make waterproof fabric even more effective and comfortable for the wearer and push the technology even further than before.
If you would like to know more about how Product Release could help your industry, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our experts, who can discuss your problem and recommend an innovative solution that will not only help you now but will minimise future damage or repairs, giving you peace of mind.