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Introduction to breathable water-repellent textiles and their production methods

Type of Breathable textile materials | Methods of producing Breathable textiles

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Breathability refers to the ability of a fabric to absorb moisture and release it through the material itself, allowing it to ‘breathe’. Breathable Fabrics transmit body moisture away from the body, thus maximizing comfort and dryness during outdoor activities.

What is water repellent finish?

The durability of Water-Repellent Finishes

Durable water repellent, or DWR, is a coating added to fabrics at the factory to make them water-resistant (or hydrophobic). Durable water repellents are commonly used in conjunction with waterproof breathable fabrics such as Gore-Tex to prevent the outer layer of fabric from becoming saturated with water.

A durable water repellent (DWR) is a functional finish for fabrics, which adds water-shedding properties to existing products. Garments treated with a DWR bead water droplets and force water to roll off the surface of the fabric.

The DWR, as the name suggests, repels water, i.e. water droplets form on the outer surface (as we stated above). And this plays an important role in breathability. When we say a jacket is “breathable”, we don’t actually mean it breathes. What we really mean is that it transports moisture – sweat – from the inside to the outside of the jacket.

For moisture to move from the inside to the outside but not the other way around, the face fabric can’t be soaked in water. As we stated above, hydrophilic fabrics on their own keep you dry from rain from the outside – as they soak it up – but they won’t keep you dry from your own sweat from the inside. So, it’s the combination of a hydrophilic material and a DWR that makes a jacket waterproof and breathable.

Hydrophilic fabrics are also impregnated with a durable water repellent (DWR). But if they inherently stop water reaching your skin, why do you need a DWR? Good question!

We did say this would get a little complicated! But what you need to take away from this is:

  • Waterproofness is what you need to look for if you plan on wearing your gear in rainy or snowy conditions
  • Breathability – i.e. transporting your sweat away from your skin – usually goes hand-in-hand with waterproofness
  • Water repellency offers light rain resistance thanks to the impregnation
  • Types of DWR Solutions
  • Fluorine-free
  • Fluorine-free DWR solutions are the future of water-repellency in the textile industry. These solutions contain no fluorochemicals, making them ultimate environmentally-friendly solutions for garments requiring water repellency.
  • C8/C6: This solution is a chemical compound made up of carbon and fluorine atoms. These atoms form a long chain (C8), which helps repel water and oil from fabrics. Due to concerns from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on fluorochemicals, mostly concerning toxicity and human contact, textile manufacturers have moved away from incorporating this technology into their garments.  The fundamental difference between the C6 solutions and C8 is that the C6 solution contains fewer fluorochemicals, reducing the hazardous risk.
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1 Comment
  1. Arjun Murali says

    Thank you for the detailed explanation Mr. Ashok Haboo. It has been very helpful for a new merchandiser like me. I have recently started a textile startup called swagswami.comSwag Swami and we are in the process of developing new breathable activewear for the Indian Market. This article has helped me a lot!

    Thank you once again Sir!

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