It boggles the mind how many water-resistant materials are available in boots, jackets and bags these days. With Gore-Tex, Duck Cloth, PVC and so many more available, it’s hard to figure out what’s best and how to keep materials rain-proof over the long run. Eventually, all fabric will wear out and frey, so water can seep in. So what is the best waterproof spray?
Worry not, there are an array of options on the market but make sure you choose wisely. First, consider what needs proofed, will it be a a tent, rain gear or waterproof boots. Second, quick drying sprays are common but waterproofing bars have their merits. So we nabbed the 7 best proofers for all the standard materials in jackets, tents, bags, car interiors and put them to a grueling test of attrition in the following breakdown comparison.
How Waterproofing Sprays Work?
There is more to waterproofing than meets the eye and a variety of techniques used to keep you dry. Firstly, lets start from the beginning. Waterproofing fabric got its start when fishermen from our distant past would apply fish oil and lard to sails as a sea spray repellent. It wasn’t long before these crafty medieval seafarers craft rain gear out of them. Since then, new technologies have allowed rain gear to become much lighter and less stinky to make.
Check out our (detailed article) on the history and application of traditional fabric weatherproofing. Secondly, modern materials such as polypropylene and polyester will keep you dry in a spritz without the need for additives. Additionally, some specialized weaves of Dyneema and nylon are bolster high end hiking and outdoor gear for tougher environments. Finally, we get to the soft fiber of the matter, or the subsraight that our best waterproof spray is applied to.
High End Tech
High end mountaineering gear manufacturers add extreme protection with creative new technologies. Modern tech, creates a multi-layer membrane to split the material into a sandwich of water repellent goodness. One of the most recognized brands is Gore-Tex. Its sewn into just about every type of rain proof product available for a reason. It completely waterproofs just about anything.
For many, that can be years of casual rain proof protection and stellar moisture control. That said, even the industry standard wears out eventually; sooner than later under heavy use. But for those who appreciate a dry bottom or a good life hack, you can add that waterproof protection back in with the right treatment – for instance, waterproofing sprays.
Properties to Consider in the pursuit of the best waterproof spray
Waterproofing sprays are like spray paint, they cover the top of whatever you apply it to. Additionally, they are a chemical cocktail of Silicone, PTFE, or Fluorochemical Urethane. When sprayed onto fabric, they fill all the pores and gaps that would let water seep through but don’t seal the fabric entirely. Some formulations allow fabric to maintain its light feel and breath-ability but may not last.
Consequently, most fabric sprays trade off durability and safety for convenience. Culminating in a re-application about once a year depending on how often you use your rain gear. Regardless, an aerosol can of waterproofing is much less than a new Barbour jacket. But wait, there are other contenders. Fabric weatherproofing bars are growing in popularity with their promise of natural ingredients and guarantees of longer wearing performance, but we will get to that in a moment.
Let’s get to the skinny, we put together the 7 best waterproofing agents on sale today and put them through the ultimate test of waterproofing performance and endurance. Let’s look at the contenders determine the best waterproof spray.
Scotchgard Fabric Protector
Scotchgard Fabric Protector is the most prolific water repellent on the market today for a reason, it works. This Fluorochemical Urethane Aerosol “helps repel liquids and block stains without changing the look and feel of fabric.” States 3m on their website. This product is marketed for use with fabric outerwear and furniture primarily “for life’s little mishaps.” Hold your Scotchman, this next contender is hardly sheepish.
Rust-Oleum Never Wet
Rust-Oleum Never Wet has a growing presence in the retail market. Mixed but mostly positive reviews earns itself a place on our list. The Acrylic and solvent based spray describes itself as a “one step superhydrophobic, water repelling treatment designed to keep items dry longer.” Like Scotchgard, Rust-Oleum claims a crystal clear formula that doesn’t change the look or feel of the fabric.
Additionally, it is marketed for use with shoes, outdoor patio furniture, backpacks, gloves, camping gear and even Swede but is not recommended for use with interior carpet & upholstery. Conversely, our next contender is from another industry giant, SC Johnson.
Kiwi Camp Dry is SC Johnson’s approach to water repellent protection. a Silicone based aerosol, its commonly found in camping outlets nationwide. Marketed to camping and hiking enthusiasts, claiming a “Unique formula that bonds to leather and fabrics to create an extremely tough water repellent barrier, while allowing materials the breath” also claims extreme durability on their website. Additionally, it is perfect for tents, tarps, boots, hunting apparel, outdoor gear, boat cover, and more for consumer level protection. Unfortunately, there is no mention of how it will affect the look and feel of fabric. But NikWax is has been in this game since the 1970’s (apparently before aerosol spray).
Nikwax Wax Cotton Proof Neutral Water Repellent – The best waterproof spray?
