How to Waterproof Canvas Tent: 5 Easy Steps

If you’re going on a camping trip, you will need a tent to shield you from the rain. Of course, you could always check the weather forecast and plan well ahead to dodge the rain altogether. But if you don’t want a bit of rain to ruin your expedition, you need to know how to waterproof your canvas tent.

How to Waterproof Canvas Tent
How to Waterproof Canvas Tent?

A canvas tent is a staple for most backpackers. Canvas is a robust fabric that makes a wide range of outdoor equipment. It can withstand scratching up to a point and keep you warm even when it rains heavily.

Does a Canvas Tent Need Waterproofing?

Canvas tents are traditionally the most sought-after tents for the best outdoor experience. However, even though they seem impervious to nature’s assaults, you must know how to waterproof a canvas tent.

Today, there are two types of canvas tents – the traditional cotton sewed canvas tent and modern polyester fabric tents. It would be best if you had both types waterproofed before heading out into the wild.

Does a Canvas Tent Need Waterproofing?
Does a Canvas Tent Need Waterproofing?

Cotton has been used in the making of canvas tents for quite some time. Usually, the cotton strands expand when exposed to water. This way, the fabric swells and fills the spaces within the mesh for a waterproof tent. On the other hand, polyester has a tighter weave that keeps water out of your tent.

Simple Hacks to Waterproof Your Canvas Tent

Once you have your canvas tent, the next step is to waterproof it. There are two primary ways to do this. These hacks should give you a waterproof material that will keep out the rain on your next camping trip.



This is probably the easiest method to waterproof a canvas tent. The technique also costs a lot less because you won’t need to buy waterproofing products.

Remember how canvas tents are made from cotton strands? Seasoning takes advantage of the material’s ability to expand when exposed to water. This expansion allows it to fill in the gaps in the canvas weave to effectively block out the water particles.

When seasoning your tent, you only need water. Like fighting fire with fire, the water helps reduce the size of the needle holes used to sew in the cotton strands.

Here are the steps to follow when seasoning your tent:

1. Set up the tent

Get the canvas tent up and running. Remember, you need to simulate a typical situation in the wild. So pitch your tent where it won’t get in the way.

2. Bathe the canvas tent

There are two ways to go about this. First, you can watch for the weather forecast. Pitch your tent just before it starts to rain and allow it to get thoroughly soaked.

If you aren’t sure if there will be sufficient rainfall to soak your canvas tent, use a hose. Pitch your tent on a sunny day when you are in control of the elements. Hose down the tent until it is soaking wet. Also, ensure that every bit of the canvas has been watered, including the seams.

3. Dry your tent

The general idea is to lose as much moisture as possible. Therefore, you’ll need adequate sunlight. Just before you let the canvas sit in the sun, look out for spots that haven’t gotten a proper wash. These points will allow bits of sunlight through. If you spot any, hose them down some more.

A couple of hours under the hot sun and your canvas tent will be completely dry.

4. Repeat the process

After drying the tent, hose it again. Stretch out the canvas tightly before you resume watering it. Ideally, a new canvas tent needs up to four soakings and dryings to become sufficiently waterproof.

5. Test It

Never venture into the wild without testing your tent. You can wait for the onset of rainfall to pitch your canvas. Then get inside and look out for leaking points. Again, you can either wait for rain or soak it with a hose.

Seasoning canvas tents is necessary when they are still brand new. However, if you’ve got an older tent, the seasoning will not result in a waterproof material. That is why you’ll need waterproofing products.

Using a Waterproofing Product

Even if you diligently season your canvas tent every year, it can only retain its waterproof properties for so long. The cotton fiber tends to get worn and won’t expand as when they were new. Therefore, you are going to need a special product to boost your tent’s waterproofing capabilities.

Using a Waterproofing Product
Using a Waterproofing Product

Waterproofing spray is an excellent choice if you are targeting leaking spots on the tent. However, if you have an older tent, a spray bottle will quickly run out without covering a significant area. In this case, get a bottle of fabric sealing concentrate.

Unlike the seasoning process, you don’t have to pitch your tent. Spread it on a flat surface and give it a thorough cleaning. For canvas tents, use a hard-bristled brush to scrub off any dirt and mud from your last outdoor excursion. A little soap will also get the stubborn stains out.

