How to Wax Your Clothing and Gear





Introduction: How to Wax Your Clothing and Gear

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!

Applying wax to fabric gives it water resistant and hard wearing properties. Whether a backpack or work clothes, a waxed finish to your fabric is a wise choice for those that like to get a little messy in life.

As great as waxed fabric is, it's not for all items. Heavy cotton like denim and canvas are great for waxing, as are heavy cotton/synthetic blends; These fabrics are typically found in items like backpacks, aprons, pants, and jackets. Your leather dancing pants and polyester shirt, not so great for waxing.

Being a natural finish, all waxed fabrics will eventually fade and need to be reapplied. Luckily applying wax to fabric is easy, and I'll show you how!

Let's wax!

Step 1: Tools + Materials

There's not much you need to wax (or re-wax) your fabric, but you will need a special wax that's designed for fabrics.

You probably have most of this stuff at home, and the bar of wax lasts a long time and is good for lots of wax applications.

Step 2: Clean Your Fabric

Before applying any wax your fabric should be clean and free from dust and debris. In my case I am waxing my work apron, which has seen lots of use and needed to be brushed, blasted with compressed air, and cleaned with the hose and detergent and then scrubbed again before it was ready.

For large items like this I find it easiest to work outside, since it can get messy.

Using the hose, laundry detergent, and a stiff brush I scrubbed the fabric to remove any debris and residual wax. Getting down an homogenous surface of the base fabric will result in a more even application of wax.

If you wash your fabric make sure it's completely dry before moving on to any wax application. Wringing the fabric with my hands to remove water, I left my apron out in the sun for a few hours until it was dry.

Step 3: Wax

I used Fjallraven fabric wax, which is meant for their G-1000 line of semi-synthetic heavy garments. It's a hard bar of wax that has a neutral odor.

Thought any type of fabric wax can be used on almost any fabric, this technique works best of thicker fabrics like heavy denim and other similar types of fabric.

Step 4: Apply Wax

Lie your fabric on a flat and sturdy surface. Rub the wax into the fabric with a firm scrubbing motion, you should be able to clearly see where the wax was applied to the fabric.

Set the hair dryer to the high setting and wave it over the fabric to heat up the waxed area. Keep the hair dryer a few inches off the fabric to prevent overheating and move the hair dryer in a circular motion.

I find it easiest to work in small patches, heating to melt the wax completely before moving on to the next area. Pay special attention to seams and other areas that might require an additional application of wax.

Step 5: Wax On!

After the fabric has been waxed and cooled, examine to see if you missed any areas and if a second waxing is required.

Waxed fabrics to lose their waxed finish with use, so keep an eye on your finish and apply more wax as you need. I wax my apron about once a year to help prolong it's life and keep it from absorbing any spills.

Have you waxed your own fabric based on this Instructable? I want to see it!
Share a picture of your waxed fabric in the comments below and get a free Pro Membership!



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27 Discussions

I have a 100% cotton overall that I dyed and I want it to look like an old Diver suit to go with a costume "brass dive helmet" . I used "Flex Seal" on the elbows and knees. I would actually like to use something that makes it look older darker and wet/oily. I assume most products try to preserve the look of the fabric. This is a costume/display item so it won't get much wear or need to be cleaned regularly.

suit.jpghelmet 3.jpg

This might be a less labor intensive option. Otter Wax Fabric Dressing. You melt it and paint it on.

This is excellent! I have a large canvas dropcloth I want to cut and stitch into a knife roll and wanted to apply a waxed finish to it, and now I know how. Do you think beeswax in bar form would work? I have a few pounds of it around, as I cut off chunks of it and use it to melt and wax the top bars of my beehive frames. It's pretty hard wax, but I'm not sure how much harder fabric wax is.

2 replies

This wax bar is just 65% paraffin and 35% beeswax, so I am pretty sure you would be able to figure out how to make something work. See if there is a proprietary process, or if you just mix them together. There was an 'ibble on Paste Wax yesterday...

just melt them, cut pieces as small as possible to get it to melt quickest.

Be careful of temperatures you heat to, paraffin flashpoint is 390°F; beeswax flashpoint is 400°F. If you just heat until melted, stir together and remove from heat there won't be an issue, but you shouldn't be walking away while the wax is on the heat.

Easy to do, have fun.

Would this process become sticky if left in a hot vehicle? Or exposed to a good deal of heat, like setting in the sun?

2 replies

it depends on what you mean by "hot". In a location where it only gets 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it shouldn't feel sticky. I live in Las Vegas, it has been 116 degrees recently, the waxed canvas tarp I leave in my Jeep was "tacky" feeling....

Also, you can make your own wax by combining paraffin (too brittle by itself), bees wax (by itself feels tacky when mildly warm), and oil (I use walnut as it is a naturally drying oil).

If you don't use too much, the wax will impregnate the cotton and won't be sticky at all.

Didn't know it was that simple!! I'll have to give it a try soon :)

Very cool. I am hard on my work clothes so I'll be doing it. Thanks.

or just use

Nikwax Fabric and Leather Proof

hi, I'm looking to try this for a work apron, ut how do you clean it afterwards, like in the washer? Obviously cold wash?

Being a server this seems great but the apron could get smelly after time.

1 reply

For my shop apron I only clean it once a year and reapply the wax. For a food apron I think the same could apply, but your mileage may vary.

Try light applications of wax and washing with cold water by hand. The wax should last a few cycles. Good luck!

Thank you! I have a waxed cotton hat from Ireland that I've been using as a rain hat for 15+ years. It's still pretty waxy in some places, but where it touches my forehead and parts of the brim are about back to plain cotton. I bought their wax (much softer than your bar) and rewaxed, but they didn't give instructions - nothing about heating it to incorporate the wax. So now it's cotton with wax on. I'll use your instructions, and expect to get my lovely hat back as good as new!

1 reply

I use this method to waterproof a medieval style canvas tent for camping at SCA events. I never thought to use this for aprons though great idea.

1 reply

1 year ago

Good, useful and simple instruct able

Hi there i own a waterproof bodysuit trousers and jacket and usually buy a bottle of spray chemical to waterproof them as I use for fishing mainly to keep me dry against the weather elements is there a way to use your option either by melting and mixing with a chemical or water to make my own spray instead as costs a fortune to buy every 3 months around £15-20....thankyou.

I LOOOVE waxed cotton and I love the apron you have.
I manage a makerspace and we do a lot of "dirty" work. Some is metal work. Read sparks and heat. Does waxing make your cotton more flammable? I mean... Does one become a "giant candle"? hahaha
This is a real question - not a critique - Again, I love waxed cotton, and I think your instructable is awesome - thanks for sharing :)