Is nylon waterproof? It actually depends on more factors. You might be looking for a simple and crystal clear answer, but there is no such thing and you will soon understand why. There are more factors to consider when analyzing the waterproof profile of a nylon garment and each of them can affect the final answer.
The issue might be a bit confusing because many brands and manufacturers claim their nylon work is waterproof. The truth is waterproof capabilities are quite expensive to achieve and lots of manufacturers will only bring in weatherproof or water resistant stuff – which is different, but still good enough to keep your stuff safe.
When Is A Fabric Waterproof?
Often put in the same category and used interchangeably, nylon and polyester are often said to be waterproof. Items like jackets or backpacks based on the nylon fabric are said to keep the water away in an efficient manner. These manufacturers know that their customers will not go swimming with their backpacks or jackets on, so they are less likely to actually test these capabilities.
Based on a simple explanation, fabrics or materials are waterproof if they do not allow water to go through them to the opposite sides. This explanation may seem irrelevant to some, but it is important if you are the outdoor type who spends lots of time in nature.
Generally speaking, it might be almost impossible to find a fabric with a full 100% waterproof rating. If you do, you better get ready to pay a fortune. Such fabrics can be water-resistant, but becoming waterproof involves coating, spraying or laminating them. Plus, they should not be done through classic sewing – creating holes, but ultrasonic welding.
The technique is based on high-frequency sounds. The areas that require joining are practically melting under the frequency and seal together – no sewing, no holes, and no water leaks. Obviously, the process is expensive and less likely to be used on regular clothing or accessories.
Is Nylon Waterproof?
A nylon jacket or backpack might be labeled to be waterproof, but mostly because of the material. In reality, moisture will still sneak through. Such materials will still absorb water when exposed to extreme weather conditions.
Nylon itself is waterproof. Grab a piece of it and it will not absorb water like other fabrics – cotton, for example. But then, you will not have a jacket or a backpack made of a single piece. Instead, all these pieces are woven together. There will be pockets, collars, zippers, sleeves and so on. These parts are woven together and that is where the waterproof capability is lost.
On the same note, an accessory or a piece of clothing is made of both nylon and air gaps – another aspect that reduces the waterproof profile of the material.
Is Nylon Water Resistant?
So, you know nylon is not a waterproof material. But is it water-resistant then? There are more ways to tell. For instance, look at how tightly knitted all the pieces are. There will be small air gaps between the two pieces. No matter how tight those stitches are, there will still be gaps – the smaller they are, the better.
Air is not waterproof. When exposed to intense weather conditions – such as a storm, water molecules will sneak through. They are tiny and can easily go through all these spaces – spend a few hours in rain or in a heavy storm and you will get wet straight away.
Another aspect that compromises the waterproof profile of nylon is the capillary action. Once a side of the fiber is exposed to water, the other side will pull moisture as well. Under high pressure, tight air gaps will make the pieces give up and start absorbing water – imagine submerging your jacket underwater for a longer time.
Generally speaking, nylon is water-resistant, but not always waterproof – unless the respective piece costs way out of the price range for such things. The construction technique is what adds to the final price. A consistent coating of the respective material will fill in all the air spaces, but then, there are parts that cannot be coated.
Whether you have a jacket or a backpack, they often come with exposed areas – such as zippers. They cannot be fully coated, so they will never be waterproof.
Nylon And Polyester Comparison – Which Fabric Is Better?
People are quite confused when in need to make a choice. Nylon and polyester are quite similar and share many characteristics. For example, they both have the same origins – crude oil residue and petroleum. At the same time, both materials are pretty efficient at resisting wrinkles. Maintenance is fairly simple and they are durable, despite their stretching strength capabilities. But with all these, there are more differences between them. In other words, each of them is suitable for certain applications.
Nylon feels silky and soft, so it makes a better choice for soft clothing. You might as well find nylon in underwear – less likely for brands to use polyester then. Polyester, on another hand, is harder and rougher. It can resist abrasion and heavy-duty applications in a more efficient manner, so it is more suitable for outer accessories.
Now, Which Material Is More Hydrophobic?
Nylon is not as efficient as polyester fabric when exposed to water. Since polyester is rougher, it will repel water in a more efficient manner. But at the same time, polyester is not that good when it comes to repelling oils. If you are after a shirt, a T-shirt, or a sweatshirt for your outdoor workouts, this aspect is quite important.
Body odors are based on oils. Once in the material, it will stink. You will obviously throw it in the washing machine once you are done, but the odors will come back as you start sweating again. Nylon is different. The clinging smell will be cleared as soon as the garment is washed.
Then, nylon is not as good as polyester when it comes to handling moisture without actually getting wet. In other words, it takes a bit longer to dry – not the best option in the wintertime, as you will actually feel cold for longer. However, if you live in a warm climate, nylon clothing is excellent, as it keeps the body a bit cool.
Frequently Asked Questions
So, is nylon waterproof material? In theory, it is. A piece of nylon is waterproof. But when used in accessories or clothing, seams and other accessories kill the waterproof profile, yet the respective accessory can still be water-resistant. Still not sure about it?
Is Nylon Good For Rain?
Nylon is one of the most common recommendations for clothing and accessories if you live in a rainy climate, along with polyester, wool, and silk. Most garments are not waterproof, so they are not suitable for heavy rains and storms. However, they are water-resistant and should keep you safe while you find cover or walk through light rain.
Is Nylon Waterproof And Breathable?
Nylon itself is waterproof to a certain point, but not really when used in garments and accessories. It is a fully synthetic material, so it is not breathable. It is designed to repel water, so the low level of absorption does not let the air in. Garments based on nylon are more likely to trap sweat and heat against the skin, rather than leave them out.
What Fabric Is Waterproof?
Gore-tex is both waterproof to a certain level and breathable, but there are more options out there that can become waterproof if treated correctly. They could be synthetic or natural. They are usually coated with waterproofing materials to ensure good final results – such as PVC, rubber, PU, or wax, among others.
Is Nylon Good For Winter?
Nylon is most commonly used in the outer layer because it is water-resistant. It will not absorb too much water even if exposed to wet conditions, such as rain. It is great for rain jackets and ponchos. But then, it depends on what kind of winters you have. A wet winter can be handled with a nylon jacket. However, if temperatures reach extreme lows, you will need something bulkier with extra protection in terms of heat.
As a short final conclusion, nylon can work wonders, but with some limitations. At this point, there is something else you need to ask yourself – do you really need a waterproof costume? Does your backpack really need waterproof capabilities? Are you planning to swim in your waterproof jacket? Chances are your answer is negative to any of these questions.
You can, indeed, find waterproof nylon accessories, but they are expensive to do by the book. There are many products out there that claim on waterproof properties, yet they are only water-resistant. Unless you want to go diving with a waterproof backpack, there are no reasons to overlook water resistant nylon backpacks instead. They will keep your stuff dry if you get caught in rain, but they will not provide full protection if you plan to walk for hours in a heavy thunderstorm.
The bottom line, there are multiple quality standards out there. The brand – as well as the price and a good investigation of the garment or accessory – will give you a good indication of the overall quality.