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What is Neoprene? The History & Uses of This Material

Alyssa Mertes

Published: February 8th, 2020

Is scuba diving on your bucket list? If so, you should get familiar with neoprene! This material is used to make wetsuits as well as a bunch of other things you use every day, from dumbbells to phone cases.

Dive in and learn all there is to know about neoprene, including its history, uses, and just how to get it nice and clean!

Surfers in Wetsuits

What is Neoprene?

Surfers in Wetsuits

Neoprene (polychloroprene) is a synthetic rubber that is resistant to water, oil, and heat, making it a good insulator. It’s commonly used to make wetsuits, but you can also get this fabric at your local craft store to make DIY phone cases, mouse pads, and even winter coats!

Wallace Carothers working https://www.britannica.com/

Who Invented Neoprene?

Wallace Carothers working https://www.britannica.com/

Wallace Carothers, a chemist at Harvard University, invented neoprene in 1931. He worked with the DuPont Company with the goal of finding a solution to the rubber shortage that occurred after World War I.

The material was originally marketed under the name "duprene" and was used to make telephone wire, insulation, gaskets, and hoses in car engines.

By World War II, it was renamed "neoprene" and was solely manufactured for use by the military. Everyday consumers weren’t able to buy it at stores until after the war was over!

What is Neoprene Used For?

Neoprene is primarily used to make wetsuits, but it’s also found in winter clothing like gloves, boots, and jackets. The material also has a ton of industrial uses, from fan belts in cars to the audio cones in Bluetooth speakers.

Here’s a full list of everything that is made with neoprene:


  • Wetsuits
  • Gloves
  • Fishing & rain boots
  • Coats
  • Lunch bags
  • KOOZIES®
  • Hand weights
  • Phone & laptop cases
  • Mouse pads
  • Speaker cones
  • Face masks
  • Leg & arm braces
  • Seat covers
  • Fan belts & hoses
  • Gaskets
Man wearing wesuit

Wetsuits

Go jet skiing, scuba diving, or surfboarding in a neoprene wetsuit. It will fit snugly on your body, making it easy to hit the waves without any wardrobe malfunctions!

Pair of gloves

Gloves

Neoprene is used in both work gloves and surgical gloves. Since the material is extra stretchy, you can easily wiggle around your fingers without feeling constricted.

fishing in rain boots

Fishing & Rain Boots

Splash around in puddles or ponds by wearing neoprene boots! This gear is great if you plan on going fishing, or taking a hike during a rainy day.

Child in rain coat

Coats

If it’s an extra chilly day, you should bundle up in a neoprene jacket. These warm, water-resistant coats are a favorite for those who work on boats or ships.

Lunch bag

Lunch Bags

Do you bring a lunch to work every day? Consider packing it in a neoprene lunch bag! It will keep your cold food nice and chilly, without any worry about it getting damp while it sits in the fridge.

Pink koozie on can

KOOZIES®

Soda and beer will drip on a hot summer’s day. Keep your hands dry by storing these drinks in neoprene KOOZIES®. They’re great for tailgates and backyard barbeques!

kettlebell

Hand Weights

It’s strength training day! Grab neoprene hand weights or kettlebells and start doing those reps. Exercise equipment made from this material is easy to hold and doesn’t get slippery as you sweat.

Laptop in case

Phone & Laptop Cases

Protect your laptop or cell phone by storing it in a neoprene case. Your devices will be shielded on rainy or snowy days. Plus, these cases make it possible for you to bring your electronics to the beach.

Mouse Pad
White bookshelf speaker
Girl wearing a face mask

Face Masks

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for reusable face masks. Neoprene is a great material to use for this PPE since it blocks droplets that may carry the virus.

Man wearing arm brace

Leg & Arm Braces

Runner’s knee can happen if you frequently go on jogs, or do a lot of heavy lifting. Your elbow and ankle might also feel pain from overuse. Compress your joints by putting on neoprene braces or sleeves.

Car seats

Seat Covers

Hit the open road with neoprene covers on the driver and passenger seats. These covers protect your interior from any sun damage or mildew. Since they’re easy to clean, you should also use them if you frequently ride around with dogs.

Car engine

Fan Belts & Hoses

Your car’s engine will be quiet as a mouse if it’s fitted with neoprene fan belts and hoses. The material is strong, so you don’t have to worry about it unexpectedly breaking while you drive. Neoprene can also be found at the bottom of your car windows, allowing you to roll them up and down with ease.

Woman reparing engine

Gaskets

Plumbing, construction, and many other manual labor workers need to use neoprene gaskets. These seals are also handy in the medical field as well as in aviation, aerospace, and electronics.

What Are the Pros & Cons of Neoprene?

As far as synthetic materials go, you’re going to get a lot of bang for your buck with neoprene. This material is well-suited for winter or water sports, and also happens to be long-lasting and insanely strong. Of course, there are some downsides to neoprene as well.

