Learn all about how to waterproof fabric. The idea of waterproofing fabric is really appealing. There are so many uses for waterproofed fabrics and canvas in particular. The technique of fabric waterproofing opens up a whole new range of ideas for outdoor projects and clothing too.
How to Waterproof Fabric Tutorial
There are many commercial products available to waterproof fabric as well as several home methods you can use. This article will deal with the 4 main methods of waterproofing, which are the easiest and most accessible.
- How to waterproof fabric with commercial products.
- How to waterproof fabric with wax
- How to waterproof fabric with vinyl
Most waterproofing fabric methods make the fabric water-repellant rather than completely waterproof and able to be submerged.
What are the Best Items to Waterproof
Here are some of my top picks for fabric items you might consider waterproofing:
- Outdoor Cushions and Pillows: These are left out in the rain and the sun, day in and day out. Waterproofing fabric on your outdoor cushions and pillows will save them from moisture damage and even keep them looking new longer. Waterproofing is invaluable for outdoor patio furniture.
- Backpacks and Tote Bags: We carry everything in these, from laptops to notebooks to snacks. Adding a layer of water protection can save your items from unexpected rain and keep the bag looking good as well.
- Hats: Hats might not be the first thing you'd think of, but a waterproofed hat can be a lifesaver in a sudden downpour.
- Tents and Tarps: Waterproofing your tent or carvas tarp is almost a necessity. It can make your outdoor adventures way more comfortable (and dry!).
- Shoes: If you've got fabric shoes, waterproofing is a no-brainer.
- Curtains: Especially if they're hanging in an outdoor space, like a gazebo or porch, curtains can definitely benefit from fabric waterproofing.
- Aprons: Cooking or painting or anything messy is way easier with a waterproof apron!
- Clothing: Outerwear clothing such as jackets, pants, ski clothing and shirts will benefit from waterproofing.
Remember, you'll need to use the right method for each item. And consider the fact that waterproofing can change the texture or breathability of your fabric - sometimes it's worth it, and sometimes it's not.
How to Waterproof Fabric with Commercial Products
There are numerous commercial waterproofing sprays on the market. Most of these involve spraying the fabric to make it water repellant. Scotchguard is a popular and well-known product used to waterproof couches and shoes.
Sprays like Nikwax TX Direct, Scotchgard, and Kiwi Camp Dry offer a quick and easy way to protect your fabrics from water damage. Here's how to get it done:
Always spray in a well-ventilated area and let the item completely dry before you use it.
- Clean: It's crucial to start with a clean, dry item. Remove any dirt or dust because these can interfere with the spray's ability to bond properly with the fabric. This might mean giving your item a good wash and allowing it to dry completely before starting the process.
- Test: Always spot-test first. Choose an inconspicuous spot on your fabric item to spray a small amount of the waterproofing fabric agent. This allows you to see if the spray causes any discoloration or changes to the texture of your fabric.
- Spray: Now, it's time to start spraying. Hold the spray can about 6-8 inches away from your fabric. Spray in a sweeping motion to get an even coat across the entire surface. Make sure not to oversaturate it; a light, even coating is perfect.
- Dry: Allow the wet item to dry fully. Depending on the brand, this could take a few hours. Most sprays dry clear, but it's essential to give it enough time. If the instructions recommend it, you may need to apply a second coat for maximum waterproofing benefits.
- Enjoy: Congratulations! Your beloved fabric item is now ready to brave even the stormiest of days. Whether it's an outdoor cushion, a chic hat, or your trusty backpack, it's now more resistant to water damage, all thanks to your handy work!
Pretty straightforward, right? Get ready to say goodbye to water stains and hello to long-lasting, waterproof fabric items!
How to Waterproof Fabric with Vinyl
Here is another method of how to waterproof fabric using iron-on vinyl. Vinyl can be bought from a fabric store. HeatnBond is a popular brand of iron-on vinyl that gives a glossy appearance to the fabric. This waterproofing fabric method works well with cotton and produces a durable finish.
Step 1 - Preparation
Get your fabric ready, but do not cut out your pattern. The whole waterproofed fabric can be used as a tablecloth or cut up to make smaller items. Make sure the fabric is clean and, most importantly, wrinkle-free.
Step 2 - Cut the Vinyl
Cut the vinyl to fit the pattern you are using. If the vinyl is too narrow, you may need to cut a few strips to fit the pattern.
