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Water Resistant vs Water Proof: Understanding the Difference

Water Resistant v Waterproof?

When looking at outdoor furniture or fabrics, we have all come across the terms water resistant and/or waterproof.  So, what is the difference?  Often customers are confused, so let’s try to explain with respect to outdoor fabric.


The dictionary definition of each term is (Collins English Dictionary):
  • Water Resistant: does not allow water to pass through it easily, or is not easily damaged by water.
  • Water Proof: does not let water pass through it.

The level of water resistance for outdoor cushions / beanbags comes down to two main factors:

  • the fabric
  • how it is made
  • If there is anyway water can get in, it is not considered water proof, but it can still be considered water resistant.

    Outdoor Fabrics

    Some common outdoor fabrics are nylon, polyester & cotton, which are measured in Denier.

    Denier is based on a natural standard: a single strand is approximately one Denier.

    • 400D fabric is roughly 400 pieces of thread.

    These fibers are woven together to create fabric. Looking closely at 400D (Standard) fabric the individual lines(fibers) will be smaller than individual lines on 1680D fabric (Commercial Fabric).  Though these fabrics are woven together tightly, water can still pass between fibres.  Generally light showers do not pass through, but if in a heavy down pour eventually it will find a way.

    To help these fabrics with water resistance, some have a protective backing added. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane (PU) or thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) are used to help stop water getting through.

    Red 400D PVC backed Polyester outdoor fabricBrown 1680D PVC backed Polyester outdoor fabric

    Standard (400D – shown in red), and Commercial Fabric (1680D – shown in chocolate)

    Fabrics that have a PVC backing can feel ridged. As a result you could choose a fabric that has an added Teflon coating. This is applied to the surface to help water bead up and roll off, for instance our Resortella Fabric(pictured).

    treated water resistant fabric

    The advantage of this method of water resistance is that the fabric retains its soft feel. However, over time the coating will wear off, as a result, we recommend applying a “waterproofing” spray occasionally – this can be found in most major hardware stores.

    If your budget allows there are a couple of fabrics that will stand the test of time.  Both Olefin and Acrylic are 100% solution dyed fabrics. They can stand up to the harsh sun for many years to come. Olefin is quick drying, can with stand the weather, stains and mildew, but is not as water resistant as acrylic. However, it is harder wearing, and cheaper than Acrylic, so it is an excellent choice for outdoor fabric.

    Outdoor Cushion Construction

    To have something made waterproof requires attention to the construction as well as the fabric. You can have all the waterproof fabric in the world, but your cushion covers won’t be waterproof if you have standard zippers or stitching.  It all comes down to construction, and how much you are prepared to pay for a product.

    In all honesty having a waterproof cushion cover isn’t really different to a water resistant one. Water resistant products just require a little more time and attention. As a result you can enjoy them for years to come:

    • Take care of your cushions.
    • Remove them when not in use.
    • Store them over the rainy months.
    • Keep them clean and dry

    So after reading this article you should have an idea with regards to outdoor cushions / bean bags being water resistant and waterproof. It all comes down to the way it has been made.  However, having good fabric, that your budget can afford will also go a long way.  Here at Resort Style Bean Bags we have many types of fabrics at affordable prices, speak to us today for a free quote.