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My husband wanted to get some winter jackets for us. As you look for winter jackets though, you may see that many of them are waterproof and have durable water repellent coatings in the fabric. Durable water repellent treatments are convenient and functional as they prevent fabric from getting soaked from water. They are often used on outdoor clothing, rainwear or winter jackets. However, durable water repellent coatings are often made of perfluorochemicals (PFCs) which may be harmful to our health as well as our environment. Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are forever chemicals and they accumulate in the body of animals and humans as well as our environment. Is there water repellent coating that are not made with perfluorochemicals (PFCs)? I wanted to find winter jackets that do not contain perfluorochemicals (PFCs). In this post, I share with you how durable water repellent (DWR) can be harmful and what PFC-free DWR clothing is available.
How Can Durable Water Repellent Be Toxic?
Many products such as clothes, bags, tents etc. have a coating called durable water repellent (DWR) on the fabric to make them water-repellent. Most durable water repellent (DWR) treatments are fluoropolymer based. Fluoropolymer coatings use a group of chemicals called perfluorochemicals (PFCs). PFCs are very effective at repelling water (also at repelling stain, oil and heat) but they can be harmful to humans and animals as well as our environment. They accumulate in the body of humans and animals as well as our environment. They don’t break down in the environment and harm wildlife. PFCs have also been used in many products such as nonstick coating on cookware (such as teflon), waterproof clothes, firefighting foams, food packaging, etc. Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are also referred to as Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). You may have heard of chemicals such as PFOS or PFOA which are part of a class of compounds called PFAS. PFOA was classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans by IARC which is a part of the World Health Organization (WHO). It is also a suspected endocrine disruptor and has been linked to increased risk for breast cancer according to the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. PFOS has been associated with fertility problems. Potential negative health risks of PFOA and PFOS include thyroid dysfunctions, liver problems, immune disorders, osteoarthritis, delayed puberty, cholesterol changes and increased levels of uric acid. Consequently, PFOA and PFOS are banned or phased out with some exemptions in many countries and products due to harmful risks to your health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), long-chain PFCs are a concern for children’s health and studies in laboratory animals have demonstrated developmental toxicity, including neonatal mortality.
Long-Chain PFC DWR (C8) VS Short-Chain PFC DWR (C6)
Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) include long-change PFCs and short-chain PFCs.
- Long-chain PFCs are PFCs that have a chain of eight or more carbon atoms (C8 or more).
- Short-Chain PFCs are PFCs that has a shorter carbon chain (C6 which is 6 carbon molecules).
PFOS or PFOA are long-chain PFCs. (sometimes referred to as long chain PFAS) Certain Long-chain PFC (or PFAS) chemicals including PFOS and PFOA are no longer manufactured in the United States due to health concerns. Outdoor gear and clothing companies phased out long-chain PFC DWRs and transitioned into short-chain PFC DWRs after harmful long chain perfluorochemicals (PFCs) were banned to be used in US manufacturing in 2016.
Short-chain PFCs break down faster so they are not as harmful in our environment as long-chain PFCs are. However, this doesn’t mean short-chain PFCs are safe. They are still persistent in our environment and can be harmful. According to the US National Toxicology Program, short-chain PFAS adversely affect rat livers and thyroid hormones just like their long-chain ones do. However, short-chain PFAS will require higher doses to cause the same type of harm as long-chain PFAS. Short-chain PFAS had shorter half-lives in rodents than long-chain PFAS. According to the Environmental Working Group’s article, multiple government agencies, including the EPA, the National Toxicology Program and the Agency for Toxicological Substances and Disease Registry, have noted that short-chain PFAS used to replace long chain PFAS such as PFOA and PFOS can cause similar toxicity and health effects in animals. Therefore, while short-chain PFCs may break down faster and be less persistent compared to long-chain ones, they are still not the best solution for a durable water-repellent coating.
What Is PFC-Free Durable Water Repellent (DWR)?
