When the weather gets cold and wet, we all want a jacket that keeps us dry, warm, and stylish. Weatherproofing cotton outerwear using wax and oils has been here since the 1400s, which was very common among sailors and pirates. Unfortunately, most pre-waxed cotton jackets are not cheap. A practical option to weatherproofing your cotton jacket is waxing it with wax.
Rub a bar of wax over your jacket, melt it with a hairdryer, and spread the wax around with a soft-bristled paintbrush. The oils from the wax soak into the pores and coat the fabric to repel water.
Waxing a cotton jacket is easy but can be a bit time-consuming, but in the end, you have a warm and comfortable jacket that is also waterproof. Check out everything you need to know about waxing your cotton jacket for a comfortable outdoor experience.
Things you need to wax a cotton jacket
- Hairdryer or heat gun
- Lint roller
- Soft-bristled paintbrush
- A firm surface( floor or table)
- Start with a clean cotton jacket and lint roll it to remove any hair, fur, or debris from the fabric.
- Lay the jacket flat and neat on a hard flat surface.
- Do a patch test on a covered area so that you know the resulting color and texture. Waxing your cotton jacket will change the shade and texture of your fabric.
- Rub the wax into the fabric using broad even strokes. The friction from the rubbing will slightly warm up the wax and make it easier to spread. It is best to start in smaller sections to ensure you do not leave unwaxed areas. Use the edge of the wax bar to reach the seams, creases, and areas with folds.
- Alternatively, you can apply melted wax evenly over the jacket with a microfibre cloth. Be careful not to oversaturate the garment with wax. To melt the wax, place the solid wax into a container and dip it in a pan of boiling water or melt it with a hairdryer.
- Pay more attention to the shoulders and upper arms when waxing, as these areas will get the most of the rain. It is best to apply a thicker layer of wax around these areas.
- Set the hairdryer on a moderate to high setting and slowly wave it over the wax in a circular motion. The heat will melt the wax allowing it to penetrate more into the fabric pores. Keep the nozzle of the heat gun or hair dryer a few inches from the fabric to avoid overheating the wax
- or melting any nylon or plastic buttons and accessories.
- Use the paintbrush or cotton cloth to spread the wax more for even coverage and remove excess wax.
- After waxing the whole jacket, hang it in a warm, dry area and allow it to cure for about 2-3 days.
The Pros and Cons of Waxing Cotton
Waxed cotton is timelessly stylish and also convenient to wear during wet weather. However, like any other fabric, waxing cotton has its advantages and disadvantages.
Pros of waxing cotton
- The main advantage of waxing cotton outerwear is that it makes a relatively highly absorbent material waterproof, especially when freshly waxed.
- With proper maintenance, waxed cotton is durable and lasts for years without the usual wear.
- Waxed cotton jackets are still breathable and prevent the build-up of condensation. Therefore, it is comfortable to wear during warm weather.
- Waxed cotton fabrics are easily reparable compared to waxed synthetic materials because it is a natural fabric, lengthening the product’s lifespan.
- It is quiet when you move compared to other waterproof synthetic or nylon fabrics.
- Waxed cotton fabrics develop a very desirable patina look with wear.
Cons of waxing cotton
- When the wax is fresh, it will have a mild smell, but it fades over time.
- It changes the appearance of your garment. It gives a darker shade or a wet look which can be arguably undesirable to some people.
- Waxed cotton fabrics tend to be a bit heavy.
- It becomes less waterproof and more greasy over time.
- The water repellency of waxed cotton fabric does not last as long as waterproof textiles like nylons.
- You will have to re-wax your cotton once every year to maintain its water-resistance characteristic.
Can you wax a normal cotton jacket?
You can wax just about any fabric; however, make sure it is a tight weave—heavier cotton fabrics like denim and canvas as great for waxing. What waxing does is it penetrates through the pores of the material and seals them. Ideally, you should apply two layers of wax if the fabric is unwaxed. The first layer weals the pores, and the second one coats the fabric to make it more water-resistant.
Hot wax will also pull dye up from the cotton fabric, so keep in mind that a colorful cotton jacket will bleed when waxing.
