Is Olefin/Polypropylene Fabric Waterproof?

Olefin fiber is a synthetic fabric made from polyolefin, like polyethylene or polypropylene. It is known for its durability, comfort, holding its color, mildew, abrasion, sunlight, and stain-resistant.

Olefin/polypropylene fabric is a strong but lightweight fabric. It keeps moisture away from the skin and, because of the process by which it is made, is stain-resistant.

The olefin/polypropylene market comprises nearly 16% of all fiber production today. It did not use water or land during its production and was once considered waste material from oil production; this makes it an Earth-friendly textile with a low carbon footprint.

This durable and multi-use fabric has become a popular staple in many households, offices, and in the world of mass production. But is olefin fabric waterproof?

Where is Olefin Fabric Commonly Used?

Olefin fabric is used most commonly in various household and outdoor items that need to stand up to the elements. The items that are commonly made from olefin are too many to name, but some of the uses are listed below:


Olefin fabric is commonly used in sports and activewear, thermal underwear, hoodies, socks, and lining fabrics. It is also used to make coasts, boots, and other items meant to provide shelter from wetter weather.

The fabric helps trap sweat and lock it away from your skin, so it is a standard outdoor fabric used in exercise materials. If the fabric does become damp from sweat, it will dry much faster than a cotton blend.

Home Furnishing

Often Olefin is used on its own or in blends to make indoor and outdoor carpets, carpet backing, and carpet tiles. The fiber is also used in the upholstery of chairs, couches, ottomans, wall coverings, floor coverings, mats, and slipcovers.

Olefin naturally repels moisture and makes it perfect to use on fabrics in high-traffic areas of the home or may see spillages, such as rugs and furniture.

Automotive Industry

Olefin is commonly used in vehicles’ interior fabrics, and the armrests, sun visors, trunks, door panels, and side panels, in binder fibers as resin replacement.

For the same reason, it is popular in homes, Olefin is used in vehicles for easy cleanup, and it naturally repels water.


Olefin is commonly used in an industrial setting in carpets, ropes, filter fabrics, concrete reinforcement, bagging, heat-sealable paper such as coffee and tea bags, and in geo-tiles that come in contact with soil.

Medical Applications

Polypropylene is used in the medical industry to make several medical items. The bacterial-resistant components make it perfect for items, such as vials, Petri dishes, intravenous bottles, food trays, pans, diagnostic devices, disposable syringes, pill bottles, and more.


Along with being a popular outdoor fabric for clothes that require a high water resistance and will last, olefin/polypropylene is used in tape, strapping, staple fibers, continuous filament, and more.

Consumer Goods

Adding to the list of items made with this durable material are toys, luggage, housewares, appliances, etc. Many water jugs and bottles, buckets, and other everyday items are made from olefin/polypropylene.

The Technical Makeup of Olefin

Olefin/polypropylene is from the gas propylene, colorless gas that has a slight petroleum-like smell. Propylene is a co-product of ethylene production. This happens when the steam of hydrocarbons or oil production cracks.

Historically, propylene was burnt off during oil production since it was deemed to have no manufacturing use. Upcycled, a method used to make materials useful was once viewed as useless. This process is how polypropylene came to be manufactured by polymerizing propylene compounds to get polypropylene.

The individual particles combine and link to form longer chain molecules with recurring fundamental units. The long chain is melted in a pellet form and goes through a spinneret, a machine that connects the molecules into a thread.

Solution-based dyes are applied during the process of melting because polypropylene is chemically repellent to stains. After the thread is created, it won’t allow dye or stain if used once it is in the thread form. Since Olefin is stain resistant, it becomes necessary to add dye or pigment dye to the Olefin while in the melting process. Once the spinneret has turned the polypropylene into thread, it is spun into a yarn woven into the wanted textile application.

Is Olefin, In Its Rawest Form, Waterproof?

Olefin is not waterproof, but it is naturally water-resistant. It is the process by which the Olefin is treated that makes it more or less water-resistant. A chair or cushion made of Olefin will be water-resistant, but if left outside, it will absorb the moisture and become damp or wet.

Polypropylene is highly water-resistant. In a 24-hour soak test, olefin/polypropylene material absorbs less than 0.01% of its own weight in water. In the rawest form, the fibers have low moisture absorption.

Since olefin is naturally water resistant, it makes it a popular fabric for any item that is to withstand a high amount of moisture.

What Properties Can Make Olefin More Water-Resistant?

The polypropylene fabric texture will make a difference as to whether or not it is water-resistant (different from waterproof); the tighter the weave, the more impenetrable it will be. If it has a texture like satin with no coatings, then the water will penetrate easily through the fabric. If the material is treated thermally or protected with hydrophobic chemicals, it will become virtually impermeable.

When looking for items that will withstand the test of elements, such as outdoor cushions, umbrellas, tents, sleeping bags, etc., look for the fabric to be woven tightly. A tightly woven fabric will help to repel more water, and the likelihood of water seeping through the material is much less.

For all outdoor items that will see a higher volume of wear and tear, such as tents, chairs, etc., and for indoor items like chairs and rugs, you want to make sure your fabric is woven tighty. A tighter weave will not only help keep water from seeping in, it will help prevent rips and tears that occur from heavy usage.

Tips on How to Make Olefin Waterproof

If you are using olefin/polypropylene with your tent, outdoor furniture, pillow, umbrella, or rugs, and even for indoor carpets and upholstery, you want to make sure it is as waterproof as it can be.

Olefin is already water-resistant, to varying degrees, depending on the product, and dries fast, whether the fabric is tightly woven or not. Still, if you want to guarantee your items don’t fall victim to mildew or mold, you’ll want to waterproof the fabric.

Using fabric sprays is an effective way to waterproof tents, chairs, cushions, etc. This coating of spray will cause rain and water, even spilled juice, to bead up and fall off your fabrics without penetrating them and causing damage or stains. Like all good things, waterproofing doesn’t last forever, so it is important that you tend to furniture and other products on a regular basis.

We recommend that you reapply a waterproofing spray every six months to a year, depending on where you are located, how much your products are exposed to the elements, and how often they are cleaned.

The Last Drop

That’s it! If you have questions on olefin fabric, don’t hesitate to shoot us a message.

Want to know how waterproof other fabrics are? Check out the articles below.