If perfluorochemicals (PFCs) can be harmful to our health and our environment, then is there PFC-free durable water repellent (DWR) available? There is. Some outdoor and rain wear and equipment companies carry clothing and equipment that are water-repellent without PFCs. They use PFC-free durable water-repellent (DWR) on their clothing and equipment (no use of short-chain PFC such as C6 and long-chain PFC such as C8 chemicals). PFC-free durable water-repellents (DWRs) are plant-based, wax-based or silicon-based depending on the companies. Nau International Inc., for example, uses a variety of PFC-Free DWR alternatives that are bio-based and hydrocarbon polymer-based chemistries for the water repellency performance with the lowest impact. (C0 100% PFC-Free DWR treatment) Sierra Designs also uses C0 DWR instead of C6 or C8 for their tents’ shell fabric to make it PFC free. Going PFC-free is not an easy task for many manufacturers because PFC-free DWRs do not offer the same performances as PFC-based DWRs do. Apparently, PFC-free DWRs don’t achieve oil or dirt repellency as PFC-based DWRs do. However, PFC-free DWRs have the same functionality of water-repellency and they are safer and more environmental-friendly alternatives to harmful PFCs. PFC-free DWR garments may not last as long as PFC-based DWR treated garments do either since they can be contaminated by dirt and oil easily. It is not easy for manufacturers to match each fabric with the right DWR treatment to get the right type of performances and durability. However, the durability can be maintained by taking care of the garments and spray a PFC-free water-repellent spray. Nau International Inc. recommends to opt for spot treatment over washing if your piece gets dirty (If you need to wash it, always use cold water and tumble dry low.) in caring for PFC-free DWR clothing. They also recommend to reapply a PFC-free water-repellent spray such as Nikwax to maintain water repellency every few seasons.
PFC Free Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Clothing
Below are name brands that offer PFC-free, water-repellent rainwear, winter wear or outdoor clothing, shoes and gear. Some companies offer PFC-free clothing for all their products (or all products with DWR) while some companies offer a line of clothing or collection that is PFC-free.
Nau International Inc – PFC Free DWR
About Nau International Inc.: Nau only uses the same 10 sustainable textiles (Recycled polyester, PFC-free DWR, Alpaca wool, organic cotton, recycled down, Merino wool, Linen, Hemp, Tencel, Micromodal) for everything they make. They use fabrics that are Responsible Wool certified, GOTS organic certified, Global Recycled Standard certified, BlueSign approved, Recycled 100 Claim Standard certified, FSC certified, and Recycled Content certified. Their clothing is sustainably sourced and designed. They also use sustainable dyeing innovation using less water, less energy, and fewer auxiliary chemicals. They donate 2% of every dollar you spend directly to grassroots environmentalist causes.
Products They Carry: Jackets, shirts, pants, shorts, hoodies, sweaters, dresses, bags, hats and scarves
PFC-Free: They carry PFC-Free DWR Collection. If clothing has a DWR treatment, it is PFC-free. (They use a variety of PFC-Free DWR alternatives that are bio-based and hydrocarbon polymer-based chemistries in order to achieve the best water repellency performance with the lowest impact.)
All of Nau’s PFC-free DWR chemistries are screened by accredited third party organizations such as Bluesign, ZDHC, Oeko-tex Standard 100, and globally-recognized Restricted Substances Lists to ensure safety for mill and factory workers, for Nau customers, and for the environment.
PFC-Free Since: In 2017, Nau became the first company in the outdoor industry to shift to 100% PFC-Free DWR treatments in the U.S. market.
Sierra Designs – PFC Free DWR
About Sierra Designs: Sierra Designs believes in creating products that have as little impact as possible to the environment. They use recycled polyester in much of their apparel to utilize waste and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing. They also use down that is RDS (Responsible Down Source) certified. In addition, by using PFC-free water resistant materials in their sleeping bags and apparel, they are working towards increased environmental protection with their products. Throughout 2022, they will be partnering with LGBT Outdoors, SOS Outreach, Outdoor Asian and Women’s Wilderness to address common barriers to outdoor recreation with a 1% donation of all web sales, gear donation, education and awareness-raising messaging.
Products They Carry: Jackets, wind & rainwear, pants, tents, sleeping bags, backpacking packs
PFC-Free: PFC-Free for their sleeping bags and apparel
PFC-Free Since: In 2018, they decided to completely eliminate Perfluorinated Chemicals from their sleeping bags and apparel. They use PFC-free DWR (C0).
Jack Wolf-Skin – PFC Free DWR
About Jack Wolf-Skin: Jack Wolf-Skin has stringent requirements governing harmful substances and strictly doesn’t use PFCs, nano particles, real animal fur and Angora wool in their products. They also banned using PVC from their products. All recycled components are certified in accordance with the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) and they only use 100% certified organic cotton in their products. Merino wool is only from animals where their welfare is maintained. They are also against live plucking and forced-feeding of duck and geese. They are against cruel mulesing, which is a painful procedure carried out in the animal’s abdomen to stop insects from nesting (still being carried out, for example in Australia). They are bluesign® system partner for safe and sustainable manufacturing processes.
Products They Carry: Jackets, pants, dresses, tops, shoes, bags, tents, packs, trekking ware, care products
PFC-Free: All of their clothes and all items of equipment are entirely PFC-free. Also, the number of shoes in their collection are PFC-free.
