We haven’t used C8 technologies in our Apparel Collection since the Summer 2015 Collection.
In the Summer Season 2018 we successfully transitioned nearly our entire VAUDE Apparel Collection to becoming PFC-free by using VAUDE Eco Finish. A major portion of the rest of the product range in this collection also has fluorocarbon-free waterproofing.
Since 2021, the fabrics of all our products are PFC-free with the small exception of a few tents.
To put it simply:
Fluorocarbons do not occur naturally on our planet. The group of substances known as polyfluorinated or perfluorinated chemical compounds, also referred to as PFC or PFOS were invented in the 1960s and have been used since then for a variety of applications, for example as a chemical finish on textiles to make them waterproof, stain resistant and oil repellent. PFCs are also used in many other industrial areas.
The real problem is that it was subsequently discovered that PFCs are harmful to the environment and to human health. For example, PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) is one of the most dangerous substances.
PFOA is created during a production process that involves C8 technology. C8 stands for eight carbon atoms (carbon = C). Grossly simplified, these carbon atoms are replaced by fluorine atoms (all = per, some = polyfluorinated). This makes an extremely stable and dangerous molecule – PBT substance:
Not exactly a chemical you want to have around. There are many studies about the serious health consequences of PFC in the body, including cancer. Various organizations and governments have been making an effort to legally ban PFAS as an entire group of substances. We support this initiative.
»We are glad that PFAS are finally going to be legally restricted and that this issue has now reached the general public. Legislative regulations are important to promote the development of PFAS-free alternatives.«
If a rain jacket has been proofed with C8, traces of PFOA can be found in it. Whether or not, this is dangerous for the wearer or the degree to which it might be, is still being debated. But in any case, it is clear that in the manufacturing process of PFC and the materials treated with it, PFC escapes into the environment, primarily by means of industrial wastewater.
Because all of the earth’s water is moving around in a huge, endless cycle of evaporation, precipitation, ocean currents, and so on, PFC is spread around the planet. We've known this for a long time, but it was the Greenpeace Detox Campaign that first raised the public’s awareness of the issue.
The EU is considering a ban on perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), but so far, the only country to have legal limits is Norway. In the rest of the world, PFCs continue to be processed legally.
Therefore, we believe that it is all the more important for us to take on responsibility as an outdoor brand and to voluntarily eliminate the use of all PFCs in our products as quickly as possible.
We need waterproofing: Textile surfaces are waterproofed with durable water repellency (DWR) to repel water and dirt. Without this surface treatment, the outer fabric would absorb rainwater and feel damp, even if the product had a waterproof membrane. In extreme rain conditions water could even be absorbed into the inner surface of the shell and your inner jacket could become wet.
In the past, it was virtually impossible from a technological standpoint to produce an equivalent high-performance waterproofing agent without PFCs. Thanks to today’s innovative technologies, this is no longer a problem for most fabrics.
The fact is, however, that oil repellency on fabrics is achieved only with the help of PFC. We have thoroughly examined the issue of whether outdoor products really need this feature and decided that for VAUDE, they do not – for the sake of the planet and the people who live on it. It is also a fact that fluorocarbon-free DWRs are often not as durable as conventional PFC-containing versions. Re-waterproofing is therefore necessary after washing, naturally with a fluorocarbon-free waterproofing agent. You should always take a look at the care label of your product where you can find instructions on how to best care for it. More information about proper product care can be found here.
VAUDE has taken on responsibility and has voluntarily undertaken a commitment to manufacture its entire product range completely PFC-free. By 2021, we had successfully achieved this goal, with only a few exceptions remaining in the tent sector.
Ruling for Eco Finish. Example: Cyclist Jacket
Ruling against Eco Finish. Example: Escape Light Jacket – up to Summer 2017 Collection:
New ruling on Eco Finish. Example: Escape Light:
Our procedure can be clearly explained using the Escape Light Jacket as an example. Until summer 2017 the water absorption levels in our tests were too high, so we didn’t transition to an Eco Finish fabric for this collection.
We then worked intensively with our fabric supplier and the DWR supplier on the functionality of the fabric and have now achieved significantly lower water absorption levels. As a result, the fabric has been PFC-free since the Summer 2018 Collection.
This has been a long and complex process that we have only been able to pursue together with the manufacturers of our materials and DWR and with experts from universities and industrial associations. We only introduce materials into our collection that offer full functionality. After all, nobody like getting wet either…
We are proud of the fact that we have now successfully transitioned to PFC-free DWRs for almost all of our materials.
Since the 2021 Summer Collection, all waterproof and water-repellent clothing products have featured PFC-free Eco Finish as standard. This is a great success and a breakthrough for VAUDE.
But nobody is perfect, and the challenges in daily practice occasionally require a step back. For example, in the Summer Collection of 2018, we had already made all clothing fabrics PFC-free. However, during production, we had a bitter pill to swallow with two jacket and trouser models: Although the fabrics treated with Eco Finish had passed all laboratory tests, the product samples did not meet our requirements during wear tests (such as ski touring and winter biking in wet weather). Therefore, these four products were treated with PFC (C6) again. In 2021, we finally achieved the long-awaited PFC phase-out in all clothing fabrics.
In the case of tents, the search for PFC-free alternatives that meet our functional requirements remains highly challenging. We have already converted a significant portion of the tent models, and we anticipate completing the full transition by 2025.
Together with our suppliers, we draw on a full portfolio of fluorocarbon-free alternatives that have proven reliable on our materials. Since not every technology functions equally well on each kind of material, we have a variety of options from different suppliers.
VAUDE Eco Finish covers all fluorocarbon-free technologies that are used in our VAUDE products.
Our VAUDE webshop has a special filter so that you can easily find our PFC-free products.
We use C6 DWR to waterproof the products for which we have still not found an Eco Finish DWR that works well.
C6 is considered to be a more environmentally friendly alternative to C8. It contains six carbon atoms and does not create PFOA. But because C6 has shorter molecule chains, it is more mobile and spreads faster than C8 via the global waterways. It is really only a stop-gap technology that we want to replace with Eco Finish as soon as possible.
At VAUDE this technology still applies to a few tents.
The VAUDE Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL) sets prohibitions and strict limits on the use of chemicals and applies to VAUDE products. The bluesign® system also has strict regulations on the use of PFC.
»It was a feat, but we are proud of the fact that we have already been successful in switching the majority of our materials to PFC-free DWR. «