Fact Checked

What is Waterproof Paper?

Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden

Waterproof paper is paper that is intended to survive exposure to water without being damaged. When used in conjunction with waterproof ink, waterproof paper should actually be able to survive direct exposure to water without the paper or its contents being damaged or altered in any way. Some paper is made specifically to be waterproof; paper that is not designed to be waterproof can be put through one of a variety of processes to make it waterproof or at least water resistant. This type of paper is commonly used for purposes such as packaging, as packages often need to survive wet conditions. This special paper also is appropriate for maps and guidebooks, as many individuals use these items outdoors and in the wilderness when conditions can often be wet and unpleasant.

There are two particular methods commonly used to make waterproof paper. Some waterproof papers are made with thick, tightly-bound fibers that prevent water from saturating the paper. Such fibers prevent the paper from weakening, dissolving, or changing shape. Sometimes, coatings of various forms are used to make paper waterproof. Paper can be laminated with synthetic materials, such as plastics, which repel water and prevent the paper from being damaged.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Waterproof packaging paper is particularly important, as packages often contain objects which are susceptible to water damage. Most packages that need to be shipped from one location to another are made out of thick, layered materials, such as cardboard, which can repel or absorb a great deal of water but still remain functional. Some packages are wrapped and shipped with glossy materials, similar to the coatings placed on some paper, that repel water. It is also important that labels used for packaging are printed on waterproof paper. If they were not printed on waterproof paper, they could be destroyed or otherwise rendered unreadable if exposed to water.

Waterproof paper is also commonly used by individuals who need to use paper outdoors. Backpackers and hikers use maps to find where they are going; the maps need to survive some amount of moisture. People in the military also appreciate the durability of waterproof paper, as it can be used in many different environments. Maps and important communications can be sent on paper without risk of sustaining damage because of rain or other sources of moisture. People who work on boats or near bodies of water also use waterproof paper to reduce the risk of damage from splashing or submersion.

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Discussion Comments


I really wish that store advertising would be issued on waterproof paper. I am sure it is more expensive, but nothing is worse than coming home to find your porch covered in a soggy mess of papers. Some delivery people have their advertisements in plastic bags, but some just don't bother.

For myself, I am a bit of an avid shopper and I really look forward to the weekend cache of advertisements that show up on my doorstep. When nasty wet weather roles around though, I pretty much have to forget about looking through the ads as they usually end up in the waste bin.


@turkay 1 - I would love to know if my diplomas are waterproof without actually testing them to find out. I am often traveling to different countries and need to take my diplomas with me for work reasons and hate the thought of them getting horribly water damaged in the moves.

For myself I have had trouble keeping my diplomas from getting dog-eared and looking worn, but I suppose they could be waterproof. They seem to be on quite sturdy paper, and really have shown very little damage for the amount of abuse they have taken. I guess I will never know for sure. On the bright side, I can get replacement diplomas for about $50 a piece so I guess I really shouldn’t fret too much.


@NathanG - Yes, it’s the coating that makes the difference.

I’ve got a quick tip on how to waterproof paper without buying anything special.

Just use ordinary candle wax. Rub it gently on the paper until it has a smooth coating and it will withstand moisture. Of course I don’t recommend that you do this for photos, but for any other kinds of paper it will work just fine.


Have restaurants started using waterproof paper for their menus? I think they should! I've been to so many restaurants with ripped up, worn out paper menus. Even laminated ones don't last too well, it cracks and loses shape. I think waterproof menus would be great for restaurants that have outside seating. Even if it rained, the menus would last.

Another great idea would be to use this paper for outside signs. My apartment was collecting money just last week to buy a sign that says "no pets allowed" on the property grass. We could have just made one with waterproof paper.


I have a digital camera and save most of my photos on disk. I don’t do a lot of photo printing, but when I do I use waterproof photo paper.

It’s not that I’m concerned that the paper will get wet so much; I just like the extra coating on the paper which gives it a special gloss and sheen that makes it suitable for framing. I pay a little extra, and usually buy it in sheets of 20, but it’s worth it, especially since I don’t use it all the time.


I use waterproof printer paper for kitchen labeling. There is printable waterproof paper available now that is safe to print on at home printers. I use that to make labels for my jams and marmalades. I stick the labels with the name of the jam and date on the jars and store them or give them out to friends and family.

The good part about it is that the label stays on despite the moisture in the fridge. When the jam is finished, the jar can be washed and the label is still on intact. This is great for me because I don't have to keep making labels over and over again. I'm saving money!

I use these waterproof labels to label frozen vegetables too.


Some official documents like certificates, identity cards, birth certificates, diplomas, property documents and citizenship documents are also printed on waterproof paper.

Most of these documents don't really come into contact with water unless in unique situations. I think it is printed on waterproof paper because this kind of paper is more durable and will last for a long time without rips and other kind of damage.

One doesn't get multiple diplomas or birth certificates to keep and these things have to remain in good shape our whole lifetimes since we will be needing them over and over. We also have to carry them around a lot, especially if we travel or move around. When it's made of waterproof paper, you know that it will be just fine.

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