Are Umbrellas Waterproof?

Most people who live in particularly rainy regions will likely have had some experience with umbrellas at one time or another. Umbrellas are most commonly used as a means of shielding one’s self from the rain, especially if they are commuting and will be exposed to the rain for any prolonged length of time. We know that they are a popular item for this reason. But are umbrellas waterproof?

Umbrellas are waterproof. Any umbrella which is designed specifically for covering the user from rain will be waterproof. Most umbrellas are fabricated from nylon and acrylic materials, making them impenetrable to water. However, some types of umbrellas, such as beach umbrellas, are not waterproof.

This article will discuss how umbrella functions and the different purposes for which it can be used. In addition to the umbrella, we will also present some alternative methods of staying dry, and assess how these compare with one another. Lastly, we will go over the various materials from which umbrellas can be constructed and also briefly touch on a few safety considerations that need to be made when using an umbrella, so keep reading.

Umbrella in the rain
Jaromir Chalabala@123rf.com

How Umbrellas Work

An umbrella is a fabric canopy that is attached to a frame, skeleton, or shell—typically constructed from wood or metal and held up by a pole with a handle grip. This essentially acts as a portable roof, providing the user with relief from the rain.

Umbrellas come in many shapes and sizes, but most are dome-like and circular, for this is the most optimal shape in which to allow the rain to run off.

Modern umbrellas are almost exclusively fitted with a sliding hinge, making the entire umbrella foldable and retractable. This makes them compact and increases their convenience by allowing the user to easily store them in their car, locker, or pocket while they are not using it.

When Are Umbrellas Best Utilized

Umbrellas can be extremely convenient for anyone who commutes to and from work or school via public transit and has to walk considerable distances in order to reach buses and train stations. Many who live in metropolitan and highly urbanized areas fall into this category and can greatly stand to benefit from a quality umbrella on a rainy day. A great portable, strong, and lightweight option is this popular umbrella from Repel on Amazon.

Umbrellas are also very common amongst devout golfers, who refuse to cancel a game, regardless of the weather. Anyone who is familiar with the sport of golf knows that oftentimes a course will require you to book your game days, weeks, or even months in advance! This means that abandoning your game due to a downpour is not an option for some. For a die-hard golfer such as this, an umbrella is likely to be their saving grace. 

Different Uses of Umbrellas

Practically speaking, umbrellas have two main uses: the first is to protect and shield the user from becoming wet during a rainstorm—and the second is to block the sun, preventing direct exposure, which can lead to sunburns and unwanted tans.

Not all umbrellas are intended to be handheld. Some umbrellas are designed for the purpose of mounting, for example, beach or picnic umbrellas. These are typically larger to accommodate many people under them, especially during social gatherings. 

Traditionally, umbrellas have also been used for fashion purposes, such as oil-paper umbrellas, originating from China, and ceremonial items during weddings. Oil-paper umbrellas were intentionally colorful, elegant, and eye-catching. Read more about the umbrellas 4000 years of history here.

Note: As briefly mentioned at the onset of this article, some types of umbrellas—such as beach umbrellas, oil-paper umbrellas, and picnic table umbrellas—are constructed from materials that are NOT waterproof. Attempting to shield yourself from the rain with these umbrellas will prove ineffective.

Only umbrellas explicitly designed for rain deflection will keep you dry during a downpour. 

Alternatives to Umbrella

In certain situations, it may be preferable to choose alternative means of staying dry besides an umbrella. 

When it comes to umbrella alternatives, rain jackets and ponchos are the most common substitutes. Rain jackets and ponchos are designed to be worn overtop of your clothes and are completely waterproof, so your underlying clothing remains perfectly dry.

Rain jackets and ponchos offer a few advantages which an umbrella does not:

  • They allow your hands to remain free, so they save the hassle of holding an umbrella.
  • They will not blow away or become inverted during wind storms, as is possible with umbrellas.
  • They are much safer to use where lightning is present, as they do not increase your height the way holding an umbrella does. (see below)

One great option to keep dry is this versatile loose-fitting and casual rain poncho from Saphi Rose on Amazon.

Rain Boots

It is worth mentioning that if you use an umbrella unless the downpour is very mild, you will never be entirely protected from getting wet. Umbrellas tend to shield the upper half of a person’s body more than the lower, and if the wind is strong, the rain may come at the user horizontally, rendering the umbrella almost useless.

Moreover, because raincoats and ponchos never reach all the way to the ground, your feet are still at risk of getting wet. A pair of rubber rain boots will be needed to ensure that you stay completely dry.

These Crocs rain boots on Amazon are comfortable, breathable, and 100% waterproof. They also come in a variety of colors for whatever the occasion.

Umbrella Materials

Rain umbrella manufacturers always strive to design their products with the most waterproof materials possible so that the rain may run off easily, leaving the user unaffected. 

The most common material for umbrellas to be fashioned from is nylon. Nylon fabric has an incredible ability to disallow water from penetrating it while also offering the advantage of being a very lightweight material. 

Nylon was invented in the 1930s and has since come to be the main material used for waterproofing anything from umbrellas, to tents, to rain jackets.

Before the invention of nylon, in the 19th and early 20th century, umbrellas were typically fabricated from silk, cotton, and alpaca fleece. These earlier umbrellas were much less effective at keeping the user dry, and were also oftentimes attainable only by high status, prominent members of society. Read more about what umbrellas were made from before nylon in this article.

Some other waterproof materials which are often used to create umbrellas are plastic, acrylic, and silk.

Safety Precautions When Using Umbrellas

Using an umbrella may pose a hazard whenever there is lightning activity in the vicinity.

Lightning always uses the tallest object in a given area as a conductor in which to strike. In situations where thunder and lightning are present, if you are unable to shelter indoors, refrain from using an umbrella, as it is better to be wet than to run the risk of being hurt or killed by lightning. For more information about using umbrellas during lightning storms go here.

Never attempt to seek refuge under tall trees or towers during a lightning storm. This will greatly increase the chances of you being targeted. 

Final Conclusion

In this article, we set out to find whether or not umbrellas are waterproof. A distinction must be made in order to answer this question. There are many types of umbrellas that exist. Some are waterproof, while others are not. 

Discover more intriguing facts about umbrellas here.

However, any umbrella which markets itself as a rain umbrella will be waterproof. Rain umbrellas are typically constructed from nylon fabric, which is entirely waterproof and sure to keep you dry.

When employing an umbrella, always be safe and never use one where the lightning is present. 

Hope for the best, but prepare yourself for the worst.

When you purchase through links on this site we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.