Waxed Canvas DIY

Posted by Abigail Quist on

It's no secret that we prefer the look and feel of natural fibers around here, but I live in the Pacific Northwest, so I am always looking for natural solutions to staying somewhat dry in the winter. (Psst! Wool has some very naturally water-resistant properties!) I've been wanting to try my hand at waterproofing our canvas YKRA backpacks with wax for a while now, and since this has been the wettest, coldest winter to date in Oregon (which is not really that cold, but is really really wet) It seemed like the perfect time to try!

Many types of wax that are available for this purpose have petroleum or animal based products that we wanted to avoid, so I chose Otter wax for it's natural contents. It's a huge plus that it's made right up the road from us in Portland!

Our test subject is my son's orange Scout Pack from YKRA (that I use way more than he does). 

Make sure whatever you decide to wax is perfectly clean and dry.

I started on the top flap. This is the area that I figured would get the most rain so I applied pretty heavily. Just rub the bar of wax onto the fabric in a back and forth motion. I wasn't too careful with the leather or twill trim, just tried to be really thorough and get right up into the seams.

You can see that the wax changes the texture to be, well, waxy. :)  It softens the color a bit as well.

You can see the slight difference in color and texture between the flap and the rest of the pack in this image.

I left the back unwaxed, since it is less likely to be exposed, and the wax could be a bit sticky on my son's clothes.

After the wax has been applied all over, rub it in with your fingers once more to make sure it has penetrated a bit. Then it needs to cure in a warm dry place for at least 24 hours. After reading a ton of reviews and tutorials, I settled on placing the finished and cured pack inside 2 old pillowcases, and then running them in a hot dryer to even out the wax and allow it to penetrate even more. After this step allow to cure again for another 24 hours.

This only used up a small amount of the wax bar and can be reapplied as often as needed to maintain. 

Weirdly, I ran into a guy at the grocery store who had a waxed jacket on the day I was working on this pack! He graciously let me ask him a ridiculous number of questions and touch his coat... a lot. No shame or boundaries after having 3 kids. :) He said his was sticky at first, but it went away pretty quickly. 

I am interested in trying this with straight beeswax next time. Didn't want to take any chances on the first try, and the otter wax was so easy to work with. Plus, I feel completely comfortable with all the ingredients and it came packaged only in recyclable cardboard. The wax product may be one of those things that is not worth DIYing, but I'd also love to be able to use something that I already use for homemade cosmetics, cleaning supplies and the like. :)

Happy waxing! xx

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