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ramé-hart instrument co. August 2013 Newsletter

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How to Make Your Puma Clyde Suede Sneakers Superhydrophobic for Less than Twenty (US) Dollars
When I was in high school, there was nothing in the world I wanted more than a pair of Puma Clyde suede leather sneakers and a Ford Mustang (each preferably in red). I wore white canvas Converse All-Stars back then and my first car was a green Ford Pinto. While I fell short of my dreams, one of the benefits of becoming an adult with a job is you can buy things that as a kid you could only dream about. So, I finally got around to buying myself a red Ford Mustang and a pair of red Puma Clyde suede sneakers. By the way, neither has disappointed.

Puma Clyde Sneakers about to be Treated with NeverWet

The Puma Clydes are super comfortable and stylish in that nerdy old-school kind of way. Perhaps the only way to truly improve them is to make them superhydrophobic. When Marcy, our administrative assistant, saw NeverWet in the news and then when I, the very next day, saw a banner ad on some website for Rustoleum NeverWet at Home Depot, I clicked on buy-it and ordered a kit which cost $19.97 (plus shipping and handling).

NeverWet is a trademark of Ross Nanotechnology. We contacted Ross a couple of years ago and requested a sample of NeverWet while doing some research on superhydrophobic surface treatments. Apparently it wasn't quite ready for prime time and our request was declined. Since then Ross has improved the technology and has entered into a licensing agreement with Rustoleum who is packaging and selling the product through Home Depot for consumer use. Full disclosure: we do not represent Ross, NeverWet, Rustoleum, or Home Depot. And none of these parties have paid us to endorse their product. Nor do we own their stock. We simply make the world's best tools for measuring contact angle which comes in handy for measuring things like superhydrophobicity.

The kit arrived a few days later and consists of two 9-ounce aerosol cans. The first can is called Step 1, Base Coat, and, from the MSDS which I downloaded from Rustoleum's website, appears to consist mostly of naphtha and ester solvents. The instructions call for two or more base coats applied several minutes apart. Then a minimum of 30 minutes is required before Step 2, the Top Coat, can be applied. Another 30 minutes is required for drying after the top coat is applied but 12 hours is recommended for maximum performance. The top coat, from the MSDS, appears to consist mostly of acetone. The package claims that the kit is capable of covering 10 square feet.

We were so giddy with excitement when our kit arrived that we decided to test a half dozen different materials. In addition to the Puma Clydes, we also measured contact angle before and after treatment on anodized aluminum, ceramic tile, wood, umbrella fabric, and polycarbonate. The table below shows the results from our testing.

    CA Before Treatment CA After Treatment Increase in CA
1 Puma Clydes 128.84° 153.70° 24.86°
2 Aluminum 75.56° 106.65° 31.09°
3 Ceramic Tile 18.47° 120.20° 101.73°
4 Wood 66.41° 112.13° 45.72°
5 Umbrella 121.77° 135.37° 13.60°
6 Polycarbonate 82.33° 133.01° 50.68°

Table 1: Contact angle (CA) before and after NeverWet Treatment

The Pumas won the contest for becoming the most hydrophobic after treatment but they had the unfair advantage of being the most hydrophobic to start with. The NeverWet treatment improved the contact angle by nearly 25° pushing the suede leather surface into the superhydrophobic range. (Generally superhydrophobicity requires a water contact angle in excess of 150°.) See the video below. In addition to a higher contact angle, the roll off angle decreased although we did not precisely measure this since doing so would require us to cut a sample from the shoe, a sacrifice I couldn't make to a pair of shoes I've waited years to own. Overall, the shoes are more water repellant than when we started. There was no visible discoloration on this particular sample and the only possible downside to treating the surface is a loss of breathability. One of the Rustoleum FAQS indicates that the breathability is a function of how heavy the base coat is applied: a light base coat helps retain breathability but with diminished water repelling properties. Time will tell how long the treatment will remain effective. We may report back in a few months. 

Video of water rolling off Puma Clydes treated with NeverWet - Click Video or go to http://youtu.be/dTQll6rpW1Y to watch

We also chose to test a piece of brushed anodized aluminum like the surface of a grill cover or patio furniture. The contact angle improved by just over 31° but this and all of the other samples failed to reach the superhydrophobic range. The treatment also left the surface rougher on this sample. In the case of the grill cover, it's not clear how the treatment would react to high temperatures.

The ceramic tile showed the greatest improvement in contact angle increasing over 100°. However, it was quite hydrophilic to start with. Before you rush out to make your kitchen or bathroom self-cleaning, however, note that soaps, detergent, and high water pressure reduce the hydrophobicity of the treated surface. Moreover, the treatment is not designed for or effective on submerged surfaces.

The wood sample was a piece of unfinished poplar. In addition to increasing the contact angle by 45°, the surface also lost its absorptive properties. The surface is also noticeably rougher but any discoloration is not noticeable. If you are making outdoor furniture, it may be preferred if the wood is first stained and sealed before the NeverWet treatment is applied. Decks and picnic tables could benefit from being treated with NeverWet but the added benefits may not justify the cost of application.

The umbrella turned out to be the biggest disappointment and was the one surface that we thought could benefit the most from becoming more water repellant. However, the NeverWet treatment increased the contact angle by only 13°. In addition, the black nylon material became tinted with a milky white haze rendering it less new looking and became tacky with a gritty sticky texture.

The polycarbonate sample exhibited an improvement in contact angle of just over 50°. However, the once clear surface is now hazy. Light passes but you cannot see through it. This means that motorcycle face guards, sunglasses, windows, windshields, and other clear plastic and glass surfaces are not candidates for NeverWet treatment. 

There are some limited applications that could benefit from the NeverWet treatment. No doubt it is fun to play with. But the cons keep it from being a full-scale blockbuster.


  • Easy to apply
  • Product has virtually no competition (yet)
  • Once treated, there is no smell
  • Improves water repellency on a wide range of surfaces
  • Works well on shoes and boots
  • May improve water repellency on outdoor gear (packs, tents)
  • Lots of potential for science fair exhibits
  • Fun to play and experiment with


  • Expensive ($2/sq ft)
  • Should not be applied indoors due to fumes
  • Requires base coat and top coat applications with wait time after each
  • Does not hold up well to UV exposure
  • Traditional cleaning methods (including soap) diminish its effectiveness
  • Discolors some surfaces (especially darker colored materials)
  • Leaves some surfaces rough or tacky
  • Cannot be used on electronics (according to FAQS)
  • May reduce or eliminate breathability on fabrics and shoes
  • Wears off especially on items that are handled a lot
  • Fabrics loose their pliability and become stiff and gritty

Still not sure? Why not get your own kit and try it out. See http://tinyurl.com/m9hwlcv. Let us know how it works out for you.

Ninth Annual Contact Angle Symposium on Contact Angle, Wettability, and Adhesion
We are pleased to announce the upcoming Symposium on Contact Angle which will be held at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 16 to 18-Jun-2014. For more details on the symposium including the call for papers, visit http://www.mstconf.com/Contact9.htm. In years past, we have attended, exhibited at, and sponsored this event. It is an excellent resource for the surface science researcher and highly recommended.


Carl Clegg
Director of Sales
Phone 973-448-0305
Contact us


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