class notes: top five

Top 5 unusual applications of NeverWet

Joe Ferguson, PhD ’09, R&D Project Manager, Rust-Oleum Corp.

Go ahead, chronic spaghetti spillers—slurp up your sauce with reckless abandon. Just be sure to douse your shirt with NeverWet first.

In 2013, chemist Joe Ferguson led the research and development team at Rust-Oleum Corp. that brought this unique product to hardware store shelves around the country. As the name implies, NeverWet is a liquid repellent that can be applied to just about anything—shoes, auto interiors, even clothing. YouTube is rife with videos of people testing its limits using stubborn stain-makers from wine to mud.

In scientific terms, NeverWet is a synthetic superhydrophobic coating. Rust-Oleum R&D, based in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., partnered with NeverWet LLC in Lancaster, Pa., to develop the product for mass consumer applications. Rust-Oleum made the product available in June 2013.

Ferguson, Rust-Oleum’s R&D project manager for new product development, explains how it works: “When a drop of liquid hits a surface, the angle formed between the edge of the drop and the surface it rests on is called the contact angle. The higher the contact angle, the more likely the liquid will be repelled. If the angle of a water droplet is greater than 150 degrees, that surface is referred to as superhydrophobic, and the water droplet will literally roll off it.”

We asked Ferguson to offer his top five most unexpected uses for the product.

Illustration by Kevin Rechin

Illustration by Kevin Rechin

Top 5 unusual applications of NeverWet:

1. Satellite dish
NeverWet will help prevent snow and ice from building up on your satellite dish, so you don’t have to worry about losing your signal during the two-hour “The Bachelor” finale. Crisis averted.

2. Your mountain bike
Sure, a muddy bike says you shredded those trails, but then you have to clean it. With NeverWet, you can go straight from ride to storage.

3. Child’s backpack
It’s amazing what kids can do. New Minecraft backpack? Guaranteed to have a ketchup stain by the end of the day. A little NeverWet will keep those pricey products as pristine as the day they were bought.

4. Umbrella
What could be more annoying than using an umbrella to stay dry in the rain, only to come inside and get drenched trying to fold it up? Use NeverWet and you’ll never deal with that soggy situation again.

Matt Lauer

5. Matt Lauer’s pants
Look it up. The “Today” show co-host applied it to his suit pants and watched in awe as chocolate syrup slid off the treated area with ease.*

*Full disclosure: It also left a stain and a funky smell. After that test on live TV, Rust-Oleum launched NeverWet Fabric, which is specifically designed for textiles.