How to Waterproof Fabric

You need to waterproof your tent and other fabric items if you want them to give you great service for a long time. Waterproofing your new tent, boat cover, tarp, or any other fabric material will extend its lifespan while maintaining its perfect luster at all times.

In this article, we’ll show you how to waterproof fabric at home using readily available materials and products. So without much ado, here are a few tried and tested methods of ensuring that your fabric items remain waterproof at all times.

Waterproofing Fabric Using Sprays and Seam Sealers

This is one of the most efficient methods of waterproofing fabric using high-quality waterproof sprays and seam sealers that are available online or at your local hardware store.

The first step in this method is to prepare your fabric waterproofing project. Start by choosing a good sunny and windless day to waterproof your fabric. This is because you’ll be using spray-on sealers that are sensitive to humidity.

Since you’ll probably be working outdoors, choose a calm day without plenty of wind because the wind could get dirt and dust embedded on the fabric.  

waterproofing fabrics

1. Clean and Dry the Fabric

You’ll need to ensure the fabric is clean and dry before you spray it with the waterproofing formula. Take time to clean it properly. If the fabric is only a little bit dusty or lightly soiled, you can use a vacuum or a soft brush to clean it. If it is heavily soiled, then look for a good specially-formulated fabric detergent to clean it thoroughly.

We suggest going with a natural detergent that isn't harsh so it won't break down the fibers of your fabric. We're fans of Puracy (it's plant based), but feel free to use another option.

After you have cleaned the fabric, leave it outdoors to dry completely because you’ll be working with water-repelling sprays and sealers which will not stick on wet fabric. Make sure the fabric is completely dry before taking it to a well ventilated and spacious room for spraying.

You can, preferably, work outside in the open if the weather permits it. If you must work indoors, then ensure that the room is airy and don’t forget to keep the windows and door open. Remember to wear goggles and gloves if your skin is sensitive to chemicals or if you suffer from allergies. Some sprays and sealers can be quite pungent and can easily trigger an allergic reaction.

2. Buy a High-Quality Waterproofing Spray

At this point, you must have already bought your waterproofing spray. There are many types of waterproof sprays at your local camping supply store or hardware but for the best results, we highly recommend the 303 30616CSR Products Inc Fabric Guard which comes in a 16-ounce sprayer. 

303 3061CSR Fabric Guard

303 3061CSR Fabric Guard

  • Restores lost water and stain repellency
  • Provides strong resistance against soiling
  • Protects against water and oil
  • Doesn't change the color of your fabric
  • Safe to use on synthetic and natural fibers

This stuff is sick. Playing around I sprayed on a white dress shirt, let dry then poured grape Gatorade on it. Just pooled up and wiped off….no stain at all.

This is an effective waterproof spray that restores lost water repellency to fabrics. It is a powerful shield against moisture and even helps to protect your fabric against water and oil-based stains. It can be used in a wide range of fabrics including your outdoor leather seats, awnings, boat covers, and many more.

The 303 Fabric Guard gives your fabric items a strong resistance against stains and soiling and does not change fabric color, breathability, flammability, and look. It is safe for use on fabric made of either synthetic or natural fibers including leather, nylon, and canvas.

You can see this spray in action below.

3. Spray the Fabric

There are a few things you have to be careful of while spraying the fabric. For instance, make sure to hold the spray can at least 6 to 8 inches away from the fabric to get an even spray all over while being careful not to inhale the chemical.

Apply light layer at first and make sure to overlap each stroke so you can cover the entire surface without leaving gaps and holes.

After applying the first light coat, wait for it to dry completely before applying the second coat. A majority of waterproofing sprays normally take up to 4 hours to dry but read and follow the instructions of the spray that you are using as some brands tend to have different drying times.

4. Apply the Seam Sealer

The next step after you have sprayed and dried your fabric will be to apply the seam sealer. There are many types of seam sealers on the market today but the most effective one based on our tests and online reviews is the Gear Aid Seam Grip WP Waterproof Sealant. It is an effective sealant and adhesive for outdoor fabric, tents, boat covers and many more.

Gear Aid Seam Grip Waterproof Sealant

Gear Aid Seam Grip Waterproof Sealant

  • Dries overnight into a permanent rubber seal
  • One tube can seal up to 12'2 of seams
  • Durable material blocks water and other liquids from getting into your tent's seams

Our tent ripped at the zipper, where we couldn’t see the seam. It was shredded. This stuff worked perfectly! Use this before paying for a new tent!!!

The Gear Aid Seam Grip WP Waterproof Sealant is designed to completely seal seams and can also be used to repair holes in boat covers, awnings, and camping gear such as sleeping pads and tents.

It dries overnight leaving a tough permanent rubber seal that will not peel or crack but simply flexes effortlessly with the fabric. The formula works with different types of fabric including nylon, canvas, polyester, and vinyl. When you add the sealant to the fabric’s seams, you’ll only need to give the sealant time to dry and your fabric will be completely waterproof.

Waterproofing Fabric Using Turpentine and Soybean Oil

You can also use a mix of turpentine and soybean oil to waterproof fabric. However, keep in mind that this method may cause your fabric to darken its color because you will be saturating it with oil diluted in turpentine.

This method is quite simple. Start by cleaning the fabric thoroughly if it was initially dirty. Use a vacuum or brush if the fabric is lightly soiled or a fabric cleaner if heavily soiled. Allow it to dry completely because the oils, waxes, and solutions you’ll be working with repel water and will not stick on wet fabric. 

After the fabric is completely dry, mix a cup of soybean oil with 4 ounces of turpentine, stir well and apply the mixture on the fabric using a large paint brush.

You can easily paint on the fabric by spreading it on a flat surface and securing it with pegs on all corners. Overlap the brushstrokes carefully to avoid leaving gaps. Use a wide flat bristle brush for the best results.

You can then leave the fabric flat to dry. This may take a few hours or days depending on the weather conditions. This method will waterproof the fabric although it will leave the fabric a shade or two darker.

Waterproofing Fabric is Simple! 

While we've given you two options for how to waterproof fabric, keep in mind, the first method works better and never alters your fabric’s color and feel. So we highly suggest going with the spray for the best results.