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Waterproof fabric is designed to withstand water, allowing it to remain dry in most circumstances. Waterproof materials have various uses, such as a raincoat protecting us as we run across a parking lot or a fabric to store a beverage in.
Waterproof fabrics are ideal in many circumstances, including as an eco-friendly storage option, but are they food safe? This question is very important since storing food or beverage in a waterproof fabric that isn’t food safe could make you – or whoever eats or drinks it – very sick.
Today’s blog is about waterproof fabrics and whether they’re safe for storing foods. We’ll cover the most popular kinds of waterproof materials and dive into the food safety side.
There are several kinds of waterproof and water-resistant fabrics to choose from:
Polyurethane laminate (PUL) is made of fabric (commonly polyester or something similar) that’s been laminated to a thin film of polyurethane. The base fabric material on its own isn’t waterproof; the lamination does that part.
There are PUL fabrics that are only laminated on one side, meaning only that side is entirely waterproof. This is known as 2-Layer PUL. So, if you’re choosing a PUL fabric, go for one laminated on both sides for complete waterproof protection. These fabrics are known as 3-Layer PUL or CORE PUL.
Everyone’s heard of cotton, but have you ever heard of waxed cotton or canvas? The two are entirely different fabrics. On its own, the cotton/canvas may sometimes be water-resistant but not fully waterproof. But coating the cotton/canvas with paraffin-based wax makes it waterproof.
Waxed cotton isn’t always ideal since the wax treatment creates folds in the fabric, giving it a rough look. Another option might be ideal if you want something soft and smooth.
Nylon Blends; Ripstop & Tafetta
Nylon is not waterproof on its own, but a special coating can make it waterproof. In fact, polyurethane-laminated nylon is a common material used for rain umbrellas. Ripstop nylon and nylon taffeta are the most common kinds of water-resistant nylon.
On its own, ripstop nylon is simultaneously sturdy and lightweight. The water-repellent coating takes it to the next level: wholly resistant to water and sturdy enough for military use. Ripstop nylon is commonly used for tents, coverings for garden furniture, backpacks, kites, and more.
Nylon taffeta is water-resistant with its coating. It’s commonly used for umbrellas since the fabric is lightweight and tightly woven. It has a smooth, shiny surface, too.
Polyester Blends; PVC & Terylene
PVC-coated polyester is a waterproof material made entirely of polyester with a poly-vinyl chloride coating. The coating stiffens the fabric, but the inner finish is smooth to the touch.
Terylene is another specially-coated polyester material used for ship sails, sunshades, canopies, awnings, etc.
Laminated cotton is similar to PUL, but it’s not quite as sturdy. It’s water-resistant while PUL is waterproof. A heavy rainstorm is more likely to break the barrier of laminated cotton than it would PUL. Laminated cotton (or poplin) is typically used for clothes that will be exposed to the elements, like raincoats, windbreakers, ski wear, etc. It’s perfect for keeping you dry while absorbing sweat and allowing you to breathe.
Oilcloth is made of cotton or linen with a see-through vinyl layer. Oilcloth is quite durable and can be easily cleaned with a cloth, making it perfect for various uses.
On its own, some types of wool are water-resistant. Add some lanolin to the wool, and you’ve got a temporary-waterproof fabric. Remember that lanolin isn’t a permanent treatment; you’ll need to re-apply it periodically.
Your other option is to purchase boiled wool. The hot water makes the fabric denser, so it can stand up to water more easily. Take wool felt, for example.
Vinyl, Pleather, and Plastic
An artificial material like vinyl, pleather, or plastic is ideal if you’re looking for a sturdy material that can handle some wear and tear. These synthetic materials are typically used for cosmetic bags, tote and beach bags, table placemats, and more.
As you can see, there are plenty of options for waterproof fabrics. But are they safe for contact with foods? It depends. Generally, any water-resistant fabrics with water repellent features in nature are not safe for contact with foods, as they will contain chemicals that are harmful in nature.
However, you can use any type of waterproof fabric for food if it follows the requirements under Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Three factors determine whether a fabric is food safe:
For the third factor, the fabric must be tested with each food in each storage condition to be considered food safe under Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The fabric must be listed as an appropriate material, and there may be quantity restrictions, especially if the fabric has a type of coating on it. A small amount of that coating might be safe, but a larger quantity could make someone sick.
Next, you’ll want to ensure any coating or lamination is Generally Accepted As Safe if it’s not listed under 21 CFR guidelines.
Finally, if your fabric is waterproof, it needs to be tested with the exact food, in the right material, in the same container, and at the same temperature that you will store it.
If the fabric – regardless of the type of fabric or waterproof coating – meets these requirements, you can use it to store food without getting sick.
Wazoodle Fabrics leads the industry for food-safe fabrics that won’t make you sick. It’s easy to trust us with your food-safe fabrics. We are fully transparent, meeting 21 CFR Part 175 for food-safe fabrics.
Our FoodSAFE Fabrics are also 100% eco-friendly and CPSIA certified while being free of PFOS, PFOA, lead, dioxins, heavy metals, BPA, and phthalates.
Have questions? Need help getting started? Please don’t hesitate to contact us! We’re here to help you find the right food-safe fabric for your needs.