Archival DIY: Reproofing Waxed Cotton (updated)

Martexin reproofing wax. Operating instructions on the can.

Archival Clothing endorses waxed cotton because it’s a rugged, natural, water resistant fabric that requires only wax reproofing to maintain its finish. Waxed cotton users should know how to reprooof their jackets, hats, and bags. Both Filson and Barbour offer factory reproofing services but we recommend performing the work yourself (at least once). Reproofing waxed cotton is relatively easy and personalizes the care and maintenance of your garment. Even if you live in the desert, you should establish a reproofing schedule for your waxed cotton. Reproofing extends the life of waxed cotton and prevents it from developing the folds and wear lines that often lead to holes.

I do my reproofing in August so I can move the work outdoors.

Basic tools: wax (warmed), water, sponge, blow dryer (or heat gun). If you’re using our 1.5 ounce tin, spoon some wax into a bowl and heat briefly in microwave. Some people recommend using Filson wax, say, with a Filson product, but I’ve switched between several brands of wax treatment (Filson, Barbour and Martinex) with the same results. I will concede that for a full reproofing job on a jacket, the larger tins of Barbour reproofing wax are easier to heat in a double boiler.

Dab off dirt with a moistened sponge. Do not use soaps or detergents.

Use clean sponge to spread warmed reproofing wax thinly on fabric. Short strokes work best.

Reheat surface of item with blow dryer to melt the wax into the fabric.

Reapply wax until it evenly coats the bag.
Restored to original factory finish
I still have wax left so I’m reproofing a couple of my Filson duckbill caps
You’ll be moving back and forth between wax applications and the blow dryer
Don’t expect the wax to glaze evenly over fabric. You’ll need to work it into the surface.


There! You’ve shopped from yourself. These rewaxed hats are better than new. Let the sun help w/the final reproofing. Use a blow dryer again if you find any remaining, unmelted spots of wax. If you’ve overdone it, fear not, daily use and rain will wear down the excess wax.

40 thoughts on “Archival DIY: Reproofing Waxed Cotton (updated)”

  1. Cool guide. Can I also use this on not previously waxed products? I would like to put wax on my natural canvas scout pack from Duluth Pack.


  2. Yes, this treatment method should work on untreated natural canvas though absorption of wax into fabric might vary. I’d experiment with a small patch of fabric (preferably a test scrap from the manufacturer) before undertaking a full reproofing effort. I know that in the instance of dry finish tin cloth, filson recommends that you opt for scotchguard over waxed treatments.

    I’d also like to emphasize that you do not have to rewax waxed items. Some folks prefer to let the wax treatment on their products wear away naturally. That’s OK too.

  3. I’ve done a little playing around with trying to come up with my own waxing formula but haven’t really worked it out. I’ve tried mixing linseed oil and beeswax and then waxed previously un-waxed cotton. Its come out much more rigid and crackly then the professional stuff, but fun to experiment with regardless.

    Thanks for the how-to. I have a Barbour Bedale is looking a little dry, so maybe I should think about a little re-proofing.


  4. Thanks for the post. There are things that I am going to try this on, but I do have a jacket – Helmut Lang – that I am a bit nervous about doing myself. Do you have any suggestions for where to have rewaxing done in NYC. Thanks.

  5. Is it possible to wax say, a backpack? I have a simple Jansport bag, nothing fancy, and I want to know if it’s possible to wax it?

  6. Take DIY one step further: I got just a bit of sticker shock when I saw a bar of Greenland Wax from Fjällräven in a shop for 80 kronor $10+). A bar-of-soap looking thing, the package tells you what it is: 90% paraffin and 10% beeswax. So hit up your reliable beeswax dealer and melt-your-own for 1/10th the price. You rub it into the fabric, gravestone-rubbing style, before heating. I carry a small bit in the breast pocket of my jacket, for out-there repair or treatment.

  7. I had a Barbour Backhouse jacket in London may years ago and tried to reproof myself after the general dry city air parched any moisture of it. Absolute disaster. I smeared the wax on from the can and worked it in with fingers (hand warmth is better than cloth) however the wax made the jacket so wet, no amount of hairdrying fixed the mess. I couldn’t go anywhere without shiny wax and leaving grease marks all over the place.

    I now have a cotton field jacket that is a prized possession but would like to to wax proof it. Not sure if I want to take the risk.

    One word of warning. Wax clothing doesn’t fare well in sub-zero climates due to the wax freezing and then cracking.

  8. Conrad–

    It’s super important to use a heat source like the blow dryer, or better yet, heat gun, to melt and distribute the wax–especially if you’re working on a large surface like a big jacket. I had a similar disaster with a Filson tin cloth that I over-proofed. Now the jacket is relegated to dog-park only use until the proofing finish wears off. For big jobs, I’m ok sending my jackets off for professional reproofing. I’ve put in my own home reproofing time.

