Is Neoprene Waterproof?

Fact Checked By James A Rockey | Post Updated On: May 19, 2021
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Neoprene is a type of synthetic rubber produced by polymerization of chloroprene and is often used in wetsuits and other gear. Have you ever wondered to yourself why neoprene is used on most wetsuits and water garments? In this article, we answer whether neoprene is waterproof and take you through the other qualities of neoprene that make it ideal for use on garments. Read on!

Yes, neoprene is waterproof. The material is made of a continuous polymer that doesn’t allow water to seep through, making it waterproof and ideal for making wetsuits.

How Do You Make Neoprene Waterproof?

Neoprene is scientifically termed polychloroprene and comprises a mixture of oil and petroleum passed through chlorine. The process of making neoprene involves the polymerization of chloroprene to form a strong and continuous structure. Polymerization is a chemical reaction that involves two or more small molecules combining to form a chain-like structure called a polymer. It is this structure of the molecules together with their characteristics that makes neoprene waterproof.

Characteristics That Make Neoprene Waterproof.

1. Ultra-Tightness 

The molecules that make up neoprene are held tightly together that water cannot pass through them. This tightness helps neoprene maintain temperature without losing or gaining heat. 

2. Fabric Strength 

Neoprene is made up of materials resistant to pressure, making neoprene remain waterproof even under high pressure.

3. Oil And Petroleum Components

Neoprene is made up of a combination of oil and petroleum passed through chlorine. These materials are immiscible in water, therefore, making neoprene water repellant.

What Are The Properties Of Neoprene?

Besides being waterproof, neoprene has other properties that make it popular as an alternative for rubber in various applications. Let’s have a look at some of these properties:

1. Neoprene Is Heat Resistant

Neoprene is best suited for high-temperature applications since it doesn’t degrade physically. Neoprene can withstand temperatures of up to 135 degrees Celcius without degrading. When heat degradation occurs, it doesn’t manifest in stretching or melting, but it hardens. Neoprene is also resistant to fire, making it ideal for use in fire fighting gear.

2. Neoprene Is Chemical Resistant 

Neoprene has proven to be chemically inert to withstand greases, oils, solvents, and methyl or ethyl alcohols. This feature makes neoprene stand out in the manufacture of safety and protective equipment.

3. Neoprene Has Tremendous Outdoor Resistance

If you want a material that can withstand long hours outdoors, neoprene is your best bet. This material oxidizes slowly and is repellant to the sun and ozone layer, making it ideal for long hours of use outside the house.

4. Resistance To Cold

Have you ever wondered why most wetsuits for cold water are made of neoprene? This is because, besides neoprene’s ability to withstand high temperatures, it can also resist cold of up to -46 degrees Celcius. However, if temperatures go below -50 degrees, Celcius neoprene might become stiff, making it nonfunctional for some uses.

What Are Some Of The Uses And Applications Of Neoprene?

Neoprene has various uses across different industrial fields, that is, in the fashion, medical, automotive, sporting, and even the construction industries. The following are some of its applications

1. Used As An Insulant And Protector

Neoprene is used as the insulating component in electrical wires, power transformers, and light bulbs. Its resistance to fire and static is a great contributor to neoprene’s insulating features. Neoprene is also used to make protectors for phones, laptops, and other electronics due to its cushioning ability. Sometimes, neoprene is also used for packaging fragile items to protect them from breaking.

2. Used To Make Sealants 

Since neoprene is resistant to abrasion, tear, solvents, weather, and oils, it makes for a good sealant. It is used to make window and door seals, shock absorber seals, and hose covers. Sealants made from neoprene can be used both at home and in large-scale applications.

3. Used To Make Protective Gear

Due to its flexibility and thermal resistance, neoprene has been used for ages to make gloves and other protective gear. Since it is resistant to water, oil, and chemicals, neoprene offers extra protection when used on such garments.

Does Neoprene Absorb Water?

Since neoprene is waterproof, it doesn’t allow water to penetrate through it. The rate of absorption is dependent on the amount of air the neoprene contains. The less air the neoprene contains, the more water penetrates the material. The insulation ability results from the nitrogen in the neoprene, thus staying in a floating position because the fabric does not allow penetration of water.

Is Neoprene Dangerous To Wear?

Neoprene is safe to wear. It is only unsafe during the production of neoprene, whereby harmful toxins are produced. In the case of burning neoprene, harmful hydrogen chloride fumes are released into the atmosphere. If you have skin sensitivity, you may complain of allergy.

Is Neoprene Breathable?

If you wear traditional neoprene, you might find it hot and uncomfortable. This is because it is not breathable. This is because the neoprene is made of a closed-like structure. However, you don’t need to worry because there is an advanced breathable neoprene in the market called Ventiprene. This Ventiprene releases body heat and moisture, making the neoprene more breathable.

How Is Neoprene Made?

We have two ways of making neoprene, the limestone process and the oil-based process. The limestone process is the better option because it does not release harmful toxins to the environment. However, the oil-derived process is the most commonly used. In both processes, chloroprene binds molecules together to form polychloroprene crystals. The crystals are then melted and combined with chorine and carbon pigments. They are then baked and cut into sheets. We use butadiene in the oil-derived process to create neoprene, while acetylene is used in the limestone process.                                                            

Limestone-based process neoprene has completely different properties than oil-based. Neoprene from the limestone process has a higher density closed cell structure with air bubbles packed tightly together. The advantage of this is increased elasticity, more heat retention, more waterproof, and durability. 

Conclusion 

Neoprene has been used for ages in wetsuits, swimsuits, and other gear. It is waterproof and resistant to temperature changes. Garments made from neoprene may deteriorate and lose their water resistance over time due to wear and tear. We hope that this article was helpful to you and that you now know more about neoprene.

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