Everything You Need to Know about Waxed Canvas Care
Originally developed for Scottish fisherman in the 15th century, waxed canvas has become a staple fabric for the modern man. And for good reason—the same characteristics that kept wind-lashed sailers warm and dry are ideal for chopping firewood in Montana, riding motorcycles through the Catskills (even after it starts to rain), and just looking good every damn day.
The best thing about this tough, timeless fabric? It only gets better with age. Every time you hoist a beer, tie your boots, or ride your bike, your movements will lighten the color of the waxed fabric in the creases and bends to create your own unique wear patterns. It’s truly a thing of beauty, and why we’ve all got a waxed trucker in our closets.
But even the most trusty pieces need a little love to stay in fighting shape year after year—especially when you wear ‘em like we do. And we’re here to help with that—we even reached out to experts at Nikwax and Martin Corporation (which is the company that makes the fabric for the Flint and Tinder Flannel-lined Waxed Trucker) to ensure we’re caring for our waxed canvas as its makers intended. Whether your favorite waxed cotton jacket has endured a decade, a season, or just a rough long weekend, rest assured that with proper care, its legendary performance and longevity are secure. Follow this guide and get back to getting it dirty.
Do Not Wash
“If you only read one thing, make it this: Never, ever wash your waxed canvas.” Judy Martin, vice president of New Jersey’s Fairfield Textile and Martin Corporation, is, admittedly, a purist, but that’s to be expected from the head of a company that has been making the fabric since 1930. Many people think that waxed canvas needs to be maintained with kid gloves, but the reality is that waxed canvas, once used for sails and then slickers for the nautically employed, needs little in the way of preventative care to maintain its performance for life. In fact, despite its ability to withstand the worst Mother Nature can throw, its only weakness is your washer and dryer.
So, what’s a guy to do with the mud, blood, and beer caked on his favorite jacket, apron, hat, or duffel? Martin suggests hosing it off with cold water, adding that a stiff brush can dislodge any stubborn debris. If you do need to get soap involved, use something mild like Otter Wax Canvas Cleaner or a biodegradable all-purpose soap—your washing-your-undies detergent can leave residues that can impede the waterproofing treatment.
Heidi Allen has also seen her share of beat-to-hell waxed canvas. Prior to assuming duties as the vice president of marketing for Nikwax, she headed the company’s “Gear Rehab” campaign, which invited outdoorsmen and from all over the country to send in their nastiest, most trusted pieces of outerwear for triage. She distinctly remembers an Orvis bird-hunting jacket, which, over its life, had accumulated plenty of dirt, oil, and smoke. To say it had a gamey odor about it was an understatement. “It had been . . . used,” she says with a laugh. But after a hand-wash, air-dry, and wax treatment, it was ready to go another decade.
When to Rewax
If you’re wearing your waxed canvas as much as we do, eventually the time will come to rewax it—especially if you’re scrubbing debris off of it. But how often does that need to happen? Turns out, there’s an easy method to telling when you’re due for a fresh coat. Spray your jacket with water to test its water resistance. After five minutes, if the water has beaded and rolled off, your wax is still working. On the other hand, it the water has soaked in (pay special attention to the teams and creases that tend to need touch-ups more often), it’s time to do a little maintenance.
But before you go adding more wax, use a hairdryer to warm up what’s already on your jacket and try to rub out the scratches and bends by hand. Sometimes that can be enough to redistribute the wax where you need it. If that’s still not doing the trick, it’s time to rewax.
Good as New
So you’ve determined it’s time to rewax your canvas. First, it’s important to start with a clean jacket, so if you haven’t given it a good scrub already, back up to our tips at the beginning of the article to ensure you won’t be trapping old dirt in a layer of new wax.
Once your item has air dried, we recommend laying it flat on a few split garbage bags or old towels to protect your surface. Then, use a hairdryer or heat gun to warm your jacket, prepping it to absorb more wax. Finally, you’re ready to apply your treatment (be sure to choose wax specifically made for waxed canvas, like Filson Oil Finish Wax). You can apply with a rag if you’re worried about getting messy, but we recommend throwing on a pair of latex gloves and distributing the wax by hand. Not only will you have better dexterity to apply on seams and creases, but the warmth of your hands will also help the wax spread more smoothly.
Once you’ve got a nice thin, even coat over its entire surface, go back over the garment with a hairdryer. You should see the wax melting and absorbing into the fabric. Then, let it dry overnight. In the morning, you’ll be ready to throw your waxed jacked on and get back to getting it dirty.