Easy Waterproof Clothing





Introduction: Easy Waterproof Clothing

About: 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!

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

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

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

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

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

Step 5: Waterproofing Thoughts

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!



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    93 Discussions

    I plan to use the method on Cotton clothes? Would silicone work with Cotton?

    I wonder if UV resistance could be raised by mixing in titanium dioxide powder or similar? I'm on a quest to find a homebrew alternative to Sunbrella®

    2 replies

    Hello mgalyean,

    I'm wondering how your homebrew idea has panned out... any luck?

    Not yet, but still looking at ideas. My current "solution" is some of the heavier butyl coated painters drop cloths. The label reads "Butyl II" and they are made by Trimaco. I used one for a sunshade on my boat for a year and it held up pretty well. I merely folded the edges, sewed a thick hem, and installed grommets in the hem. I draped the cloth over the boom and tied off the corners and a few grommets along the edges with shock cord. For around $16 for a 4x15 foot length I'm impressed. Minuses were the dimensions (only 2 feet on each side of the boom, so mostly useful at high noon), and dirt and bird droppings stained it fairly quickly. Now that I've proven it holds up I've bought 2 more of the same and will be stitching them together to get an 8x15 foot shade cover and will sew some caternaries into the edges to make it quieter in the wind. I'm also considering using the diluted silicone with titanium dioxide mixed in approach on the cloth side (the butyl coating is only on one side). If anything I imagine the silicone will be much more stain resistant than the fabric side of the drop cloth was. For my test over the last year I had the cloth side up, butyl side down. I figured the fabric was probably more UV resistant than the butyl but don't know this for certain. No leaks or tears and we had some very windy storms. I think the shock cords helped a lot with that.


    Since I cannot afford a newly built patio :>), I'm thinking of using a few canvas dropcloths to create a cover for my patio. I've been picking them up at yard sales, estate sales, etc and I now have 5 of various sizes. No, they don't have paint drippings all over them, lol, but that might look good. Do you feel that your method would be cost-effective for me? (Single and disabled, though tougher than I look, haha!). I also wonder how many coats you used for maximum outdoor longevity. The Sunbrella-type fabrics are exorbitant!

    I hope I can find an Instructable to show me how to attach it to the house. That would be a plus! Anyway, thanks for your time and any suggestions you can think of. I've enjoyed your projects for years now!


    1 year ago

    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.

    9 replies

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

    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.

    The foam will not hold up to the solvent.
    Have you considered boiled linseed oil and bees wax mix for waterproofing?

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

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.


    6 months ago

    I have used the non-slip properties of clear calking on the bottoms of crocheted/knit slippers and also on floor mats to give them some grip. I had never thought of thinning it down for a water protectant. Thanks for sharing your idea.

    This is one of the instructables that I think is neat, want to try and I think about occasionally and now recently since I pulled out the winter gloves, boots and am wearing the sandals that I want to repair using this method. Technically, the boots and sandals I won't thin out the silicone with solvent.

    The gloves will use a thinner and I am thinking methyl alcohol or a check if that is in fact what U.S. mineral spirits is since the 100% silicone I have notes methyl alcohol and ammonia as vapors which I assume are the solvents.

    I also want to try restoring the inner liner on my old Jansport backpack that is peeling off. I'm guessing that was silicone though either the grade was bad or use over the years peeled off. Awesome idea! I am wondering if will then well enough to spray coat also from a cheap spray bottle dispenser. Thanks for sharing!

    2 replies


    Right... thanks for the link. I was just noting though that the GE 100% Silicone notes the vapors and the other White Lightening brand doesn't note and only has warnings. I think I'll check if I can find the MSDS to see a quantitative or qualititative formula or otherwise use the paint thinner mineral spirits (I have some paint thinner and have to see what it contains).

    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?