Imagine you’re standing in your favorite mall and looking over some products to buy, imagine you picked up one product after another and each was marked with these: Water-resistant, waterproof, water-repellent and weatherproof – and with no idea of what each term means you get confused, which by the way sounds like the same thing to me too.

To clarify what each of these markings on the products means and give you the confidence to choose the right product that’s perfect for your needs; I’ve pitted water-resistance against waterproof and water-repellent against weather-proof. If you’re ready, let’s dive in and examine what each of these terms means and what it means when a product is marked with either of the terms.

Does Water-Resistant mean Waterproof?

Well, the answer is NO. Both terms are referring to varying abilities of products to withstand the different level of exposure to moisture. So when we talk about water-resistant or waterproof we’re simply saying a particular product can still function properly after being used to a specific level of moisture – think exposed to: light rain, heavy showers or heavy snow.


So what is Water-Resistant?

This is the lowest level of protection against water. It means a product has been built in such a way as to make it difficult for water to get inside. It could also mean the product’s surface has been coated with light substance that runs water off the surface of the product without getting in. This means most water-resistant products are built to withstand only little water exposure such as hand-wash or light rain shower.


And Waterproof?

Waterproof is the highest level of water protection a product can be assigned to. When a product is marked as waterproof – it means just that – a complete protection against water penetration into the product. A product is made waterproof using a number of different technologies. For waterproof clothing: you’d see something like an impermeable surface with sealed seams and inclusion of internal breathable lining. Electronic devices are made waterproof with the aid of nano-coating technology.


Other terms you’re likely going to come across include:

Water-repellant: Just as the name implies – a water-repellent product possesses the ability to repel water from it. Water repellant products are built with special materials and techniques and are generally coated with Gore-Tex or DWR – a type of nano-coating technology.

Hydrophobic: When a product is labeled as hydrophobic it means water cannot interact with it. Yes, you know water practically reacts with anything it comes in contact but with hydrophobic treatment most products can repel it. This is particularly important for devices which are usually exposed to water. Remember the beading effect on some surfaces? That’s a hydrophobic surface. Learn more about Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic properties.

However, it should be noted that because a product is marked as hydrophobic does not force water away from it but it merely prevents the water from interacting with it.

Weather Proof: Another popular label that indicates the ability of products to withstand exposure to the elements. A weatherproof product is one which has been specially built to withstand the effects of the elements – sun, rain, heat, etc. without any damage to it.

This is a more general marking that not only protects the device from moisture but from other elemental effects. You’re more likely to find these labeling on products used mainly for the outdoors.

How to choose a product with the right protection for your needs

This all depends on what use you intend to put the product to. Take for instance: if you’re planning on going on a hiking tour – you’d need at least a weather resistant jacket, a water-proof electronics wristwatch, a waterproof backpack and also weather-proof shoes.

So you see your choice of a product should be driven by your needs, the environment in which the product is going to be used – will the product be exposed to the element for a considerable length of time? Will the product be used indoors? These considerations should drive your choice.

What do waterproof ratings mean?

Remember I mentioned there’re varying levels of waterproof protection. These waterproof ratings are reflections of how well the product held up during testing to determine its ‘waterproofness’. You’re certain to find the rating of each product in the specification manual or on the label beside the waterproof markings.

An Ingress Protection (IP) ratings of 0 – 8 is assigned to each product based on its performance during testing. An IP rating of zero (0) indicates no protection is available for the product while an IP rating of eight (8) indicates the highest level of waterproof protection a product could have. In between these’re varying degrees of protection a device could have.

In conclusion

A product could either be water-resistant, waterproofed, water-repellant or weather-proofed – where these are labels to indicate how much exposure to water and the element the product can take without getting damaged or malfunctioning.

So with your new knowledge about the differences between each of these terms – I hope you’ll confidently choose the right product that meets your need when next you visit the mall.

Comment below with your thoughts on these and share your experience with us.

Nick Davis

Technology blogs contributor, I love everything that's high-tech and super solid. While traveling, hiking and surfing, I make sure to put my gear to the toughest tests. Join me in my quest of discovering gadgets with superpowers!

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