How to clean a waxed cotton jacket
Incorrectly cleaning your waxed cotton jacket can ruin it completely. No matter how dirty your waxed jacket is, do not wash in hot water, dry clean, or use soap or detergent as this will remove the waterproofing oils, which can be beyond repair. To clean a waxed cotton jacket;
- Remove loose dirt from the garment using a soft-bristled brush or a dry rag.
- Wipe the remaining dirt by soaking a rag in cold water and wiping off the dirt. We recommend using a rag instead of a sponge since sponges may shed on the fabric from the scrubbing friction.
- For a deeper clean, you can hose the jacket with cold water.
- If the jacket was extremely dirty, soak it in cold plain water in a bucket or tub for a couple of hours and then rinse it a couple of times to remove all the dirt.
- Hang the jacket in a dry, well-ventilated area and let it air dry for about 24-48 hours.
- After your jacket dries, you need to reproof it using wax.
How to re-wax a waxed cotton jacket
Since wax is natural, it breaks down and fades over time, necessitating a re-wax once a year to maintain the wax’s effectiveness. You will tell your waxed cotton jacket needs re-waxing by appearance and a basic waterproof test.
The areas with worn-out wax will appear lighter in color, close to the original unwaxed shade of the material. Alternatively, spray some water on your jacket and check for areas the water has beaded or soaked into the fabric.
The patches soaking up the water require re-waxing. Read the detailed instructions below on how to re-wax your waxed cotton jacket properly.
- Clean your waxed jacket using cold water and a microfibre cotton cloth without any soap or detergents.
- Spread your dry jacket on the firm flat surface.
- Use a hairdryer or a heat gun to warm up the already existing wax and spread it into the patches with your hands of a soft-bristled brush.
- At times, that is enough to spread the wax into the worn-out areas. If not satisfied, continue re-waxing.
- Warm the jacket again with a heat gun or hairdryer to prepare the fabric to absorb more wax.
- Apply a thin layer of wax over the entire jacket. Pay close attention to the seams, buttons, and the most worn-out areas.
- Go over the jacket with a hairdryer to melt the wax into the fabric.
- Spread the wax evenly with your hands, a brush, or a lint-free cloth. Areas with excess wax will not absorb into the fabric but will pool and form unsightly creasing or peeling when it dries.
- Hang the jacket in a dry, warm area and allow it to cure overnight.
Best Wax for Waxing Cotton Jackets
There are several fabric waxes in the market, and we have recommended the best three for waxing your cotton jackets below.
1. Filson Oil Finish Wax
This paraffin-based fabric wax makes your outdoor garments durable and highly water-resistant. Melt the can over boiling water, apply it with a cotton cloth on your garment, and heat it with a blow dryer to spread it.
- Ingredients: paraffin-based
- Weight: 4.87 Ounces
- Highly water-resistant.
- It applies easily when melted.
- Some users complain that one can is not enough for a regular-sized jacket.
2. Fjallraven – Greenland Wax
Fjallraven is a leading manufacturer of not only outdoor wear and sports gear but also wax products. Their Greenland Wax contains a mixture of paraffin and beeswax. This wax is for first-time waxing and re-waxing; however, we recommend using it for re-waxing due to its paraffin content. To remove this product, wash your garment in a washing machine at 40°C.
- Ingredients: 65% paraffin and 355 beeswax
- Weight: 3.52 Ounces
- Ideal for clothes made of G-1000 products.
- It is odorless.
- It is ideal for re-waxing.
- It leaves no residue or waxy appearance when properly applied.
- It is not very waterproof for first-time waxing.
3. Otter Wax Heat-Activated Fabric Dressing
The Otter wax is excellent for waterproofing your unwaxed garments, giving them that ‘Factory-waxed’ appearance due to its smooth application. It is an all-natural wax treatment, making it safe for sensitive skin that reacts to paraffin-based waxes.
- Ingredients: All natural beeswax and plant-based waxes and oils
- Weight: 9.45 ounces
- It contains no silicone or petroleum products.
- One tin is a generous amount.
- It has an odor that may last a couple of weeks after application.
- It is reasonably priced.
Although you can have your cotton jacket waxed and re-waxed professionally, it is relatively easy and cheaper to do it yourself with a few simple tools and some spare hours. Remember to re-wax your jacket once a year to maintain it or when your notice worn-out patches. Also, the only way to clean a waxed jacket is to brush off any loose dirt and wiping it down with cold water and a microfibre cotton cloth.