Peel off the paper backing on the vinyl. The paper has a shiny side and a dull side. The vinyl has a sticky side and a smooth side. The sticky side of the vinyl goes onto the right side of the fabric. If the vinyl is not wide enough, then overlap the vinyl by ¼ inch (6mm).
Step 3 - Iron
Cover the vinyl with the paper backing you removed and put the shiny side of the paper down onto the vinyl. The backing paper protects the vinyl while you iron it onto the fabric. You will iron on the backing paper to get the vinyl to stick.
You are going to iron on the backing paper. Set the iron to a medium setting, not a high setting. You do not want to melt the vinyl. Move the iron over the paper slowly and easily. Do not let the iron rest in one spot too long. Avoid using any steam.
Remove the paper. The heat of the iron should have melted the vinyl onto the fabric. Now you can use your waterproofed fabric with its vinyl coating.
How to Waterproof Fabric with Wax
Here is a good old fashion method using one of nature’s most natural waterproofing agents, beeswax. The beeswax has to be liquid, hot, and painted onto the fabric.
WARNING - Handle the process with caution. This technique is not recommended for unsupervised children. It is hot and dangerous.
Getting started requires some equipment and, of course, the wax. Waterproofing uses beeswax and paraffin wax or candle wax to melt together. The melted wax is painted onto the fabric.
With all waterproofing projects, the fabric to be waterproofed must be clean before you start.
Supplies for Waterproofing Fabric with Wax
What you will need:
- A saucepan to boil the water to use as a double boiler concept
- 4 oz of paraffin wax
- 4 oz natural beeswax pellets
- Metal mixing bowl
- Spoon to stir with
- A medium sized paintbrush
- Gloves and safety goggles
Step 1 - Boil Water & Melt
You will melt the wax in the double boiler with the saucepan and the bowl on top.
- Bring hot water to the boil in the saucepan and rest the metal bowl on top of the saucepan. The bowl should be big enough to fit inside the saucepan without the bottom of the bowl touching the water.
- Put cut-up beeswax into the small bowl and start to melt.
- Add the paraffin wax and melt the two together.
Step 2 - Warm the Fabric
During the melting of the wax, put the fabric into a dryer to tumble. The fabric needs to get warm to absorb the wax easier.
Step 3 - Brush on the Wax
Stir the chunks of wax to melt them. Use the brush to brush on the wax mixture in small squares. Work in small sections to get the wax to be absorbed by the fabric.
Step 4 - Dry
Use a hairdryer or heater on high to heat the wax further and get it to soak into the fabric. Be careful of any hot drips.
Step 5 - Cool & Cure
When the item is cool, check for uneven spots. Hold the fabric up to the light to see how evenly the wax has penetrated. A second coat and a second session of heating may be necessary.
Allow the newly waterproofed fabric to cure for 24 hours. Let the item air for a couple of days to lose the wax smell. You could put the wax fabric in a freezer for 24 hours to get rid of bad odors. When you take the fabric out of the freezer, the waxed material should be watertight, odorless, and ready for use.
There are many fabrics that are waterproof already due to the fiber they are made from or a treatment added by the manufacturer.
Here are 5 waterproof or water resistant fabrics you can use:
- Gore-Tex is recognized for its unparalleled waterproof properties. Notably, this fabric allows perspiration to evaporate, making it perfect for high-performance outdoor gear.
- Next, we have oilcloth, a fabric traditionally made waterproof by coating cotton with a layer of oil. This resilient fabric is great for outdoor tablecloths and raincoats.
- Another waterproof material is vinyl, a versatile fabric used in diverse applications, including rainwear and upholstery. It's highly resistant to water and requires little effort to clean.
- Neoprene is a flexible, waterproof synthetic rubber that is often used in manufacturing wetsuits and gloves.
- Finally, when treated with a waterproof coating, lightweight and strong fabrics like nylon and polyester are excellent for crafting outerwear and outdoor gear. These materials provide resistance to water while remaining a breathable fabric.
How to Waterproof Fabric - In Conclusion
The following three techniques offer the most elegant and efficient ways to waterproof fabric. While other methods exist involving materials such as alum, linseed oil, turpentine, and a variety of chemicals, they might not be the optimal choice for items like tableware and other family-friendly outdoor accessories.
Imagine the convenience of a waterproof tablecloth, placemats, or even a craft apron. However, it's crucial to choose a waterproofing method that fits both the item you're crafting and the fabric you're using. Always remember to test on a fabric scrap before embarking on your waterproofing fabric adventure.