Today I'm going to show you how to waterproof your own cotton canvas fabric at home. It's likely a lot more simple than you think.
If you've ever bought a waterproof duck cloth before you know how expensive it is. Depending on where you are purchasing from it can range in price from $14 per yard to well over $20.
Waxed canvas fabric has so many uses when it comes to sewing and craft projects. So if you find yourself wanting to make it yourself at home, you've come to the right place.
If you've ever had to buy waxed fabric by the yard you know how expensive it is.
I'm guessing that's how you ended up at this very post.
So let's DIY some waterproofed fabric!
- How to make greenland style wax at home
- What is waxed cotton fabric
- Why is waxed cotton good
- Before waxing canvas fabric
- Warning for waxed fabrics
- What does curing your waterproof canvas mean?
- How long does it take waterproof canvas to cure
- Do I need to let my canvas cure before I use it?
- Sewing machine foot for heavy duty waxed cotton
- Tools to make waxed cotton
- Protecting your work surface
- How to wax canvas fabric
- Waxed Cotton (Continued)
- Some things to remember when waxing fabric
- Curing your waxed cotton canvas
- How to clean waterproof canvas
- Favorite blends of wax for waterproofing cotton canvas fabric
- Where to buy waxed canvas fabric
- Shop this post
- Sewing projects you may enjoy
How to make greenland style wax at home
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What is waxed cotton fabric
Waxed canvas fabric is a heavy-weight canvas, sometimes referred to as duck canvas. A blend of different waxes are applied to it making it virtually a waterproof material.
This material is great for making handbags, tents, boat covers, or backpacks.
You can also blend the waxes together and use it to wax jackets or other clothing items you may want waterproof.
Why is waxed cotton good
Waxed cotton is a super durable, waterproof fabric. It is highly durable like leather making is a good alternative that is less expensive.
Waxed cotton fabric is highly stain resistant, and won't rip or tear.
When duck canvas is waxed correctly it takes on the appearance of beautifully aged leather.
Before waxing canvas fabric
Here are a few tips and suggestions I recommend reading through before you begin.
These are a few things I have learned along the way to make this easier, more efficient, and save you money.
- Cut out your pieces for the project before you wax.
I have found that not only can this save time, but money as well. If you feel like you'll use an entire yard of canvas fabric, wax it all at once. But cutting out the pieces you need first is definitely a time saver.
Warning for waxed fabrics
- Do not wash the towels you are using for waxing canvas in a home washer or dryer, especially with other items.
I know that this may seem like an obvious one, but it's worthy of a mention just in case.
This will make such a huge mess that will be almost impossible to clean up.
So here's what I like to do when I'm finished waxing all my heavy-duty canvas fabrics.
- When I am finished waxing my canvas, I allow the towels I used to cool off and harden.
2. Once they have hardened, I carefully fold them and place them in a garbage bag for the next time I'm needing to wax some fabric.
The excess wax that's in the towels can be absorbed into the next batch of fabric you are waxing so you aren't using as much wax.
- Be sure you are in a well ventilated area when waterproofing any fabrics.
Bring in a fan. The smell of the paraffin isn't the best and you'll have that smell of burning wax when you start ironing.
It will also create smoke. So plan ahead. If it's warm enough outside, I prefer to wax my cotton canvas outside in a covered area.
- To speed up the wax melting process, remove the ceramic pot from your crockpot, add your wax, then place in the microwave until almost melted.
Use caution! The pot will be extremely hot when removing it from the microwave.
Do not let the wax get so hot that it begins to pop and make a mess in your microwave. Cover with cling wrap!
- Fold full yards of canvas in half while waxing.
Any wax that's permeated the top layer will soak through to the bottom layer making it so you'll use less wax on the backside when it comes to flipping the piece over.
This step can be done for smaller pieces as well. Just creates less waste.
- Wear an apron to protect your clothing.
When you first begin waxing your canvas fabric, you may notice that the wax your painting on immediately turns white. Don't panic! This is normal.
You are applying very hot wax to cool fabric. It is naturally going to harden quickly.
You have a couple of options here, so let's discuss them.
- You can iron over your canvas fabric in small sections BEFORE you apply the wax. This will create some consistency in temperature from wax to fabric. But just know that this isn't necessary. It's personal prefernce.
