Introduction: Easy Waterproof Clothing

Picture of Easy Waterproof Clothing

While I was making my glow tie I realized that the solution I made to apply the glow power to the fabric was incredibly hydrophobic, which makes sense as it's silicone based. After some experimentation I found it was a great method for waterproofing all kinds of close knit fabrics, like tote bags and other large flat fabric surfaces.

I'm not that impressed with most commercial versions of waterproofing, and this method gives me full control of the efficiency of my waterproofing. Inexpensive, flexible, and easy to make, this homebrew solution is a great way to make almost anything waterproof.

Ready to waterproof all the things? Let's make!

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

Making your own waterproof solution requires 2 things:

You'll also need the following supplies:

The glow powder is added to a liquid medium which is then applied to the tie. The medium is made from silicone caulking which is diluted in mineral spirits.

You'll want to use 100% clear pure silicone caulking. Look for "silicone I" as "silicone II" has mold retarding agents, we want pure silicone. The silicone can be thinned with mineral spirits. You can find both the caulking and the mineral spirits at your local hardware store.

Step 2: Mixing Solution

Picture of Mixing Solution

To make a medium that can be brushed onto the fabric, we'll need to thin the silicone caulking with plenty of mineral spirits.

I started with a ratio of 5:1 - 5 parts mineral spirits to 1 part caulking. Put both into a mixing cup and mix thoroughly. At first this is going to look like too much mineral spirits and not enough caulking, but silicone is incredibly thick and after a few minutes of mixing the solution will begin to thin.

You're looking to achieve a very runny medium with no clumps, lumps, or anything even resembling the caulking. The GIF above should be the viscosity you are looking for, something like very runny maple syrup. It is also going to smell terrible, so make sure to work in a well ventilated area.

Step 3: Brush Onto Fabric

Picture of Brush Onto Fabric

I used a bristle chip brush to apply the medium onto the tie. Chip brushes are meant for resin, acetone, and epoxy, so are a suitable choice for this application.

The brush was dipped into the mixture and generously applied all over the fabric. The fabric was hung to dry, making sure that the fabric was not overlapping anywhere - any overlapping fabric will bond together when it dries.

Special attention was given anywhere there were stitches, since this will be a weak spot in the waterproofing. After drying, multiple coats were applied to the fabric to ensure a good waterproof seal. Additional coats were put on seams and stitches to make them more durable.

The smell from the caulking is still pretty terrible even after a day of drying, but goes away after about a week.

Step 4: Hang Dry

Picture of Hang Dry

The fabric was left to dry for an entire day after each coat, allowing the silicone to cure completely.

Step 5: Waterproofing Thoughts

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This was a fun exploration into homebrew waterproofing. The process is simple, and the results are much better than commercial options. However there's a significant drying time between coats, which makes this a good waterproofing option if you prepare ahead of time, not in the heat of the moment.

Share your comments and results below.

Happy making!


NanoMagic2014 (author)2017-11-06


GoldrajaR (author)2017-06-06

Very nice


Ricardo Furioso (author)2017-03-22

Thank you for a brilliant, and inexpensive solution to a lot of problems that I and other people may have.
I'm wondering about waterproofing hiking boots and sneakers.
You may be able to even waterproof canvas hi-tops.
I may have to fool around with this stuff.

It only rains about 4 or 5 months a year here in Northern California, but I've seen times when we got 10 inches in one day.

Thank you again.

BruceM92 (author)2017-02-27

Can this idea be used on outdoor summer umbrellas? Senior Bruce

miledodik (author)2017-02-27

i tried this.. You are beautiful! I thank you!

BruceM92 (author)miledodik2017-02-27

you indicated you this this...beautiful. What did you try it on. I would have like to see a video step by step. I see an example, I think, of a piece of cloth? Bruce Senior

Arlees (author)2017-02-23

During her nap, my little granddaughter inspired me to want to make my couch waterproof or, at least, resistant. The cushions aren't removable. Do you think that the foam in the cushions would hold up to the solvent? Also, would just a thin coat change the texture much while still providing some "water" resistance? I expect a change in texture, but I'd like to avoid it feeling like an inflatable raft. Awesome 'ible.

ithica2012 (author)Arlees2017-02-23

I would suggest a simpler solution a water proof cover they sell them in places like Target Walmart and on line.

