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If you’ve ever taken part in watersports, you’ve probably had some experience wearing or using some sort of clothing or item made from neoprene. But is neoprene waterproof and what exactly is it?
We’ll talk about what it is and try to give you a better idea of what it’s used for. Plus, we’ll answer the all important question: is it safe?
What Is Neoprene? Why Would I Need To Use It?
Neoprene is a synthetic material, known as polychloroprene, that was chemically created in 1930 by scientists working for the DuPont company in the USA. The reason it was created was because of the high demands for natural rubber, so this was designed to be a synthetic alternative.
Neoprene is used in the manufacturing of wetsuits, waders and other accessories. The first neoprene wetsuit was invented in 1952, although there are two men who are credited with inventing it – Hugh Bradner and Jack O’Neill, with O’Neill transforming the world of surfing and creating an internationally renowned brand.
Because of the gas bubbles that exist within the neoprene it can be a good insulator, which is why it’s used on wetsuits and other watersports clothing.
When you wear it in water, a small amount of water enters through the fabric and becomes trapped there between the neoprene and your skin. It’s the water that then keeps you warm, as it’s heated by your own body heat. But for this to work the wetsuit or waders need to be tightly fitted.
Neoprene wetsuits come in different thicknesses, ranging from 2 to 5 millimeters, depending on what it’s used for. For example, the colder the water, the thicker you’ll want it and vice versa.
Is Neoprene Waterproof?
The simple answer is yes, neoprene is waterproof. It’s also resistant to oil and heat. Because of the way in which wetsuits and neoprene clothing is stitched and glued, the seams are sealed in order to give it extra resistance to water.
Video: Testing Different Types of Water Resistant Fabrics
Blind stitching is a common method of stitching seams on neoprene clothing, where the seam is stitched inside out and the stitch doesn’t go all the way through, leaving no holes on the outside. Seams are often then glued or taped for added durability.
Is It Safe? Please Tell Me It’s Not Toxic!
Neoprene is mostly safe, as it’s usually in the manufacturing of neoprene that harmful toxins can be released, and when the material is burned it can also release dangerous hydrogen chloride into the air.
Some people with skin sensitivities may report having allergic reactions after wearing neoprene, such as dermatitis. This is due to the mixed chemicals, dialkyl thioureas, which were named “allergen of the year” in 2009 because of the skin reactions caused by neoprene.
However, unless you are already allergic to neoprene, it’s generally considered to be safe to wear for most people.
You now know what neoprene is and how it’s made. So hopefully some of your questions about this man-made material have been answered.
You’ll find neoprene clothing and accessories everywhere when it comes to watersports because of its excellent insulating abilities and waterproof nature. For kayaking or fishing in colder environments, neoprene can be, for many, an essential material.
Remember to pass on this information to your fellow paddlers who may also have some neoprene concerns. And don’t forget to leave us a comment if there’s anything you’d like to add.