Endorsed by Ray Mears and other outdoor legends, Nikwax is akin to your 93 year old English uncle who single highhandedly won the Battle of Britain and climes Mt. Everest for kicks on the weekend. At least this is what the marketing department would have you believe. This Paraffin based spray has been beating back the elements since the 1977 and has earned a reputation for rugged quality. As their website states, It “Rejuvenates the water repellency of tired, neutral waxed cotton clothing, replaces green coloration and prolongs the life of your clothing.” Unfortunately, no claim is made for its performance on non cotton textiles or furniture. But they do claim it “overcomes the problems of gear wetting-out” on their website.
Could this industry stalwart be the best waterproof spray? It will be interesting to see how this stacks up to the most niche entrant, Bickmore.
Bickmore Gard-More Water & Stain Repellent – The best waterproof spray?
Gard-More water and stain repellent is popular within saddlery and equestrian groups as it’s great for leather. This Acrylic Polymer Aerosol boasts maximum leather, suede, fabric, felt, nubuck and more. Protecting against dirt, water & stains on all colors of hats, coats, footwear, tack, jackets, shells, gloves, furniture, luggage, car upholstery, boat seats and more.” If we didn’t know better, we might be lead to believe this stuff is the long awaited cure for COVID. Like its competitors, ultimate breath-ability enhances durability and “crystal clear” appearance is guarantees a clean look. Despite the marketing bluster, we are happy to report this product is all American.
Fjallraven Greenland Wax – How can a bar be the best waterproof spray?
Fjallraven is one of the first modern outdoor outerwear companies, known today for their tough canvas backpacks and pants. The traditional Paraffin based Greenland Wax works best with fine woven G-1000 fabric. As stated on their website, “It works best when rubbed on and melted in for a water resistant and durable surface. Made from high-quality paraffin and beeswax, which makes Greenland wax more gentle towards both people and the environment”. Fjallraven recommends periodic reapplication as the “wax will over time be worn and the product will loose some of its functionality.” Otter Wax fully intends to upend this legendary brand with its offering below.
Otter Wax Fabric Wax
Otter Wax is a relative newcomer, launching in 2011 with an all natural wax bar. Uniquely, their blend of “plant-based waxes and oils create a unique patina without the use of “silicone, paraffin or other petroleum-based products” as stated on their website. “It can be used to revive the waterproofing capabilities of factory-waxed or oiled clothing and is also an excellent way to waterproof untreated fabrics. Use on a variety of clothing and equipment from jackets, to hats, bags, tents, and more”. But how will plant based oils stack up to the ever popular aerosol sprays and what about Hawk Tools?
Hawk Tools Fabric Weatherproofing
Hawk Tools Weatherproofing Wax Sports tried and tested natural ingredients. Namely, Beeswax, being an old stand-by for European sailors of old. Additionally, native American peoples use Pine Tar to great effect proofing canoes and moccasins. This blend is durable like pine tar and flexible like wax. Additionally, TYLOL™ is added for perfect adhesion to natural and synthetic fabrics for an ultra durable finish. These are the contestants for the best waterproof spray award. Before we get carried away, lets look at the types of materials that you might need to waterproof. Find out more in our store.
A simple question; Does water soak through fabric with these weatherproofing agents applied? Unfortunately, the process of determining this is less simple. There is a vast variety of material coloration, weave pattern and chemical composition to consider. Additionally, there are a mind boggling number of use cases for the best waterproof spray. Yacht covers or outdoor furniture. Think thousands of variations and all of them deserve the same repellent love an attention. So how can we cover our bases and give em’ a run for their money.
First we need some samples of the most common fabrics that see used in rainy conditions. Our research shows that some of the most common are Cotton Canvas, Polyester, Nylon, Polyester Blend and Swede. Goretex, PVC, Polypropylene and so many others are less common and will be tested in our next article.
Second, we need to consider the common weaves for each application. A sample of polyester outdoor furniture material will do nicely.
- Challenge 1 – Does it work
- Challenge 2 – AATCC 22 Spray Test
- Challenge 3 – AATCC 127 Hydrostatic Pressure Method
- Challenge 4 – Abrasion test
- Challenge 5 – Stretch test
- Challenge 6 – Long term Durability
- Conclusion – The roundup
We are currently in testing and will update this article with our findings this coming month. Thanks for your patience!
-Challenge 1 – The “does it work” test
The “Does it Work” test is simple, we pour water on each sample to verify that water is at least repelled in a spritz. All coatings passed with flying colors. We are on track to find the best waterproof spray.
-Challenge 2 – TheAATCC22 Spray Test
The AATCC22 testing regime is the industry standard for determining a fabrics resistance to wetting.
-Challenge 4 – The Abrasion Test
220 grit sandpaper and a specialized jig should do the trick!
-Challenge 5 – Stretch test
Bending down to widdle a feather stick on a long back country hike or reaching over to lop off a branch while firefighting in Oregon all require feats of dexterity. The question is, how much can the best waterproof spray handle when stretched to the limit?
-Challenge 6 – Long Term Durability
We left our samples out in the elements for two weeks and did we ever learn about durability. Finally, this challenge will be the determining factor in our selection of the best waterproof spray.