10 Best Waterproof fabric {& water resistant } for sewing

Waterproof fabrics and Water resistant fabrics are not your regular sewing fabrics. But for their purpose, there is no substitute.

If you are in the mind for making Cloth nappies and diaper wraps, raincoats, changing pads, outdoor furniture covers, shower curtains, is there a choice but to look for material that would not let water go through it. 

Other uses for these fabrics include making mattress/pillow protectors, kites, cloth sanitary pads, outdoor bunting, lunch bags, snack pouches, tote bags, tablecloths, picnic cloth, baby bibs, changing baby bags etc

waterproof fabrics

Water Proof/ Water resistant materials.

1.PUL

PUL stands for Polyurethane Laminate

PUL is a fabric with a plastic backing coated with a thin waterproof /water resistant coating. The best thing about PUL fabrics is that it is completely waterproof, very durable, breathable with a slight cross grain stretch and you can easily wear it next to the skin, because the fabric side is soft, flexible and comfortable.

You get PUL fabric in thicknesses of 1 millimetre and 2 millimetres of the plastic coating. The fabric can be knit or woven, 100% cotton or a blend of polyester and cotton.

Polyester PUL is thinner and softer than the cotton PUL. The best thing about the PUL fabric is that you can wash it any number of times without damage.

2 TPU

TPU stands for Thermoplastic polyurethane; it is a better alternative to PUL fabric and used interchangeably with PUL in making waterproof products like cloth diapers – more softer, flexible and environmentally friendlier (questionably) than PUL. And the functions are the same. The disadvantage is that it may be less durable than PUL.

Read this post for More on the differences between PUL & TPU

3. Nylon and Polyester

These materials are not waterproof on their own. But with a special coating, these fabrics are used for making the most waterproof of all things – rain umbrellas.

Ripstop nylon fabric

This is a sturdy lightweight wind-resistant fabric made of nylon fibres – after it is given a waterproof coating it is unstoppable as a rough and tough fabric. In WWII it was used to make parachutes! Today with waterproof, water resistant, tear-free qualities it is used for making tents, garden furniture coverings, waterproof clothing, backpacks, kites, and workwear. You can make jackets, ponchos etc with ripstop nylon

Nylon taffeta

Nylon taffeta with a special coating is definitely waterproof – This is the material used frequently to make rain umbrellas, patio umbrellas etc

water proof fabrics

4 Laminated cotton /poplin

Laminated fabrics are an alternative to PUL material as it is of the same concept. A thin waterproof coating is given to fabric. Laminated fabric is used to make weather protective clothing like raincoats, windcheaters, ski wear,  protective jackets, hats; this fabric keeps the wearer dry and comfortable under extreme weather conditions.
Lamination is added by bonding the water-resistant layer to the back of the fabric. the drape of the fabric becomes less flexible when adding the lamination. This gives a structure and a crisp hand to the thin cloth
Laminated cotton is a wonderful fabric suitable for making many things because it is breathable and flexible. It has a laminate layer of about 1-millimeter thickness on the fabric

Laminated poplin is a favourite of many international brands to make protective clothing including jackets. There are mainly 3 types of laminates – Non-porous laminate , micro porous laminate, viscous coating.

5. Oilcloth

Oilcloth, also known as enamelled cloth or American cloth, is a close-woven cotton duck or linen cloth with a coating of boiled linseed oil to make it waterproof. (Wikipedia) . This is the earlier version of the oilcloth. Nowadays Modern oilcloth refers to a cotton or linen material coated with a clear vinyl layer on top. The clear finish can be shiny or matt.

This hardwearing, durable and easy to clean (just wipe to clean) material is great for making tablecloths, coverings, luggage, tote bags, kitchen accessories etc., but not so much for making garments.

Check out this post if you would like to make an attempt at making oilcloth

6 Polyester fleece

Fleece can be water resistant depending on its quality ( not waterproof). Denser the fleece the more it is water repellant.

Because of its water repellent quality, it is frequently used to make cloth diaper outer layers.  With a specially applied water-repellent coating, you can make fleece more water resistant than it is originally.