PFC-Free Since: Spring/summer 2019
Vaude – PFC Free DWR
About Vaude: Vaude believes in eco-friendly, fair and functional outdoor gear which does not add burden to the environment. They developed a sustainable clothing and gear label, the Green Shape. When designing their products, they ensure they are long lasting, timeless and easy to repair. Green Shape products are made from environmentally-friendly materials. Vaude is increasing the use of recycled and natural materials such as organic cotton, hemp and bioplastics. Green Shape products are designed for long-term use. They offer a repair service and also carry replacement parts. They also care about fair wages and good working conditions for their workers. Their products have seals of Blue Sign, Fair Trade, GOTS, RDS (Responsible Down Standard), My Climate.
Products They Carry: Jackets, pants, sweaters, pullovers, vests, hats, outdoor shoes, bike shoes, gloves, socks, tents, bags, packs
PFC-Free: All of their apparel products are 100 % PFC-free (PFC-free Eco Finish).
PFC-Free Since: They transitioned their entire VAUDE Apparel Collection to becoming PFC-free by using VAUDE Eco Finish in 2018.
Endura – PFC Free DWR
About Endura: Endura is increasing the use of recycled polyester and nylon to reduce the amounts of these materials that are sent to landfill or otherwise dumped into the natural environment. All Endura products have been PFC Free since fall 2018. Also, 98% of point of sale packaging can be recycled. Their products are also built to last to reduce their environmental impact. Endura has also stopped using Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) since 2014. In addition, they offer a non-warranty repair service where they can extend the life of your product. Endura has just planted 1.3 Million Trees. They committed to planting one million trees annually for the next ten years to ultimately eliminate Endura’s carbon footprint.
Products They Carry: Jackets, pants, tops, bags, luggage, gloves, hats
PFC-Free: All Endura products have been PFC Free since autumn 2018.
PFC-Free Since: PFC-free since 2018, Endura has moved away from using Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) since 2014.
Marmot – PFC Free DWR
About Marmot: Marmot believes in producing performance-driven outdoor gear and apparel in a socially and eco-friendly manner. 44% of their volume uses recycled, upcycled, and renewable materials. They follow the Global Recycled Standard and also all Marmot products that contain recycled polyester and/or nylon are labeled UpCycle®.
Marmot avoids the use of chemical treatments wherever possible. They use PFC-free technologies (Fluorocarbon-free, water-repellent treatments). They also use eco-friendly fabrics (44% of their products). They are bluesign® certified which ensures the elimination of harmful substances and guarantees the safe production of materials. They have Chemical Management and Restricted Substance List for proper chemical management. Marmot products and packaging materials don’t contain SVHC (Substances of Very High Concern) under the EU’s REACH Regulation or any chemicals on the California Proposition 65 List. They also use low-impact fabric dying. Marmot cares about animal welfare and they have strict requirements of animal welfare which is underlined by the World Health Organization. They also only use humanely sourced down, only RDS-certified down.
Products They Carry: Jackets, rainwear, ski and snowboard wear, shirts, pants, tops, hats, bags, packs, camping wear
PFC-Free: For all products with a Durable Water-Repellent finish, 53% use a PFC-free solution. Rain jackets and other gear in the EVODry Collection are all PFC-free.
PFC-Free Since: Marmot released EVODry collection in 2018.
Helly Hansen – PFC Free DWR
About Helly Hansen: Helly Hansen’s aspiration is to make products that are long-lasting, durable to have lowest environmental impact. Over 70% of their sportswear line is bluesign® approved. Their LIFA INFINITY™ technology is constructed with a recycled face fabric and a PFC-free durable water repellent treatment. They also released LIFA INFINITY PRO™ which delivers long-lasting, responsible and professional grade performance without any added chemical treatments and with everlasting water repellent protection that never needs to be reproofed with chemical treatment. Also, all their apparel is free of antibacterial substances. They also source from producers who follow best-practices of animal welfare. They are against inhumane treatment of animals such as force-feeding, live-plucking, mulesing. All of their suppliers of wool, down and leather have to follow their Code of Conduct for animal welfare. Since 2018, all their down is RDS (Responsible Down Standard) certified, and in 2007, they phased out real fur from all products in 2007 and all leather from their apparel in 2019.
Products They Carry: Jackets, pants, tops, shoes, hats, gloves, fleece, rain wear, snow wear, vests
PFC-Free: They have over 70% of their sports apparel in PFAS-free DWR and they aim to have a 100% PFAS-free inline collection by 2023. Their clothing with LIFA INFINITY™ technology is PFC-free. Their clothing with LIFA® INFINITY PRO™ technology is also water-repellent without any added chemical treatments.
