“Waterproof,” “water-repellent,” and “water-resistant” are common labels printed on many products and devices.
However, most consumers wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference between the three, naturally assuming that they all suggest water impenetrability. Truth is, waterproof, water-repellent, and water-resistant indicate varying degrees of water protection, and knowing the difference between these labels will help you choose the right product for any wet situation.
If a product is labeled as “water-resistant,” it was designed specifically to resist damage by water. In most cases, products are coated with a light substance to help improve their ability to endure regular water exposure. This is a label you see commonly among products that resist regular exposure to water (hand-washing or light rain), but are not built to withstand any heavier exposure.
Water-repellent is a step-up from water-resistant. If a product is labeled as “water-repellent”, it means that it is hydrophobic. This entails that the product actually has physical properties that, as the label suggests, repels water on contact. Water-repellent products are generally built with special materials and techniques. They are typically coated with a type of nanotechnology film (Gore-Tex or DWR) that gives them a higher chance of withstanding above-average water exposures.
A waterproof label provides the highest level of water protection among all labels. “Waterproof” means that the surface of the product is completely impermeable. By using the process of seam sealing (the process of covering the stitch holes and seams in a fabric in order to prevent water leakage due to rain or snow), the internal fabrics are completely sealed from external conditions, truly making them water-proof. These products are designed to provide high levels of sustained protection during harsh conditions. Interestingly, waterproofing is a process that can also be done manually. By using a regular nonporous sealant, people can take a water-repellent product and upgrade it to waterproof in no time.
However, just because a product is labeled waterproof or has been upgraded into waterproof, doesn’t mean that the product is going to be indefinitely impervious to water. High exposures to harsh conditions or misuse can eventually tear the materials in the product and jeopardize its impermeability.
Nevertheless, now that you know the difference among water-resistant, water-repellent and waterproof, you should have a stronger confidence in purchasing the perfect product, whether it’s drizzling, raining, or pouring. Depending on a label description, you can decide whether a product will be suitable for the conditions that you expose it to. Truly know your product, because awareness of information from a product’s labels will help you prolong its usage for years to come.