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How to waterproof canvas tent? 10 Easy Ways to Waterproof a Canvas Tent

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A canvas tent can be an attractive option when you’re looking to buy new camping equipment, but it will only be so if it’s actually waterproof. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to waterproof your canvas tent and keep it usable even when it rains so that you don’t have to worry about whether your tent will hold up as long as you need it to. Here are 10 methods for waterproofing a canvas tent and making sure your upcoming camping trip doesn’t get ruined by rain.

Do Canvas Tents Need Waterproofing?

Several outdoor enthusiasts purchase canvas tents because they are lightweight, easy to set up and come in various styles and colors. Unfortunately, canvas tents are also more likely than other types of tents to develop leaks or tears over time. The reason why is actually quite simple: Unlike nylon or polyester fabrics, canvas materials tend to get worn down by exposure to both sunlight and moisture. (Note: Other tent materials can be waterproofed.) If you have a canvas tent that is not performing as well as it once did, consider some of these ways to waterproof it to last longer.

 One solution is waterproofing, which can be done in two ways: sealing and coating. Sealing prevents water from getting inside by making it more difficult for water droplets to penetrate your tent fabric. On the other hand, the coating helps keep water from coming in by acting as a barrier that covers both your tent fabric and seams. Your choice of method depends on where you plan to use your tent and how often it will be exposed to moisture.

1) Paraffin Wax/Oil 

Paraffin wax and oil are commonly used for canvas tents. But these substances can drip and stain clothes, so you should always wear gloves when applying them. Also, apply wax or oil before your first use, since once water seeps into canvas tent material, it’s more challenging to waterproof with paraffin wax or oil. If you’re not sure whether your tent is waterproofed yet, try sprinkling some drops of water on it. 

If they just sit there and don’t absorb in through your tent’s surface, then you’re good! However, if water does soak in as it would with a sponge (which is not good), you should use paraffin wax or oil to make your canvas tent completely waterproof.

 To waterproof canvas tents with paraffin wax or oil, apply a good amount of it all over your tent’s surface. You can use a paintbrush or your fingers. If you prefer using paintbrushes, you’ll find them helpful in applying anything else on your tent as well (e.g., Therm-A-Rest mattresses, tarps, etc.)

2) Use Breathable Coating

Covering your tent’s canvas with a breathable coating can add effective waterproofing, durability, and longevity. The coating not only protects against water but also ultraviolet rays that can weaken your tent’s structure. And it’s pretty easy to apply—you just spray it on.

 To ensure your canvas tent lasts, you can also use some tried-and-true DIY waterproofing methods. 

There are two main types of waterproofing products available: spray and wash-in coatings.

The spray-on coating will offer a better barrier against moisture than wash-in coats, but it has less breathability and may even trap moisture inside your tent. 

Wash-in coatings allow more breathability, but they need time to dry. Depending on how often you use your tent and how humid your climate is, it’s best to plan on reapplying these coats at least every year, if not twice per year. Other ways can help keep water from seeping through your canvas.

3) Make Sure You Protect Zippers

Zippers are often overlooked as being crucial in waterproofing. The reason for that is because, like buttons and other small accessories, they’re not always essential to waterproofing. For your tent to be fully protected from water, you have to make sure you protect all of its zippers.

But, if there aren’t any entry points on your tent, zippers aren’t necessary; therefore, it might not be a big deal if they get damaged. Make sure all zipper pulls are sewn on so rain can’t pierce holes in your canvas—and replace broken ones immediately.

4) Spot Clean With A Solution Of Bleach and Water

 Bleach for waterproofing canvas tent

Start by making sure your tent is clean. Mix 1 part bleach with 4 parts water and wash down your tent. This should be done instead of soap and water as it will not damage any of your material while getting rid of dirt, grime, and bacteria. This will also help kill mold spores that may cause mold or mildew growth over time.

 Spot clean as needed, especially during camping trips involving moisture. For example, if you set up your tent in a place where it rained, you’ll want to give it an extra scrub with bleach water afterward. Be sure not to let any bleach get into your tent’s seams or between its mesh windows and poles. 

You don’t want bleach residue on your gear and clothes when you’re all done! Note: Never mix bleach with ammonia or other robust cleaning solutions as they may release toxic fumes. Always read product labels carefully before mixing products.

5) Clean While In Storage or Before Folding

Before storing your tent or folding it up for storage, give it a thorough cleaning. Dirt, mold, and mildew can grow in canvas and fabric over time. If you plan on storing your tent, use vinegar mixed with water as your cleaning solution (1 part vinegar to 4 parts water). Mix well and apply with a sponge. Rinse thoroughly afterward with clean water. Allow at least 2 hours of drying time before stowing away.

