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What is Waterproof Wax?

By J. Nelson
Updated May 17, 2024
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Waterproof wax is a form of water repellent used to treat canvas, cotton and leather. It is one of the oldest water repellents used and continues to be widely available on the market. Wax can be either completely waterproof or just water-resistant, depending on how thick one decides to apply it and to what materials. It is reliable as a water repellent, and it often is cheaper to apply wax than to buy garments made of special waterproof or water-resistant materials.

Waterproof wax is most commonly used to treat leather as a water repellent for shoes and boots. As a shoe wax for leather, it is applied directly to the shoes or boots in a small, circular motion using a cloth. A circular motion best ensures complete coverage. For waterproofing, a thick application might be necessary, with special attention given to seams and the toe area of footwear. Several coats of wax might be required, and it will need to be reapplied periodically to maintain the waterproofing.

Waxing is believed to be one of the oldest methods of treating fabric for water repellency. Waterproof wax has been used on canvas sails for ships and on cotton and canvas clothing. It continues to be popular in many areas, and waxed cotton jackets and hats remain highly fashionable for both their look and their functionality in many parts of the world.

In addition to leather, cotton is perhaps the most widely waxed fabric for waterproofing. Waxed cotton coats can be more sensible than other expensive, waterproof or water-resistant jackets, depending on one’s needs and taste. Though usually not inexpensive, waxed cotton coats generally remain fashionable for longer periods of time because they tend to have a traditional cut and reliable style. The wax also keeps the fabric stiff, which renders a neat, tasteful fit of the coat on its wearer.

Waxed cotton jackets have an added advantage in that they can be re-waxed when the waterproof coating becomes thin. This can be done by the jacket’s owner and does not require special service, though one can find services for that. Waterproof wax can be purchased specifically for cotton and is applied in small, circular motions much like waterproofing boots. Though somewhat time consuming, re-waxing a cotton jacket can bring it back to its original waterproof state.

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