Water Proof and Water Repellent Fabric: Definition and Meaning

Last updated on August 6th, 2023 at 12:56 am

Treating fabrics to withstand water. Proofing against water.

The acts of making fabrics impervious to water with use of substances like rubber etc. Methods of impregnating or coating fabrics with substances like oil, wax, rubber, resin etc.

Water Proof and Repellent

Water-Proof Fabric

Fabric where in the pores, the open spaces between warp and weft yarns and also between fibrs are filed with appropriate substances and which results in having a continuous surface of the fabric and with very little air-permeability.

Water-proof fabric

Water-Repellent Fabric

Fabric where in fibres are usually coated with a hydrophobic substance and whose pores are not filled in the course of the treatment. These are therefore quite permeable to air and water vapor.

Water-repellent fabric

Natural fibres are hydrophilic and can absorb water and therefore are not water repellent; the same is the case with regenerated fibres like rayons etc., or even protein fibres. And so these can’t be used as wet-weather-wear, if external water-repellent finishes are not given.

Synthetic fibres, on the other hand, are hydrophobic and have lower or nil water absorbency or water absorbing capacity. The fabrics of these fibres have the inherent capacity to withstand wet-weather-wear and these need no treatments.

This factor achieved considerable importance in World War-2, when a serious consideration had to be given to this factor and tests were made which showed quite interesting results. As a result of this wool as outer great coat in the Army uniform was given up and was substituted by light weight cotton fabric with a water-repellent finish.

The unique ability of cotton fabrics, swelling under water and thereby closing the interstices, results in making the garment water-repellent, after initial wetting and yet this cloth remains air-permeable, when dry.

The Shirley Institute undertook this experiment, which ultimately resulted in the development of ‘Shirley-cloth’ of soft yarns with high thread count, in Oxford weave.

Difference Between Water Proof and Water Repellent Fabric

PoresFilledNot filled
Air-permeabilitySmall or nilLarge
Water vapor permeabilitySmall or notLarge
CharacteristicsResistant to passage of water even under hydrostatic headResistant to water and rain and spreading of water but permits water under hydrostatic head
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He is Abu Sayed, the founder of the blog site Textile Apex. He is a Textile Engineer having eight years plus practical experience in the Textile and Clothing industries. With a deep love for fashion and a keen eye for detail, he combines his creative flair with extensive knowledge to offer insightful and engaging content to his readers.
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