Waterproof Your Survival Stuff!




About: Leatherwork is relaxation...it's therapy...it's an awesome way to express creativity! I dabbled in leather crafting in the mid 1980s, making my then 5-year-old son a leather holster for his cap gun. At th...

In a survival situation, getting wet and cold can mean the difference between life and death. If you've watched any of the survival reality shows, you've seen some of the people suffer miserably from the cold temperatures. I don't want that to be me!

Waterproofing your stuff before a survival situation is essential!

This waterproofing wax (sometimes called oilskin, tin cloth or barbour wax) recipe is the perfect solution to treat your canvas, cotton, denim, duck cloth, boots, leather and wood items!

You'll find many recipes to make this stuff. I spent a bit of time researching, and found what I believe to be the best overall solution.

Here's a thought comparison...there are many different recipes for making an apple pie. People like to tweak the ingredients to make it their own. You will also find that people have tweaked the waterproofing recipe too, so if you do research on your own, you'll find many variants to making the mixture.

Step 1: Things You Will Need to Make the Stuff

The mix ratio for the recipe I'll show you is 2:1:1 for beeswax to boiled linseed oil to turpentine.

For example, if you have 1 pound (or 16 ounces) of beeswax, you will need 8 ounces each of boiled linseed oil and turpentine. You can make as much or as little as you'd like.

For this project we will use the following:

1. Natural Beeswax (1 pound or 16 oz block), which is fairly easy to find. The best source is from a local beekeeper if you have one in your area. Otherwise, you can find it at hobby stores (e.g., Hobby Lobby, Michael's, etc.), or online (e.g., Amazon, eBay, etc.).

2. Boiled Linseed Oil (8 oz) found in hardware stores (e.g., Lowe's, Home Depot, etc.)

TIP: Make sure you choose BOILED linseed oil, not RAW linseed oil.

3. 100% Turpentine (8 oz) also found in hardware stores

4. Burner, hot plate or stove...I'll be using a Coleman stove

5. Measuring cup

6. Double Boiler System which sounds difficult, but is simply two pots...one to boil water in and the second to sit inside that pot in order to melt the ingredients and keep the wax from burning. The pot you use to melt the ingredients must be big enough to hold all the ingredients when they are mixed.

TIP: For the second pot, you can use a large coffee can or a new empty one gallon paint can with a lid from the hardware store

7. Containers to pour the mixture into when finished

8. Hair Dryer or Heat Gun

Step 2: Precautions!

The ingredients you are using are flammable! Keep them away from open flames. Do not smoke while doing this project!

Be careful! Be safe! If possible, have a fire extinguisher nearby...it's better to be safe than sorry!

Do the work outside in fresh air!

Be aware that this stuff will turn your material darker.

And finally, this stuff stinks! It must air out for several days for the smell to evaporate.

Step 3: Double Boiler System

1. Set up your heating system...for example, a burner, hot plate or coleman stove.

2. Add water to the larger pot and place it on the burner to boil. Reduce the heat to medium. Keep in mind that you will be adding the smaller pot with all the ingredients, so you don't want the water to overflow.

REMINDER: Do this outside and away from open flames since the ingredients are flammable!

Step 4: Add Ingredients

1. Beeswax: It's easier and quicker to melt the beeswax if you chop it up or cut it into slivers. Add the shavings and small chunks to the pot. Let it melt down slowly and stir occasionally. The melt time could take up to an hour!

2. Once the beeswax is melted, reduce the heat to low and slowly add the boiled linseed oil. Gently stir. This will darken the mixture. The boiled linseed oil will polymerize or harden when exposed to the outdoors air.

NOTE: Linseed oil generates heat as it begins to dry, so when you're ready to throw out the rags or brushes you used, keep them outdoors to dry first. You really don't want them to spontaneously combust and burn down your house or shop!

3. Slowly add the turpentine. Gently stir.

NOTE: The turpentine is used to cut the linseed oil. It would not penetrate the material fibers as well and would take forever to cure.