- Continue to apply wax to your entire piece of fabric, then iron. If it's white from the wax, that's ok. Once you iron it, you won't know that difference as the wax will melt and no longer appear white.
What does curing your waterproof canvas mean?
To cure your fabric is to allow it time to fully dry and soak into the fibers of the fabric that you've added wax to.
It's allowing it to fully dry-in a sense.
When you touch newly waxed fabric, you'll notice a slightly sticky feel to it.
As the fabric cures, that tackiness goes away and you're left with a dry, heavy duty fabric that resembles aged leather when you wrinkle it.
How long does it take waterproof canvas to cure
I recommend letting your freshly waxed canvas fabric cure for at least 12 hours to before use.
The pieces should feel totally dry, not sticky or damp. If at any time in the curing process you see an area that looks heavily saturated with wax, you can always iron it out to distribute the wax more evenly.
If you begin to paint the melted wax on and it immediately turns white-have no fear. It's just because the surface wasn't warmed enough or the wax wasn't hot enough so it cooled really quickly.
Let the wax warm longer, or you can warm the surface of your fabric with an iron before applying your wax to it.
It doesn't really matter as you will be ironing it anyhow. The process is just a lot smoother when all the surfaces are warm.
Do I need to let my canvas cure before I use it?
I would highly recommend allowing it to cure fully before using it and here's why:
- It will help protect your sewing machine.
Using a waxed fabric that hasn't had time to fully cure can cause excess wax build-up in your sewing machine that will be difficult to remove.
- Using a waterproof canvas that has time to fully cure is a lot easier to sew with as well.
Sewing machine foot for heavy duty waxed cotton
I get this question frequently when it comes to sewing with a heavy duty canvas fabrics, especially waxed canvas.
I prefer to use a teflon sewing foot. Similar to this one.
Be sure that you use one for your make and model of sewing machine. This is important. Not all feet fit all sewing machines.
I have included a full shopping list for your convenience down below. You can also find it in the SHOP THIS POST section.
- Bees Wax pellets (or any form of natural beeswax you prefer will work). I have tried several brands and forms of wax and the ones I use now I have determined give me the results that I'm looking for. Some waxes will leave a residue on the canvas regardless of how many times you wax it. Some will also leave a white film on the surface of the canvas. All of which are not that desirable. Feel free to try options, and let me know if you find a mixture that has worked well for you and yields great results.
- Paraffin Wax. Again, what has worked for me has been chosen after a lot of trial and error. This has been time and money to figure out the best ratios of each. But do what works best for you and your needs.
Tools to make waxed cotton
- An iron with high heat setting. (If you happen to have an old iron laying around-use that. Just know that once you use it for this process you likely won't want to be using it to iron your clothes. Purchasing one at a thrift shop is another way to save money with this process. I wasn't able to find one at my local second hand store so I purchased a really inexpensive one on amazon that works great for crafting).
- Mini crock pot. Again, if you can find one second hand that's a great option. I purchased a brand new one that was the size I needed for craft projects really inexpensively. You can also use your stove and an old pot. I just found it to be a hassle to have to head to the stove to re-heat my wax mixture every time it started to cool off and harden. When it starts to cool its really difficult to paint on smoothly. Again, this just adds time as well.
- Natural bristled brushes. I typically buy these by the pack on Amazon as I find that they are cheaper than buying them at the local hardware store.
I prefer the 4 inch wide brushes because they can cover more surface area faster.
Make sure when selecting brushes for this project, that you choose brushes that are wide but not super dense. The more dense the brush, the more wax will build up in the bristles towards the top of the brush.
Not a big deal since it can be melted out of the brush when your finished. Do NOT use brushes with plastic bristles-they will melt in the hot wax.
- Measuring cup. Needs to have a 4 oz and 8 oz measurement lines.
I prefer glass because its easy to wipe out if something sticks. Also, you can place it in the microwave to heat to wipe out. I use the glass pyrex 2 cup measuring cup with handle myself.
Protecting your work surface
- Old towels (1 to 2).
I purchased towels from a thrift shop long ago that I use for misc things around the house. I wouldn't recommend using good towels as they will get ruined. Once you've used a towel for waxing canvas, you won't want to use it for anything else.
- Cardboard. I used an old Amazon box folded over. This is to help protect your table from the heat of your iron.
