Nikwax Waterproofs and Cleans Without the Nasty Chemicals

Nikwax has always been a leader in the world of being environmentally conscious. Check out this recent conversation had with Nikwax’s North America Marketing Director, Heidi Allen.

Written by Peter Suciu on 26 February 2012 

KineticShift: Is there a challenge to create a waterproof material that doesn’t use aerosols or fluorocarbons?
Heidi Allen: Some might say it’s challenging, but the most innovative people in the world never let a challenge get in their way. Nick Brown and the scientists at Nikwax have been making top of the line waterproofing products without aerosols or fluorocarbons since Nikwax was founded in 1978.

KS: How important are biodegradable products today? Is this a feature consumers are looking for, and if not how are you selling it to them?
HA: Making a biodegradable product is paramount, and it’s the responsible thing to do. One of the reasons we don’t use fluorocarbons is that they are persistent in humans and the environment. Some consumers are looking for biodegradable products, but we believe in doing things for the right reasons, not just to attract consumers. If people see the value in what you’re doing, they will support you.

KS: Is there any concern that biodegradable can suggest to consumers that the product isn’t durable?
HA: That can be a common perception. However, with more and more biodegradable products on the market, consumers are realizing that environmental responsibility does not equal a less effective product. In the case of Nikwax, we put our products through rigorous testing in order to make sure they exceed industry standards for durability. Our aim is to make outdoor products last longer, and we do so by starting with our own.

KS: Is there any issue about breathability so that fabric doesn’t feel like a plastic bag to the wearer?
HA: Nikwax products do not compromise breathability. As a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite! Over time, all waterproof-breathable gear will lose it’s DWR, or durable water repellant finish. This DWR is what causes water to bead up on the surface of the fabric. Once the outer fabric loses it’s DWR, it becomes saturated with water, or “wets out”. Once the outer fabric is soaked, water vapor from the person wearing the item can no longer escape. That’s when the jacket will feel like a plastic bag. Nikwax products replenish the DWR, helping prevent the outer fabric from “wetting out”, and therefore allow water vapor to exit the jacket, keeping the user comfortable inside.

In addition to the above, our products do not “coat” the surface, they instead form a bond with the individual fibers. This leaves the spaces in between the fibers open, thereby not compromising the breathability of the material.

Our products are designed to work with waterproof-breathable membranes such as GORE-TEX, eVent, and the like.

KS: What sports and fitness trends are you making products for at present? Do snow sports have different attributes than say summer wear products?
HA: We make products that are appropriate for all kinds of activities. An extreme alpinist could use Nikwax products, but so could a weekend dog walker at the park. Our products are designed for anyone who wants to enjoy their time outdoors in maximum comfort.

For more from KineticShift and Nikwax

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