Afterward, apply a generous coat of the sealing product. If you don’t have a spray bottle, a soft-bristled brush should be able to get the job done. Once covered, let the canvas dry before hosing away. The water should now glide off the tent if it is waterproof.

Tips on Care and Maintenance of Canvas Tents

A waterproof tent is a must-have if you are venturing into the wild. And if you know how to waterproof your canvas tents, you won’t have to keep replacing them.

Nevertheless, even if your tent is impervious to water, you still need to take care of it to guarantee its longevity.

For example, make sure to dry your tent before storing it. Wet cotton strands will expand and seal off air pockets. However, damp cotton also attracts mildew and fungal growth. To prevent this, ensure that the canvas tent is sufficiently dry before packing it in your backpack.

Dirt can get in the way of your canvas’s waterproof capabilities. That’s why you must frequently clean your tent. Use soap and water, and in the case of stubborn stains, a pressurized hose should help get a clean result.

You must immediately repair leaking tents. A leaking spot will soon become a sizeable tear. If not corrected, this tear will become larger and harder to fix.

How do you make a cheap tent waterproof?

Most of the inexpensive tents are not fully waterproof. These are only good for fair weather. But there are some simple ways, using which you can keep the rain out from your tent. One of the quickest and easiest ways to keep your tent waterproof is to use a basic tarp.

You can easily get it from any hardware store. By investing less than 15 dollars, you can make the tent waterproof. It is also easy to use. What you have to do is just place or hang it above your tent and keep it tight.

Another easy, but less effective way, is to seal all the seams with duct tape. This is not a very good way, because it affects your visibility when you are inside the tent.

How do you make a cheap tent waterproof

The most effective way is the combined use of a good quality waterproofer and waterproofing tape. You can easily get a good quality waterproofer by investing about $40. These are available in liquid form and also come with spray bottles.

These are also easy to apply. You just need to apply the element well above the tent. And in the corners, you have to use waterproofing taps. Then your tent becomes fully waterproof. 

How do you make homemade waterproofing?

There are many easy ways, by using which you can easily make an object waterproof. The easiest homemade waterproofing way is to use wax and some heating element such as a hairdryer or you can use a blower. To apply, you have to heat a candle just for a few seconds and you need to rub it on the surface of the object.

Make sure you have covered all the surfaces of the object. After that, you need to use a hairdryer and use it to dry the wax coat. Then leave the object for 8 to 9 hours. Finally, it is ready to go. Another very popular homemade waterproofing method is out there. For this method, you need to arrange a bottle of mineral spirits, a plastic container with a lid, a paintbrush, and a clear silicone caulk. 

How do you make homemade waterproofing

First, you need to pour the mineral spirit into the plastic container. Then you need to add the silicone caulk into that solution and start steering until the two ingredients are mixed properly and the chalk dissolves into the solution completely. Then tighten the lid of the container and shake it for at least 10 minutes.

The waterproofing solution is ready now; you just have to apply it to the surface of the object by using a brush. Make sure you have applied a thin layer of the solution. After that, you have to leave the object for at least 48 hours. 

Another effective but a little bit complex method is also present. For this method, you need to use Linseed oil, Rosin, and Beeswax. One thing is important to remember, is that you need to use an equal quality of beeswax and rosin. 

To melt the beeswax and rosin, place them in a pot. Then heat and stir them until they are completely mixed well. In another pot, you need to boil the linseed oil. In the next step, combine the two solutions and stir for 5 minutes. Then it is ready, it just needs to be cooled down. To make your object waterproof, apply two or three coats of this solution.

What can you spray on fabric to make it waterproof?

There are many chemical sprays available in the market for this purpose. These are easy to use and one thing you need to remember before applying them i.e. the clothes must be completely dry. Names of some fabric water-proofing sprays are mentioned below:

Final Thoughts

A canvas tent is one of the best tents to take on camping trips. But if you don’t know how to waterproof your canvas tent, it will not be of much use to you in rainy weather.

Luckily, this article has outlined some guidelines to help keep your tent as watertight as possible. You can easily afford a cozy night in the wild, even if a storm is raging outside.

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