Commonly confused with authentic rubber, you may want to know the answer to "What is neoprene?" and familiarize yourself with this versatile material. While neoprene is a sub-category of rubber, its source and specific properties can make it an entirely different material. Learning more about "what is neoprene" will help ensure you find a useful and quality product made of authentic neoprene material.
What Is Neoprene?
Around the 20th century, the world experienced a rubber shortage that became one of the main problems of industrialized countries, such as the US. Thanks to DuPont and his team, neoprene was created and became one of the best alternatives to natural rubber. Because it shares particular properties with rubber; thus, the alternative term polychloroprene or chloroprene rubber was often used.
What Is Neoprene - The Different Types
Years after its discovery, neoprene material is now available in two different varieties, namely:
The original neoprene produced that we still use today has the “First Synthetic Rubber” title because it’s made of petrochemicals instead of the rubber tree or plant components. The synthetic variety is the most widely used neoprene type.
Although the main difference between rubber and neoprene is that the former comes from natural sources, some manufacturers try to produce neoprene using natural substances. The "organic" neoprene comes from limestone, which is a natural stone. It has a closed-cell structure that makes it smooth, so it’s a popular material for a diving suit or wetsuit.
What Is Neoprene - The Properties
Neoprene is among the most versatile materials because of its many beneficial properties, thanks to the production process. The common characteristics neoprene is known for are:
- Flexible and Elastic
- Heat Resistant
- Cold Resistant
- Chemical Resistant
- Weather Resistant
- Highly Compatible
Flexible and Elastic
Neoprene material has a good level of flexibility and is elastic enough, making it quite resistant to tearing that may otherwise be caused by overstretching. This characteristic also helps it retain its shape during the manufacturing process.
Keep in mind that manufacturers produce most fabric types, such as cotton and most types of wool, through weaving. On the contrary, neoprene can come out of the factory pre-formed or in different sizes and shapes.
Although most petrochemical-made fibers melt in the presence of heat, neoprene can withstand up to 275 degrees Fahrenheit (135 degrees C) of temperature. Plus, when exposed to a higher temperature and degrades, it doesn’t stretch or melt; instead, it hardens. Thus, it isn’t just resistant to heat but also to fire.
Besides resistance to high temperature, neoprene can also withstand temperatures as low as -50 degrees Fahrenheit (-45 degrees C). When exposed to a temperature below zero degrees, though, neoprene starts to stiffen. That is why it becomes non-functional in certain applications once the temperature reaches -50F.
Neoprene’s exposure to ethyl and methyl alcohol, oil, petroleum-based solvent, grease, fat, refrigerant, mineral acids, alkalines, and some salt solutions won’t cause weathering or tearing. Hence, it’s a handy material for making outdoor and high-contact items. This is also thanks to its low oxidation rate property.
One of the best things about neoprene is that it creates a solid barrier, which means water, dust, dirt, and other elements can’t penetrate it. While this property offers protection and insulation, it significantly affects breathability.
With its high level of resistance to extreme temperatures and impermeability, neoprene can withstand several weather conditions. Whether it may be summertime or winter season, neoprene can last long.
Another feature that makes neoprene an excellent material is that it’s compatible with multiple materials. Mixing it with bonding agents enables it to bond with aluminum, copper, brass, stainless steel, and several types of cotton. Additionally, it can adhere to acrylic and glass when neoprene gets mixed with special additives.
What Is Neoprene - The Drawbacks
Much like any other materials, neoprene isn’t perfect. It comes with disadvantages, too, namely:
Neoprene’s cost is higher than other synthetic rubbers or rubber alternatives available in the market. One of the reasons is its beneficial properties discussed above. Not only that, neoprene production is a complicated and costly process.
Albeit patented by DuPont, the pioneer, you can now find other non-branded or non-authentic neoprene, usually produced in China. Apparently, you won’t expect it to be as durable as the genuine neoprene material.
