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Neoprene FAQ

  • GrokAuto analyzes the history and frequently asked questions about neoprene.
  • By: Adam T.
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1

What Is Neoprene?

Scientists at DuPont invented neoprene to serve as a synthetic rubber.

Although neoprene was invented in 1930, DuPont did not begin marketing the material until the following year. Initially, commercial demand for the product was limited because the manufacturing process imparted a foul odor. Within just a few years, however, DuPont developed a new process that not only eliminated the byproducts causing the odor but also reduced their manufacturing costs. By the end of the decade, World War II was looming on the horizon, rubber had become increasingly difficult to obtain, and neoprene sales skyrocketed.

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2

What Is Neoprene Fabric?

Neoprene fabric is produced by sandwiching a layer of neoprene between two other fabrics, which are typically nylon or polyester. Elastic fabrics can be incorporated to make the neoprene more flexible. The thickness of neoprene fabrics can vary from 1 mm to more than 7 mm. However, most domestic machines cannot sew thicknesses greater than 2 mm, so the thicker fabrics are typically reserved for use with industrial sewing machines.

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3

What Is Neoprene Made Of?

Neoprene begins as chloroprene, which is comprised primarily of hydrogen and carbon.

Chloroprene is polymerized to produce polychloroprene. Polychloroprene is a long-chained molecule or polymer that links smaller molecules together. Depending on the manufacturing process, neoprene may also contain butadiene, acetylene, metal oxides or thioureas.

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4

How Is Neoprene Made?

Manufacturers can employ two methods of making neoprene.

Both methods begin with the polymerization of chloroprene to produce polychloroprene chips. These chips are melted and mixed with other ingredients. With the oil-based process, butadiene is introduced. With the limestone method, acetylene, which is derived from the calcium carbonate contained in the limestone, is used. If the limestone method is used, special technology is required to obtain the calcium carbonate during the manufacturing process.

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5

What Is Neoprene Used For?

Neoprene has many uses, and new applications are being introduced at a rapid pace.

It is quite popular for the wetsuits worn by divers and the waders worn for fishing. Neoprene hoses and gaskets are plentiful, and many automakers offer neoprene seats as a factory option or <a href="/seat-covers/neoprene-seat-covers-by-caltrend/">neoprene seat covers</a> as an after-market option. Neoprene has become a popular choice for laptop sleeves, camera cases, mouse pads and tablet holders. Face masks, gloves and other articles of protective clothing using by many law enforcement agencies and some military units are made from neoprene. In recent years, garments made from neoprene have been featured in the collections of several high-profile fashion designers, including Vera Wang, Balenciaga and Lanvin.

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6

How to Cut Neoprene

Commercial operations often use lasers or other costly machines to cut neoprene.

However, a sturdy utility knife or a quality pair of sharp scissors can also handle the job. Lay the material on a sheet of plywood or other large, flat surface. If necessary, use T-pins to secure the pattern. Use chalk to trace the outline of your pattern. Cut on the inside of the chalk outline. 

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7

How to Sew Neoprene

Choose a needle designed for denim or other thick materials; a 16/100 is usually an excellent choice.

Attach the sewing machine's walking foot. Use heavy-duty nylon or polyester thread for bobbins and on the spindle. Adjust the stitch length and tension so that the machine will produce longer stitches at a looser tension. Some experimentation may be necessary to find the best combination.

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How to Clean Neoprene

Neoprene should be washed by hand and treated much the same as a delicate fabric.

If necessary, allow the garment to soak overnight. Gently twist the garment to remove excess water. Never place neoprene in a clothes dryer.

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