7 Microfiber

Polyester microfiber fabric with a special waterproof coating is available – this is 100% waterproof. It has a supple  suede finish on the outside and is used for making garmens like jackets

8 Wool

Wool is naturally water resistant ( not waterproof) and it is a natural fabric which is its USP; if coated with lanolin you can increase its water resistance. You may have to do this periodically. You can also buy boiled wool which is also very water resistant – this wool is boiled in hot water and made denser so that the waterproof quality is increased

9 Vinyl, pleather and plastic

These artificial materials are waterproof and are usually used in sewing to make cosmetic bags, tote bags, beach bags, placemats etc. If you are making marine upholstery and stuff needed on boats, you will need to buy 100% waterproof marine vinyl fabric like expanded Vinyl (Polyvinyl chloride) with fabric backing or Vinyl and Polyester Composite fabric.

Naugahyde is an American brand name for a vinyl material designed to resemble leather, made from fabric coated with rubber or vinyl resin. It is an upholstery material which is tough, durable, supple, flexible and waterproof. waterproof fabrics

10 Densely woven branded fabrics

Fabrics made of cotton or synthetic microdenier filament yarns with compacted weave structure are trusted to be water repellent and even water proof because they are made with this purpose – with very little pores between them so that the water will not pass through them. 

Check out more details a specialized fabric Ventile here which is a branded cotton fabric with water resisting properties. The densily woven cotton textile gives reasonable protection against typical rain, as claimed by the manufacturers

Make your own waterproof material

This article in wikihow tells you how to make your own waterproof material by spraying a waterproof sealer on the fabric surface.

How to sew with PUL/oilcloth/laminated cotton fabric

water resistant fabric

Do not use pins to keep fabric layers together on visible areas – pin can mark the fabric and leave permanent holes. Use clips to hold the fabric or pin on the seam allowance. You may find that you do not mind the odd pinholes though. Test and use.

Keep the plastic side down when you sew, where possible- your pressure foot will move better on the fabric side than on the sticky plastic side. If you have to sew on the plastic side use a tissue paper on top of the material and sew as usual.

The regular metal pressure foot of your sewing machine will stick to the slick plastic material and refuse to go forward. Use a Teflon foot to sew on the sticky side of these fabrics. Walking foot will also be a great aid here, as it feeds fabric smoothly.No drags, glitches or stops.

Use ballpoint needle to sew – this will sew without leaving holes.

Use polyester thread, because it is stronger than cotton thread

It is not enough that you have waterproof fabric. All waterproof breathable fabrics may also need to be seam sealed to ensure that the garment is truly waterproof. A fabric is truly waterproof when all seams are so sealed that there are no leakage points.You can use special sealers/seam tape for this purpose.

Use waterproof zipper tape to ensure the fastener is also waterproof.

Care of waterproof / water resistant materials

Wash by hand if possible.  These materials are best not dumped into the washing machine and forgotten.

Do not dry clean or bleach or use any of the spot stain remedies you use on normal fabrics or even harsh detergents. Read the care label on the fabric carefully. Some of these fabrics should only be wiped clean with clean water for lasting.

Suitability Durability and breathability are of primary concern when selecting your waterproof fabric. So test the above-given fabrics for your project against these criteria

More reading material on waterproofing and water repellent fabrics : Durable water repellent finish – wikipedia.

Comments 22

  1. Hi ,
    I am after a waterproof material that can be submerged for very short periods of times
    (say in a bath or pool)
    would be in a bag form and have a double closure system at the top like a back pack strep sort of thing.
    Could you advise the best material for this please.

    thanks in advance

  2. What material would you recommend for a tablecloth that is repellant and can be washed in the washing machine ?

  3. My teenage grandson has Cerebral Palsy and drools allot. I make him scarves to tie around his neck to help. What material would you suggest using? Thanks in advance. Peggy

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Peggy
      Have you considered Linen? Linen can feel almost comfortable even when it is wet, unlike all other fabric. Another fabric is terrycloth. You can also use a flannel. If you want truly waterproof, line your shawl with plastic/vinyl as they sometimes do with bibs for babies/adults.