Arlees (author)ithica20122017-02-23

I have already applied scotchguard (pfft... useless). I haven't tried silicone spray, but I was thinking that I might need something with a little more body. I guess I'll just need to do a bit of research on compatible solvents. Thanks for the help, though.

ithica2012 (author)Arlees2017-02-26

These are covers not sprays they are meant to protect from spills pets and such the sprays are not what they once were.

hanelyp (author)Arlees2017-02-26

What I've read of scotchguard, the old formulation people swore by for waterproofing. The newer "environmentally friendly" formulation, people seem more likely to swear at for the application.

InstructableSD (author)Arlees2017-02-23

Have a look at the candle wax and hair dryer method, although I've only seen it done on outdoor clothing.

Look up tin cloth the candle and dryer works but it is not a great solution unless you are dying cloth and want to use several colors on the same cloth.

mkrobert (author)Arlees2017-02-23

I would test a piece of identical foam before using on the couch. Also, please consider the fact that if the foam passed the test, you would not be able to use it on your couch since the cushions are not removable--your fabric would be 'glued' to the cushion.

Arlees (author)mkrobert2017-02-23

Mkrobert- I think I must have explained it poorly. The fabric is also not removable. You have a point, though. The fabric adhering to the foam will change the way it feels. It will be more stiff(?) stiffer(?) whatever, it will feel different. I'll just have to get my hands on some similar materials and test. Thank you for your advice.

Twiztc (author)2017-02-26

Great stuff. Im going to try this to make a bag. I was wondering the best way to waterproof my fabric. Thank you

blanders57 (author)2017-02-23

Is there a danger of extreme flammability of these fabrics after treatment, especially clothing?

mikeasaurus (author)blanders572017-02-24

The mineral spirits evaporate and should only leave the thinned silicone impregnated fabric. I'd wager these are just as flammable as other waterproof fabrics.

dch3dwj (author)mikeasaurus2017-02-26

Yeah the mineral spirits wont hang around for any length of time. Silicone rubber is good to about 300C after which it starts to decompose, which is different to burning. Cotton autoignites at below 200C so it's unlikely to be any more flammable than that. I may try it and put a match to a test piece.

sinzu (author)blanders572017-02-24

also interested by the response on this point.

I could plan to use this method for outdoor camping equipment. However, I can imagine the danger in case of using cooking gas fire close to it !!!

Can you try to put a flame on your clothing after about 1 week dry ?

Ninzerbean (author)2017-02-26

Years ago I needed to waterproof a KD tent canopy. It took a day to do but I used Thomson's Waterseal. It's made for wooden decks I think but it did a great job on my tent and I don't remember there being any bad smell after it was dry. I do remember I put on two coats and that was why it took a day to do.

lwilky (author)2017-02-23

Thanks for the tip about mixing 100% silicon caulking and mineral spirits for waterproofing. I was thinking of buying gaiters but why not just beef up the legs on my convertible North Face pants. They look pretty waterproof now after three layers. First I sprayed on a thin solution, not waterproof enough. Second I painted on a thicker solution, not waterproof enough. On my third attempt, I made a pancake syrup consistency solution by shaking in a wide mouth plastic bottle. I pushed my North Face legs into the bottle and below the solution surface, then shook it some more. After wringing out the excess, I let it dry out for a couple days.

It looks good and I'm anxious to test it in the rainy woods. The zippers still work, the color doesn't match the shorts, and it added a couple ounces.

mikeasaurus (author)lwilky2017-02-24

Looking good! Application on the removable pant bottoms is a great idea, and multiple coats seems to be the answer for your use. This solution is so easy to mix up there's no worries about needing another treatment if you require it.

Thanks for sharing a picture of your results. Enjoy the Pro Membership!

Kitty_Go_Meowzah (author)2017-02-23

How is the flexibility of the fabric? I'd assume that its somewhat less flexible, but is it a dramatic change?

Not a dramatic change, still very flexible.

MJJoe (author)2017-02-23

Amazing discovery but I wonder is it able to be iron?

mikeasaurus (author)MJJoe2017-02-24

Probably not to be ironed.

wordswork (author)2017-02-23

This looks great, Mike!

What do you think about applying it to leather or suede boots?

mikeasaurus (author)wordswork2017-02-24

I'm not sure. My gut says that's probably not the best idea, but you could try it on a scrap piece first and see how it performs.

