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What is the difference between "water-resistant," "water-repellent," and "water-proof" fabric?

Water-Resistant fabrics shed water because of their weave or because they have been treated. They will soak through in a heavy rain, however.

Water-Repellent fabrics are more effective than water-resistant fabrics. They are either very tightly woven or coated with a finish that causes the water to make little beads when it hits the fabric rather than going through. The finish may wear off over time or come off in drycleaning. Read the label to determine whether drycleaning is allowed. A silicone spray may rejuvenate the finish.

Water-Proof fabrics can not be penetrated by water and should keep you dry, even in heavy rains. They may be extremely tightly woven, such as a fine polyester/nylon blend, rubber or plastic or other non-porous material, or coated with a finish that makes them breathable but closed to water. Be sure to read the care label before laundering.

 

Sharon Stevens, HES Extension, College of Human Environmental Sciences,
University of Missouri-Columbia