Why We Use Silicone Rubber for Our Elastic Wristbands
While elastic bands can be made from virtually any reasonably durable elastic material, our take on the popular elastic wristband is made from silicone, sometimes referred to as “silicone rubber”.
In order to understand why we believe silicone is the best choice for elastic wristbands, it’s helpful to understand the properties of natural rubber, another material commonly used for bracelets and wrist straps.
What is Silicone? Is it the same as rubber?
In the absolute strictest sense of the word, “rubber” refers to natural rubber made from the sap of rubber trees. However, in normal day-to-day conversation, synthetic materials that mimic the properties of natural rubber, as well as different blends of natural and artificial elastics, are referred to as “rubber”. This is why we occasionally refer to our silicone wristbands as “rubber wristbands”.
True rubber wristbands and straps have been around since perhaps the late 1950s, and definitely by the 1960s. Rubber straps were developed for use in dive watches, as the treated leather straps that were commonly used in this application were finicky to maintain and deteriorated quickly in seawater.
Rubber offered superior waterproofing compared to waxed or oiled leather, which meant that you probably wouldn’t lose your expensive dive watch as easily. It was also much cheaper than leather, and many watch and accessory makers quickly hopped onto the rubber strap bandwagon, especially for cheaper watches as well as for watches intended for outdoor use.
Natural rubber worked great for outdoor applications, at least for a few months. Anyone who’s owned a natural rubber watch strap can tell you that they can get sticky and brittle fairly quickly. If you’re like some people, you might even find that you’re allergic to the latex present in natural rubber. Natural rubber is also prone to cracking, which means bands can fail even with regular maintenance.
Luckily around the same period, a synthetic rubber substitute called silicone was being developed. This inorganic material is not made from organic materials, rather, it is synthesized from sand like glass and many other compounds derived from the element silicon.
Despite being inorganic, silicone shares many of the same properties of natural rubber. It also has a number of other advantages. Unlike natural rubber, silicone is hypoallergenic. It is also far less prone to cracking and doesn’t become easily sticky an uncomfortable to the touch even after years of use.
While it would be a few decades before silicone rubber would really catch on for day-to-day use. By the time Lance Armstrong popularized the iconic Livestrong wristband in 2004, the once space-age silicone elastic had found widespread adoption in a wide number of applications. And for wristbands, there isn’t any other material would have done better in this application, especially for use by athletes.
Advantages of silicone
There are a number of advantages to using this type of material over natural rubber or other types of elastics, especially for wristbands.
- Extreme abrasion-resistance. Silicone is extremely hard-wearing and maintains a “like-new” appearance for much longer than natural rubber.
- Heat-resistance. Your wristband will not crack nor deteriorate when exposed to constant body heat or high ambient temperatures like would be present in a desert climate or sauna.
- Waterproof. You don’t need to remove your silicone wristband when swimming or bathing.
- Color-fastness. The colors on a silicone wristband will not fade easily, even when regularly exposed to sunlight.
- Chemical resistance. You can rest assured soaps, shampoos, cooking ingredients and other chemicals you may come in contact with will not cause your wristband to deteriorate.
- Resistant to warping. So long as they’re not abused to their extreme limits, silicone wristbands will always go back to their original shape. Years from now, the indentations on your embossed wristband will remain as crisp and neat as they were the day you got them.
- Fungi-resistance. Molds and mildew will not grow on your silicone wristband, even when constantly exposed to high humidity.
- Easily cleaned. Silicone’s resistance to chemicals means that it could easily be sanitized and disinfected if necessary.
- Economical to source and produce. Silicone wristbands can be used and enjoyed by virtually anyone. You can even make your own wristbands today.
We hope that answers some question you may have had about silicone. It’s doubtful that our lives would be the same without this wonder material – especially for us folks here on Wristband Creations!