PaulW94 (author)2017-02-24

Looks promising. I have been looking for a way to waterproof my motorcycle clothing, fabric sort of Kevlar stuff. Anything past a slight drizzle goes through at speeds above 30 mph. Will give it a go and let you know how I get on :)

ap0ught (author)PaulW942017-02-24

I have found that when you dress in layers it may go through one but the next does not go through.
the outside gets soaked but the inner layers do not have the force for it to go though.

tytower (author)2017-02-22

In australia we have " Mineral Turps" turps or "Methylated Spirits" metho . Metho is alchohol . Turps is not . You cant thin paint with Metho , only turps does that.

So which should I be using?

1boymiffed (author)tytower2017-02-23

Methylated Spirits would be the closest chemical to mineral spirits, you can buy white spirits (dry cleaners' fluid) from bunnings (about double the cost of metho). This is basically an odourless form of metho. When I have travelled aboard and have my spirits stove, I had to use white spirits or mineral spirits as it is recommended the the stove manufacture. Just be aware that our metho hasn't been refined as long as the other products and will have a slight odour to the final waterproofing.

goldenskyhook (author)tytower2017-02-23

Sorry, disagree. Turps is for thinning oil paint and varnish. Silicone is water/alcohol based, and that is the one you want to use to dilute silicone. Mineral Spirits in the states is pure Methyl Alcohol.

davebijoux (author)goldenskyhook2017-02-23

No, some types of silicone are thinned with turps. We do it all the time as builders to clean up. And the author has already shown that turps works.

It is true that others require meths, and others require proprietry thinners. It all depends on the brand.

CathleensHands (author)2017-02-23

Has anyone used this for tents/tent vestibules? How about shoes? Would it reduce the breathabilty too much?

dougoutcanoe (author)2017-02-23

Mineral Spirit (USA/Canada) also known as mineral turpentine (AU/NZ), turpentine substitute, petroleum spirits, solvent naphtha (petroleum), varsol, Stoddard solvent,[4][5] or, generically, "paint thinner", is a petroleum-derived clear liquid used as a common organic solvent in painting and decorating. While in the UK it is White Spirit.

Dawsie (author)2017-02-23

this is great thanks for posting this I have been looking at buying some of the commercial waterproofing product but have held of because of how much I would actually need to use.

This option is so much better and I get to save my pennies after all as I have this already laying around the workshop from all other projects ??

FlorinJ (author)2017-02-23

I have to make a backpack. Guess how I'll get the waterproof textile material for it ...

smittyblues (author)2017-02-23

Great idea,how do you think this would hold up in the Florida sun,say on a T-Top on a boat?

LangleyC (author)2017-02-23

Wonderful idea. Looks like I have some work to do.

FillimenaB (author)2017-02-23

Thank you so much for using your valuable time to create and share this ible! With us. This is going to be great on my patio chair cushion covers I made. The cloth is a super tight weave material. I live in Florida and I'm constantly having to cart them out and in just to avoid those pesky 15 min showers we get here. You have solved that problem for me.

spiritwalker6153 (author)2017-02-23

This looks like a great thing to try waterproofing canvass saddle bags and the like. I'll be sure to try it and let you know how it works.

skyholzinger (author)2017-02-22

Could I make a waterproof canvas tarp out of a cheap painter's canvas from the hardware store? Or does it have to be really tight weave fabric?

mgalyean (author)skyholzinger2017-02-23

The advice I was given for oilskin or tincloth was to get the heaviest weight painters cloth you can get and wash it in really hot water to tighten it up. I can't see how this advice wouldn't apply here also, but don't know for sure.

Lazy Glen (author)skyholzinger2017-02-22

Check out the instructable on TinCloth over here: I think it would be a better solution (HA!) for a tarp.

Interesting use of silicon for the waterproofing, I guess something like this is done to make sil-nylon. Thanks for the 'ible!

mgalyean (author)Lazy Glen2017-02-23

Oilskin or tincloth also require a tight weave.

mikeasaurus (author)skyholzinger2017-02-22

I think painters canvas would work. You might need to alter the ratio to get a thicker mix for fabrics that have a wider weave.

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Bio: I'm Mike and I make crazy things at Instructables HQ in San Francisco. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!
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