4. Remove from the heat.

5. Stir for a few minutes to insure it's thoroughly mixed.

6. You can either use the waterproofing stuff right away or pour it into the containers and let it sit overnight to set up.

7. If you choose to use it later, pour it into the containers for storage. You can pour a bit of it into smaller containers (e.g., Altoid tins) to give away as gifts or to put in your survival bag.

Step 5: If You Want to Use It Right Away

1. Allow the waterproofing stuff to cool a bit so you don't burn yourself.

2. Use a sponge to work the stuff into the material.

3. Keep it warm so it won't harden while you're working.

4. If your item you're waterproofing has pockets, be sure to wax the inside.

5. Wipe off any excess with a cloth.

6. Leave it to dry overnight.

Step 6: How to Use After It Sets Up

Cover your container to protect it from debris falling into it while it sets. I used a cooking screen, but foil will work just as well. After setting up overnight, the stuff should have a paste-like consistency.

1. Use a rag or your hands to spread a thin layer over your material.

2. Take extra care to insure you get the waterproofing stuff into the seams and stitching.

3. Use a hair dryer or heat gun to go over the material to melt the wax so it penetrates into the fibers of the material.

4. Hang your item up in the garage or outdoors to let it dry and air out for several days.

You can always double-check the waterproofedness (I think I just made up that word) by dripping some water over it. The water will bead and run right off! There you go!

Note: If you are applying to wood, such as a garden tool, axe or tomahawk handle, lightly sand the handle down first; then wipe it down with a warm damp cloth to smooth down the fibers.

Step 7: Other Recipies I've Found...


1. Natural Beeswax - 1 pound (or 16 ounces)

2. 100% Turpentine - 8 ounces

3. Boiled Linseed Oil - 8 ounces

4. Pine Tar - 1 ounce

TIP: Pine Tar is more for darkening the color and adds mildew resistance


1. Natural Beeswax - 1 pound (or 16 ounces)

2. Linseed Oil - 2 quarts

3. Pine Tar - 1/2 cup

4. Orange Oil (Optional) - 1/2 cup


50-50 mix of boiled linseed oil and turpentine. Again, ventilation is important! You'll need to work outdoors and keep your item outdoors until the turpentine dries and airs out. This could take up to two weeks. It's important to make sure it completely dries out or it will stick together in hot weather. Once it dries, you can use powder or talc powder to reduce sticking.

OILSKINS OR TIN CLOTH: Into a new empty gallon paint can, add

1. Raw Linseed Oil - 1 quart

2. Turpentine - "a little" to thin the linseed oil

3. Shaved Beeswax - 2-3 pounds, and then melt all

4. Pine Tar - 1/2 cup

5. Add more Raw Linseed Oil until the mixture is 2" from the top of the can

6. Add Orange Oil for fragrance

Step 8: Afterthoughts:

In response to some of the questions, suggestions, and comments, I'll attempt to continue answering or providing additional information. If you read through the comments section of this Instructable, you'll see that many people have added their tried and true recipes that they swear by. I welcome these comments and appreciate the efforts expended by these readers to provide the additional information. Thank you all for that! This is the "apple pie thought comparison" I spoke of at the beginning of the Instructable. When I wrote this, I took into consideration (1) simplicity of the concoction and (2) ingredients that seemed to appear most often in my research. As noted in the previous step, there are MANY recipes!

As a side note, you might notice that I tweaked a few of the words! Mea culpa! My face is broiling red! If anyone finds any more typos or grammatical errors, I'll claim it's the "odd bead!"

In response to some of the questions asked:

1. How does this feel?

The feel is stiff, kind of rubbery and has a shiny-matt-wet look...not sticky.

2. Can I use this recipe on jeans that I was still planning on wearing?

I wouldn't wear them, but from what I understand, there are people that wax their jeans to get a leatherette look. If it was me, I'd use plain wax if that's the look you're going for...Google or visit YouTube and search "wax jeans" for more information.

