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Is Tyvek Waterproof?

In short, yes.

Tyvek is a great material. Accidentally invented at a DuPont experimental lab in 1955, it was originally marketed as a strong, light, waterproof material for covering buildings. Though finding great success in that application, over the past 60 years it has also been used in a huge variety of other contexts.

It is now becoming the go-to material for medical packaging, and is made extensive use of in industrial coveralls. Costa Rica even used Tyvek to produce bank notes, although these have since been withdrawn, and are now rare collector’s items.

In all of these applications, Tyvek is prized for its water resistant properties. Though superficially similar to paper, Tyvek is in fact a form of plastic made from tiny fibers. After being produced, these microscopic Olefin fibers are spun together, and bonded using intense heat and pressure. This results in a material that is incredibly strong, can be written on and printed like paper, and also totally waterproof.

image showing how water resistant Tyvek is

That said, Tyvek is not completely impermeable to water. One of the reasons that it was originally marketed as sheets to cover buildings was that is permeable to water vapour, but not liquid water. This means that, when used on a construction site or incorporated into the design of a house, it is able to keep rain from damaging the structure, whilst also allowing it to breathe.

This is because, as the Olefin fibers are pressed and bonded together, tiny holes are left between them. These holes are large enough to let water droplets suspended in the air through a Tyvek sheet, but not relatively large drops of liquid water. In this way, Tyvek acts like other breathable materials that you might find in high-end hiking gear, which allow sweat to permeate out from boots whilst not allowing water in, and indeed Tyvek is increasingly finding applications in this context.

If you need a material that is easy to work with, strong, and also completely waterproof, Tyvek is a great choice. Even when wet, it retains its superior strength and tear resistance, which is one reason why it is so prized for packaging. This is important with packaging like blister cards

The very fact that Tyvek material is so good at resisting water, however, causes some problems in itself. DuPont, the manufacturers of Tyvek, do not recommend that it be used as a floor covering. The reason is that, when working with liquids or even as a result of condensation, water can bead on the surface of Tyvek sheets, and make the material very slippery.

In addition, the fact that Tyvek does not absorb water means that the techniques used to print on paper cannot be used on Tyvek sheets. This is because most printers use liquid ink that is designed to be absorbed by a paper substrate. With Tyvek material, ink beads on the surface, significantly increasing drying times and subsequently slowing down production of printed Tyvek products. This said, techniques such as Thermal Transfer can be used to print quickly and successfully on Tyvek.

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Summary
Is Tyvek Waterproof?
Article Name
Is Tyvek Waterproof?
Description
Tyvek is an amazing multipurpose product that can be used in multiple situations. In this post we discuss the waterproof properties of Tyvek.
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Doranix is a designer and manufacturer of innovative industrial printers and label printer-applicators for product identification and bar-coding serving the medical, food and other packaging industries.

We specialize in providing integrated solutions for small to medium size facilities or work cells in larger facilities.