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A PVC raincoat is a waterproof outer jacket made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The slick, non-permeable surface of PVC makes it a popular material for raincoats. PVC raincoats are available in many different styles, colors, and variations, and are a perennial fashion favorite.
PVC is manufactured from a petroleum base, but since 57% of PVC is chlorine, it actually requires much less petroleum than most other plastics. The process of polymerization of the vinylchloride monomer (VCM) is exothermic, and must be kept at a certain temperature while the VCM-water suspension forms a slurry. The slurry is then degassed, the excess VCM and water is removed, and what is left is powdered PVC. The powdered PVC is then mixed with a number of additives including stabilizers, plasticizers, processing aids, and pigments, then processed into a sheet.
PVC sheets are treated just like bolts of fabric when it comes time to manufacture clothing. A PVC raincoat is designed, patterned, measured, and cut just like a regular fabric. The only difference is that PVC raincoat seams are generally not stitched with a needle and thread. Since PVC is nonporous, a needle would leave a large hole that would allow water to enter, making for a very ineffective raincoat, and weakening the seam. Instead, PVC seams are generally "welded" with heat, or bonded by chemical means. Either way, the two pieces of material melt together, either thermally or chemically, and are permanently bound.
Since PVC raincoats are nonporous, they don't allow the skin to breathe naturally. This keeps the rain out, but it also keeps body heat and moisture in, making for a steamy environment inside the coat. To combat this, many manufacturers line the raincoat with a breathable, moisture-wicking material like cotton or flannel, and many designs incorporate hidden vents. Strategically placed, these vents allow air to circulate without allowing water in.
A major reason why a PVC raincoat is always in style is its versatility. During the last stage of the manufacturing process, the coloring agent can be skipped, resulting in clear PVC. PVC is the only clothing material available in clear. If the coloring agent is added, the resulting color can be either translucent or opaque, which is also unique to PVC. The fact that the coloring agents are actually manufactured into the material instead of added to the surface later gives a much bolder, brighter, more colorfast result than ordinary dyed fabric can.