3. Did you make that jean sack? Can you please add a picture of the bottom. I want to make it. It looks great and very handy.

See the new step added...

Step 9: How'd I Make That Jeans Sack?

1. Find an old pair of jeans that you're willing to give up and cut off the portion you'll use for your bag...the type of jeans and height of the bag is up to you! Mine was approximately 14" long to allow for a 2" hem at the top. Keep in mind you want the widest part of the jeans leg (unless you want a skinny bag).

2. Measure the diameter of the end of the jeans leg and cut out that same diameter in your leather...I used 4-5 oz leather.

3. Turn your jeans leg inside out and match up the leather circle to the end of it.

TIP: Keep in mind that the jeans leg is inside out, so you want to make sure that the side of the leather that you want showing at the bottom of your bag when you're finished, should be facing inside...

4. Sew the circle to the jeans leg. Let's call it a bag now...

5. Turn down a 2" hem at the top of the bag.

6. Most hardware stores sell grommets with a setter and mini anvil for tarps/tarp repair. I used eight grommets, evenly spaced. Make the holes and add the grommets.

TIP: Note that the number of grommets used must be an even number in order for the lacing to come out even (you don't want one end of the lace ending on the outside of the bag and the other on the inside).

7. Add your lace. I used leather lacing...550 paracord will work just as well.

8. Start at the beginning of this Instructable and waterproof your masterpiece!

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20 Discussions


Question 1 year ago

will this work on leather as well. i make my own accessories and shoes, and people are starting to pay me to make things for them now too. if i can extend the life of outer-wear like shoes, belts, and bracelets, i certainly will


2 years ago

Very cool bag...nice work!


2 years ago

You may want to point out (if it applies?) that your treated items are safer drying outside? Still flammable or combustible while drying?


2 years ago

Wool socks stay warm and comfortable when wet, and you wouldn’t have to worry about them filling with water.

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

I don't think it would work, the weave used in socks is generally loose enough to "Breath"


2 years ago

would this work on a pair of wool socks? could that be a cure to stepping in a puddle?

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

I don't think it would work, the weave used in socks is generally loose enough to "Breath". And I don't think socks would be too conferrable. After treatment the material gets quite stiff.


2 years ago

When making Traditional Oilcloth, I've heard that using Mineral Spirits instead of turpentine will assist in speeding up the drying time. Same ratios 1:1 - mineral spirits to boiled linseed oil.


2 years ago

How cool!!! Love it!


2 years ago

Very cool! One note: it's a double BOILER, not a broiler. That's something else entirely. You broil in your oven (highest temperature). You will be boiling on a stove.

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago


Take note, Turboterra!!

Also, it's "tweaking," not "tweeking."


2 years ago

You might want to consider using pure tung oil instead of the linseed oil. Must be the real deal tung, not minwax psuedo tung oil or some blend of tung and other oil. Here is a link to info on how this was used for waterproofing old wooden trunks. Not only the wood but also the leather straps and the cloth or paper interiors. http://www.brettunsvillage.com/trunks/howto/finish...
I have used this on leather, wood and cotton so far. Mixing 50/50 with citrus solvent. You can buy premixed or the individual components here. https://www.realmilkpaint.com/category/oils/
I used the 'light' tung--still has a slight yellow tint but not much. And over time, tung doesn't yellow as much from UV as other drying oils.
The citrus solvent appears to evaporate faster than other solvents, is non-toxic BUT it is a fat stripper so wear nitrile gloves--best limonene resistance as it will work through latex gloves within a few minutes, and will pull oils from your skin. Using hand lotion after does not help much. It can give a bit of a rash. But smells nice. And it appears to evaporate more completely. Using odorless mineral spirits, turpentine, etc. seems to leave it feeling a bit greasy.
"Drying oils" such as linseed, tung, walnut, poppy, don't really dry by evaporation. They "cure" to a plasticized state by reacting with oxygen after the solvent evaporates. With tung oil and limonene mixed 50/50, brushed on, excess wiped off after 30 minutes or so, it can feel dry to touch within a few hours or days depending on temp and humidity but may not fully cure for 30 days or so. True even of water based polyurethane and acrylic sealers.
I was looking for something to put on leather that was not linseed based as this is acidic as it cures, and cures slowly, this degrades the leather or fabric over time. And why the canvas for an oil painting has a primer on it to keep the linseed based paints off the fabric. I wanted something flexible and durable.
It does stiffen the leather or fabric some after fully curing. Not a great deal but some.
This is one of the older oils/fats used to waterproof fabric and more.
Some useful info

