Waxed Canvas Fabric: All You Need to Know

Waxed Canvas Fabric: All You Need to Know

We’re here to outline the advantages of waxed canvas and give you a quick history of this tough material.

Wax-impregnated cotton canvas, which is waterproof, is known as waxed canvas. Waxed canvas, which was first used as sailcloth by nineteenth-century seafarers, is strong and has a look somewhat akin to worn leather. It has a lot of structure, is incredibly sturdy, and is a dream to sew with. In addition, it ages beautifully and takes on a weathered patina.

Learn all there is to know about this venerable, robust material by reading on. Learn How to Wax Canvas Fabric?

Further Reading:

What is Waxed Canvas Fabric?

Canvas is typically made from cotton, linen, which is made from flax, or hemp, which is once again regaining popularity. Canvas uses a plain weave, as opposed to other heavy-duty fabrics like denim, which use a twill weave. Duck and plain canvas are the two types of canvas available; duck canvas has a stronger weave because the threads are intertwined more closely.

British sailors who noticed that wet canvas sails caught the wind more effectively soaked their canvas in linseed oil and came up with waxed canvas. Then, leftover pieces of the oiled canvas were used to make waterproof clothing. Today, wax is infused into canvas fibers to create a waxed canvas. Canvas’s strength and quality are affected by the weave’s density and the yarn’s diameter. Learn How to Waterproof Canvas Fabric?

The majority of waxed canvas is made with paraffin-based wax, but there are also hybrid waxes that combine paraffin and fluorocarbon to increase water resistance. Waxed canvas can also be made using natural waxes like beeswax, but this is a more pricey option.

Waxed Canvas Fabric: All You Need to Know


  • Affordable price range.
  • Versatile.
  • Numerous vivid colors are readily available.
  • Natural, robust, long-lasting, and sustainable
  • Extraordinarily wind- and water-resistant.
  • Easy to clean.
  • Looks fashionable next to leather and metal accessories.
  • Retains its shape while becoming softer with use.
  • The patina effect makes each item distinctive.


  • Heavy. Oilcloth is noticeably heavier than its tech-forward counterparts, which is a big reason why you don’t see more outdoor sports enthusiasts wearing them, even though sailors found oiled sails to be lighter than water-soaked sails.
  • not as water-resistant as other materials. Even though waxed fabrics can be useful for deflecting rain, technology has advanced significantly since the invention of the first waterproof fabric.

What Does Waxed Canvas Feel Like?

Waxed canvas has a pleasantly textured, supple surface and feels much dryer than waxed cotton. When touched, it doesn’t feel damp or sticky.

  • With use, waxed canvas develops a rugged, mottled appearance and a slightly waxy feel. The surface is easily visible for creases and marks, which adds to the fabric’s personality. You can choose to draw attention to this by purposefully crumpling it in your hands before smoothing it out. Today’s waxed canvas comes in a variety of weights.
  • Your waxed canvas might have a small amount of edge discoloration when you first get it…don’t worry! This was most likely caused by the wax not fully cured when it was rolled up and packaged for delivery to us. Laying out your canvas flat in a warm, clean area for the entire night is the simplest way to hasten the curing process. You should see that the discoloration has vanished in the morning.
  • Its weight is the first thing you notice about it. Waxed canvas, which makes up our 11-ounce canvas, has a natural weight and substance to it that bags or clothing made of synthetic materials simply lack. Even when empty, waxed canvas bags have a slight weight to them, and when you run your fingers through the material, it feels sturdy. This is due to both the waterproofing wax itself and the weight of the heavy gauge cotton used to make the canvas.
Waxed Canvas Fabric: All You Need to Know

Main Uses for Waxed Canvas

Waxed canvas has been replaced by a variety of synthetic products that are stronger and more water-resistant. Waxed canvas was originally created as a waterproof utility fabric used in a nautical and military context. Waxed canvas entered the public eye after World War II via army surplus shops and started to be used for leisure activities.