Patagonia – PFC Free DWR
About Patagonia: Patagonia tried to minimize environmental impact and choose eco-friendly materials such as regenerative organic certified cotton, Netplus recycled fishing nets, recycled spandex, organic cotton, recycled cotton, recycled polyester, recycled nylon, recycled down, recycled wool, hemp etc. 94% of their line use recycled materials. 85% of their line is also Faire Trade Certified sewn. 90% of their weather/waterproof garments is to become PFC-free by Fall 2022, including items like insulation pieces, midlayers and some outerwear. Also, this Spring 2022 season, eight of Patagonia’s top 10 material suppliers are bluesign system partners and are using chemicals that are certified as bluesign approved. In addition, starting with their Spring 2022 line, all their new virgin products will be made using the Responsible Down Standard. They have pledged 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment.
Products They Carry: Jackets, pants, sweaters, snow pants, wetsuits, hats, bags, packs, fleece, sleeping bags
PFC-Free: Some of their jackets are PFC-Free now but not all of them yet. 90% of their weather/waterproof garments is to become PFC-free by Fall 2022.
The North Face – PFC Free DWR
About North Face : North Face’s goal is to utilize more sustainable materials in the products they create and to ensure all products they make are made with recycled, regenerative, or responsibly-sourced renewable fabrics by 2025. In 2022, they are launching their first products intentionally designed for developing circular systems to recycle previously-owned gear and reuse the raw materials, keeping them out of waste streams. They are also planning to to eliminate single-use plastic packaging by 2025. In cases where they use animal derived materials in their products, they are committed to ensuring the animal’s ethical treatment. They also prohibit the use of animal fur, angora rabbit wool, exotic skins, skins from vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, extinct in the wild species. They are also committed to the responsible use of raw materials such as forest products, to avoid the issues associated with deforestation and forest degradation. They also have a Restricted Substance List (RSL) which identifies chemical substances that are restricted from their products for regulatory, safety and/or environmental reasons. You can find recycled materials in some of their products and they only use Responsible Down Standard (RDS) down. They also partner with Bluesign technologies.
Products They Carry: Jackets, vests, tops, pants, rainwear, snow pants, windbreakers, shoes, bags, packs, tents, sleeping bags, fleece
PFC-Free: Their long-term goal is to be completely PFC-free, but currently select products still use PFC DWR. Some products have non-PFC DWR finish. Their products (apparel, equipment and accessories) with “Exploration Without Compromise” badge are made with at least 75% of recycled, regenerative, and responsibly sourced, renewable materials. If these products have a DWR finish, it is PFC-free.
Columbia – PFC Free DWR
About Columbia: OutDry™ Extreme ECO showcases their commitment to exploring the planet with the smallest footprint possible. The Columbia OutDry™ Extreme ECO Collection has rain jackets, insulated and down jackets, as well as running and hiking shoes. For this collection, they use only the most sustainable and ethical materials available, including recycled materials derived from plastic bottles, dye-free fabric, and responsible down. The Columbia OutDry™ Extreme ECO Collection is their first waterproof-breathable rainwear made with no intentionally added PFCs.
Columbia is a bluesign® System Partner. They also use materials that are dyed without water or with significantly less water. Also, all of their down-insulated products use 100% Responsible Down Standard certified natural down. Columbia’s Rethreads program encourages consumers to bring in their used clothing and shoes in clean, dry condition, to Columbia retail stores tob be reprocessed and reused or recycled.
Products They Carry: Jackets, fleece, pants, shoes, fishing gear, ski, snow and hiking wear, backpacks
PFC-Free: Columbia OutDry Extreme Eco jackets are PFC-free. However, they mention that they didn’t intentionally use PFCs to these jackets, they may contain trace amounts.
Nikwax – PFC Free DWR
About Nikwax: When DWR starts to wear out and your jacket is absorbing water, you can re-waterproof with Nikwax. Unlike fluorocarbon products, you do not need to heat garment to activate the waterproofing treatment. Nikwax products are made with care for the environment in the UK and are sold in over 50 countries throughout the world. Nikwax is known and respected for its sustainable practices and environmentally friendly products. Nikwax is water-based, PFC-free, solvent-free, propellant gas-free and aerosol-free. It is non-persistant and environmentally safe. Nikwax bottles are made from 100% recycled plastic. Nikwax products are not tested on animals.
Products They Carry: Waterproofing, cleaning, conditioning, odor control, UV protection products for clothing, footwear and equipment
PFC-Free: Nikwax never has and never will use PFCs in waterproofing products.
PFC-Free Since: In 1997, they invented the first Nikwax product.
With the challenge of global warming and climate change coming faster than ever to us now, it is our responsibility for manufacturers and consumers to consciously produce and choose products that do not harm our environment. We also do not want these ‘forever’ chemicals accumulate in our children, pets and ourselves for our health. Choose water-repellent or waterproof products that do not contain Perfluorochemicals (PFCs). Water-repellent or waterproof clothing with PFC-Free DWR helps us move away from harming our health and our environment and move to a more healthy and sustainable future.
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