  9. Thanks Lesli,

    I am very tempted to send the jacket off for proofing however it’s that catch 22 situation. A beloved cotton field jacket that has so much personal attachment, and that longing for it to be a waxed jacket to make it just that more perfect. The strains of a complicated life!

  10. Is there any difference in the performance of the barbour nikwax and the barbour thornproof wax?

  11. Hi

    i was just wondering if it is possible to wax proof a canvas tent. i am a medieval re-enacter and our tents arnt excatly waterproof its a very large surface area
    any help would be appreciated

  12. Hi Anon,

    Yes, it’s possible – please hold. You could do it with dozens of cans of wax, but it would hardly be cost-effective! I know of an old text that has instructions, let me find it and I’ll get back to you.


  13. I am gonna use otter wax to reproof my tote bag bought from you guys. For a bag that size, how much of the bar should I use? Thanks!

  14. I see this is an old thread, but I’ll give it a try.

    I just purchased a nice Filson waxed hat, it was discounted because the body of the hat has lots of creases.

    Will the blow drying remove the creases? If not, is there a good way to get rid of creases. I tried (and then quickly stopped) ironing. I guess that’s a big no-non.

  15. @Anon 4:52,
    Creases can sometimes last for a long time if the garment has been stored crushed. Try a light blow-dry. If that doesn’t work, the creases will eventually fade as you wear the hat, and re-proofing will help.

  16. I like the idea of natural raingear but I have a number of questions regarding waxed cotton products: How washable are they? How flame-proof are they? How mold resistant are they? Do they work well in a desert environment like Phoenix, AZ? (That crazy place where first you get dust storms, followed by half dollar sized rain drops and flash flooding that turns all the dust into mud, and finally four kinds of unbleachable mold, green, black, red, and white.)

    1. Waxed cotton is not washable. You need to sponge clean and rewax. You can opt for a dry finish canvas duck which tends to be lighter weight and slightly less water repellent. I used to carry a waxed cotton bag in Eastern Washington which has a desert climate close to Arizona. The waxed twill was great in the rain and help up very well to the normal wear and tear of everyday use.

  17. What’s the scoop on the different reproofing waxes offered by different companies? I’ve got a driza-bone riding coat that needs reproofing and their garment care section says to only use their own formula. Unfortunately, I can’t find a source for their stuff in the US and shipping from Australia costs 3 times as much as the wax itself.

    Should I spring for their wax, or will Otter Wax or similar work fine?

  18. Hmm, and all this time I’d been using a shoe brush to rewax all my canvas.. I’ll try the sponge next time and see if there’s a difference.

  19. I’m thinking about purchasing a Filson field bag or a similar waxed canvas bag. I’ll be using it in a very warm climate where temps can hit 38C (almost a 100F). Do waxed canvas bags give problems in hot weather? Could it make the wax melt off the bag (and go on your clothes)?

    1. Kris – waxed cotton is really great in warm weather. Most bags like Filson bags are not so waxy that they will transfer to clothing. In fact, I’ve noticed that over time, Filson bag fabric is much less waxy than it was in the 1990s. I don’t think you have to worry. I highly recommend the Filson medium field bag (it’s one of my fave models). Good luck.

  20. See this makes me think—really wish I had picked up one of Archival’s cycling musettes. Can’t seem to find anything comparable.

    1. Stay tuned. I’m working on a new project. We’re developing a new variation on the musette.

  21. Hawk Toools produces some seriously rugged fabric wax. This stuff takes abuse and keeps going. Highly recommended. Hawk Tools Ultiamate Fabric Wax.

  22. Thank you so much for the tutorial. I was just out fishing in Sitka and noticed that my cap had lost it’s water proofing (wet hair and soggy cap!). I’ve used my cap for many years in Southeast Alaska and thought it was probably just time to retire it, it was looking pretty sad. I was kind of excited about finally getting a new cap, but, when I tried on a new one, it just felt…wrong. Glad I didn’t give up on my old friend; I followed your tutorial and my cap is looking better than new! The waxing even helped the metal buckle that had gotten pretty frozen up from salt spray to slide easily again. Thank you again 🙂

  23. I washed my waxed-cotton coat a few times, not knowing it might remove the wax benefit. I have tried to rewax it with leather lotion, or Vaseline, or possibly Nivea. They all seem to have the right ingredients. But, I don’t think they’ve worked well enough. I am looking for a cheap way to recoat the fabric, with shoe polish or canola oil or something I already have, not some expensive product. I used to have some beeswax, but I don’t know if it’s enough, if I can find it.

    1. I would avoid washing waxed cotton. You should use a nice waxed reproofing agent like otterwax of Filson or Barbour wax to reproof the item. These products are not expensive the and the results will be much better.

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