This vegan alternative to leather has gained popularity once again in recent decades, in part due to its toughness and waterproof properties as well as its appealing retro style. It has the performance qualities of a synthetic utility fabric, with none of the sporty or military connotations.

A variety of outdoor clothing now combines style and hardiness with the use of waxed canvas. Due to its popularity in a variety of bags, including messenger bags, totes, duffle bags, and even briefcases, as well as its strength, durability, and waterproof properties.

In the design of purses, for instance, fashion designers are increasingly using waxed canvas where previously one would have anticipated leather. It is breathable and waterproof and therefore a comfortable choice of fabric to be worn next to the skin, such as in the form of a hat.

It continues to be a popular choice for the construction of utilitarian items like tool rolls even though stronger materials are available. Waxed canvas is a respectable and more affordable substitute for full-grain leather when the product needs to be strong, resilient, waterproof, and have aesthetic appeal.

Can You Wash Waxed Canvas?

An item made of the waxed canvas should never be completely washed, nor should it ever require washing. It shouldn’t get dirty if properly re-waxed; how frequently depends on usage, and marks and scuffs add to the aesthetic appeal.

If in extreme cases, it is necessary to wash a waxed canvas item it should be done using cold water and soft soap and the item should be completely re-waxed afterward.

Waxed Canvas Fabric: All You Need to Know

Can You Iron Waxed Canvas?

Waxed canvas has a “memory,” meaning that it records each fold, wrinkle, and crease. This means that you can “finger press” (or use a steel fabric roller) with no iron required! If you must use an iron, use a medium setting and a press cloth to protect it from melted wax. Careful ironing with a press cloth can be used to smooth out unwanted creases and wrinkles but avoid them as much as possible.

Further Reading: Can You Iron Canvas Fabric to Remove Wrinkles?

Can You Dye Waxed Canvas?

Prior to being waxed, the canvas is dyed; after that, dyeing is not possible.

How Do I Clean My Waxed Canvas?

Waxed canvas repels dirt as a result of its water resistance. Dust or mud will not penetrate the waxed canvas and can be removed with a damp cloth. Use corn starch or another similarly absorbent substance to treat an oil stain that has permeated the fabric.

Apply the absorbent substance generously to the affected area and leave for forty-eight hours, after which time it can be removed with a stiff brush. Replicate the process if necessary. With cold water and mild soap, a stained area of waxed canvas can be cleaned; however, it will need to be re-waxed afterward. Articles made of the waxed canvas should never be washed in a washing machine and should only ever be allowed to air dry.

Waxed Canvas Vs Canvas

Canvas is strong and difficult to tear thanks to its dense weave; it is windproof but breathable. You can hand wash canvas or put it in the washing machine. Waxed canvas has the strength and durability of canvas, but it is also waterproof.

Despite being significantly less breathable than canvas, it is still much more comfortable to wear than most synthetic materials. Canvas should not be washed in a washing machine because waxed canvas repels dirt more effectively than canvas.

Waxed Canvas Fabric: All You Need to Know

Waxed Canvas Vs Leather

Both leather and waxed canvas come in varying degrees of quality. The type of fibers used, the weave’s thickness, and the waxing method’s caliber all affect how well-waxed canvas is made. Grades of leather range from full grain leather, the best grade, down to bonded leather, which is made of glued-together shavings of reconstituted leather.

So let’s assume that we are contrasting full-grain leather with premium waxed canvas. An item made of full-grain leather, like a bag, will likely cost 20% to 50% more than one made of waxed canvas. A small hole in a leather bag won’t unravel, unlike one made of canvas, making the leather bag stronger. Much more waterproofing will be provided by the waxed canvas bag.

Both bags will require maintenance, albeit minimal, but they will both last a lifetime. Age brings out the best in waxed canvas and full-grain leather, which both acquire a rich patina. Waxed canvas has a vintage charm, it’s a performance fabric but it doesn’t have the sporty image of synthetic materials. Full-grain leather has a more elegant appearance that is more appropriate for a formal or professional setting.

Why Choose Waxed Canvas?

