What is "Water-Repellent" - Definition & Explanation
Last Updated on: 04-Mar-2024 ( ago)
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Water-Repellent Wonders: The Evolution of Moisture-Defying Textiles

Demystifying Textiles: The Evolution and Importance of Water-Repellent Fabrics

While textiles have wrapped and adorned human civilization for millennia, their evolution has continuously strived for more than mere aesthetic appeal. Among the marvels of textile innovation, water-repellent fabrics stand out for their practicality and technological prowess. These materials, which resist water penetration to varying degrees, have revolutionized various industries and our daily lives. This deep dive into water-repellent textiles explores its history, types, significance, and its titans in the industry.

History and Origin

The desire to stay dry, be it during torrential rains or seafaring adventures, predates modern civilization. Early attempts at achieving water repellency involved using natural oils or waxes to coat fabrics. The Inuits, for instance, used seal or whale fat to make their clothing water-resistant. However, it was the 20th century, with the dawn of polymer science and advanced manufacturing techniques, that truly ushered in the era of water-repellent textiles.

Types of Water-Repellent Textiles

  • Wax-based Coatings: One of the oldest methods; it involves infusing fabric with paraffin or beeswax.
  • Fluoropolymer Coatings: Makes use of complex polymers to create a near-invisible shield against moisture.
  • Silicone-infused Fabrics: Utilizes the water-resistant properties of silicones to keep fabrics dry.
  • Nanotechnology Coatings: Employs nanostructures to repel water while maintaining fabric breathability.
  • Hydrophobic Sprays: A modern, convenient method allowing users to spray existing fabrics for water resistance.

Handling Tips

  • Avoid aggressive scrubbing or washing, which can degrade the repellent coating.
  • For wax-based fabrics, periodic re-waxing maintains optimal water resistance.
  • Always follow manufacturer washing and care instructions to prolong fabric life.
  • Avoid ironing directly on water-repellent surfaces; it may weaken the treatment.
  • Store in a dry environment to prevent mold or mildew formation.

Profiles of Leading Manufacturers or Users

  • Gore-Tex: A pioneer in the industry, Gore-Tex fabrics are renowned for their breathable yet waterproof capabilities, making them a favorite for outdoor apparel.
  • Columbia Sportswear: With their proprietary Omni-Tech technology, Columbia offers garments that are both water-repellent and breathable.
  • The North Face: Known for its rugged outdoor gear, The North Face employs advanced water-repellent technologies in its products.
  • Nikwax: A leader in aftercare products, Nikwax provides a range of solutions to enhance and restore water repellency in fabrics.
  • 3M: A major player in diverse industries, 3Ms Scotchgard Protector is iconic in making fabrics and upholstery resistant to water and stains.


  • Outdoor Apparel: Jackets, trousers, and hats designed for treks, hikes, or simple rainy days benefit immensely from water-repellent features, keeping adventurers dry.
  • Military and First Responder Gear: In challenging and unpredictable environments, water-repellent uniforms and gear provide additional protection against moisture-related complications.
  • Footwear: From hiking boots to everyday shoes, water repellency enhances durability and user comfort.
  • Home Furnishings: Curtains, upholstery, and cushions treated with water-repellent technologies resist spills and stains, prolonging their aesthetic appeal and lifespan.


The journey of water-repellent textiles, from rudimentary waxed cloths of ancient mariners to the advanced nanotechnologies of today, is a testament to human ingenuity and our persistent drive for comfort and functionality. These fabrics are not merely marvels of innovation; they represent a confluence of history, culture, and technology. They echo the aspirations of ancient civilizations, while heralding the promises of modern science. As we stand on the threshold of an era where smart textiles and sustainable solutions shape the narrative, water-repellent fabrics remind us of the enduring and dynamic relationship between humanity and textilesa bond that continuously evolves, adapts, and enriches lives.

Water repellent
Water repellent is a wet, usually semi-durable finish applied to yarn rather than a finished fabric in order to resist the penetration of water while allowing the passage of air and moisture. The finish can be a wax emulsion or other chemical, and each option varies in efficacy, toxicity and eco-friendliness.
Durable Water Repellent
(DWR) Fabrics that retain their durability and their ability to repel water after wearing, washing, and cleaning. Typically involves a fabric with a coating.
Water Repellent
Fabrics that have been treated with a finish which cause them to shed water and resist water penetration, but are still air-permeable. Treatments can include wax coatings, resins, silicones, and fluorine derivatives. Such treatments do not close the pours of the fabric, while waterproof finishes do.
Water repellent
Fabrics that have been treated to resist wetting and shed water by causing the water to bead on the surface. It does not close the pores of the fabric as waterproof treatments do, so the fabrics are comfortable to wear. It will offer protection in a light shower but not heavy rain. Water repellency may be added by treating the fabric with fluorocarbon chemicals, wax, silicone or resins. Sometimes called water resistant.
Durable Water Repellent (DWR)
Fabrics that retain their durability and their ability to repel water after wearing, washing, and cleaning. Typically involves a fabric with a coating
A type of finish applied to a textile fabric and that prevents the spreading of globules of water over its surface.


The term is normally not applied to a water-repellent finish that is impervious to air; this is generally referred to as "waterproof".
A term applied to fabrics that have been treated with a finish which causes them to shed water, but are still air-permeable.

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