Waterproofing Everyday Materials at Home

Preserve leather, canvas, nylon, and light fabric materials with this simple guide.

| August 2018

  • If you are mindful about the quality of your clothes, shoes, and household items, be mindful also about their preservation. Taking care of your possessions will save you money and headaches in the future.
    Photo by Getty/Mehmet Hilmi Barcin
  • “Make it Last” by Raleigh Briggs is a resourceful, how-to guide for making and mending home necessities.
    Cover by Raleigh Briggs
  • Raleigh Briggs is the best-selling author of "Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills" as well as "Make it Last: Prolonging and Preserving the Things We Love". She lives in Seattle, WA, with her husband.
    Photo courtesy of Raleigh Briggs

Make it Last (Micocosm Publishing, 2012), by Raleigh Briggs, is full of useful methods to make, mend, clean, or preserve everyday household necessities. Briggs, is a best-selling author and a frequent writer on DIY methods and suggestions. Her own personal resourcefulness can be seen in her hand-written books Make it Last and Make your Place, both of which are full of hand-drawn illustrations. The following excerpt examines how to waterproof common materials like canvas and leather.

Waterproofing Canvas

Canvas is a beautiful thing, but when it mingles with rain, it can quickly become a mildew-speckled, sour-smelling disgrace. Removing mildew is probably not going to happen (ADMIT IT) so it’s smart to avoid the nasty stuff altogether. It’s pretty easy to make your own waterproofing formulas that you can use on tents, rucksacks, and any other piece of canvas that gets continually exposed to the elements.

Illustration by Raleigh Briggs.

Before you head off with that jug o’shellac, some caveats:

  1. Waterproof canvas will keep rain off your back, but it will keep in all your sweat and body heat. So think long and heartily before you waterproof clothing.
  2. Natural ≠ friendly. Unlike the recipes from Make Your Place, some of these formulas aren’t exactly nontoxic. Do your waterproofing outside, wear gloves and old clothes, and keep kids and animals from getting into what you’re making.
  3. Don’t inhale, eat, mainline, or otherwise absorb your waterproofing formulas.

Waterproofing Spray

Mix together 2 cups soybean oil and 1 cup turpentine in a small bucket. Once the two liquids are blended, pour it in a spray bottle (use a funnel) and spray it onto your fabric. Or, keep the stuff in the bucket, and point it onto the canvas with a brush or sponge. Use half the batch on one coat, let the canvas dry, and then do a second coat. Pay special attention to the seams and corners.

Illustration by Raleigh Briggs.

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