Gore-Tex maker WL Gore & Associates is to invest more than US$15m over the next five years to explore alternative durable water repellent (DWR) treatments.

The goal, Gore says, is to deliver new solutions with an improved environmental profile while still providing durable comfort at or above the performance level of today’s DWR treatments.

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are typically used in the outdoor industry and in technical fabrics as a treatment to improve the water, oil and stain repellency of textiles - and are often referred to as DWR treatments.

However, reacting to concerns about PFCs and their presence in DWR treatments, Gore has evaluated a range of alternative DWR solutions based on both fluorinated polymers and non-fluorinated polymers such as hydrocarbon or wax-based. 

Test results found that non-fluorinated DWRs currently available have a significantly lower durability of water repellency in normal outdoor use compared to the DWR Gore uses, even though this is said to have improved environmental properties.

“Our commitment as a technology leadership company goes far beyond finding alternatives to current coating solutions,” says John Cusick, global business leader of consumer garments.

“We also are exploring completely new approaches that may provide the necessary functionalities in non-traditional ways in order to reduce the environmental footprint of our products and to act as a role model for a more responsible outdoor industry.”