Water proof vs water resistant. What’s the difference?

Posted by Eddie Toy on

There is a significant difference between water proof and water resistant. Sometimes, though, people don’t realize the difference until it’s too late. 

If you ever thought you were wearing a waterproof rain jacket but ended up being soaked, you know this all too well. You may have been wearing a water-resistant rain jacket, and it took standing in the rain for an hour to find out. Or perhaps you thought your phone case was waterproof and took a swim only to be left with a ruined $1,000 phone. 

Waterproof and water-resistant are not interchangeable, despite the common misconception. There are customers and even some brands out there that believe these two terms mean the same thing.

Find out the difference and never mix up the two again.

What Does Water-Resistant Mean?

Water-resistant is the lowest level of water protection. There are many different terms used that all mean water-resistant. Some of these phrases are water repellant and hydrophobic, which we will get into. 

If something is sold as water-resistant, it means that it's made to repel water to a certain extent. A water-resistant product will survive or keep someone dry when it comes in contact with small amounts of water. However, water-resistant products will not keep someone or something dry when exposed to water for an extended period. 

We often see products like watches, athletic clothes, and bags labeled as water-resistant. These products will not immediately soak up water and should be fine if you get caught in the rain or sweat during a workout.

What Makes Fabric Water-Resistant?

The density of the fabric is what makes a product or clothing water-resistant. Fabrics that are tightly woven are often labeled as water-resistant - think of nylon and polyester.

If the fabric is water-resistant, it will only block out water for a certain amount of time. The density of the fabric makes it take longer for water to seep in. Other fabrics, like cotton or faux fur, will immediately soak up water and are the opposite of water resistance.

What Does Water-Repellent and Hydrophobic Mean?

Water-repellent means that something is not easily penetrated by water because it has been treated with a surface coating. Unlike water-resistant products, something that is water-repellent has an extra layer that will resist water. 

Products labeled as water-repellent are hydrophobic thanks to this special coating that fends off the water. Hydrophobic means that it does not dissolve easily in the water. 

We see this protective layer used in the automotive industry and a lot of electronics. The coating is very thin, from nanometer to millimeter in dimension. This incredibly thin layer is good because it doesn't affect the size of a product but makes a big impact. Conformal coatings prevent moisture from damaging or corroding the interior of certain products.

The coating can prolong the life of your device by improving its durability. The coating safeguards it from water and everyday activities. These coatings also save the companies and businesses selling them from repair costs that come with a warranty.

Coating or not, water-repellent products are still not completely waterproof.

CordaRoy's Waterproof Bed Protector

What Does Waterproof Mean?

By definition, waterproof means impervious to water. Unlike water-resistant and water-repellent, waterproof means absolutely no water should penetrate the product. However, this doesn't mean that something is waterproof indefinitely. This may seem contradictory to the definition, but products can only be waterproof up to a certain point. 

Products that aren't fabric get a waterproof rating, which will tell you exactly how waterproof something is and for how long. For example, an IPX7 rating means that a product can be fully submerged in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, your product will be in danger of water damage. 

For fabrics, there is no standardized waterproof rating system. They are tested on a scale to determine if they can be labeled as waterproof, which we will get into later. Depending on the product, you don't necessarily need every part to be waterproof if it is not going to be fully submerged in water. 

If a product is labeled as waterproof, it should stay dry for a reasonable amount of time under wet conditions. A fabric's ability to repel water is determined by the amount of pressure it can endure before water starts to seep in. When it comes to fabric being waterproof, it's all about the sealed seams. If the seams of the fabric aren't waterproof, water can quickly get through.

As mentioned before, polyester is a great waterproof material because it doesn't absorb water easily.

Our waterproof chair protectors are made from polyester and have a waterproof backing for extra protection. This design ensures water won't seep in, and your chair will be safe against moisture or liquid. 

Our waterproof protectors have breathable side panels. While you might be wondering how something can be waterproof and breathable, it is possible!

What About Waterproof and Breathable Products?

Waterproof breathable fabrics and materials have been around for the past 40 years, and they've improved over time. These fabrics have the ability to stop moisture from seeping in. They also allow moisture that has become enclosed to escape and evaporate. 

Waterproof breathable fabrics are made up of two parts. The first part is called a face fabric, like our polyester outer layer. The purpose of this first layer is to offer the first level of protection. However, it is not 100% waterproof. 

The second layer is called the membrane. The membrane is what gives our chair protectors that waterproof guarantee. This layer has microscopic holes that prevent water from entering while also allowing moisture to escape. This ability to keep water out while allowing vapor to escape makes our protectors breathable. 

The waterproof layer also has one of those special coatings to help keep water out. Most waterproof-breathable fabrics are treated with durable water repellent (DWR). DWR is the coating we already mentioned that helps repel water. When you see water beading off the fabric, it's thanks to the DWR on it. This extra layer of protection on the membrane ensures a fabric won't become saturated without adding more weight. 

This waterproof membrane will protect your chair if the water sits directly on it. 

Understanding Waterproof Ratings

As mentioned before, there is no standard waterproof rating for fabrics. However, companies have several tests they use for fabrics to find out if they are indeed waterproof.

These are four different tests fabrics can undergo to determine whether or not they are waterproof: 

Hydrostatic Pressure Method: Permeability of fabrics tested under specific water pressure. 

Spray Method: Fabric is tested by being sprayed from different angles to see the degree to which it gets wet when drizzled.

Rain Method: Fabric sprayed to simulate rain to test water penetration. 

Wicking Method: Fabric tested to see how much water can be absorbed. 

When it comes to coated fabric, water permeability can not be tested with the wicking method, only the first three methods, because of its structure.

Fabric is waterproof if it can adequately withstand these four testing methods.

Waterproof Essentials

There are a few things that are very beneficial to have waterproof. Whether it's clothes for yourself or products you've spent your hard-earned money on or that you want to keep in pristine condition.

For example, an umbrella and a rain jacket are waterproof essentials that we need to be waterproof to keep us dry. You also might want to have a waterproof phone case or a waterproof watch since they often come in contact with rain. 

What about your mattress? It doesn't immediately come to mind when discussing a waterproof essential, but at night we sweat, and that can seep into your mattress and stay. The average adult sweats 26 gallons a year in bed. All that sweat makes your mattress a perfect warm, moist environment for fungus and bacteria to grow and flourish. Gross!

A waterproof mattress cover can prevent a moist environment from happening. 

Our covers for our convertible chairs are very comfortable and will keep your bed fresh and clean. The cover protects your bed and prevents moisture from building up.

In Summary

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell whether something is just water-resistant or fully waterproof. Companies that use the two phrases interchangeably don't help. And since different companies can use different tests for fabrics, it can add another layer of uncertainty.

This is why it is important to not just focus on how a product is labeled but know what you are looking for. Make sure you read the product description to see if the materials they're using are waterproof. 

The difference between water-resistant and waterproof isn't straightforward. Even when something is waterproof, it doesn't mean it will be impervious to water forever. Eventually, even waterproof materials can take on liquid if exposed over long periods to a lot of water.

There are some great waterproof products out there, like the waterproof mattress protector that you can find here at CordaRoy’s, so make sure you do your research to find them.


Water Resistant vs Waterproof | hzo

Hydrophobic Definition | Northwestern.edu.

What's The Difference: Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant | Hi Consumption

The Testing of Water Permeability and Waterproofing of Fabrics - Testex

Dirty Mattress Health Hazards | WebMD

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