Wax can leave an oil residue (and spots) on clothes. So for that reason I wouldn't recommend washing and drying this in your home washer and dryer. Especially with other items (clothes).
- Canvas. 10 ounce 100% cotton canvas.
If you prefer to dye your canvas fabric, I'd recommend using a 100% cotton 8 ounce drop cloth. You can dye it yourself so you can get really specific with the color you want, and you you can get a piece of drop cloth pretty inexpensively.
I still prefer the 10 ounce canvas as its more rigid and dense, but if you are trying to save money, this can be a good alternative.
I'll link in the description below which one I buy. You can also buy these at the hardware store, but what I have found is that they are more expensive and have been seamed together instead of one continuous piece.
How to wax canvas fabric
CAUTION! This wax gets extremely hot so please be careful! I would not recommend having children around while doing this. It can result in serious burns!
I found that using a ration of 8 ounces of paraffin to 4 ounces of beeswax pellets worked the best.
I'd recommend doing at least double the mixture needed to wax a yard of canvas if you are intending on doing a full yard cut.
Some colors of canvas seem to require more wax than others (no idea why).
It's better to have too much wax than not enough.
If you do have to stop to heat more wax because to you didn't pre-heat enough, that's just added time.
If you do however find yourself in this situation, pre-heat the wax in the microware to save time.
Here's the wax after heating for 10 minutes. Notice that it's barely begun to melt.
Be sure and check out the before waxing section of this post for a tip on speeding up this process.
- Turn your iron on high heat, NO STEAM.
- Prepare your work surface. Cover your table with layers of cardboard, followed by some old towels.
- Be sure you are in a well ventialted area. Open windows, turn on fans.
- Put on an old apron to protect your clothing.
Waxed Cotton (Continued)
- Begin by ironing your canvas to warm. This step isn't necessary, but will help the wax absorb faster. If you choose not to iron your fabric, the wax will turn white when applied. This is ok, as you are going to be ironing it again anyhow. It's just personal preference.
- Dip your brush into the melted wax and begin painting your fabric in small 12 inch by 12 inch sections. A 24 inch by 24 inch section is managable too.
- Once you have a small section painted, set your brush down and iron the area. This helps distrubute the wax throughout the fabric fibers and pushed the wax to surrounding areas.
- Repeat the previous steps until all your pieces are completed.
Some things to remember when waxing fabric
If you have folded your canvas in half to wax, be sure you open it up and iron the creased areas. You'll also want to make sure all the fabric has wax on it.
Before the pieces you have waxed begin to cool, lift them from the work surface. Do this several times while waxing. This will make it easier to lift it when you are done.
If you find that the canvas and the towel become stuck together, don't panic! Just give it a little heat from the iron and it will lift right off.
Curing your waxed cotton canvas
- Once you have finished waxing all your fabric, hang your pieces to dry over a shower rod to cure. You can also hang them on a hanger folded.
How to clean waterproof canvas
As I mentioned before, I don't recommend washing and drying your waxed fabrics. You will ruin your washer and dryer.
That being said, you can definitely spot clean waxed pieces with this wax cleaner.
I have also been told that dawn dish soap works well too but I can't personally testify to this since I have never used this method.
Favorite blends of wax for waterproofing cotton canvas fabric
I prefer the 8 ounce ratio I talked about above, but realize there are always multiple ways to so things that can yield similar results.
What types or variations of wax have you tried that worked well for you and yielded amazing, workable results? We'd love for you to share in the comments below.
Also, if you used this tutorial to create your own waxed canvas, be sure and share on instagram!
Where to buy waxed canvas fabric
Well as I'm sure you all know, I love to DIY things, which is why I wax my own canvas fabric. However, I know sometimes it's just easier to just buy it already done.
It comes in quite a few different colors and weights. I prefer the 10 ounce for most of my projects but lighter weight fabric is ok too.
Shop this post
- Paraffin Wax
- Beeswax Pellets.
- Mini Slow Cooker
- Handmade Style: 23 Must-Have Basics to Stitch, Use, and Wear
- Measuring Cup
- Eco friendly stir sticks
- Ready-made alternative
- Canvas Drop Cloth
- Paint Brushes
The supplies listed above have yielded the highest quality results of all the variations I've tried.
I hope you guys have enjoyed learning how to make waxed canvas fabric yourself.