How To Waterproof Canvas

If you love the outdoor lifestyle, you already know that the weather is unpredictable, meaning a rainstorm can happen suddenly. And, if you’re not properly prepared, your canvas tent is likely to take on water and your favorite canvas windbreaker will no longer be useful for keeping warm.

No one likes a coat that sticks like a wet blanket or worse- an actually wet blanket, so it’s imperative to properly waterproof your canvas materials like your canvas backpack, tent, and of course, that windbreaker.

Keep reading to learn how to waterproof all of your canvas fabric to be fully prepared for all of our outdoor excursions, rain or shine.

How To Waterproof Canvas

Why You Need To Waterproof Your Canvas Fabric

Again, when you’re outside, the weather can change and if you’re caught in a rainstorm, you want to know that you’re protected from it, most importantly, so you won’t get sick.

Rain, snow, and humidity also allow for bacteria and fungus to breed, which ruins the canvas material. So, if you waterproof the canvas, you’ll not only be preventing leaks but mold and mildew as well.

Finally, many cheaply manufactured canvas products are weakened by the chemicals in bug spray and even by sun exposure washing detergent. This is why it’s crucial to get a high-quality waterproofing sealant that can hold up to those chemicals.

GEAR AID Seam Grip WP Waterproof Sealant

GEAR AID Seam Grip WP Waterproof Sealant

  • Seal seams and permanently repair holes in tents, tarps, awnings, rainflys and camping gear
  • Treat up to up to 12’ of seams (1 oz) or repair torn outdoor fabrics
  • Waterproof gear with a sealant that flexes with fabric and bonds to nylon, polyester, canvas, leather and vinyl

This was pretty easy to apply to a large tent’s floor seam.

The Different Types of Waterproofing Sealants

There are different ways to waterproof canvas, but since there are 3 different types of canvas, some of these methods will be more effective on certain types of canvas material.

Waterproofing Spray

Waterproofing sprays are usually made from silicone or fluoropolymer. This is the easiest method, but you must absolutely do it outside.

It’s best to do it on a calm day without wind, but at least make sure you’re upwind, so you don’t breathe in the chemicals. You might also want to wear a mask and eye protection, just for the sake of complete safety.


Seam sealers, like Gear Aid, aren’t exactly for waterproofing a full item, but they’re still worth mentioning because it’s extremely useful to have on hand. Seam sealers mend holes and tears in canvas fabric like tents or shoes, as opposed to sewing, and can even be used in the rain.

Waterproofing Wax

While this may seem a daunting task, it is the absolute best and longest-lasting method to waterproof any kind of canvas material. These waxes, like paraffin and beeswax, usually come in bars for ease of use.

How To Waterproof Canvas

Different Types of Canvas Fabric

Before we get started on how to waterproof canvas, we have to talk about the different kinds of canvas material there are. While many waterproof materials claim to be effective on all types of canvas, there are just some that are more effective than others.

  • Plain or raw canvas is made from cotton and synthetic fibers that are woven to create an outdoor-friendly fabric that has multiple functions like tents and raincoats. For this type of canvas, silicone waterproofing sprays like Woods or Kiwi Camp-Dry are optimal.
  • Higher grade and tougher cotton canvas material for more heavy-duty use like burlap sacks, shoes, and bags. For duck canvas, you can use an outdoor upholstery waterproofed like Scotch Guard or a Wax like Otter Wax.
  • Vinyl canvas, also called acrylic canvas is a cotton-vinyl blend that is significantly more protected from moisture and sun but is not breathable like the other materials. Fluoropolymer-based sprays and wash ins like Gear-Aid are recommended for vinyl canvas to prevent staining.

How To Use A Wash-In Waterproof Sealant

If you need to waterproof canvas quickly, washing it in waterproofing sealant is hands-down the easiest and fastest method to waterproof any kind of canvas. There are only a few steps to it and it is completely effective, depending on the product you’re using.

  • Throw your canvas items in the washer and put in the directed amount in.
  • Wash on gentle cycle and rinse twice.
  • Let air dry for at least 12 hours.
  • For maintenance, it’s best to reapply the solution every 9 months.
GEAR AID Seam Grip TF Tent Fabric Sealer

GEAR AID Seam Grip TF Tent Fabric Sealer

  • Seal up to 85 sq. ft. of nylon tent floors, rainflies and tarps with this 4 fl oz tent sealer
  • Restore old PU coatings that are flaking, sticky or degrading with this effective tent waterproofing and seam sealer
  • Use it to create a water-tight seal that will keep you dry in the rain

Worked very well to restore an old backpack.

How To Waterproof Canvas Material Using Waterproofing Sprays

Another easy route to take, using a waterproofing spray is a quick and effective method to protect any of your canvas material. However, it’s not the most environmentally friendly option and these sprays usually have a very potent odor.

  • Make sure that the canvas material is completely clean and dry.
  • Apply a thick coat to the material, as directed by the product you’re using.
  • Let dry for at least 24 hours and reapply if necessary.
  • Should be reapplied every 6 months to a year.

How To Waterproof Canvas Using Waterproofing Wax

Out of all of the canvas waterproofing methods, this will probably take you the most time. However, as mentioned, it is highly effective and often lasts much longer than sprays or wash-ins.

For this method, all you’ll need is the wax and a hairdryer. And, If you’re using paraffin wax, make sure you’re doing this in a room with the windows wide open. If you’re using beeswax, that won’t be necessary, and it will smell much better as a bonus.

  • Heat the wax and canvas for better consistency.
  • With the wax-bar, directly apply the wax all over the canvas until you’ve coated it.
  • Take the hairdryer and warm up the canvas again.
  • Smooth the wax over with your hand to work it into the material.
  • Let air dry in a warm place for 24 hours.
  • Reapply every year for maintenance.
How To Waterproof Canvas


The outdoors is an amazing place to be if you’re properly prepared for the weather. If not, you can expect a moldy canvas tent, wet shoes, and many other unpleasant things caused by water and moisture.

You can effectively waterproof each different kind of canvas with different options like wash-in sealants, waterproof sprays, and waxes. And when you do, you’ll be fully prepared for whatever your outdoor adventures bring! All you have to do for each is apply and then let it dry. It’s really that simple.

However, it doesn’t matter if you’re waterproofing duck, plain, or vinyl canvas; remember to read the directions of products to see whether you’re choosing the most effective waterproof sealant for your canvas fabric.