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Outdoor faucet cover socks made from Thinsulate

Thinsulate is a brand of synthetic fiber thermal insulation used in clothing. The word is a portmanteau of the words thin and insulate, trademarked by 3M.[1] The material is made by the 3M Corporation and was first sold in 1979.[2] It was originally marketed as an inexpensive alternative to down; at the time, 3M claimed it was twice as warm as an equivalent amount of any natural material.[3][4]

Originally designed for clothing, it later became popular as an acoustic damping material.[5] In 1997, 3M generated US$150 million in annual revenue from the product.[5] Its development originated from other microfibre products made by 3M.[6] It has been used in US army clothing since the mid 1980s.[7]


Thinsulate fibers are about 15 micrometres (0.00059 in) in diameter,[8] which is thinner than the polyester fibers normally used in insulation for clothing such as gloves or winter jackets. Advertising material suggests that Thinsulate is more effective due to the increased density of fibers with decreased size of fibers compared with more traditional insulation.[9] Like most insulation materials, the gaps between fibers not only reduce heat flow, but also allow moisture to escape. The insulation properties are beneficial for retaining some of the heat produced by the body for comfortable warmth while the moisture produced, most likely sweat, is supposed to evaporate.[10] It retains its insulating properties when wet.[11]

The thermal resistance R-value provided by Thinsulate products varies by the specific thickness and construction of the fabric.[12] Values (US units) range from 1.6 for 80-gram fabric to 2.9 for 200-gram fabric.[13] Thinsulate is considered "the warmest thin apparel insulation" available. In fact, when equal thicknesses are compared, it provides about 1½ times the warmth of down and about twice the warmth of other high-loft insulation materials.[14]

Material safety data sheets from the manufacturer show that different varieties of Thinsulate are made from different mixtures of polymers, but most are primarily polyethylene terephthalate or a mixture of polyethylene terephthalate and polypropylene. Other materials in some include polyethylene terephthalate-polyethylene isophthalate copolymer and acrylic.[citation needed]

Thinsulate is now used in the fabric roof of the convertible automobile, the Porsche Boxster. The extra layer not only reduces heat loss but has also reduced noise levels inside the car by 3 decibels.[15] It is also used in the roof of the Jaguar F-Type sports car.[16] It features in the upholstery of Saturn sedans, Ford F-150 pickups, Buick Park Avenues, and F-16 fighters.[5]

It is used in a wide variety of clothing products, such as footwear, gloves, hats, and coats.[17][18] It became popular in outerwear jackets as early as 1985.[19] The fibers are thinner in diameter than polyester fibres, so the material is used as a waterproof synthetic alternative to down.[20]

In 2015 Thinsulate was named a recipient of an ISPO Award as a Top 10 Insulation.[21][22]


  1. ^ "Uspto Issues Trademark: Thinsulate." US Fed News Service, Including US State News. The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd. 2017. HighBeam Research. 13 Sep. 2018
  2. ^ Drell, Lauren. "How 3M Heats Up with Thinsulate". Mashable. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  3. ^ Chadakoff, Rochelle (January 1979). Popular Science Magazine. Bonnier Corporation. pp. 134–136. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  4. ^ Backpacker Magazine. California: Active Interest Media, Inc. October 1979.
  5. ^ a b c Fiedler, Terry. "The quiet Thinsulate; 3M again capitalizes on both name, performance with brand extensions.(BUSINESS)." Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN). The Star Tribune Company. 1997. HighBeam Research. 13 Sep. 2018 <>.
  6. ^ Feder, Barnaby J. (1982). "Technology; Catching Up With Down". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  7. ^ Feder, Barnaby J. "THE ARMY MAY HAVE MATCHED THE GOOSE". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  8. ^ Phil Gibson and Calvin Lee; Application Of Nanofiber Technology To Nonwoven Thermal Insulation, 01 NOV 2006, U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center Natick, Massachusetts 01760-5020.
  9. ^ "What Is Thinsulate insulation?". 3M. Retrieved 2010-11-26.
  10. ^ Davis, Luke. "3M Thinsulate Explained – Uses, Pros and Cons". Retrieved 21 November 2022.
  11. ^ Cornell, Susan (1 May 2003). "Uniform Fabric: Care and Cleaning". Law & Order. Retrieved 13 September 2018. If Thinsulate Insulation gets wet, it will still keep you warm. That's because Thinsulate Insulation retains its insulating ability in damp conditions. It absorbs less than one percent by weight of water, so it stays effective at keeping you warm-and it dries easily if it does become wet.
  12. ^ Griffin, Steven A. (1997). The Camping Sourcebook: Your One-stop Resource for Everything You Need for Great Camping. Globe Pequot Press. ISBN 9780762700424. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  13. ^ "Thinsulate Insulation" (PDF). 3M. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Insulation properties of Thinsulate from 3M". Rockywoods Fabrics, LLC. Archived from the original on 2015-02-19.
  15. ^ Calvi, Lisa (20 June 2012). "Lisa spends 90 minutes with "engrossing" Porsche Boxter S". The Chronicle Herald. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  16. ^ Woodcock, Roy (24 August 2018). "A sensational drive with the Jaguar F-Type". Hull Daily Mail. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  17. ^ Karlen, Neal. "Beyond Wool And Down". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  18. ^ "Apparel International: The Journal of the Clothing and Footwear Institute". Apparel International. 19–20. The Institute: 8, 12, 28. 1990. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  19. ^ Lebow, Joan. "Wool spurs rebound in coat action." WWD. Conde Nast Publications, Inc. 1986. HighBeam Research. 13 Sep. 2018 <>. (According to a spokesman for 3M Co., which produces Thinsulate, more than 30 fashion coat companies are using Thinsulate linings in their garments this year, 22 more than last year. Among the manufacturers testing the Thinsulate are several designer-price lines including Anne Klein Coats, George Simonton, Ilie Wacs and Nipon Coature. ... At Anne Klein Coats, Marty Blank, president, said the firm will use Thinsulate in 20 to 40 percent of its line, and particularly with lighter-weight fabrics.)
  20. ^ Becker, Kraig (26 August 2018). "All of the high-tech materials that make modern outdoor gear great". Digital Trends. Design Technica/Digital Trends. Retrieved 13 September 2018. In 1979, 3M introduced a new synthetic insulation material called Thinsulate, which derived its name from the ability to provide warmth while remaining relatively thin. Thinsulate fibers are just 15 micrometers in diameter, which is substantially smaller than polyester, the material that is traditionally used as an insulating agent in outdoor clothing. Over the years, Thinsulate has found its way into boots and jackets, but is especially popular in glove and hats. The synthetic fibers are regarded as a high-performance alternative to down, in part because they are water resistant while remaining breathable too. Later iterations of Thinsulate included a flame-resistant version, a more waterproof alternative, and one that more closely mimics the properties of down.
  21. ^ "3M featherless 'down' honored – Advanced Textiles Source". Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  22. ^ Borneman, Jim. "Quality Fabric Of The Month: Warmth & Loft Without Feathers | Textile World". Retrieved 14 September 2018.

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