Waterproof and water resistant – these are two terms you’ll see a lot and it might surprise you to know that a lot of people think they mean the same thing. But make no mistake, they don’t. In fact, buying a product that is water resistant and then treating it like something that is waterproof is a sure way to get the product ruined.
So what is the difference between waterproof and water resistant? Let’s look at each term in detail and find out.
Water resistant materials and products are, as their name states, resistant to the effects of water. This means that your water resistant product – for example a digital watch – will be resistant to the effects of water damage. Though before you stick your watch in the sink to test this out let’s look at the finer points.
Sticking with the digital watch example, if you were to stick it in the sink and then quickly pull out your watch it should still work fine if you get it out quickly enough. It may even work if you have it in water for a longer period of time – for example if you go swimming and leave the watch on your wrist it might still work afterwards.
However, water resistant materials are only built to resist the effects of water damage, they aren’t foolproof. Again sticking with the digital watch example, while it may be fine under water for some time you shouldn’t start pressing buttons while it’s submerged and you should be sure to check the fine print in the manual.
This might state just how water resistant your item is. The scale most commonly used to measure water resistance is the Ingress Protection scale (IP) which goes from I1 – very little resistance – to I8, which means the item is safe to take underwater (although how long it can remain there without suffering damage varies from product to product).
So now we know what water resistant means but what about waterproof? If you see a waterproof label stamped on a product it’s generally safe to assume that it’s safe to take under water with you for a considerable amount of time.
In the case of clothes you find marked waterproof this means they will be able to prevent water soaking into the material. Although there is a limit of how much water they can keep out, usually on clothes marked waterproof this is around 2800 – 3000mm worth.
Another important part to note about waterproof material is that they do allow water vapour to pass through them. This is called breathability and is measured in grams per square inch of the garment.
So in summation, water resistant and waterproof really are as simple as their names would lead you to believe. Water resistant materials or products can survive in water for variable amounts of time but if you need to be completely safe then go for the waterproof alternative if one is available.