How can I wax cotton, preferably denim?
March 12, 2008 2:08 PM   Subscribe

How is cotton waxed? What's the process, and is it feasible to do at home?

I'd really like to make a denim saddlebag for an upcoming bike tour. It seems like it'd be a simple and fun project to do. Additionally, I would prefer to waterproof it. Is it feasible to effectively wax cotton at home, and how would I got about doing it?
posted by cog_nate to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There are products that people buy to restore the wax on waxed cotton jackets and such. I wonder if you could use it on not-previously-waxed cotton?
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:35 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Beeswax is cheap. Cotton is cheap. Experiment!

Try putting down several thicknesses of newspaper, then a sheet of greaseproof paper, then some small pieces cut from a sheet of beeswax, then a piece of denim, then another sheet of greaseproof paper, and running over the whole lot with a warm iron. If that doesn't get you some reasonable approximation of waxed cotton and give you enough information to work out how much wax to use for your production piece, I'd be very surprised.
posted by flabdablet at 4:38 PM on March 12, 2008

Best answer: I've done this. It works okay, and the result initially resembles rewaxed waxed cotton, which has a slightly less even surface than what you get in a new waxed cotton item. It's still functional, and as the finish wears, it will start to look like worn-in waxed cotton--you just never get the new-waxed-cotton honeymoon period, if that's what you're after.
At first, use a hairdryer to encourage it to soak all the way in, especially along your seams. Eventually, once you've applied a good base, you can just rub it on however the instructions specify.
If you use beeswax, I think you'll have to melt it and mix it with just a little bit of something else less solid (another, softer wax or oil) or it will flake off as it cools, especially if you apply enough to actually do any waterproofing. I've tried this, too, and never really got it to work perfectly. The commercial stuff uses paraffin wax, I assume, and solvents (according to the distinctive scent--you know that new-crayon smell that waxed cotton has? You love that smell, right?)
That Granger's stuff sounds like a good value. I bet Filson charges $10 for half as much...yup!
posted by pullayup at 4:51 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Have you considered using Scotchgard?
posted by JujuB at 8:09 PM on March 12, 2008

Best answer: My dad told me how they waterproofed their canvas tents when he was in the Army in the 60s; sounds like the same process. They'd get a bar of solid parrafin and rub it into the fabric--just rubbing and grinding really hard, probably building up a little heat in the process. Then they'd run an iron over it. Likely would ruin the iron if you didn't lay down some newspaper or something similar.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:15 AM on March 13, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! I think I'll try both the iron and hair dryer methods, see which works best.
posted by cog_nate at 12:03 PM on March 13, 2008

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