There is something special about outdoor sports, that you will not find running on a treadmill in your local gym. You are always somehow in contact with nature and since nature won’t adapt to your preferences, you have to fit in. No matter if it rains or snows, as long as you make the right preparations in form of appropriate rain gear combined with the best waterproofing spray, you will find a way to practice your hobby outside.
Although good rain gear should be the base, there is more you can do to prepare yourself for weather conditions, which are not as comfortable as you would wish, and that’s waterproofing your boots and clothing with the best waterproofing and shoe protector spray.
We got our hands on four really popular options and tested them on different materials. We tested waterproofing abilities, drying rates, smell, application and to what extend they discolor the product you use them on. In this article we will breakdown our results.
Our 4 Picks
When it comes to protection of boots and clothing, there is no need to pay big money for expensive sprays. There are a lot of really affordable products out there, performing perfectly fine. So unlike in gear where you usually get what you pay for, you might run better with using cheaper shoe protector sprays more often. When you challenge your equipment a lot, you might find yourself reapplying the hydrophobic spray of your choice almost every other week. Using an overpriced product here could cost you more than the gear itself and that certainly isn’t necessary.
For our testing we made sure to select 4 sprays that are reasonable priced and have great online reviews.
The Kiwi Heavy Duty spray is quite similar to Scotchgard, in that it’s an aerosol spray and is a brand name that’s recognized fairly well. This is a silicone based water repellent that’s intended specifically to protect outdoor gear and footwear. This means you should avoid using it on everyday clothing or products your kids will be around. The can weighs 10.5 ounces, but there’s no mention of how much surface area a can will cover. There’s also no mention of it lacking certain harmful chemicals, but Kiwi products are made by SC Johnson, who are known for using safer chemicals.
Kiwi Camp Dry’s directions are paraphrased as follows:
- Apply to clean and dry articles. Spray a light, even coat from 7-10 inches away.
- Use in a ventilated area.
- Let article dry for 24-48 hours.
- Spot test on colors for discoloration.
Kiwi is a well-regarded brand that gets mainly 4.5-star reviews online. The few complaints there are seem to be about the can malfunctioning at some point. The main thing to remember with Kiwi is that it is not intended for use on regular clothing or items you would wear, besides shoes. The chemicals in this product are definitely stronger and could be more harmful.
Application – This had our favorite dispersion of product. It was wide and light. No complaints here.
Smell – There was a strong chemical smell during application, but that disappeared after the materials dried.
Discoloration – There was no discoloration in the fabrics, but they did harden and wrinkle slightly.
Nikwax comes in a regular spray bottle that’s designed to increase the power of your already waterproof items or add a waterproof layer to laminated or synthetic materials. Since it comes in a spray bottle, it’s free of propellant gases, fluorocarbons, and it isn’t tested on animals. The bottle is 17 fluid ounces in weight, but there is no information about how much surface area the spray covers. There’s also no mention of Nikwax damaging colors.
Directions for Nikwax TX.Direct Spray-On are paraphrased as follows:
- Protect working area and lay clean garments flat.
- Hold the bottle 6 inches away.
- Spray evenly.
- Wait 2 minutes and remove excess spray with a cloth.
- Check that no areas have been missed.
Although Nikwax as less popular than Scotchgard or Kiwi, it still receives pretty good reviews online. Most complaints are surprisingly about the smell – mentioning that there’s a strong vinegar scent. Others say the spray simply didn’t work, but every product online has at least a small handful of complaints saying it didn’t work. We’ll assume some buyers probably don’t follow direction very well.
Application – We found the trigger spray bottle to drip a lot during application. We highly suggest the bottle be held in an upright position at all times.
Smell – There was a scent that was similar to vinegar, but we didn’t find it repulsive as other buyers may have suggested. The smell does linger after drying, but this is only if you put your nose up to the materials.
Discoloration – There was no discoloration, but the materials did harden and wrinkle slightly.
Scotchgard is certainly one of the most recognized brands for waterproofing materials. We chose the heavy duty version, since that will be the best for outdoor gear and the rugged materials we tend to utilize. This includes tents, outerwear, canvas, boat and sporting gear, canvas, and patio furniture. Of course, it is intended to work on regular clothing and shoes as well. The chemicals in Scotchgard include silicone, propane, and petroleum distillates. The can does, however, mention that there are no CFCs (chlorofluorocarbon), which is harmful to the ozone layer. Staying green is still important! The can has a 10.5-ounce weight, and it’s suggested to cover about 60 sq. feet of material. There is a warning on the can that it can discolor lighter fabrics, so always do a test spray before coating your personal belongings.
