Singing In The Rain- Watertightness of Clothing Materials

By Markus Weder,EMPA
(Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research), St. Gallen, Switzerlan ISO BULLETIN JUNE 2001

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day, chant the children. But, no, rain is not going to go away. Indeed, according to the climate model calculations, global warming will cause increased rainfall in many regions of the Northern Hemisphere. However, ISO standards will help those that have to tolerate an excess of it to keep singing in the rain. By developing standards on tests for making rainwear as watertight as possible, and giving it breathability, the ISO standards for watertight materials are yet another way standards have of making life more comfortable in the many situations where the human being seeks to keep dry. The author looks at the ingenious means, from a James manikin to water towers, used for testing for watertightness and breathability, that are allowing research to make progress, and how ISO standards are having a growing influence in enabling an assessment to be made of the quality of the watertightness of readymade articles of clothing under nearreal-life conditions. Watertightness of Clothing Materials The standards for watertight-ness are used on one hand by fabric manufacturers and on the other by garment manufacturers. Present-day national standards frequently specify the use of simple test methods (e.g.ISO 811, Textile fabrics Determination of resistance to water penetration Hydrostatic pressure test) for the assessment of the watertightness of clothing materials. ISO 811 is relatively simple to use and based on static pressure measurements, which do not correspond to the dynamics of a shower of rain in practice. The CEN/TC 162 WG 4 PG1 standard foreseen,a standard for a rain tower, will, in particular, be used for workwear and protective clothing (military, firefighters, police, railway workers, etc.) and will help to recognize mistakes in the making at an early stage, and, in general to improve the quality of ready- made garments. Future standards will also have to consider aspects of durability, which means that the quality of watertightness has to be assessed after controlled, simulated use. Come Rain, Come High Water Rain is not constant in practice and, depending on the situation, its intensity varies enormously. A drizzle, for example, is far less intensive than a cloudburst, and the period of time during which a rainwear article is exposed to rain also plays an important role. This disparity needs to be overcome with the development of a rain tower test.

depending on the application. Is it justifiable to select a method merely on the basis of its good . the job of rainwear is to protect the body primarily against external moisture or precipitation. and participates in various different ISO. Leaks occur frequently. CEN. to be relevant to the demands in practice. the exposed seams on the collar and shoulders in particular. many materials are available these days that not only claim to be rainproof. much more importantly. EMPA provides the scientific basis and the technical knowledge for standardisation work to assist Swiss trade and industry in maintaining and improving its market position. the most dreaded places are the seams as a whole. but also to expel moisture resulting from intense physical activity. it is still possible. Such norms serve to standardize test procedures. this method is extremely popular. Watertightness How is the watertightness of rain-protection materials defined and measured? When can we say that a material is really rainproof? In general. Nevertheless. As an impartial research institute. so-called breathable rainwear has also been used as industrial clothing. e. in a state as new can also withstand a prolonged cloudburst in the rain tower. So that the priority here also is for watertightness. ASTM and Swiss national committees. Given the difficulty of this balancing act between protection and physiology. In real-life use. however. The role of the EMPA The EMPA (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research) is actively involved in both national and international research. rain-protecting jackets or trousers. In view of its simple application and good reproducibility. good breathing properties and durability. to manufacture excellent products which.As its name implies. In the last few years.Textile fabrics Determination of resistance to water penetration Hydrostatic pressure test. this property is proven and assessed with the hydrostatic pressure (water column) method according to ISO 811. In principle. However. as well as zip fasteners and ventilation openings. breathable rain-protection materials are usually waterproof. it does raise some critical questions when it is considered more closely. Results from differing test institutes are only truly comparable under the same experimental conditions. As fabrics. the weak points soon become apparent. or manufacturing errors can also cause leaks. the sucking effects of the seam or arms. and to propel it out. Though difficult. Standards should not only be developed to be easy to use but also. However. The experience gained has not always been positive and one may justifiably ask why. a product often does not come up to expectations. Moreover.. particularly in clothes used in the building industry or during military service.g. as soon as articles of clothing are made from them. rain-protection products are subjected to enormous loads.

and watertightness. All these questions and problems induced EMPA to take a closer look at the subjects of rain. Rain is a dynamic and not a static process. This has a direct influence on the watertightness of a material.reproducibility and relatively simple application? How does this method work in practice and how relevant are the results to actual use? According to ISO 811. But the materials are stressed with a static water pressure of only 2-3 mm in use. The watertightness of fabrics can be tested in various ways: • • • • • • Hydrostatic head (EN 20811) Bundesmann (EN 29865) Milling/Squeezing Test (Elbow effect) Centrifugal test (Watertightness under the influence of wind) Pin-penetration with the Bundesmann test Bundesmann according to the pin-penetration test Watertightness under mechanical stress (Milling/Squeezing Test) Parts of the body like the elbow. A new apparatus (see Figure 1) has been developed in which a sample is mounted on a moving arm turning at a peripheral speed that can be varied to anywhere between 0 and 145 . This soon led them to the conclusion that new. knee or shoulders are sometimes subject to mechanical stress when a rucksack is carried on the back. e. the weak points soon become apparent. in general. However. breathable rain-protection materials are usually waterproof. by motor cycling or strong winds. however. materials with a hydrostatic head of more than150 cm can be designated. e. rain-protecting jackets or trousers. more practice-related test methods were necessary. The milling/squeezing test apparatus. was developed to determine this effect metrologically. These test methods and the results of numerous measurements are described and discussed in this article. as rainproof. These are highly dynamic processes and have to be considered differently. Rain test with high impact velocity of the water drops (up to 145 km/h) There are numerous applications where raindrops are projected onto a garment at a high velocity.g. During the past years. In the advertising field. the manufacturers of rain-protection materials outbid each other with hydrostatic heads of 80 m and more. with which the penetration of water under mechanical pressure can be measured.and watertightness of materials and ready-made garments. As fabrics.. various new models have been developed and applied to test and assess the rain.g. as soon as articles of clothing are made from the.

