How to Naturally Waterproof Canvas

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Woven from strands of natural fibers, canvas is naturally water resistant. Because of its cotton composition, after being wet, canvas shrinks so tightly the spaces between the threads become too small for water molecules to penetrate. When the material becomes wet again the fibers swell, further reducing the spaces between the threads. Used mainly for outdoor applications, such as tents, canvas will resist water when prepared, maintained and handled properly.

Step 1

Set up the tent, tarp, or awning. Wash the canvas with mild soap and water, a bucket and brush or car washing wand. If using a wand, use low water pressure so as not to damage the canvas.

Step 2

Rinse the fabric thoroughly with plain water, saturating the canvas completely. Allow the canvas to dry completely, both inside and out.

Step 3

Wet the canvas again with the hose, thoroughly saturating every inch of fabric. Allow the canvas to dry completely before storing.


  • Never touch canvas when it is wet. The pressure will open the pores in the material and allow water to leak through.


  • While not necessary, for added protection, apply a natural waterproofing agent, such as paraffin or beeswax, to the thoroughly dry canvas.


  • "Marine Tops and Covers: Care and Cleaning"; Glen Raven Custom Fabrics; 2008

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images