You can use impregnation sprays – also known as waterproofing sprays – to make jackets, sofas or boots more water and dirt repellent.
However, the sprays can contain PFAS, which are problematic for the environment and health.
We have tested 16 sprays for PFAS – also known as PFC – and unwanted cyclic siloxanes.
These impregnation sprays are without PFAS
In the test, nine sprays are without PFAS. Five sprays receive the best chemical rating, the A-rating. Four sprays get the medium rating, B.
- Fjällraven Waterproofing Impregnation (A-rating)
- Grangers Performance Repel Plus (A-rating)
- Nikwax TX.Direct Spray On (A-rating)
- OrganoTex Spray-On textile waterproofing (A-rating)
- Zebla Impregnation spray (A-rating)
- Fibertec Textile Guard Eco (B-rating, because it contains small amounts of siloxanes)
- Denwax Tekstil Impregnation (B-rating, because it contains environmentally damaging substances)
- Woly Water proof (B-rating, because it is a spray can and it contains environmentally damaging substances)
- Royal Protector (B-rating, because it is a spray can)
These impregnation sprays contain PFAS
- Collonil Carbon Pro
- Droppen waterproofint spray
- Guardian textile impregnation
- Jysk Textile protector
- Shoe Finish Impregnating Agent
- Silver Universal Waterproofer
- Sterling Textile impregnation
All these sprays receive the lowest C-rating because they contain PFAS.
Pump spray or spray can?
You can find impregnation sprays as pump sprays, or as spray cans, also known as aerosol spray. But there is a difference in how much you breathe in the substances from the two types of sprays.
Research from the Danish National Research Centre for the Working Environment (NFA) shows that around twice the amount from an aerosol spray remain in the air compared to pump sprays. Further, the particles from a spray can remain in the air for a longer time than particles from a pump spray.
We recommend pump sprays instead of spray cans. This way you limit unnecessary exposure to unwanted substances when impregnating your clothes, shoes and furniture textiles.
Further, the test shows that spray cans often have warning symbols whereas products with pump spray generally do not.
Are impregnation sprays even necessary?
Generally, there is a risk of breathing in the substances from your waterproofing spray when you are using it. Regardless of whether it is a pump or a spray can.
When you spray, small droplets (also known as aerosols) form in the air and you will unavoidably breathe them in. According to The Danish Environmental Protection Agency, there are examples of impregnating sprays severely affecting the lungs - acutely as well as long-term. Therefore, it is very important not to inhale the impregnating agent.
Your skin can also be exposed to the substances later on – for example, when you are sitting on your sofa.
We recommend that you only waterproof your products when it is necessary.
Always go outside when you use impregnation sprays, so you minimize your inhalation. If this is not possible, you can open the windows and create a strong draft.
Tips for reducing chemical exposure from impregnation/waterproofing
- Choose a pump spray rather than a spray can. Or use products that can be applied with a sponge or be used during washing.
- Always spray textiles outside. If it is not possible, then make sure to open all doors and windows while spraying.
- Avoid products with PFAS. Look for the claims “PFC-free”, “PFAS-free”, “fluorocarbon-free” or “free from fluorinated substances”.
- Avoid cyclic siloxanes. Ask the supplier or ask the manufacturer if they have tested for cyclic siloxanes.
- Leather fat is a good alternative for leather shoes, sofas etc.
About the test
In October 2022, we purchased 16 impregnating sprays on the Danish market. We sent them to the lab for chemical testing.
We tested for these unwanted chemicals:
We have tested for total organic fluorine, which means we have performed an overall test for organic fluorinated compounds in the products. If the declaration shows that the product contains PFAS, we did not send the product to analysis.
PFAS can damage your health and the environment, and the EU is working on a ban on all non-essential use.
We tested for the cyclic siloxanes D4, D5 and D6, also known as cyclotetrasiloxane, cyclopentasiloxane and cyclohexasiloxane.
The substances are on the EU candidate list of substances of very high concern. D4 is suspected of harming the human reproductive system and D5 is a suspected endocrine disrupter. All three substances are problematic for the environment.
We have only tested for siloxanes in pump sprays and aerosol sprays (spray cans) without PFAS.
Warning labels and aerosol spray
In our evaluations of the impregnation sprays, we took into account whether they have warning symbols – e.g. in relation to the environment – and if they are aerosol sprays, since they entail an increased risk of breathing in the sprays compared to pump sprays.
We sent the test results to the companies for commenting.
How the tested products are distributed:
- Five products get the best chemical rating, the A-rating, here we didn’t find unwanted chemicals.
- Four products get a medium rating, the B-rating. One contains a small amount of siloxanes, some contain environmentally damaging substances, and some are aerosol sprays.
- Seven products receive the lowest chemical rating, the C-rating, because they contain PFAS.
We found PFAS in seven products. Of these, six are aerosol sprays and one is a pump spray. On the label of one product, it is stated that the product contains PFAS, listed as “fluoropolymer”. Therefore, we did not test that particular product for PFAS.
Nine of the tested products are without PFAS, of which two are aerosol sprays and seven are pump sprays.
The results show that the products, which claimed to be free from PFAS/PFC/Fluorinated substances, lived up to their promise. All tested products that are marketed as PFAS-free turn out to be without PFAS in our analysis. Thus, the test indicates that you can count on such statements when looking for PFAS-free waterproofing agents.
We only found smaller concentrations of cyclic siloxanes (D4, D5 og D6). The amounts are below the proposed future threshold value for siloxanes, and it is generally approved that there will be residue of siloxanes, when impregnating with silicone. The substances are on the EU candidate list of undesirable substances.
Several products have warning labels e.g., for being problematic for the environment. In our evaluation, we have taken into account if a product has a warning symbol for being harmful to the environment.
Most of the products with pump sprays are without warning symbols whereas most aerosol sprays have warning symbols.
What the companies say
All contents of our Textile Protector are legal. Even though they are legal, we are working on phasing out the fluorinated substances.
We are aware that our impregnating agent contains a legal PFAS-substance. We wish to contribute to a phasing out of PFAS. In late October 2022 we started development work to find new ingredients that still ensure a stabile impregnating agent with a good waterproofing effect.
As supplier to the Danish retail, and thus Danish consumers, we are well aware of the responsibility that rests on us in the development of our products.
For several decades, we have serviced the Danes in the best way with amazing products and always with an eye on quality and value. We have always and continue to follow the Danish legislation, which is why none of our products are irrelevant.
Regarding contents and value of the tested product Carbon Pro, we have the following comments:
- Carbon Pro is the best impregnation on the marked for the prize. That the effect may vary depending on the material it is sprayed on is quite natural.
- The contents of Carbon Pro lives up to all current EU legislation.
We are aware that the legislation during the next 2-3 years will prescribe a total ban on fluorine in impregnations, which is why this product does not stand alone in our selection. It has some properties that are impossible to replace and therefore, the product is still on the market.
Naturally, we are also working with alternatives and these are also offered to all our customers and thus, the consumer in DK.
Here, we are referring to our Collonil Waterstop Reloaded and our Organic Protect & Care.
The manufacturer informs that the products are being phased out and will be replaced by a PFAS-free alternative later in 2023.