Is Neoprene Waterproof?

The high demand for natural rubber led to the creation of synthetic alternatives like neoprene. Neoprene is a synthetic type of rubber that you can find in gaskets, hoses, tire sidewalls, and more. It’s a durable and flexible material, but is it waterproof?

Common Applications for Neoprene

Neoprene is a versatile material. It’s a durable polymer that resists extreme temperatures better than natural rubber, and the manufacturing process remains cost-effective compared to harvesting natural rubber from trees.

This material’s flexibility makes it ideal for applications like tubes, seals, O-rings, cable jackets, and hoses. You can find gasoline hoses made from neoprene because this polymer resists well to chemicals and abrasion.

There are different automotive applications, including gaskets, seat covers, tire sidewalls, or fan belts. Oil and solvents don’t damage neoprene, which makes it ideal for these different uses.

A common application of neoprene is the fabrication of wetsuits and other marine equipment. Saline water doesn’t corrode this material, and neoprene forms a tight seal that keeps water out when diving.

There are different medical uses for neoprene, including orthopedic braces and some face masks, even though research hasn’t fully confirmed how effective this material is for preventing COVID-19 transmission.

Neoprene foam is a thick material that provides insulation. If you have a laptop sleeve or a soft mouse pad, chances are it’s a neoprene item. You can also find sports gear like elbow and knee pads that use neoprene foam and neoprene weather stripping.

The Technical Makeup of Neoprene

Neoprene is a popular material because of its versatility and durability. Let’s take a closer look at the different properties of this polymer.

Neoprene has excellent tensile strength. The structure of this polymer resists well against tension and other forces exerted on the material. It’s not a material that breaks or tears easily.

Thermal resistance is one of the main reasons why neoprene is a popular option for wetsuits. While natural rubber doesn’t do well when temperatures rise, neoprene is more resistant. The temperature can climb up to 275°F, and neoprene won’t lose its shape and properties.

Neoprene is ideal for outdoor gear because it performs well in a cold environment. You will notice that the material loses some of its flexibility once temperatures drop below 0°F, but you can keep using neoprene items safely all the way down to -50°F.

Besides resisting heat well, neoprene can withstand friction. It’s an interesting property for applications like gaskets and seals.

Neoprene has excellent adhesive properties that mimic the performance of natural rubber. This polymer can bond to different materials, including metal. It’s a key property for applications like O-rings and seals.

Neoprene is a material that can shrink under the right conditions. Manufacturers use this property to ensure a proper fit for items like cable jackets.

The oxidation rate of neoprene is low, which makes it a durable material. You can expose neoprene to water or UV rays without any issues.

Another property worth mentioning is resistance to chemical abrasion. While oil, grease, solvents, and other chemicals can damage some materials, neoprene is resistant to these different chemicals. This property is the reason why you’ll find neoprene in chemical tank liners.

Neoprene doesn’t conduct electricity. Its insulating properties make this material ideal for cable jackets and some elements you can find in power transformers or lightbulbs.

This polymer maintains its shape well over time. It’s a stable material that provides support over the years, which is why you’ll find it in medical braces or hiking boots.

Neoprene foam has excellent cushioning properties. The sponge-like texture of this material can absorb shocks and protect electronics and other items.

Flame resistance is another interesting property. Neoprene is a safe material to use in environments with fire risks, and you’ll find fire doors that use neoprene.

Is Neoprene Waterproof?

That depends on the type of neoprene you’re looking at. Neoprene rubber is a waterproof material, and so is closed-cell neoprene foam. However, open-cell neoprene foam isn’t waterproof.

The structure of open-cell and closed-cell neoprene foam is different. In closed-cell neoprene, nitrogen bubbles form closed and interconnected pockets that result in a sponge-like structure. The nitrogen bubbles can absorb shocks, but their closed structure won’t let any water in.

The manufacturing process for open-cell neoprene is different. The bubbles rupture during this process, which results in an open structure. Neoprene filaments then form where the bubbles touched, and water can fill the open space between them.

Open-cell neoprene is an interesting material because of its adhesive properties. It’s affordable and easy to compress. Closed-cell neoprene is harder to compress and not as soft as open-cell neoprene.

What Properties Can Make Neoprene More Waterproof?

It’s possible to enhance the waterproof properties of neoprene with additives and other techniques.

If you’re using a neoprene rubber item, there is little you can do to enhance this material’s waterproof properties. Neoprene rubber won’t absorb any water unless there is a tear or another type of damage. You can use products like rubber adhesive to fix a small tear or crack and make the item more waterproof.

If you’re using neoprene foam, you can apply a durable water repellent treatment to form a seal on the surface of the item.

A neoprene item that lets water in might have faulty seams. It can be the case for neoprene shoes, clothes, tents, and outdoor gear. We recommend using a seam sealing product to form a protective seal over these seams and stop any leaks.

Ensuring a proper fit is important for some items like wetsuits, seals, or membranes. Neoprene rubber won’t absorb water, but it might let water in if the fit isn’t right.

Some manufacturers enhance their neoprene foam product by introducing other synthetic rubber materials like EPDM. The result is a neoprene EPDM blend that is more elastic and durable than neoprene.

The Last Drop

If you’re looking for a durable waterproof material, rubber and closed-cell foam neoprene are excellent options. Neoprene performs well in a wide range of environments and requires very little maintenance, making it ideal for heavy-duty applications, outdoor gear, automotive products, and more.

Are you curious about how waterproof other materials are? Check out our other breakdowns below.