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Is Waterproofing Spray Toxic?

After purchasing a waterproof jacket, a new pair of waterproof boots, or other outdoor garments, there will come a time when you need to re-waterproof your outdoor equipment.

In practice, most waterproof materials last on average between 3 to 4 years.

The lifespan of your waterproof jacket largely depends on how often you use it and the weather conditions under which it’s used. Other significant factors include whether or not you follow the provided care instructions, among others.

Waterproofing sprays are a popular choice for restoring the waterproof properties of rain jackets and other clothing. They’re quite affordable, easy, and quick to apply, and can be used on various pieces of outdoor equipment.

However, a question many people often ask when it comes to using waterproofing sprays is: ‘How toxic are these sprays?

As a regular user of these sprays to re-seal my jacket and boots, I found myself asking the same question.

So, I conducted thorough research and will share the conclusions in this post.

Are Waterproofing 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.

Are Waterproof Coatings Toxic?

Some waterproof coatings can indeed be toxic. One particular group of chemicals, per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), has been identified as potentially harmful.

These chemicals are often referred to as “forever” chemicals because they do not break down easily in the environment and can accumulate in human and animal tissues over time.

PFAS are widely used due to their ability to repel water and resist stains. They’re commonly found in a range of products, including home furnishings and apparel.

However, a growing body of research suggests that exposure to PFAS can be linked to a variety of health issues.

These include liver and heart damage, immune disorders, hormone disruption, and more.

Waterproofing Sprays and Health Issues

Fluoropolymers, the main ingredient in water-repellent sprays, can cause life-threatening respiratory issues when inhaled in large quantities over long periods of time.

Workers who manufacture these products are required to wear respirators while at work due to the risk of respiratory injuries.

It’s important to note that we’re talking about prolonged exposure to fluoropolymers here, as these workers are in contact with these substances for several hours a day.

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 that toxic.

They may potentially become toxic when they interact with other substances contained in the spray can.

| Read more: How to make your T-shirt waterproof: 3 methods you can use

It’s Not a Matter of Brands or Formulas

Scientific studies have shown that all fluoropolymer-based waterproofing sprays pose certain respiratory risks.

This means that the brand of spray you use doesn’t really matter. If the respective products contain fluoropolymer resin, they are potentially dangerous to 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.

Bear in mind that fluoropolymers can stay in our bodies for years. According to studies, our bodies take almost five years to eliminate 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 risk 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 a waterproofing spray.

Wash your hands using a lot of soap several times to remove all the polymer particles on your skin.

Alternatives to Toxic Waterproofing 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 is 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.

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Last updated in July 2023 to add additional information and references

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