A substance that is superhydrophobic is one which repels watery substances very, very strongly. This is done using the miracle of nanotechnology.

Currently there are three consumer products available which, when applied to an object, will give it superhydrophobic properties. These are Liquipell, Neverwet, and Ultra Ever Dry. All of these products are almost twice as hydrophobic as Teflon, making them all superhydrophobic. 

The Liquipell company is marketing directly to owners of high end electronic devices such as tablets, phones, laptops, and similar portable devices. The way the company does business, you send in your fancy toy and they apply their magic coat to it and ship it back to you. So for around 90 USD you can get your new Ipad 2 treated to become superhydrophobic. Which is a sound investment if you like to drink while futzing with the thing in the tub or allow your small child to use it during meal times.

To give you an idea of the strength of this Liquipell, a tissue coated with it will remain dry after being submersed in a bucket of water.

Neverwet is made by Ross Nanotechnology and seems to be marketed towards other companies for industrial use—not individual consumers. That product is interesting in that it also claims to be anti-ice, anti-corrossion, anti-bacterial, and "self-cleaning". Having one's winter transportation treated with this stuff would be wonderful.

On the other hand there's Ultra Ever Dry, which, in addition to being superhydrophobic, is also oleophobic—meaning that it repels oily liquids as well. The manufacturers of this miracle product state that you can apply it to virtually anything, from a wall to a toilet seat to your windshield to your clothes (although they do not recommend applying it to your boat). This product is sold at the seemingly reasonable price of 140 USD (before tax and shipping) for 1 gallon of both the top and base coat.

Ultra Ever Dry is made from very, very tiny silicone molecules. This silicone is specially processed to produce a surface structure composed of tiny pits. The surface is chemically modified to repel water and the microstructure minimises the surface area in contact with the water at any given moment. So water beads and rolls right off. Magic!

Wearing a respirator and other protective clothing is recommended during application of any sort of superhydrophobic coating, so this is not the sort of stuff one should try to ingest. Given the relatively low price point of Ultra Ever Dry, it sounds like a situation just ripe for lawsuits.

As far as environmental concerns go, a superhydrophobic coating is no more dangerous than any other silicone polymer. That is to say, very. There are studies showing that nano-sized silica can collect in the body, causing cellular damage over time. Maybe governments will begin regulating this shining example of free enterprise next spring.

If you are really really concerned, check out this group.

noded for ScienceQuest 2013 & special thanks to BaronWR for the "how it works" bit.

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