When asking, "What is neoprene?", keep in mind that it is one of the materials that negatively impacts the environment. Of course, the petrochemical-based variety has more impact than its organic counterpart. In terms of environmental waste contribution, rubber, in general, has a low contribution.
Still, this isn’t something we should overlook. That is why manufacturers have been trying to find better and cleaner ways to produce neoprene. Additionally, its non-eco-friendliness is the reason you won’t find any neoprene, even the limestone-variety, with non-GMO, organic, and GRS (Global Recycle Standard) certifications.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking for neoprene-made items, you can look for ISO certifications that indicate purity. Specifically, ISO 9001 and ISO 13485, depending on the specific neoprene item.
Another common issue with neoprene is that some people are allergic to it. Some might even suffer from contact dermatitis or prickly heat. Common symptoms include itchiness, redness, and inflammation or swelling. Nonetheless, they’re all easy to treat and will go away quickly.
What Is Neoprene Used For?
Now that you have a better understanding of what is neoprene, let’s look at where neoprene is used currently. Its properties make neoprene a multi-purpose material common in many industries. However, due to the limitations of this article, we’ll only focus on the following:
- Military or Safety
Neoprene is a common material used for summer wear, but you can now find multiple fashionable neoprene items. Some designers created neoprene trench coats while others produced clothes embellishments, mostly for the waist, such as wide belts and ruffles, to create perfect dress silhouettes.
Neoprene is also commonly used for producing rain boots and coats and flat or doll shoes. Shoulder bags and handbags made of neoprene are also common.
Other fashionable accessories you can find now are neoprene lunch bags and drink holders. And with the COVID pandemic, neoprene face masks in stylish colors and designs are also available.
Although sportswear is also a fashion item, it deserves a different category regarding what is neoprene used for since it’s one of the industries where neoprene is most popular. Thanks to its insulative, impermeability, and waterproof properties, neoprene is one of the best materials for wetsuits and diving suits.
Some designers also use neoprene to their swimsuit collection to add style and variety. You’ll also find biking, running, and workout clothes made of neoprene that can help you sweat more, increasing the number of fats or calories burnt. Neoprene-made shapewear or waist trainers and sauna suits are also very common nowadays.
When you think about what is neoprene used for in the electronics industry, the things that come to mind are transformers and insulators. Since we’re focusing on things related to our website, we won’t list anything related to those.
The common items made of the neoprene fabric that can add style and match your outfit are laptop, tablet, and phone pouches. Apparently, they can’t protect your devices from shocks, but they can keep your devices free of dust, dirt, and scratches.
Military or Safety
Neoprene has been beneficial during World War II, so it’s still being used today, even in industries where employees need high-level safety, such as oil production companies.
So what is neoprene used for in the military and safety divisions? Well, the material is common for working gloves, shoe or boot soles, and gas or dust masks.
Neoprene is also one of the most useful materials in the field of medicine, especially in orthopedics. It’s used in the manufacture of braces and elbow, wrist, and knee supports.
In terms of what is neoprene used for in other industries, they are automotive, construction, packaging, and industrial.
What Is Neoprene - How To Take Care of It
There are many ways to care for neoprene, especially since plenty of items are made out of it. Generally, though, you must:
- Wipe any surface dirt and water upon exposure.
- For those exposed to sweat, allow them to air dry immediately to help remove sweat and odor and prevent mold and mildew growth.
- For diving, swimming, and rain attire and accessories, immediately wash them with fresh water and air dry to help remove saltwater, mud, and other elements and prevent mold and mildew growth.
What Is Neoprene - In Conclusion
Neoprene is a valuable, durable, and versatile material with a long history and has been beneficial in many industries for years. From style to protection, the use of neoprene is limitless. That said, since it’s a costly material, manufacturers ensure they make use of it wisely and only incorporate it in items where its standout properties are greatly needed.
When you decide to purchase wearable items made of neoprene, make sure you’re not allergic to it. You must also take good care of them, not only because they’re expensive but also since they can cause certain skin conditions.