Waterproof Clothing Ratings
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Waterproof Clothing Ratings

clock-circular-outline Posted 9 Mar 2023

Whether they’re loading and unloading trucks in a busy shipping yard, or delivering parcels around the country, if your staff have to be outside in all weathers, then waterproof clothing is a must.

But, what makes waterproof clothing waterproof? And what do the different ratings mean?

Read on to find out…

Waterproof clothing

Items of clothing may be labelled as ‘waterproof’ if they meet minimum requirements for resisting water directly applied to the fabric under testing. The likes of waterproof jackets and trousers will be designated either water-resistant – also sometimes referred to as showerproof – or fully waterproof, depending on their performance.

Waterproof clothing: The hydrostatic head test

Waterproof clothing is tested using the hydrostatic head test. In this test, a section of the fabric is pulled tight and sealed underneath a one-inch diameter tube. Water is then added to the tube and the fabric observed to see how many millimetres of water it is able to withstand before droplets begin to soak through.

Fabrics are given a waterproofness rating according to the level in millimetres at which water starts to come through the fabric.

Under the British Standard, to be labelled waterproof, clothing must achieve a rating of at least 1500mm in the test.

How waterproof is my waterproof? Waterproof ratings explained

How waterproof an item of clothing is will depend first on the waterproof rating of the fabric. The higher the rating in millimetres, the longer it will withstand water for.

The following table shows a rough guide to water resistance ratings:

Rating in mm Category Weather suitability
0 - 1499 mm Water resistant / Snowproof Very light rain
1500 - 4999 mm Waterproof Light to average rain
5000 - 9999 mm Very waterproof Moderate to heavy rain
10000 mm Highly waterproof Heavy rain


In general, waterproof jackets rated between 1500mm and 2000mm offer sufficient weather protection for everyday use.

A rating of above 5000mm designates an item of clothing that is suitable for just about all weather conditions.

EN343 and waterproof hi-vis clothing

The European Standard for protective clothing (EN343) is often used as an alternative rating for waterproof hi vis clothing.

Garments are tested by applying a quantity of pressurised water and given a rating from 1 to 3 in each of two areas, X and Y – with 3 being the highest.

X refers to the ability to protect against rain, fog and humidity
Y measures breathability in those conditions

Testing is carried out both before and after pre-treatment that includes abrasion, flexing and washing.

The resulting rating is displayed on the CE label inside the garment, and looks like this:

 CE label

Waterproof clothing: Other considerations

When purchasing waterproof clothing, there are other factors that may affect the ability of the garment to keep the wearer dry. These include:

  • Seam design
  • Fit
  • Breathability

Seam design
A genuinely waterproof jacket will be made from fabric treated with a durable water repellency (DWR) or similar water repellent coating and a waterproof membrane, and be fitted with taped seams. These heat-sealed seams avoid the problem of water penetrating the stitching, and are a must for staying dry in heavy and/or prolonged rain.

Waterproof jackets should be long enough to cover the wearer’s lower back when their arms are lifted, and the cuffs of the sleeves should cover the tops of the hands. They should fit comfortably, accommodating any layers of clothing required underneath them while allowing the wearer free movement of their arms and shoulders. Some waterproof jackets are cut differently for men and women, with women’s jackets often coming with shorter sleeves and a more tailored fit.

When it comes to waterproof clothing, breathability is essential. There is no point in wearing a jacket that doesn’t let water in if you end up sweaty and damp every time you do anything remotely energetic in it. So, look out for clothing incorporating a breathable membrane and mesh lined pockets.

To view our range of waterproof jackets and other waterproof workwear, browse our online shop.

Andrew Grinnell By Andrew Grinnell

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