  4. Hi everyone, I am a designer in Pakistan and working for a successful business in raincoats and water repellent light wait material, i have designed so many dresses ,jackets, trousers and stylish raincoats and gowns to serve best against rain,water,air. Best to use to serve the needs of fashion as well. Looks like leather ,though are P leather. Very affordable and soft and comfortable in wearing .
    If anybody is interested in single/bulk orders you can contact me on my whatsapp number or also can email me for further details. +92 302 4111179.
    sehrishh.abbass @gmail.com
    Stay blessed
    Regards, Sehrish

    1. Post
      Author

      Nylon Lycra is not fully water repellant as such, unless it has a special water repellent coating (eg PU/teflon) – they are used to make Leggings, Sport Bra, Swimwear etc. You can choose a tightly woven fabric for some water repellent properties.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Stephen
      I have read that lycra mixed with neoprene is what professional manufacturers use to make armbands. Microfiber is a more skin-friendly material . Both are not breathable as such

  5. My son excessively sweats in the armpits. Instead of buying special undershirts I want to add 2 layers to his cotton ones. One layer will be bamboo cotton and inside layer will be waterproof. What do you suggest…PUL or TPU? Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Dale
      I would think TPU – you can find TPU fabrics which claim to be breathable – seems they take up sweat and releases it out.

    2. Try this. It works amazingly. I had this issue throughout high school. Worst time ever! I would use abut once a week and gradually use it less and less. now its about 3-4 times a year.

      Maxim Prescription Strength Antiperspirant & Deodorant
      Good luck.

      I’m Looking for fabric to make my husband work rain gear.

  6. I live in Florida and have dogs that get on the furniture! I battle sand on a daily basis! I have found that most fabrics let the sand through onto the furniture! I have been looking into waterproof fabrics, because I figured if water can’t get through then neither can the sand! Which fabric would be the best option to keep the sand on the top for shaking off or vacuuming, but is washable to get rid of the dog smell?
    Thank you for the information!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Valarie
      That is tough : ) I think you need to look for cotton / polyester/nylon ripstop fabric – one characteristic is the resistance of the fabric to ripping or tearing which you may face. Nylon ripstop is a water repellent strong, machine-washable woven fabric

  7. thank you for this informative article, as a woman who comes From an ultra rainy country and also observes the hijab and abaya (Islamic dress) I’m tired of getting soaked! Would you please advice as to the best martial that is both breathable and ultra lightweight!
    Thank you

    1. Post
      Author
  8. What water proof material or material blend will you advise I use when considering machine wash safe and dryer safe.
    Thank You,
    Omolade

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Omolade
      The Nylon ones – ripstop and taffeta – are washable in the machine, I suppose. Not so with oil cloth, vinyl, pleather etc as you probably know

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Nate
      Yes, I know. my daughter even asked me ‘ are you writing about doughnut” 🙂 I have so many do not to correct but progressing. Thanks

  9. I had the opportunity to travel through several cities and villages in South Western Nigeria these past three years. One thing I noticed is the way small scale farmers dry their Paki (yam, plantain, tuber) and other food stuff that needs drying by spreading these items on rocks, tapeline, burlap/apo gari sewned together. Even on mid size farms, the method of drying “Paki” is the same, spreading the Paki or plantain, Isu
    Several thoughts came to my mind
    1. In case of sudden rain, how can these items be kept dry
    2. Lassa fever is a big threat to the lives of prospective consumers of these items. How can rats be prevented from laying feces on these items
    3. Moving these items in door in the evenings
    4. Spreading them out in the mornings
    My ideas
    1 use a material on which these food stuff are spread is made of water proof material
    2 design the material like a sleeping bag, with zipper
    3 in short, the material is flat but can be zipped up, whatever the occasion is

    Please advice which types of waterproof materials are suitable for the purposes lay out above

    Thanks
    602-216-2222
    Yomi Owoyemi

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Yomi
      Reading this what comes to my mind is tarpaulin sheets which I have seen being used over large quantities of dry chillies and spices -it is waterproof and you need food grade tarpaulins (high gsm) to lay on top to protect it from dust etc.this is one sheet you get in big yardage. refer this page – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarpaulin
      hope this helps
      sarina

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