When compared to full-grain leather, waxed canvas is frequently more affordable and less cruel to animals than animal hides. Waxed canvas doesn’t just look rugged — it is. Much like leather, the everlasting durability of this cotton canvas makes it a sustainable option for your next project.

It will last generations if properly maintained and still be in style. It won’t require replacement on an annual basis!

How Do I Sew With Waxed Canvas?

Here is everything you need to know about sewing with waxed canvas.

Waxed Canvas Fabric: All You Need to Know

Pressing and Pinning

  • Expect imperfections

When using (or purchasing) waxed canvas for sewing, this is the main point to be aware of. The wax is easily marked by creases and scratches, but this is all part of the fabric’s natural character. With us, its appearance is intended to change. If you use a press cloth to shield your iron and ironing surface from the wax, you can use pressing to remove creases. A heat gun or hair dryer can also be used, as can a simple hand press. Intentionally distressing the fabric will also cause it to soften and loosen any deep creases.

Try to pin carefully within the seam allowances to avoid leaving visible pin holes when you pin; alternatively, you can use wonder clips in place of pins (strongly advised!).). When sewing with waxed fabric, each puncture mark (with your sewing needle or pins) will show. Use your iron or hair dryer to help those puncture marks disappear into the waxed fabric if you need to seam rip a section of stitches due to an error; they will actually disappear!

  • Use a pressing cloth if you choose to iron it

With most of your projects, finger pressing will be sufficient, but you might occasionally use your iron. When ironing, use a pressing cloth to prevent wax buildup. By using a press cloth to protect it and a medium setting on your iron, you can prevent the waxes and oils from melting while ironing.

  • Use a clapper to press

A clapper allows you to apply pressure and steam for a longer period of time, letting you get crisp edges while avoiding contact with the iron with the cloth. In case you’ve never used one, it’s very simple! Simply use your iron to apply steam, then clap it quickly while applying a lot of downward pressure to the fabric as it cools.

As you press down on the clapper, steam is trapped in the fabric. This is the approach we recommend over actually ironing the canvas, but be sure to use a pressing cloth to cover the area beneath the waxed canvas.


Use the right needle. It’s crucial to outfitting your machine with a brand-new, sharp needle before beginning a new sewing project. It’s best to use a size 100/16 or 100/18 for waxed canvas. Heavy-duty thread is also helpful as is using a longer stitch length of 3 for a professional-looking, attractive stitch.

When sewing on materials like these that have a tendency to grab, a roller foot or Teflon-coated foot can help. If you’ve got a walking foot for quilting, you can try that as well since the foot “walks” vs. sliding along the fabric surface. Always find the combination that makes your machine work best!

After Care

Clean your machine. This is the number one thing to remember. After sewing with waxed canvas, be sure to give your machine a thorough cleaning to remove any potential buildup left behind from the wax. Wipe the surfaces down and use a fresh needle for your next project!

Conclusion: Waxed Canvas Fabric

Waxed canvas is a densely woven cotton fabric that has been saturated with wax, giving it an extra layer of protection against the elements. This material has a long history of popularity due to its robustness, inherent water resistance, and durability.

Waxed canvas’s longstanding reputation as a tough and attractive substitute for leather is a result of its historical use and production.


Is Waxed Canvas Waterproof?

Wax canvas is water-resistant and will fend off rain and moisture, but if submerged in water for an extended period of time, the fabric will eventually soak through. Wax-coated canvas bags and clothing will fend off and wick away moisture, keeping you and your belongings dry.

How to Soften Waxed Canvas?

A waxed canvas item shouldn’t need to be softened; with use, it will quickly become flexible. The waxed cotton Barbour jackets, which are not made of waxed canvas, become stiff when they need to be re-waxed. Learn How to Soften Canvas Fabric?

Is Waxed Canvas Flammable?

Sometimes dramatic images of circus tent fires, like the Hartford Circus fire in 1944, which was started by adding petrol to the waxing mixture, haunt the public’s perception of waxed canvas. Modern waxed canvas is much less flammable and difficult to ignite than most synthetic materials. It will burn if sufficient heat is applied but it is not a dangerously combustible material.

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