but will also enable a number of . which is weighed prior to and after the test. depending on the size of the wet area. with the result they are no longer watertight.8 m) is dressed in the jackets to be tested and subjected to artificial rain in a rain tower. normally after rain for one hour). This apparatus is designed especially for the testing of motor-cycle clothing. The next stage of the test can be performed once the fabric is in order again. and is registered as water penetration by the sensors. The measurement of watertightness by high velocity impingement. The system is exposed to rain for a specified time and the conductivity sensors register where and when water penetrates inside the jacket. even though the material remains intact. on completion of the measurement (i. Several European test institutes are already working with a rain tower¬ù. The reduction in watertightness as a result of the defined damage is a dimension for the receptive type¬ù of the material as concerns damage. materials have been tested with a hydrostatic head of 30 cm. Furthermore. 17 pins (Type 110/18) are pressed through a sample with a diameter of 13 cm at a defined speed of 1000 mm/ min. and the mean value of the wet area indicated so that the result is not only valid for the measured jacket. Twenty-two conductivity sensors are arranged over the upper extremity of the of the manikin. there is a tendency towards increased water penetration at higher velocities of projection. Materials.drops having a velocity of 65 km/h. Three jackets per type are measured. James is a test method for determining the watertightness of a ready-made jacket. This apparatus is placed in the rain tower and subjected to rainfall from a height of over 10 m. The water absorbed by the vest changes the electrical conduction. which remained absolutely watertight when they were subjected to velocities of more than 130 km/h in this test. Rain test on ready-made jackets (Rain tower test with James). The Bundesmann pin-penetration test With this test. Their operators have now joined forces and developed a draft norm in CEN/TC 162 WG4 PG1. The water penetrating the sample is absorbed by blotting paper. can already suffer damage through being subjected to rain. An anatomically formed and jointed manikin (height 1. cycling apparel or mountaineering clothing. which is now in the initial inquiry stage. With certain types of material. which have a hydrostatic head of more than 20 metres.e. Larger companies as well as military institutions employ rain towers. A cotton vest is put on the manikin underneath the jacket. The jacket is then rated from 1 to 5.km/h.. Watertightness is tested according to Bundesmann prior to and after the penetration of the pin. the wet area of the vest is assessed visually. On the other hand.

Any visible damage is noted explicitly in the test report. The tests in the rain tower have revealed the most frequent weak points of jackets. In terms of quality control. The raindrops fall onto the sample from a height of 10 m. which allow a statement to be made about manufacture of articles of clothing. In principle. However. What is important. we should look as in the case of watertightness to test methods. Breathability of clothing Nowadays.state conditions (sweating guarded-hotplate test). it must be assumed that the quality of the jacket is imperfect and has to be improved. the weather-protection clothing on James was subjected to a cloud burst of rain: 2000 drop-former shower of rain equal to 450 l/m 2h over an area of 2 m 2. it is possible that it has suffered damage during transport.called breathability is not the sole or the decisive factor as concerns the comfort of a clothing system. there is nothing wrong in using these methods. If we are concerned with actual use. at about 2 to 9 m/s. It is not expedient to test only one jacket per sample type. DIN 53122. Only tests using the manikin provide information as to whether the selected material is sufficiently watertight. The vaporization of perspiration can retard an excessive increase in body temperature. ISO/WD 15496) or with the skin model according to ISO 11092. however. The velocity of the drops in real weather depends on their diameter. • • • • • • • Seams (collar seams. is where the sweat evaporates. If only one of the jackets leaks. So. have a decisive influence on the choice of the rain protection material for a particular activity. Textiles Physiological effects Measurement of thermal and watervapour resistance under steady. breathability is frequently measured by means of a Cup method (ASTM E 96 E. however.conclusions to be drawn for each respective type. The drops created in the rain tower correspond to the upper limit. and correspond in quantity and drop size (diameter about 5 mm) to those of the Bundesmann rain shower test according to EN 29865. hood attachment seam.e. zip-fastener seam) Ventilation openings Sucking effort by way of seams/sleeve ends (water-repellency treatment) Draw-strings Pockets Hood Absence of rain seam by the front zip fastener The intensity of the rain and the time factor. how long a person can remain outdoors by a specific rain intensity. in contrast to the Bundesmann test with real life. three tested jackets leak. and can tell us very little about its quality. at least three jackets should be tested to obtain reasonable statistical and conclusive evidence. i. . Up to now.