And yes, you can mix in other oils, fish oil, lanolin, mineral oil, castor, tallow, waxes, resins. Beeswax, micro-crystalline, ozerkite, candelillla, carnauba, soy, paraffin, all these have different qualities that affect flexibility, durability.
Dammar/damar resin can be mixed in or the pine tar, and other resins. Best to dissolve those in the straight limonene solvent first, strain and then add in.
When making a paste of wax and limonene, you don't even need to heat it if you have time. Faster if using grated or prilled wax beads than solid. But put the wax in a glass jar or metal tin--limonene will eat through a lot of plastics. Pour in the limonene, cover and put somewhere warm, maybe shake it daily. The limonene will work its way through the wax. Artists do this, with or without some dammar resin, as a base for encaustic wax paint and add their own colorants.
Oh, yes, forgot to mention, you can add both soluble and non-soluble colorants to the tung/limonene mix. If using a non-soluble powder pigment, you do need to keep stirring during application and may want to reduce the amount of solvent to make a thicker oil, but takes longer to cure. I've used some mica pigments, auto paint powders from paintwithpearl.com as well as their candy coat pigments and chameleon/flip powders.
Compared to 'modern' leather finishes/sealants, the tung/limonene smells better, is less toxic, hasn't cracked, lifted, had dye bleed back out of it, and been quite durable. Durable enough to have used on a leather throw rug to protect my hardwood floors from dog nails. Yes, leather can be used as flooring, just as it can be used for soles on footwear. The leather I've used is textured, fish skin, bison, and suede. Dyed so that it either enhances the grain or has random variations in color. The dogs' nails do leave some marks on the suede but the tung has strengthened the fibers enough that brushing them back into place if I wanted is possible. I like the distressed look. And muddy feet, spilled coffee, is wiping off nicely.


2 years ago

Pine tar is actually a waterproofing agent. Coopers used it for wooden buckets and the like. Also used for leather goods Look up Finnish ski waterproofing.

Any water on unprotected wood will raise the grain just rub it down with your mixture and rub well. Rubbing will remove the fuzzies.

Be careful with BLO, there are chemicals added to it nowadays as opposed to my father's and grandfather's youth.

Well written instructable!


2 years ago

I used this technique to waterproof and stiffen shopping bags. It took all winter outside for them to dry out. Still worth it.


2 years ago

3. Search "weatherproofing " on YouTube and Google...you'll find more information than you have time for...I'm still researching his topic myself!


2 years ago

2. From what I've noted, people do wax their jeans to get a leatherette look. I personally would use just the wax if it's the look you're going for; otherwise you could probably use this recipe for "survival jeans".


2 years ago

1. The feel is stiff, kind of rubbery, has a shiny-Matt-wet look


2 years ago

Traditional oilskins/tincloth was ironed into the fabric. This gives it a slick finish. was


2 years ago

This is an interesting instructable. I appreciate that you suggest we do our own research into recipes. I do have some questions though.

1. how does this feel? Is the fabric sticky in the end? Could I use your recipe on jeans that I was still planning on wearing?
2. Can you give us some of the places/books you did for the research that you put into this instructable?

Thank you for this!