The chart below lists the pros and cons of neoprene:

Chart showing the pros and cons of neoprene for mobile browsers Chart showing the pros and cons of neoprene for desktop browsers

Neoprene Pros:

  • Resistant to water, heat, and oil
  • Good insulator
  • Warm
  • Stretchy
  • Durable and strong
  • Easy to use for crafts
  • UV-resistant
  • Buoyant
  • Provides protective cushioning
  • Doesn’t degrade or tear over time

Neoprene Cons:

  • Not eco-friendly
  • Not breathable
  • Hot and can make you sweat
  • Often expensive
  • Difficult to wash
  • Can become smelly over time
  • May cause itchiness or an allergic reaction

Neoprene may not be as common as materials like cotton or polyester, but it still shouldn’t be overlooked! There are a ton of perks in using this material for your next project.

How Neoprene is Made

You use things made from neoprene all the time, but probably haven’t given much thought to how it’s made. It’s a pretty fascinating process!

Neoprene is made in the following steps:

Step 1
Beaker

The process starts with either a liquid or powdered form of polychloroprene.

Step 2
arrows

The polychloroprene is mixed with dyes and other ingredients to create a doughy mixture.

Step 3
bread

The mixture is put into a giant cooking oven and sliced down into smaller slices, kind of like a loaf of bread!

Step 4
shapes

Patterns might be die cut into the material, depending on what is being made.

Step 5
needle

The neoprene is sewn together in the form of wetsuits, phone cases, jackets, and other products.

Are you curious about how wetsuits are made? Check out this video!

Washing machine

Can Neoprene Be Washed?

Washing machine

Good news! It’s pretty easy to clean neoprene garments by hand. Simply let them soak in a mixture of cold water and baking soda or baby shampoo. Rinse it down, and don’t scrub as this could cause damage to your clothing.

Are you on a time crunch? Check the care tag to see if your neoprene items can go in the washer instead. If you do choose to go this route, turn your clothing inside out and make sure all zippers are unzipped. Do not use detergent, hot water, or the spin cycle.

Incense

How Do You Get the Smell Out of Neoprene?

Incense

After a long day in the waves, your neoprene wetsuit can start to smell like a dead fish! Get rid of any gross odors by rinsing it with cool water and then soaking in a mixture of distilled white vinegar and 10 to 20 drops of your favorite essential oil. Hang it up to air dry outside when you’re done.

Sunset

How Long Does Neoprene Take to Dry?

Sunset

Do not put your neoprene clothing in the dryer. Rather, hang it up to air dry, preferably in direct sunlight. It will take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours for it to completely dry.

Man in wetsuit

How Long Can You Wear Neoprene?

Man in wetsuit

Do you have a neoprene wetsuit, jacket, or face mask that you love to wear? If it’s well-made, you can expect it to last anywhere form 4 years to 10 years. Take care of it, keep it clean, and you won’t have to buy a replacement any time soon!

Stats for Success

Stats 1 icon

300,000 tons of neoprene are made every year.

Stats 1 icon

A study found that wearing a neoprene weight loss suit can help you burn up to 13% more calories during a workout.

Stats 3 icon

The market size for neoprene is projected to be worth $2.28 billion by 2025.

The Bottom Line

Move over, rubber! Neoprene may just be better when it comes to stretchy, water-resistant materials. It’s great for not only those who love the water, but also anyone who wants comfortable clothing and high-quality equipment. So in other words, everyone!

Quality Logo Products are experts on all things printed and promotional. Let our team of awesome, incredibly good looking, and fun promo nerds help you select awesome promotional swag today!

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Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.

References

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American Chemistry Council. (2004 November). Neoprene: The First Synthetic Rubber. Retrieved from, https://www.americanchemistry.com/

Britannica. Neoprene. Retrieved from, https://www.britannica.com/science/neoprene

Aqua Zealots. What is Neoprene? How is it Made? Retrieved from, https://aquazealots.com/what-is-neoprene-how-is-it-made/

Seventh Wave. Neoprene: A Brief History. Retrieved from, https://www.seventhwave.co.nz/wetsuits101/Neoprene+Info/Neoprene+a+brief+history.html

Allen, K. (2017, April 24). How is Neoprene Made? Retrieved from, https://sciencing.com/nylons-properties-uses-8627049.html

Nei, W. (2016, October 1). How to Care & Wash Your Neoprene Items. Retrieved from, https://peepb.com/blogs/peepintofashion/how-to-care-wash-your-neoprene-items

Stewart, J. (2019, October 21). How to Wash Neoprene. Retrieved from, https://www.doityourself.com/stry/how-to-wash-neoprene

Aqua Zelots. How to Wash a Wetsuit in the Washing Machine? Retrieved from, https://aquazealots.com/how-to-wash-a-wetsuit-in-a-washing-machine/

Haro, A. (2019, May 7). An Incredibly Simple Guide to Properly Washing Your Stinky Wetsuit. Retrieved from, https://www.theinertia.com/surf/wetsuit-washing-guide-with-vinegar-and-essential-oils/

Complete Tri. (2017, August 21). How Long Should a Wetsuit Last? Retrieved from, https://completetri.com/how-long-should-a-wetsuit-last/