Scotchgard’s directions for use are paraphrased as follows:
- Protect other surfaces from overspray.
- Shake the can and apply to clean materials.
- Test for color fastness.
- Spray in sweeping motion from 6-8 inches away. Do not saturate.
- Allow spray to completely dry before using.
- Reapply seasonally or as needed.
Since the Scotchgard brand is so popular, most buyers have nothing but good things to say about it. However, a handful of reviewers have mentioned they had to bake their items in the oven for the water-resistant coating to hold. Since the directions don’t call for that, we won’t be doing that for this review. You’ll usually see this brand with four or more stars on online shops.
Application – The dispersion was very even and covered well. A solid 6 inches or more is really important, or else the materials begin to get saturated. We did about 3-4 sweeps per test strip.
Smell – There was a slight chemical smell to the spray. If done outside, this shouldn’t be very bothersome. After drying, the smell disappeared.
Discoloration – We noticed that there was a very, very slight change in color on the richer materials. It’s difficult to see this change at all in photos, and it really wouldn’t be noticeable at a glance.
Granger’s is a lesser-known brand that is made in the UK. The company makes a lot of products designed to protect high-performance gear, and it’s suggested this spray is best for sleeping bags and synthetic materials. Finding a list of ingredients in the Granger’s Xtreme Repel has proven to be difficult, as they’re not listed on the bottle, on any product pages, or on their website. The only thing we found was it’s made with Acrylic Polymer Technology and it’s free of fluorocarbons. The bottle is 9.3 fluid ounces in weight, and it’s applied by a trigger nozzle, as opposed to an aerosol spray. There’ no warning about discoloration.
Granger’s directions for use are paraphrased as follow:
- Apply to clean garment.
- Hang garment and spray from 15 cm.
- Tumble dry for the best results.
We found the final direction interesting, since their website states their Xtreme Repel spray does not have to be heat activated. For the purpose of this review, we let our materials air dry.
Online reviews for Granger’s Xtreme Repel are a little mixed. Most buyers have good things to say about the product, but there are plenty of others who say the spray just flat-out doesn’t work. Our guess would be that there are more detailed instructions to follow somewhere, but the label on the bottle makes the process seem very simplified. That is perhaps misleading and confusing.
Application – We were very disappointed to find that the Granger’s bottle was damaged. It seems that the tube running through the bottle had a puncture in it. This could have easily happened during shipment. We transferred the liquid to a different spray bottle, and we noticed the application left some heavier wet spots in certain areas.
Smell – Granger’s clearly had the strongest chemical smell of all the sprays. However, after drying, there was only a slight smell leftover on the materials. This was only noticeable if you put your face up to the fabrics.
Discoloration – The cotton and nylon especially had noticeably darker hues. This wasn’t sign of damage, though. The materials also seemed more hardened and slightly wrinkled, after drying.
How We Tested
To prepare for our waterproof spray test, we cut four strips of each type of material. Each material would get coated in each type of spray, according to that spray’s directions. We allowed all our materials to air dry overnight. We didn’t “bake” any test strips so we could observe the pure power of each spray. Then, each material was tested against a spray bottle of water, a drying period, a shower head, and then a final drying period. We could see how each waterproofing spray held up against a “rain” simulation and a full on “down pour” simulation.
The four materials we chose for testing the sprays were:
We chose a light gray polyester, which is a material that’s used in nearly every article of average clothing. Polyester is also found in fabrics for outdoor patio furniture and some camping gear. The material is fairly thin, but sturdy. If anything, polyester didn’t hold up against much water, but we didn’t expect any of the hydrophobic sprays to have magical powers. We looked for drying power and any sign of resilience when testing out the sprays.
Our vibrant orange cotton material is stretchy and flexible. Cotton is one of the most utilized materials in clothing, fabrics, and everyday items, so we had to include it in our test. Although cotton is also thin, it is more resilient than polyester when wet, so we expected to see some results from the waterproofing sprays. Drying speed was also an important factor with cotton.
We chose a dark gray nylon for the third material, which already has some water resistance built into the fabric. This is why nylon is more commonly used with gear for camping, hunting, and sports. Our water repellent sprays were expected to show some intense results. This is probably the best material to showcase our review because it’s right in between flimsy polyester/cotton and durable leather.
