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How Waterproof Clothes Are Made

The Macintosh coat was the first formal waterproof coat in the world. The process began in 1823 when Charles Mackintosh spread rubber onto cotton to create a waterproof cloth. Although it was a great success, there were many problems--like the scent and stiffness of the coat and the tendency to melt in hot weather. Today there are hundreds of different types of waterproof products, all of which work in different ways.

The origin of waterproofing dates back to at least the 13th century when the South American provinces covered their clothes and sweaters with latex to make them waterproof. Europeans imported the idea, but their success was not immediate. The first waterproof clothes were heavy, uncomfortable, and because of the solvent used to spread the latex on the fabrics, they were very smelly.

The development of polymer chemistry allowed them to become lighter, more flexible, and odorless. But an essential quality of modern waterproof is that they also enable the skin to sweat. This means they prevent rainwater from penetrating in but allow the escape of water vapor. This effect is achieved by creating thin-walled structures through which drops of water cannot pass but through which isolated water vapor molecules can pass.

Modern, airy, waterproof fabrics are made with two layers of polymer with different properties. The first layer is hydrophobic, i.e., repels water. And a layer inward, closer to the skin, is hydrophilic, i.e. absorbs water and moisture that is released from the skin.

Then a bit of thermodynamics comes into play: the temperature difference between the inner and outer sides creates the necessary conditions for water molecules absorbed by the inner layer to be pushed to the outside.

Most of the outer fabrics are exposed to water or other liquids. Water-repellent and water-resistant fabrics offer some protection against moisture, but cannot withstand a large amount of water. This type of clothing is good for hiking in cloudy and drizzling climates, but it's not good for keeping the body dry during a downpour. Once the fabric has a certain amount of moisture on it, the water will begin to pass through the clothes.

If waterproof clothes are to be classified as 100% waterproof, they must be able to withstand a high amount of moisture without becoming saturated. Waterproof clothing is often tested under the most severe weather conditions to see how it behaves. Regardless of the amount of moisture that falls on these clothes, they should not be saturated or start absorbing water. The water must roll off the material and fall to the ground.

Laboratory assessments can measure waterproof clothing. If the fabric has a high level of resistance to water under laboratory tests, it will get a good ranking. On the other hand, poorly designed fabric will receive a low ranking.

The ranking of your clothes can be determined on a Sukar site. Almost all major sports brands have waterproofing ranking information on their products for customers to evaluate before buying. If particular clothes do not have a specific ranking, they are probably not waterproof or have not been made with the right materials and test method.

Find your own water-repellent textiles HERE.

The author of this article, Rachel Stinson, has always had a knack for writing, food, fashion, and places. Blogging has combined all four for her, with an added bonus of enthusiastic audiences. She expertly analyzes real estate, restaurants, and ONLINE FASHION STORES with respect to pricing and people involved, and can express her opinions in an engaging manner.

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