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Water-repellent finish or waterproof fabric, do you know the difference?

Water-repellent finish fabrics are responsible for shaping the work uniforms of those professionals who are exposed to water or humidity daily.

According to the RAE, water-repellent refers to substances that are capable of repelling water or seepage. Given the usefulness of this characteristic, more and more textile fabrics are being treated to offer this function in the work uniforms of certain sectors.

Thus, while water-repellent finish fabrics are chosen for workers who need to keep their clothes dry despite working in a wet or splashy environment, waterproof fabrics are specifically indicated for contexts where water is present in considerable quantities and pressures.

Where is water-repellent finish fabric used in the workplace?

Garments made with water-repellent finish fabrics are chosen to satisfy the needs of those workers who face water or humidity in their daily work and who, at the same time, due to the physical activity they carry out, need to wear breathable clothing capable of drying out.

Water-repellent finish fabrics are particularly useful in work environments where humidity is a constant presence, where workers may get wet because they are in contact with liquids, or where they regularly work outdoors.

Along these lines, one of the work sectors where the use of water-repellent finish fabrics has grown the most is the healthcare sector. With the arrival of the pandemic, the production of antibacterial water repellent finish fabrics has increased to produce all the Individual Protection Equipment (IPE), coats and masks that hospitals have been demanding.

Likewise, the housekeeping sector is another area of work where the benefits of water-repellent finish fabrics are frequently used, as they prevent cleaning products takes contact with the worker's skin. In our catalog, you will find different styles of workwear for housekeeping workers.

Work uniforms made of water-repellent finish fabrics have an important advantage regarding waterproof fabrics: they are breathable and have the ability to dry again.

In what work context is waterproof fabric used?If in the previous lines we mentioned that water- repellent finish garments are chosen to prevent water or humidity from being absorbed by the fabrics, waterproof fabrics are demanded in contexts where water is present in large quantities and for long periods of time.

Thus, one of the most relevant advantages of waterproof workwear is that it prevents water from penetrating into the fabrics, which means that the worker never gets wet. This happens because waterproof fabrics create a physical barrier that prevents the water to come in contact. For this reason, they have the ability to withstand greater pressures and quantities of water than the water-repellent finish fabrics. 

Hence, waterproof fabrics are sometimes made of a Gore-Tex membrane, a microporous structure whose size is 20,000 times smaller than a drop of water, it prevents that the rain or liquids penetrates into the fabric.  

Thus, as it has a higher resistance to external factors, the waterproof fabric does not allow the passage of water or air in garments made with this material. However, although it is the ideal fabric for professionals exposed to adverse weather conditions, its main disadvantage is that water remains on the fabric, preventing it from transpiring.

In other words, waterproof fabrics are useful because they repel water very well and withstand high water pressures, but they do not have the capacity to allow the fabric to dry or to allow it to breathe. It is precisely for this reason that it is often used for occupations such as road workers or street sweepers, among many others.

What symbols should I know to identify them?

When identifying which type of fabric is used in each work uniform, we must pay attention to the icons that refer to each of the different textiles. Waterproof fabrics are not represented in the same way on the label as breathable or water-repellent fabrics.

To give us an idea, waterproof garments will have a symbol on the label consisting of water drops and arrows pointing towards the top of the garment. This type of workwear may also be marked with another icon showing a drawing of a raincoat next to a drop of water.

To represent fabrics and textiles with a water-repellent finish, we can directly find an icon that exclusively indicates this function and which is represented by water drops and arrows (just like the waterproof fabric), but with the difference that, at the bottom of the drawing, there are some dots that indicate that this fabric is also breathable.

Likewise, garments that are breathable themselves are marked with an icon to represent this characteristic. Often it is drawn as a mixture of the three previous ones: some drops together with arrows and dots that seek to represent that the moisture vapor is expelled through the fabric itself. 
However, since the icons used do not always follow the same design pattern, the best thing to do after reading the labels is to ask about the characteristics of the fabric of each garment. If you are looking for a work uniform with these characteristics and where waterproof or water-repellent fabric is present, we recommend you take a look at our design uniforms and work clothes catalog. 

And of course, if you have any doubts about the textile composition of the fabrics, do not hesitate to contact our customer service department through the telephone numbers and e-mail addresses provided for this purpose.