How To – Waxed Cotton

In my DIY leather and waxed canvas apron post, I promised to come back and dedicate a whole post to waxing cotton and canvas.  Consider the promise fulfilled!

Waxed canvas is big in the motorcycle and accessory scene. Pre-waxed canvas items can be pretty pricey. However….its pretty easy to DIY. You can take any cotton item, and with simple waxing make it water resistant. It also gives a pretty badass patina to dark colored clothing. So grab your denim jackets, canvas bags, heck even jeans, and wax on wax off.

In a double boiler, or a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water, mix equal parts beeswax and paraffin wax. I sourced my beeswax from a local bee shop (really! I love living in the city) and the paraffin is from the craft store.

photo 4(4) photo 5(4)

The hardest part is cutting up the wax. I couldn’t manage it at all. So I called for my muscles and El Granto came to the rescue. He placed a knife in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes and set to chopping. The knife went through like a hot knife through butter wax.

I like to use a popsicle stick or extra wooden takeout chopstick to occasionally stir the wax until it is completely melted.

Once your wax is melted, lay your cotton item on some old towels on a surface that won’t mind a bit of heat (I used our concrete countertops). Using a dollar store or other inexpensive paint brush, dip it in the hot wax, then quickly brush a thin layer onto your canvas.

Apply Hot Wax to Cotton

Apply Hot Wax to Cotton

You don’t want a ton, just a light layer. It will start to harden almost instantly and dry white. Don’t worry, that is normal. You don’t need complete coverage. If there are some bare spots, that’s okay. It’s better to have less wax than more wax. It’s a whole heck of a lot easier to put more on than take some off.

Waxed Canvas Apron prior to absorption

After you have completely covered your item, get out the hair dryer. I read other tutorials suggesting using your clothes dryer instead of a hair dryer. I tried it, and my energy star dryer never got close to being hot enough. Skip the clothes dryer, and break out the hair dryer.

Holding the hair dryer a few inches from the waxed fabric, turn it on high and wave it over the fabric. In a few seconds, you will see the wax melt, and seep into the fabric. Going from white, back to the color of your fabric.

Apply hest to melt Wax into Cotton
Dark Blue: Wax has been heated and soaked into the fabric. White: Wax has not yet been heated, or absorbed into the fabric.

If you have applied too much wax it will not all soak in, and will puddle on the fabric. If this happens, use a popsicle stick to scrape off any excess wax. Continue heating up your wax until the whole item has absorbed all the wax. Let cool and dry.

If you want a more distressed look, after the waxed cotton has dried, scrunch it up with your hands.

Waxed Canvas Apron
Waxed Canvas Apron


[See our post on how to make a DIY Waxed Canvas and Leather Apron here.]


Navy Blue Cotton Canvas – Designer Fabrics
Bees Wax – The Bee Shop
Paraffin Wax – Michaels

Double Boiler
Cheap Paint Brush
Blow Dryer
Scrap Towels

Difficulty Level (on a scale of 1-5):

two out of five


Total Time: 1 hour

Total Cost: $10