Synthetic leather was our final option because this is also another commonly used material for clothing and outdoor gear. You’ll find synthetic leather in jackets, boots, bags, holsters, and a lot of other items you definitely don’t want damaged by water. Synthetic leather was expected to be the most naturally resistant to water, but they would also show the most damage by the sprays’ chemicals.
Since polyester is already a very thin material that has no resistance against liquids and moisture, the test strips got very wet during every test. However, the drying rate varied between each spray.
Spray test – Even a light misting from our spray bottle completely soaked every strip of polyester treated with the waterproof chemicals. There was, basically, no protecting the straight polyester from wet elements.
Drying rate – The strip with Kiwi Camp Dry dried the quickest, next was Granger’s, then Nikwax, and then Scotchgard. Since the material was so thin, it took a couple hours for each piece to dry. Even after that, the strip treated with Scotchgard still had wet spots on it.
Shower test – Again, every strip of polyester got soaked.
Drying rate – Again, the Kiwi strip dried the fastest, but this time it was followed by Nikwax, Scotchgard, and Granger’s dried the slowest. We believe that the coating of Granger’s washed away after one soaking because it went from the second fast at drying to the least fast.
Best at resisting water: None
Best at drying: Kiwi
The cotton test strips had some resistance to water, but they still all got soaked after our “down pour” simulation. Some of the waterproof sprays definitely made a difference.
Spray test – Two sprays helped resist water at least a little bit: Kiwi and Nikwax. The Scotchgard and Granger’s strips didn’t stand up well to water.
Drying rate – Since the Kiwi and Nikwax strips had some waterproofness, they both dried quicker than the Scotchgard and Granger’s strips. We could feel a slight residue on the Granger’s strip, which makes sense if their coating seems to wash away easily.
Shower test – The Granger’s strip did not hold up at all. However, the remaining three seemed to all resist water most of the way. Kiwi and Nikwax did better than Scotchgard.
Drying rate – If you’re noticing a pattern here, Granger’s was the slowest at drying. Scotchgard dried about as quickly as the remaining two test strips, but it still had some light wet patches.
Testing nylon really changed the game. This is the first material that showed true resistance to water after being treated.
Spray test – We were very surprised to see that the Granger’s strip had the most water resistance. We think the stronger chemicals worked best with a heavy duty material like nylon. The next best was Nikwax, and Scotchgard and Kiwi had a tie. None of the strips got soaked like the cotton and polyester strips did.
Drying rate – The Kiwi strip dried the most quickly, and then the Granger’s. Although the Granger’s resisted the most water, it was applied more heavily than Kiwi initially, so it makes sense that the Kiwi strip was faster at drying. Next was Scotchgard and then Nikwax.
Shower test – Again, Granger’s failed miserably the second time around. The Kiwi strip resisted the most water (the water ran right off!), then Nikwax, and then Scotchgard. However, none of the nylon strips got soaked in the shower test. They all resisted water on some level.
Drying rate – Kiwi and Scotchgard did the best at drying quickly in under 30 minutes. We learned that the heavier materials worked best with the lighter-applied treatments for the fastest drying rates. The Nikwax and Granger’s strips were shortly behind, but both these strips displayed wrinkles.
The synthetic leather strips are the most naturally resistant to water. The water rolled right off every single strip, but you could see a difference in how quickly this happened, as well as the after effects from drying.
Spray test – The water didn’t affect any of the synthetic leather strips. We noticed that the water did slide off the Kiwi and Scotchgard strips the quickest.
Drying rate – All the strips dried quickly, but we noticed the Scotchgard strip was developing some light stains. We believe the chemicals in Scotchgard had a weird effect on the leather.
Shower test – The results were quite similar to the spray test. The water slid off the Scotchgard and Kiwi strips the quickest.
Drying rate – Again, some light stains had developed on the Scotchgard strip.
The waterproof spray that performed the best was the Kiwi Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellent. It had the most even coverage without damaging any of the materials, and it almost always came out on top for water resistance and drying speed. Kiwi didn’t leave behind any odors or residue, and it was the allover most effective spray.
Our least favorite waterproof spray was Granger’s Xtreme Repel. The chemicals wreaked, and the spray was uneven. It washed off every time after a single contact with water, and the packaging was disappointing.
Our final thoughts on this review is to opt for a spray bottle that uses an aerosol dispersion. You’ll get a wider and lighter coverage. We also suggest “baking” your garments after treating them, as it’s obvious that would have improved the water resistance on all the materials. Remember, waterproof sprays aren’t supposed to be magic in a bottle, so don’t expect them to protect your cotton t-shirts or flimsy bags. You’ll get the best results if you take your time and follow directions correctly.
