After you bought a waterproof jacket, a new pair of waterproof boots or other outdoor garments, there comes a time when you need to make your outdoor equipment waterproof again.
In practice, most waterproof materials last on average 3 to 4 years. Of course, how long your waterproof jacket lasts largely depends on how often you use it, under what weather conditions, if you follow the care instructions that it comes with or not, and so on.
Waterproofing sprays are the most popular choice when it comes to repairing your rain jackets and clothing. They’re quite affordable, easy and quick to apply and you can use the same spray on all your pieces of outdoor equipment.
However, there is a question that many people ask when it comes to using waterproofing sprays. And this question is: ‘How toxic are waterproofing sprays?‘
Since I regularly use sprays to re-seal my jacket and boots, I also asked myself these questions. I did a thorough research and I’ll list the conclusions in this post.
Are water repellent sprays toxic?
Certain ingredients in waterproofing sprays are toxic, especially fluoropolymers. These polymers have a very high resistance to solvents, acids, and bases which allow them to successfully repel water and other water-based substances. There have been many cases of waterproofing spray intoxication mainly due to using the spray in closed rooms with little to no ventilation at all.
Waterproof sprays and health issues
Fluoropolymers (the main ingredient in water repellent sprays) may cause life-threatening respiratory issues when inhaled in large quantities over for long periods of time. Workers who manufacture these products are required to wear respirators while at work due to the risk of respiratory injuries.
Keep in mind that we’re talking about prolonged Fluoropolymer exposure here, as these people work several hours a day with these substances.
On the other hand, when you apply a coat of waterproofing spray to re-seal clothing or footwear, you’re exposed to these substances only for a few minutes.
Usually, wearing a respirator is not necessary if you don’t have serious health issues already and you use the spray in the open air.
Unfortunately, some of the companies that manufacture waterproof spray products don’t always put a label on the can to inform you about possible respiratory injuries.
This is because they are not required to do so. The general consensus is that fluoropolymers by themselves are not toxic.
They may potentially become toxic when they interact with other substances contained in the spray can.
It’s not a matter of brands or formulas
Scientific studies showed that all fluoropolymer-based waterproofing sprays pose certain respiratory risks.
This means that it really doesn’t matter what brand of spray you use. If the respective products contain fluoropolymer resin, they are potentially dangerous for your health.
Some of the respiratory health issues caused by waterproofing sprays include but are not limited to shortness of breath, severe cough and chemical pneumonitis among other issues.
Keep in mind that floropolymers can stay in our bodies for years. According to studies, our bodies need almost 5 years to get rid of all the fluoropolymers accumulated in our tissues from various sources.
How to apply waterproofing spray safely
Spray water repellent solutions in the open air
Make sure to use waterproofing sprays outside the house. Go to your backyard, line up all the clothing and footwear items that you want to spray and then determine the direction of the wind. You want the wind at your back when using the spray.
Let your outdoor gear outside for a few hours
Once you’ve sprayed your clothing and footwear, leave them outside to dry. If you bring your jacket into the house as soon as you applied waterproofing spray on it, there will be a really bad smell in the entire house. Moreover, if your house windows are closed, this increases the risks of developing respiratory problems.
| Read more: Can You Waterproof Shoes and Boots with WD40?
Use a respirator
If you already have respiratory problems, the best solution is to use a respirator while using the spray. A good respirator protects you from inhaling fluoropolymers and other vapors and gases contained in the spray can.
Wash your hands thoroughly
Needless to say, make sure to clean your hands after using waterproofing spray. Wash your hands using a lot of soap several times to remove all the polymer particles on your skin.
Alternatives to waterproofing toxic sprays
While waterproofing sprays are far from perfect health and environmental-wise, there are many companies out there trying to develop non-toxic waterproofing products.
I’m sure that better spray-on hydrophobic coatings to protect our gear and make it impervious to water will soon arrive on the market.
For example, one of the best liquid repelling sprays available on the market it LiquidOff. This product is eco friendly and does not contain any toxic chemicals.
Waterproofing or water repellent sprays are toxic for both pets and humans. To avoid potential health issues after using these products, make sure to use the spray outside the house. Additionally, put on a respirator while applying the spray. Leave your clothing and footwear in the open air for a few hours to dry after applying a layer of waterproofing solution.
If you have any questions or suggestions related to this post, let me know in the comments below.
⇒ Read more:
- How to Waterproof a Straw Hat in 20 Minutes
- Best Waterproof Spray for White Shoes
- How Long Does Waterproofing Spray Last?
- Waterproofing spray-associated pneumonitis review, National Library of Medicine.
- Pulmonary injury associated with spray of a water-based nano-sized waterproofing product, Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology.
- Acute Respiratory Syndrome After Inhalation of Waterproofing Sprays, Research Gate.
Last updated in October 2021 to add additional information and references.