We’re working to convert all our water-repellant finishes to non-fluorinated versions by 2024.
Water repellency doesn’t just keep you comfortable. In extreme conditions, it can also offer critical, life-saving performance features. To achieve this, many apparel manufacturers create gear that’s been coated with water-repellent treatments, which helps moisture bead up and roll off the outer fabric and membrane layers. And to ensure it keeps you warm and dry, they rely on fluorinated chemistries. Historically, these finishes have been made using per- or polyfluorinated chemicals, which contain fluorine, an incredibly effective water repellent. (There are thousands of these kinds of chemistries, each with subtly different molecular structures and fairly similar functions. At Patagonia, we use “PFC” as our blanket abbreviation.)
But fluorine impacts everything it touches and trickles all the way down. According to the EPA, the manufacturing of “forever chemicals” harms human and animal health, accumulating in us through air, water and food. And thanks to their nearly indestructible bond, these chemicals can also persist in our environment for thousands of years.
That’s why we have spent significant time, energy and dollars to find the best PFC- and PFAS-free alternatives without sacrificing performance and durability. (PFAS, which stands for per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, is the latest terminology to encompass this wide class of chemicals. We use the more recognizable “PFC-free,” but if your Patagonia gear is PFC-free, it’s also PFAS-free, PFOS-free and PFOA-free.)
What’s the difference?
Where We Are
Making sure our waterproof and water-repellant products perform isn’t just a matter of safety. It’s also about building a product that prioritizes longevity so gear stays in play and out of landfills. That’s why it has taken us time to transition to PFC-free materials. These less-impactful chemistries have required a strategic and thoughtful application as well as close collaboration with our supply chain partners.
Since that journey began, we have dramatically reduced the use of PFCs across our product lines, using these chemistries only when select products require it. Between 2013 and 2016, we were able to fully phase out the use of long-chain (C8) fluorocarbon-based treatments in DWR, guided by studies that demonstrated C8’s negative impacts on environmental and human health. Instead, we began using C6, a shorter-chain fluorocarbon that, at the time, was considered a less harmful chemistry. After our switch, new research emerged showing that C6 is just as detrimental. That’s when we decided to move to 100% PFC-free.
In Fall 2019, we launched our first suite of products with PFC-free DWR, and in 2021, we introduced our first 100% PFC-free technical alpine products—the Men’s and Women’s Dual Aspect Jacket and Bibs, which eliminate PFCs from both the DWR coating as well as the water-repellent membrane.
In Fall 2022, 78% of Patagonia’s materials with water-repellent chemistries are PFC-free.
(Making sure your waterproof and water-repellent gear stays that way means giving it the proper care it needs. Remember, a clean shell is a happy shell. Check out our product care guide for tips.)
After investing significant time and resources, we are well on our way to being 100% PFC- and PFAS-free across our entire product line by 2024.
With no set industry-wide goal to eliminate the use of these chemistries, we see this as an opportunity to inspire others. By working within a shared supply chain and encouraging other apparel brands to utilize solutions we’ve vetted and adopted, we hope to enable large-scale changes and success in more PFC-free products throughout the industry.