when walking in an ambient temperature of 15'. for example. and should not be cooled any further at this stage. and is therefore better for use in sweat-producing activities than cotton. In case of activities in more moderate climates.tight coatings were used in the past. it extracts far more energy from the body than when the sweat is transported in a wet state to the next layer and evaporates from there. In the case of intense physical activity. intermediate storage in layers away from the skin. the wet moisture should extract as little energy as possible during short-term physical activities. In the case of winter clothing. If it evaporates close to the skin in the underwear. because the moisture absorbed evaporates only slowly. has a long post-chilling effect. e. What is important. . Cotton. In case of very strenuous physical activities.g. and can actually only be investigated using methods that exhibit boundary conditions similar to those in actual use. does not depend necessarily on the rapid expulsion of all the moisture. Depending on the situation. on the other hand. i. Satisfying comfort of wear. and is eliminated more or less as water vapour through the first layers of clothing. part of this water vapour condenses in the outer layers of clothing.. During the last ten years. has a relatively short cooling time. The transport of heat and moisture in practice is very complex. is where the sweat evaporates. The question as to whether the former or the latter is desired depends on the respective application. the moisture produced by the body evaporates in the perspiratory glands. At lower temperatures. breathable materials are employed very often nowadays. can also be sufficient (as for shooting jackets or NBC suits). The vaporization of perspiration can retard an excessive increase in body temperature. for example. because the body will be at rest again within a few minutes.e. however. Whereas only absolutely watertight and water-vapour. It should be transported quickly in a wet state to the next layers. where there is normally a lack of warmth. The better the evaporation cooling. the wet sweat secreted by the body should be transformed efficiently into cooling energy. the less the body has to perspire and thus the more efficient it is. a relatively large quantity of wet sweat has to be exuded in order to cool the body sufficiently. the wearer will inevitably perspire mainly in the form of moisture to dissipate the large quantity of heat (up to about 700 W) efficiently. Polyester. however. The so-called post exercise chill¬ù is a very important factor. the moisture remaining in the clothing after a physical effort continues to cool the body until that moisture is transported away from the layers close to the skin.With light physical activity. EMPA has developed new methods for testing the simultaneous transport of heat and moisture in clothing materials.

It is with this in mind that the Manikin Family at EMPA in the last few years has grown. In principle. the fact that one has to pay dearly for all these positive characteristics is frequently over-looked. the tests need to be conducted as near as possible to real-life conditions. The so-called highly breathable coatings or special fabrics are used if the particular field of application does not call for 100% water. In case of very strenuous physical activities. A certain feeling or wetness will be sensed nevertheless. but always gets wet when it rains. but here protection against overheating is more important than the feeling of wetness. The lotus leaf ideal The protection against wind and weather. breathable materials are employed very often nowadays. used for watertightness assessment in the rain tower. but also account for the necessary minimum breathability. and the seams are frequently and intentionally not sealed. because of the resulting quantity of moisture. and the three James manikins. To be on the safe side. the best weather protection and the highest breathability are frequently required. These materials have an even thinner coating than those used for the customary laminates. One has to provide not only expediently adapted protection against the weather. even with used materials. Whereas only absolutely watertight and also water-vapour tight coatings were used in the past. Here again. It is not much help to the wearer if he has agreeable wear-comfort in dry weather. a relatively large quantity of wet sweat has to be exuded in order to cool the body sufficiently.Wet-protection clothing The fields of application have changed considerably since the emergence of water and wind-proof breathable rain-protection materials. such as Alex on whom headwear can be . The difficulty by the selection of rain-protection materials for the industrial clothing sector is the determination of the respective requirements. Water-repellent materials are equally suitable for numerous applications. In addition to watertightness. takes priority over good breathability. a rain-protection jacket should have very good and long-lasting hydrophobing.tightness. have been joined by others. The so-called highly breathable coatings or special fabrics are used if the particular field of application does not call for 100% watertightness. very few seams and be washed as little as possible. breathability also plays an important role. However.

as that of a lotus leaf. The latest development SAM¬ù (Sweating Articulated Manikin) will be completed this summer. for example. which can adapt their function according to changing boundary conditions. for instance. . Further intensive efforts need to be made in the future to ensure that high-quality rain-protec-tion materials remain tight even after more protracted use or. This might be done. to lend them a certain resistance to damage. New international standards for the testing of ready-made garments for watertightness under the most realistic conditions possible play an important role in enabling us to guarantee the best possible quality and to generate customer satisfaction. by means of a further water barrier or so-called intelligent textiles. used for heat-protection tests. The aim to obtain a permanent water-repellency. It has been developed over a period of four years. One of the most frequent sources of error is the sucking effect inside a jacket. and will be used for the initial investigation of physiological tests and research activities in near real-life conditions. as concerns watertightness. as good. and Henry.investigated. Good hydrophobicity enhances the tolerance towards possible damage considerably. is very ambitious and extremely difficult to realize.