Can Corduroy Get Wet? [And is it Waterproof?]


Corduroy first became popular in the 1970s, and even though its popularity comes and goes, it still remains a casual staple in today’s culture. But what about wet weather conditions? Can corduroy get wet and is corduroy waterproof?

Yes, corduroy can get wet and the fabric itself will not be ruined (which means it is machine washable). But if you are wondering if corduroy is waterproof, it is not. When untreated corduroy fabric is exposed to rain, it will get soaked. Corduroy is not ideal for wet conditions.

Some companies may treat their corduroy fabric with a water-resistant spray, which makes it capable of repelling light precipitation and mist. But most types of corduroy clothing are not treated to be water-resistant, and are not good for rainy, wet weather.

In this article, let’s take a closer look at how corduroy handles wet conditions. Let’s also discuss the best way to care for corduroy.

Is Corduroy Waterproof & Can You Get it Wet?

As we discussed above, corduroy can get wet and the fabric itself will not be ruined. But if you are facing rainy, wet conditions, and wondering if corduroy is waterproof – it is not.

When untreated corduroy fabric is exposed to rain, it will get soaked. Some companies may treat their corduroy fabric with a water-resistant spray, which makes it capable of repelling light precipitation and mist. But don’t expect all types of corduroy fabric to be treated with water-resistant spray.

What Types of Fabric Handle Rain Better Than Corduroy?

  • Wool Wool is naturally water-resistant, which means it can take on light precipitation and keep you dry. No, don’t expect it to protect you from extreme rain, but if you will be facing a light rain shower, wool is a great option. Another awesome thing about wool is it often retains its insulating qualities even when damp (warmth of wool).
  • Waxed Cotton – Waxed cotton clothing will repel water. Although waxed cotton is very popular, and often used in jackets, it is nothing like corduroy. Waxed cotton is much more durable than corduroy, but not as comfortable.
  • Nylon – Nylon is a very popular fabric for rain jackets and other type of outdoor clothing. Nylon jackets are usually insulated with some other type of material to help retain warmth. Nylon itself is very lightweight and is more common in activewear.
  • Polyester – Just like nylon, polyester is another synthetic fabric that is a very popular for rain gear. Polyester is very common in jackets and hiking pants. It is more common in activewear.

Even fabrics like denim and flannel can be treated with a water-resistant spray to help repel precipitation (corduroy vs denim), but if fabrics like corduroy, denim, and flannel are not treated with a water-resistant spray they will not stand up well to rain.

Is Corduroy Insulating?

Yes, corduroy fabric is warm. It is made with a pile weave that makes it inherently a thicker material, and reasonably good at trapping heat. Corduroy comes in different weights so you can buy a thicker material if needed.

Corduroy is a good choice for winter—but only within certain limits. Think of it as a medium warmth. Here are some reasons why corduroy can provide moderate warmth in winter:

  • Corduroy is made from cotton, and cotton can trap air between its fibers and keep you warmer—but to a point: any item made of cotton loses its ability to keep you warm when it becomes damp or wet.
  • Manufactured corduroy has a pile weave that creates the cords or wales; these cords make it thicker. Thicker fabric equals added warmth.
  • The number of wales, or cords, determines the thickness and the weight; the more wales, the thinner the fabric, the fewer wales, the thicker. Fewer cords also mean thicker cords, which usually adds a bit of warmth as long as the material stays dry (more on this later). 

Is Corduroy Good for Winter?

Yes, corduroy is suitable for certain types of winter weather. Don’t think of corduroy as a material that will tackle extreme weather. But for cooler, dry, winter days a pair of corduroy pants or a corduroy jacket will usually get the job done.

For more extreme temperatures and/or precipitation, you will want to opt for a winter pant (think wool or fleece/flannel lined pants) or perhaps canvas or twill pants that have been treated to be water-resistant. And for jackets, a thicker, insulated jacket will be the safer winter option compared to a lightweight corduroy jacket.

To read more, visit our article about wearing corduroy in the winter. And to read more about corduroy cotton blends, visit our article about wearing cotton blend in winter.

Corduroy Thickness

The thickness of corduroy is measured based on the number of cords going across the fabric. They range from extremely thin to very wide and are called wales. The term wales represent the width of each cord in the fabric (source).

  • Featherwale: This is the thinnest possible corduroy and has 18-21 wales per inch. This fabric has a very smooth, almost velvet-like appearance. This is sometimes referred to as “micro-cord”.
  • Pinwale: This is a very thin corduroy and has 16-18 wales per inch.
  • Regular Wale: This corduroy is standard and has fourteen wales per inch.          
  • Wide Wale: This corduroy is very distinct and shows each wale as separate on the fabric. Each inch has 6-10 wales.
  • Broad Wale: This is the widest corduroy option, with 3-5 wales per inch.

When looking for the warmest thickness of corduroy, you need to remember that the higher number of wales means thinner fabric. If you are searching for a heavier corduroy, you should look at a lower number of wales. No matter the thickness of the corduroy, if it gets wet, it will not keep you warm.

Moleskin is another type of thick cotton fabric that can function well in cold weather (is moleskin waterproof).

Can You Machine Wash Corduroy?

Yes, you can machine wash corduroy fabric and it will not be ruined. But it is important to pay close attention to the care instructions for your clothing, because the type of wash cycle recommended may change depending on the type of garment you have.

Can You Put Corduroy in the Dryer and Will It Shrink?

You can safely put wet corduroy in the dryer, but you need to use caution to protect the fabric.  You never want to dry corduroy on high heat because it can cause the fabric to shrink. 

It is best to use low heat in the dryer. Low heat allows air to flow through the fabric without causing the corduroy to shrink.

Always turn your corduroy inside out when washing and drying. The wales tend to crush down or pill. If you turn the garment inside out when washing and drying, you will be protecting the fabric from being harmed.

Best Time to Wear Corduroy

As mentioned earlier, corduroy has been around for a long time; it has had a long-time presence in men’s and women’s clothing styles, and it has a history of being used both for professional and casual settings. Corduroy is a timeless trend that goes in and out of fashion. 

It is best used for fall and spring temperatures, and is very common in casual pants or lightweight jackets. Here are some options to consider if you are shopping for corduroy outerwear:

Present day, you will also occasionally find lightweight corduroy used in warm weather pants. It’s no longer seen as a fabric for winter use only. Since there are fabrics that provide more warmth, such as wool, fleece, and down-filled items, corduroy can fall into the category of offering more fashion than function. 

Paul Johnson

Paul is a lead content creator for Workwear Command. He has had several blue-collar jobs which have provided him a wide range of experience with tools and gear. He also has a business degree and has spent time in business casual office settings.

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