While sifting through online statements from other reviewers, we noticed a common complaint amongst all the sprays: users were left with discolored clothing. We decided to put all four sprays (Scotchgard, Granger’s Kiwi, and Nikwax) to the test to see if any of these claims were true and which left materials with the least discoloration.
We cut four pieces of white cotton, and sprayed each one with a waterproof spray. Then, we let the cotton samples air dry overnight to give them a full 24 hours to show any change.
By looking at the photo, it’s difficult to notice any differences in the samples, but we were surprised to see the most discoloration on the pieces sprayed with Scotchgard and Kiwi Camp Dry. The materials had a slight, yellowed tinge to them. The Granger’s and Nikwax pieces seemed to have maintained a crisp, white color.
Our thoughts are that the more even coverage of spray from the Scotchgard and Kiwi cans are what caused the yellowing. It could also be from the chemicals used. Scotchgard seemed to cause the most discoloration, and Granger’s caused the least.
How To Use Waterproofing Sprays
- STEP 1: No matter if you plan on using it on boots or clothing, you should always wash the piece of equipment beforehand. Jackets and shorts can usually go into the washing machine on a gentle cycle, but you should always check back with the manufacturer. Cleaning removes all the oil and dirt that could already block pores and therefore prevent the waterproofing spray from sealing them properly.
- STEP 2:Hang your jacket or shorts on a washing line or on a coat hanger to let it dry completely. For boots you should let them dry naturally and not put them next to or on a heater, which would be more stressful for the fabric.
- STEP 3:When the gear is completely dry, hang it outside and apply the spray evenly and consistent with a distance of around one feet. Make sure to cover every part of the outside. For boots you should hold the same distance while spraying.
IMPORTANT: It is important to do this step outdoors to avoid inhaling too much of the used substances.
- STEP 4:Let everything dry again and maybe apply a second layer. This certainly improves the effect but is not necessary.
3 Advantages of Waterproof Sprays
Logically the first step for best rain protection is the best rain gear. Even the best waterproofing spray will not help you against a rainstorm when your are wearing sandals and linen cloth. Once you have proper rain clothing there are several good reasons to use a waterproofing spray, even before the first time you bring your gear outside.
Protection Against Dirt And Stains
Everyone knows the feeling you have after buying a new piece of gear. No matter if it’s a new pair of boots, a backpack or a new jacket: No one likes to see their new stuff full of dirt only after a couple of uses.
We know that a lot of sports out there require you to walk through deep mud and nasty swamps and yes, it is definitely fun. But wouldn’t it be more fun if the cleaning afterwards is way easier? If so you have your first argument for using a waterproofing spray: With the invisible layer coating your gear, stains will not get nearly as deep in the fabrics, making it far easier to clean your gear after an exciting day outside.
Impregnation against moisture
Definitely the most important reason for using a waterproofing spray is obviously the ability to improve the water resistance of nearly every fabric used today. Even old equipment that lost its water repelling or waterproof features can regain it just by using a waterproofing spray. Usually you only have to reapply it every few weeks on boots or jackets and even less often on objects that are not exposed to constant movement, like backpacks or tents for example. While keeping water out effectively, the spray does not affect breathability of materials in any way. Even better, since soaked up materials loose breathability, sprays can even help maintaining it.
Another nice feature is that these sprays increase the durability of your equipment. Harsh weather and being outside no matter what season it is won’t go easy on your gear, no matter if it’s boots, clothing or anything else that you expose to nature on a regular basis. The best waterproofing sprays will prevent your gear from getting soaked and from dirt that enters deeper fabrics. Following that, materials are less stressed and will last longer. This fact alone can save you money when you keep in mind what a good pair of boots can cost, compared to a waterproofing spray.
How do waterproofing sprays work?
If you ever used these sprays before, the first time you were probably pretty impressed. A few layers of this stuff on your boots and not a drop of water will get into the fabric. All forms of liquid get repelled leaving them no chance to produce stains.
The “scientific” explanation is an added hydrophobic feature. All fabrics have some sort of pores which allow the material to be breathable and reduces sweating. Said sprays use something to fill up those pores and in all cases it is a water repelling substance like oil, wax or silicone. This prevents water from entering those pores and also removes all the traction it has on the material. That is why you will see liquids drip off in no time, as soon as they touch something treated with waterproofing sprays.
Role model for this technology was the Indian lotus plant which has similar designed leafs. Small wax pearls protect their upper side preventing water from entering.