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


When it comes to selecting a fabric for outdoor wear, it is important to consider the level of water protection it offers. Often, fabrics are labeled as water-resistant, water-repellent or waterproof. While these terms seem similar, they have important differences. In this article, we will explain the differences between water-resistant, water-repellent, and waterproof fabrics.

Water-Resistant Fabrics

Water-resistant fabrics have a weave or surface that prevents water from soaking through immediately. These fabrics can resist water to some extent, but may not be able to handle a heavy downpour. If you wear a water-resistant garment in heavy rain, your clothes will eventually get wet. Some water-resistant fabrics are treated with a finish to enhance their water-resistant properties.

Water-Repellent Fabrics

Water-repellent fabrics offer more protection than water-resistant fabrics. Water-repellent fabrics are either very tightly woven or are coated with a special finish that causes water to roll off the surface, rather than soaking through. This means that water beads up on the surface of the fabric, helping to keep you dry in moderate rain, or even a light shower. However, over time, the finish may wear off, and it may require reapplication. Water-repellent garments may be labeled as machine washable, but read the label carefully, as some may require special care, such as dry cleaning.

Waterproof Fabrics

Waterproof fabrics provide the highest level of water protection. Waterproof fabrics have been crafted to prevent the penetration of water, even in heavy downpours. These fabrics are typically made from extremely fine polyester/nylon blends, rubber, plastic, or other non-porous materials. They may also be coated with a finish that prevents water from seeping through. It’s important to note that while waterproof fabrics keep you dry, they may not be breathable. Be sure to read the care label carefully before laundering.

Care Tips for Waterproof Fabrics

It is important to follow specific care instructions when caring for waterproof garments. Most waterproof fabrics cannot be dry cleaned or ironed, and using regular detergents may cause damage to the fabric. To ensure the longevity of waterproof garments, always follow the manufacturer’s care label instructions.


When it comes to selecting a fabric for outdoor wear, it’s important to consider the level of water protection offered by the fabric. Water-resistant, water-repellent, and waterproof fabrics are all designed to provide some level of protection against water. However, the extent of their effectiveness varies. Understanding the differences between these fabric types can help you choose the right one for your needs.