Water-Resistant vs. Waterproof Clothing: A Breakdown

Have you ever stepped out in wet weather in a water-resistant outfit? If so, you probably ended up soaked, and that’s because water-resistant clothing cannot keep you dry in wet weather. Instead of water-resistant clothing, you should have been wearing a waterproof outfit.

Water-resistant vs. waterproof fabric – what’s the difference? Water-resistant fabric can repel water to a degree. Since it doesn’t provide 100% water protection, you will eventually get soaked if you stay in the rain long enough.

Water-resistant clothing could have densely woven fabric or a water-repellant coating that minimizes water penetration. What fabrics are water-resistant? Examples include polyester, nylon, fleece, wool, and waxed cotton.

Unlike water-resistant fabrics, waterproof textiles allow zero water penetration even when submerged or exposed to water for an extended period. Many waterproof fabrics feature densely woven materials covered with a heavy water-repellent coating or treatment.

If you are searching for “what fabric is waterproof?” popular options include PVC coated polyester, pleather, vinyl, and polyurethane laminate (PUL). To help you choose between waterproof and water-resistant fabric for wet weather, let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of each fabric type.

What Makes Clothing or Fabrics Water-Resistant?

Below are the primary features that separate water-resistant clothing from waterproof fabrics:

Partial Water Protection

Water-resistant clothing offers some water protection, but not enough to keep you dry if you intend on spending a long time in heavy rain, snow, or other wet weather. However, water-resistant clothing may keep you dry if you spend less than a minute in a drizzle.

Clothing can be water-resistant if it features densely woven fabric like polyester or nylon. The dense fabric can repel water for some time, but continuous exposure will lead to the fabric getting soaked and water penetrating and reaching your skin.

Other water-resistant clothing types have a light water protection treatment or coating that repels water. For example, coating cotton with paraffin-based wax will turn it into waxed cotton, which is very water-resistant.

The top water-resistant fabrics combine tightly woven fabrics and water protection treatment to keep you dry. However, as long as a fabric is only water-resistant, it will never provide you as much protection as waterproof clothing.


Breathable fabrics like cotton allow air to pass through and cool your skin. The denser the fabric is, the less breathable it will be. Since air is less dense than water, it can pass through the places that water can’t, like water-resistant clothing.

A water-resistant jacket can protect you in snowy weather and facilitate air circulation beneath the jacket to prevent excessive sweating and overheating. Our softshell jackets offer this feature to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable during cold seasons.

The level of breathability will depend on the water-resistant fabric type. For example, untreated water-resistant fabrics like polyester, wool, and nylon are more breathable than waxed cotton.

Quick Drying

Since untreated water-resistant fabrics like polyester and nylon are light and breathable, they can dry quickly. Even wool, a heavy fabric, can dry faster than cotton under the same conditions. Also, when wet, wool can maintain its insulating properties, meaning a wool jacket can keep you warm even if it gets wet in light rain.

What Makes Clothing or Fabrics Waterproof?

Here are the distinctive features of waterproof fabric:

Heavy Water Protection Coating

Some types of waterproof fabric, like pleather, naturally repel water, while other fabrics become waterproof after undergoing waterproofing treatment. Unlike water-resistant clothing, treated waterproof fabrics have a heavy water protection coating that ensures zero water penetration.

For example, polyurethane laminated (PUL) fabric can be a cotton or polyester blend fabric covered with heat laminated polyurethane film. The polyurethane film serves as a plastic cover that repels water, preventing it from entering the base fabric. Other types of waterproof fabric have a layer of polyvinyl chloride or acrylic on the surface for keeping out water.

Complete Water Protection

As we’ve established, clothing that says waterproof on the label should offer complete protection from wet weather. Besides the fabric, other parts of the clothing, such as the seams and zipper, should have a water-repellent coating that prevents seepage.

However, clothing with a waterproof coating may lose its impermeability over time. For example, years of wear and laundering may break down the waterproof coating, reducing the fabric’s ability to protect you from wet weather.

Less Breathable

Compared to water-resistant fabrics that can let in some water and air, waterproof fabrics are denser, preventing air penetration. The reduced airflow leads to minimal breathability in the typical waterproof fabric. However, top clothing manufacturers circumvent this issue by blending waterproof fabrics with more breathable materials.

For example, some fabrics combine polyurethane and polyester to ensure breathability and water protection. Manufacturers may also place a thin and porous membrane beneath a waterproof fabric to wick sweat and circulate air to prevent overheating.

Stay Dry with Thread Logic

Since you’ve read our water-resistant vs. waterproof fabric breakdown, you should have no trouble picking the best fabric for staying comfortable in wet or cold weather. Now, you only need to find where to buy genuine waterproof clothing. Fortunately, you don’t have to look far. At Thread Logic, we offer high-quality water-resistant and waterproof clothing for winter and wet seasons.

Let us provide you with custom embroidered clothing that will look stylish and guarantee the warmth and comfort of you and your team or family and friends. Check out our selection of jackets and layering clothing. Alternatively, contact us today to discuss your project and place an order.

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About Jeff Taxdahl

With over 20 years’ experience in embroidery and business ownership, Thread Logic owners Jeff and Wenda Taxdahl, and the Thread Logic team, know what it takes to make custom logo embroidered apparel that people are proud to wear.