Introduction: WATERPROOF SEALANT (for Making or Reproofing Oilcloth Tarps, Ponchos, Dusters, Awnings, Etc.)

I want to share an easy recipe to make your own oilcloth dressing like Otter Wax or Duck Back.

I use two parts bee's wax, two parts paraffin wax and one part walnut oil. While many oils will work, I wanted to use walnut oil because I like the smell. As to the wax, some people use either paraffin or bee's wax; but the bees wax doesn't seem to be as durable and the paraffin is brittle by itself, so I use both.

Other things you will need are a metal can that will hold the prepared dressing until needed, a canning lid, stirring stick (I used bamboo chopsticks), a cooking pot, water and a cooking thermometer. I don't have a cooking thermometer so I just used medium low heat and took it slow.

SAFETY
KEEP FIRE EXTINGUISHER HANDY
DON'T USE EXCESSIVE HEAT DUE TO FLASH POINTS OF INGREDIENTS
Walnut Oil flash point - 600ºF
Paraffin Wax flash point - 390ºF

Bee's Wax flash point - 490ºF
Due to the flash point of Paraffin you should keep the temperature below 350ºF to give yourself a wide safety margin (because kitchen fires suck).

  1. Cut wax into small chunks of less than a half inch across.
  2. Put wax and oil into tin, place tin in pot above canning ring (this creates a double boiler).
  3. Add water to pot (not the tin) and place on heat.
  4. Stir constantly until all wax is melted.
  5. Remove from heat.

At this point you can brush the dressing onto canvas and make oilcloth or apply it to old oilcloth to renew the waterproofing; allow the material to cool and then carefully reheat with a heat gun so wax sets in. If your material is not ready yet, then allow to cool and when needed either reheat on the stove or by using a heat gun and just aiming it into the can to heat the top.

Thanks, I hope this comes in handy.

Comments

author
seamster (author)2014-11-26

This is great!

Can you elaborate on the process of applying the dressing? You apply it in liquid form, and then reheat if after it has cooled... is that right?

author

That is one way it is done (and the way I specified).

The other way is to allow it to dry/cool/harden; then take a chunk of it and rub it on the item needing to be dressed and after you have covered the entire garment then heat it carefully with the heat gun (keep some distance and move the heat gun around, most heat guns get more than hot enough to cook with and you don't want your cloth to burst into flames).

applying it in liquid form usually results in a much heavier application, so if you want a lighter application before checking water repellency then apply cold/solid.

Also, no matter which way you apply it, remember to check the waterproofing by spraying with a hose and insuring the inside or reverse stayed dry, if not apply more dressing, heat and recheck.

author

i know that Im two years late but i make a similar recipe differences is that i use one part pine pitch and the oil i use id montana pitch blend mink oil. It takes me a few heatings and adding extra oil to get it to the consistance to be spreadable when cold. I warm up until soft when i apply. After application i turn the piece of clothing inside out and take to local landra mat and run through hot 30 min cycle. The dryer provides even heat and the tumbling distribute the oils evenly.

author
BitisG (author)2015-01-20

Can you elaborate the part percentage of the recipe? You say four parts wax and one part oil. But what does that mean exactly/what weight did you use for this? Great write up by the way. Thanks.

author
nathanlsmock (author)BitisG2015-04-19

Part means any size you want. So if you choose cups it would be 4 cups wax and 1 cup oil. Ounces = 4 oz wax 1 oz oil. Etc.

author
Ultra-Indigo (author)2014-11-26

did you put the lid ring on the bottom of the pan to make it a double boiler or some other reason? I assume you are doing that so you can leave it in the coffee can. Does the wax rub off so if you wanted a water proof shirt would it mess up the undershirt? does it mean you have to stay far from fire since you are basically a big candle?

author
NateHoy (author)Ultra-Indigo2014-12-12

"does it mean you have to stay far from fire since you are basically a big candle?"

Using wax or another flammable product as a waterproofing agent does mean that your resulting product is technically flammable.

However, lighting up dried wax and dried oils isn't really all that easy to do. You'd have to expose it to an actual open flame directly for any risk of it catching on fire, and it's going to burn very hot but also very slowly. Think of what it takes to actually light a candle, then realize that the wick is specifically designed to maximize the chances of fire happening and most of the wax supply is not permeated into the wick so there is a large supply of flammables on hand.

I wouldn't choose it if I were a firefighter and intending to walk into an actual burning house, of course! But for sitting around the campfire, you'll be fine.

author

the pot containing water with the can (acting as an internal pot) is a double boiler. I utilize the canning ring as a spacer to keep the can off of the bottom and away from the direct heat (heat directly applied to bottom of pan, I don't want that going from one metal item to the next and to my wax/oil; instead the ring means there is a spacer so that I heat the water and the water heats the can slowly, staying well away from that flash point of the paraffin).

I hope that helps.

author
Jobar007 (author)2014-11-26

Does your oil have to be a drying oil? The reason I ask is that most recipes out there for this kind of thing use linseed oil and it is a drying oil too.

author

The drying agents in BLO are extra chemicals that are not necessary as long as you fine tune the recipe. In most recipes with BLO included you will notice that the BLO is 50% (or more) of the end product by volume; in this recipe the oil is 20%.

As an aside, notice that everything in the recipe I used is FOOD SAFE, you can eat my product with no ill affects, so you know rubbing it against your skin isn't harmful. Similar recipes are also used by some for home made lip gloss and wood furniture/floor sealant.

IF you want to use BLO, you can, but remember to be careful, people still burn down their own houses every year by mishandling BLO (it does spontaneously combust); and also remember that it isn't food safe like cooking oils are.

I hope this helps.

author

BLO typically use heavy metal driers and that's what makes them unsafe for consumption. Very true. It is common, cheap, and a lot of people don't have as violent of allergic reactions to it though (unlike Walnut oil). Pure Tung oil might be a good substitute?

author

Tung, ALSO a nut...I have no idea if people with nut allergies will typically have problems with Tung Oil or not, but anyone that does have those allergies needs to be away of the possibility. If they are unsure and want to find out, I suggest dabbing a little in a part of the body that people won't be looking at for a few days and isn't too sensitive (and do so while close to a hospital and your benadryl/epi pen).

Also, tung oil naturally dries to a wrinkled finish, if it doesn't it is because it has had cobalt driers added (much like the BLO's drying agents). Again, not food safe.

author

Very valid point about tree-nut allergies and Tung oil.

I didn't know that about the wrinkled finish bit. Good to know!

author

PS

drying oils (other than BLO) are best, but if there is an oil not considered a drying oil, prepare a small amount and let it dry and check for proper consistency as the low oil content of the recipe may mean it still works fine

author
dakota 96 (author)2014-11-30

can you wash a garment in a washer machine without ruining it I work I a wet and dirty environment

author

You won't "ruin" the garment, but you will need to reapply the dressing to re-waterproof that garment.

If you need to wash the garment:

fill a sink or bucket with warm water,

add a SMALL amount of VERY MILD detergent (the famous brand for wool is a recommended option),

place garment in water and allow to sit for at least an hour (overnight is fine),

wipe off garment with soft cloth (chamois or flannel are great),

reapply dressing as necessary.

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