Monday, May 23, 2016

Water Repellents For Fabric

According to an article printed by Powerboats in May 2004, 303 Fabric Guard outdoes old favorite, Scotch Gard Heavy Duty, for about the same price (ReviveX is another top performer, but costs a lot per ounce).

We all know that breathable material that keeps out water but allows air to circulate is best for helm covers, awnings, hatch covers, ditty bags, seat cushions, bimini tops, boatswain's chairs, life jackets, stowage bags—the list goes on. The catch is that, being prone to mildew, grime, spiders, mold, stains, moths, water marks, and lady bugs, these fabrics get to looking something awful if not cleaned regularly.


They also lose their water repellency, partly from wear but also due to the ravages of the sun.

So these fabrics need both washing and re-coating with some kind of water repellent.

The article goes on to say that best thing to do is to not let the fabric get filthy to begin with. With good water repellency, most fabric is easy to keep clean. A very light scrubbing and good rinse does the job. Then, restore the water repellency.

This 2004 report had to do with commonly available products used to provide or restore water repellency. The one most familiar is 3M's Scotch Gard. Powerboat Reports collected 13 products, a sizeable sampling, from chandleries, hardware stores, camping stores, and on the Web. Check the chart below for the names.

The report included two products that contain silicone—Granger's Fabsil and Nikwax (a spray
wax) Such sprays and liquids (along with plain old wax) are often used for tents, tarps, and other camping canvas. But silicone is an oil. It yellows with age and, because it never really dries, attracts dirt and is very difficult to clean when it gets dirty. (You can check by placing drops of both plain water and a silicone product on a bit of treated fabric. The water will bead up; the oil in the silicone will soak in and spread.)

Click on the image to enlarge
In the table above, at the final five-day checkpoint, the Scotch Gard Heavy Duty had given up all its water. Making the final cut were ReviveX (the product that had leaked so severely in the beginning), Kel Water, and Stain Repellent (this was the version without silicone; there is also a version called "Shield" that contains silicone), and 303 Fabric Guard, which not only lost the least water in the "standard" part of the test, but is priced in line with the Kel and Scotch Gard Heavy Duty. 303 was the winner.

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