What is Neoprene Used for?

Mary McMahon

Neoprene is a synthetic rubber product developed in the 1930s which has a wide range of uses, thanks to its durability, UV resistance, and flexibility. Manufacturers are constantly developing new uses for neoprene, along with new formulations of this product which are designed to deliver reliable performance. Commercial products come in a range of weights and styles to meet various needs. Many people interact with neoprene and objects with neoprene components on a regular basis.

Neoprene may be used to make medical bandages.
Neoprene may be used to make medical bandages.

One of the most common formats for this synthetic rubber is foam sheets which can be configured to perform a variety of functions. Wetsuits, drysuits, waders, and other equipment for working in the water are commonly made from neoprene, as are sleeves for the insulation of beverage containers, along with shoes and gloves. Neoprene sheeting can also be cut down for use in shoes for added padding, and for mousepads and other types of padding.

Neoprene is used in some shoes for added padding.
Neoprene is used in some shoes for added padding.

Athletic supports and braces can be made from neoprene, as can bandages and other medical equipment. The tough material will resist stretching out of shape, along with water, and it is durable enough to be worn during vigorous activity or for prolonged periods of time.

Neoprene may be used in medical braces.
Neoprene may be used in medical braces.

Foam products also makes an excellent insulator in electrical circuits, and it may be used for weather stripping and as a gasket in applications such as cars. Heat and chemical resistance make this material a good choice for applications such as these. Manufacturers of flexible hoses and pipes designed for use with chemicals may also utilize neoprene.

Neoprene is commonly used to make wetsuits.
Neoprene is commonly used to make wetsuits.

Sleeves designed to protect electronics without being bulky can be made from neoprene. Laptops in particular can benefit from being stored in a case which protects the device from the elements and rough handling without taking up a great deal of space, keeping the laptop as portable as possible for the owner. The material is also used to insulate hard metal cases to provide a smooth, tight fit which will keep objects in place and minimize damages which can be caused by impact and jostling.

Neoprene rubber may be used to make protective gloves.
Neoprene rubber may be used to make protective gloves.

People who come up with a creative use for this material can buy sheeting from sewing supply stores and manufacturers. Special tools may be needed to sew the material, especially if a watertight seal is desired, and it is common to use a sealer along the edges of neoprene foam and on joints, so that the material will be less prone to leaking, breaking, or pulling apart.

Neoprene may be found in elastic fabrics.
Neoprene may be found in elastic fabrics.
Used for wetsuits and other applications, neoprene is a synthetic rubber developed in the 1930s.
Used for wetsuits and other applications, neoprene is a synthetic rubber developed in the 1930s.

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Discussion Comments


Is neoprene safe? I've seen dumbbells coated in the substance with the warning "This product contains one or more chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive harm."

I don't think the process (and materials) used to create neoprene is entirely safe (hence, the warning), but does that impact the safety of the finished product?


What are the major, significant differences, in terms of material characteristics, between synthetic neoprene rubber and neoprene rubber?


Neoprene compression gloves are great for treating arthritis. I started having a lot of pain and burning in my fingers and hands last year, and that's when I started wearing these gloves.

They apply light pressure to my joints to soothe them. They keep my hands and fingers warm, and this also helps lessen the stiffness and swelling.

Since my arthritis is worse when my hands are cold, these gloves are perfect. The neoprene locks in my body heat and transmits it back into my joints where it is needed most.


I have two neoprene picnic bags that are so convenient. They keep drinks cool for a couple of hours, and they also can keep food warm for quite awhile.

I live about an hour away from the lake where I like to have picnics, so this bag is perfect for me. It's so nice not to have to load up a bulky cooler with ice for drinks and sandwiches. Also, I can keep the warm food in one bag and the cool drinks in the other.

I was so happy with my picnic bags that I bought a smaller neoprene lunch bag to use at work. I no longer have to put my stuff in the company refrigerator and risk getting it stolen or thrown away.


@shell4life – I've actually heard of people wearing neoprene clothing while working out, because it makes them lose weight. They sweat off a pound or more of water weight because of the neoprene.

However, this is not good for them. They could easily become dehydrated. Also, they are losing sodium through their sweat, and if you get deprived of sodium, you get awful muscle cramps.

Since all they are losing is water weight, it's not a good weight loss plan. As soon as they replace the water they lost, the weight comes back. Wearing neoprene while exercising is just too risky.


Since neoprene is great for insulating, I would think it would be great to wear in cold climates. I can see how wearing neoprene gloves in the snow would be beneficial.

However, since it holds in body heat, you could get really hot quickly if the weather warmed up. It might make a good waterproof suit, but it could also make you work up an uncomfortable sweat.

I would not want to wear neoprene clothing while working out, but I would definitely want it if I were diving in cold water. It seems to me that the best use of neoprene for clothing is in wetsuits.


@Trishae11 - Synthetic materials like neoprene do not catch on fire, but they can melt. Your laptop does not need to be inside a cover while it is safely charging; it needs to be uncovered so that the heat generated can dissipate. It's not good for your laptop to have all that heat held in!

Neoprene laptop cases are great, though, aren't they? I love mine for traveling because it allows me to protect my computer while putting it in my wheeled suitcase as opposed to my backpack. It it still easy to remove when you go through the security checkpoint. Or if I just want to go somewhere around town with my laptop, I put it in the protective case and put it in my backpack or whatever other bag I'm taking with me.


If I use neoprene for a cover for my laptop, could it catch on fire if I leave it plugged in all night?

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