We’ve all heard about diving into the water in a Neoprene wetsuit. However, not many of us know what Neoprene actually is in the first place. Well, in this article, we’re going to talk about this material in detail and whether it’s actually waterproof as some claim.
What is Neoprene?
Before we get deeper into examining our topic for today, let’s begin with the most usual question; what is Neoprene?
Well, Neoprene, also known as polychloroprene, is a synthetic rubber whose invention dates back to1930, by DuPont scientist Arnold Collins, a member of Wallace Carothers’s research group. The material became commercially available in 1946, nearly two decades later!
Neoprene, pronounced as “nuh-preen,” is classified as synthetic rubber. That’s because it’s from petroleum chemicals. This material is a result of polymerization, the process of linking together many small molecules of chloroprene. Chloroprene is a synthetic rubber produced from the natural monomer 2-chlorobutadiene-1,3.
Initially, Neoprene was prepared by treating acetylene with cuprous chloride and then treating it with hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide. However, this process has evolved with time. In the modern world, we create Neoprene through the chlorination of isoprene or butadiene.
Immediately after production, Neoprene can be a very sticky and stringy substance that is hard to work with. However, as it cures, the properties change, and it becomes a durable material.
Is Neoprene Waterproof?
Now that we already know what this material is, the next thing we will be talking about is whether it’s a waterproof material or not.
So, is Neoprene one of the waterproof materials we have out there? Does Neoprene absorb water? I bet you’ve been battling with these questions even before finding your way here. Let’s find out below!
Yes! Neoprene is waterproof. That’s the reason most people use it for wetsuits, fishing rod handles, camera cases, and other products that work best with materials that don’t absorb water.
What makes Neoprene waterproof is the fact that it’s a closed-cell material. In other words, this material consists of tiny, independent air bubbles separated by walls of polymer chains.
These bubbles refuse to allow any water or other liquids through the walls, keeping them out. However, if you are not careful when using a product made from Neoprene, the water can seep in if you get a hole in your product.
What’s more interesting is that it can retain its water-repellent properties, even after many uses and washes. It does this by creating a barrier between itself and the elements it contacts such as water, oil, solvents, more.
Uses of Neoprene
We already know that we can use Neoprene for wetsuits, camera cases, and fishing-rod handles. But that’s not where its use ends— there are much more uses than that. Actually, almost anything that requires rubber or plastic can have Neoprene applied to it.
In the world we are living, almost every industry uses Neoprene. Some of the dominant applications of Neoprene include making;
- Computer cases
- Car engine mounts
- Panniers for bicycles, among many others.
- Neoprene is even used as an adhesive to make laminated safety glass in aircraft and cars!
- Knee and elbow pads for other athletes,
- Sports balls
- Protective gloves
- Insulation of electric wires
- Insulation of electronic equipment, etc.
As seen from all the above uses and others not mentioned, we can safely argue that there’s almost no industry where Neoprene won’t come in handy. That is why this simple synthetic rubber has made it a long way since its invention.
A fun fact: It’s either you are using Neoprene right now or very close to it.
What Makes Neoprene So Great?
Now that we know what Neoprene is and where we can use it, next is to examine why this material has become one of the most manufacturer’s raw materials.
So, what makes Neoprene so great? All that owes to the properties it has.
Below are some properties that make Neoprene the great material it is.
- Neoprene is resistant to oil, gas, ozone, gasoline, kerosene, alcohol, and other chemicals. As aforementioned, this material has some qualities that make it waterproof and chemical-resistant, and that’s the reason why the material is considered a top choice for making equipment for underwater use.
- It’s also resistant to damage from sunlight and atmospheric chemicals, therefore making it the perfect material, not just for underwater use but also for land use as well.
- Neoprene has low flammability and self-extinguishing properties. As a result, it makes for a good candidate for use in the oil industry where fire hazards are high.
- Neoprene, being a synthetic rubber, is more durable than natural rubber in hot and cold climates. It also works better at motor temperature extremes.
- It has impressive elasticity. Hence, it can repeatedly stretch without losing its shape. It neither snaps back into place when stretched, making it more durable.
- As an elastic material, Neoprene can absorb shock. This property makes it essential for insulating helmets and more. Manufacturers even utilize it as a cushion material in shoes!
- Neoprene is very durable. With that said, you now know that your Neoprene gloves will last longer than most other types of gloves.
- Neoprene is very flexible when compared to other synthetic rubbers like EPDM. This feature makes it more comfortable as well as easier to use. The material’s good thermal stability also increases its flexibility.
- Another property of Neoprene is that it has a low coefficient of friction and high abrasion resistance. For this reason, this material won’t get as easily damaged by surfaces rubbing against it, which is why you see so many uses of Neoprene in sports equipment like knee pads, elbow pads, and protective gloves.
- Neoprene is recyclable. What that means is you can recycle it and make something else from it when it gets damaged. After all, we want to keep this earth clean.
As you can see, there are many reasons why this material has myriad uses today; however, some may not realize that the original use of Neoprene was for gaskets.
Is Neoprene Toxic? Here Is What You Need To Know!
There has been a great deal of controversy for some time that surrounds the toxicity of Neoprene. That’s especially true in the medical field.
So, toxic or non-toxic?
Neoprene is not toxic to humans in most cases, although some people are allergic to it, so care must be taken when dealing with this product. But in most cases, polychloroprene is not harmful to humans.
In more straightforward terms, Neoprene has a long list of things great about it and a short one of what we might consider bad. Hence, using Neoprene is not bad for you most of the time, as long as you don’t belong to the category of the few people who are allergic to it!
Is Neoprene Carcinogenic?
Chloroprene used in the production of Neoprene is considered carcinogenic in animals. Nevertheless, that alone doesn’t qualify Neoprene as a cancer-causing element.
It’s very unlikely that you will come into any contact with the carcinogenic ingredient in Neoprene, Chloroprene, considering that the levels of this chemical in Neoprene are very low.
In other words, usually, polychloroprene is not carcinogenic except on few occasions. A case in point is in organizations with poor ventilation but increased production of chloroprene. Extended exposure to this element is what can cause cancers. That’s according to US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA)
So don’t fear Neoprene! While it may contain chloroprene, the content load is very low that you don’t have to worry about anything!
Neoprene Vs. Natural Rubber- What Makes Neoprene Most Preferred?
Although they are both rubbers, a few things make Neoprene more preferred of the two.
For instance, polychloroprene offers enhanced temperature resistance. That’s unlike natural rubber that gets sticky when you expose it to heat and brittle at low temperatures.
Neoprene is also stronger and has more advanced water, heat, solvents, oil, and chemical-resistant qualities. And having that said, we don’t have to state that it’s more durable!
Advantages of Neoprene
- More enhanced thermal stability
- Impressive waterproofing properties
- Advanced corrosion-resistant qualities
- Outstanding resistance to chemicals
- Higher tensile strength than natural rubber
- Better abrasion resistance and cushioning ability than natural rubber
Disadvantages of Neoprene
The downsides of polychloroprene include;
- Costs more than other forms of rubber
- It doesn’t offer the best resistance to some substances. Examples of such are strong oxidizing acids, ketones, etc.
- Although durable, you still can’t compare it to metals
The advanced waterproofing properties of Neoprene make it a top choice for marine-based gear, deep-sea diving equipment, and various sports that require gears to be waterproof.
And other than the water-repellent qualities, this material is also durable, so it retains its shape for very long. Now, combining the water and chemical-resistance qualities with the durability factor, Neoprene serves as a top choice for most items that call for materials that can stand up to harsh substances and conditions.