Waterproofing Fabric

There are many times when waterproof fabrics might come in handy for the fiber artist;  waterproof spinning lap cloth, anybody?  Or it may be a finish you choose for some of the fabrics you make.

It is fairly simple to waterproof most fabrics at home using two basic ingredients: beeswax and linseed oil!  The combination of these two substances provides a long-lasting result.

Linseed oil is derived from one of our favorite fiber-producing plants, flax.  Often used for finishing wood, you can find raw and boiled linseed oil in most hardware stores, with the other floor finishes.  Unlike polyurethane and other chemical finishes, pure linseed oil is non-toxic.  Always read the label, though, as toxic compounds are sometimes added to linseed oil finishes!

Linseed oil, pure or otherwise, does have an odor, so I recommend doing this process outside or with windows open.  Always consider safety first!

What You Need:

  • beeswax
  • linseed oil
  • stainless steel pot
  • paint brush
  • fabric to be waterproofed
  • somewhere to hang your fabric to dry
  1. In a stainless  steel pot, combine equal parts beeswax and linseed oil.  (For most small projects, it won’t take more than 1-2 cups of this mixture.)
  2. Heat on medium while stirring until the beeswax and linseed oil are melted and fully combined.
  3. Lay out your fabric on a hard surface, such as a countertop.
  4. Using the paint brush apply the hot wax and oil mixture in an even layer over your fabric.  The color of the oil makes it easy to see where you’ve already applied.
  5. Hang your cloth somewhere to dry for 2-3 days, either outside or in a garage, where the smell won’t bother you.
  6. Wipe down your counter or whatever surface you applied your oil mixture on.  Linseed oil is slow-drying, but all surfaces should be cleaned.
  7. Check to make sure your fabric is fully dry before you use it.  Weather and humidity conditions can always effect dry time.

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