6) Store in The Shade And Away From Moisture

While most modern tents are made of waterproof materials, moisture can still get in if stored in particularly humid areas. Make sure that you keep your tent out of direct sunlight (to avoid UV damage) and store it somewhere dry, even if that means moving it into your garage or attic. If you live in an incredibly humid environment, consider using a dehumidifier when storing your tent. 

Be careful not to use heat sources like fireplaces because they will likely cause severe heat damage over time. If you choose to clean your tent with harsh chemicals or detergents, always do so away from any moisture (you don’t want those chemicals entering and damaging its waterproof coating).

7) Use Seam Sealer Properly

Seam Sealer for waterproofing canvas tent

Seam sealer is used to waterproof tents. Follow instructions on how and where to use seam sealer properly to waterproof your canvas tent. The sealer should be applied along all stitching seams, corners, and panels. 

After you apply the seam sealer, allow ample time to dry before testing your tent’s water resistance by spraying with water from a hose. If you find areas that leak or think your canvas tent needs more seam sealing, then reapply sealant (following instructions) in those areas until they no longer leak.

 After you waterproof your canvas tent with a seam sealer, it’s essential to test your tent for leaks. Do so by dousing the seams and panels of your tent with water and waiting 24 hours. If the water beads up or fails to soak into or penetrate through areas that were previously seam-sealed, then it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter leaks. 

If there are still leaks after drying and allowing ample time for the new seams sealer to dry, you may need to apply more sealant in those areas until they no longer leak.

8) Use Tight Seams To Prevent Leaks

Though many canvas tents are already fully waterproof, even mild leakage can drastically affect its durability and damage your tent. To prevent leaks, use thick stitches with strong thread matching your canvas. It’s also essential to ensure your seams fit tightly together when sewing—if there’s excess material, it could lead to areas where water can seep through from outside or inside your tent. If you have an older canvas tent, you may need to take it in for repairs at an outdoor outfitter or seamstress. You can purchase new waterproof liners for most existing tents if you decide you want a tent that holds up against moisture better.

 Another effective way to waterproof your canvas tent is with tarps. Tarps can be used directly on top of your canvas tent in areas where moisture might build up and seep through, like near zippers or around areas that fold or lie on top of each other. 

Tarps should still be put under tension when using them over a tent to not interfere with performance. Finally, consider applying a coating of linseed oil—available at any hardware store—to help waterproof your canvas tent if you want extra protection from moisture in specific high-risk areas. 

Like most substances meant for waterproofing canvas tents, linseed oil will make your canvas more challenging to clean and decrease its longevity. If not appropriately applied, consult an outdoor outfitter before applying it yourself.

9) Keep At Least An 18-Inch Space Above Sleeping Beds When Pitching On Soggy Ground

A wet ground can lead to significant condensation inside your tent, so it’s essential not to pitch on the damp earth. And if you have been on the particularly soggy ground for a long time, consider pitching at least 18 inches off of soil altogether. 

If possible, keep at least 6 feet of space between your tent and water sources. This extra layer will ensure that any moisture in your canvas doesn’t cause any mildew issues later. The best way to prevent condensation is through ventilation; taking two steps up from setting up camp is more than worth it in most cases!

10) Protect Fabric From UV Rays And Bugs

To protect fabrics from UV rays, look for products that contain UV absorbers. It’s important to understand that sunlight alone is not damaging; it’s actually suitable for fabric in small doses. The problem comes when too much of it penetrates materials like canvas and causes fading, so look for active ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. 

Bug repellents are another common way to waterproof canvas tents. Many tent owners swear by them, but they are often toxic if you happen to spill some on yourself while handling them or mistakenly ingest them (and who hasn’t eaten an errant bug now and then?). 

Because bugs can carry pathogens that can lead to disease, you might be better off taking other precautions before sealing up your tent with chemical repellents.


Do Canvas Tents Need Waterproofing?

Yes, they do. The layer of waterproof paint put on the bottom of the Tent will not protect it as effectively as if the top were worn.

What can I use to waterproof canvas?

-A liquid paint or sealant

-An oil painting insert (or another type of add-on).

How do you protect a canvas tent?

The first step is to set a solid protective barrier. This will help keep the rain and wind from entering the Tent and create water damage oratorios. The second step is to frequently clean the canvas to avoid dirt and dust build-up on the surface structure. Finally, make sure that all door handles, windows, etc., are locked from open by keeping any patterns or passwords short and clear of personal information.

How often should you waterproof a canvas tent?

It is generally recommended that a waterproof canvas tent be accomplished within 3months of purchase. This is because the water droplets on the fabric will fall off in the wind, and most importantly, once rain falls on the fabric, it will Competitively exploit any vulnerabilities that the Tent may have.

Wrapping Up

Protecting your tent is one of the most important things you can do when camping. While water-resistant fabric helps protect your tent from spills and rain, it doesn’t necessarily protect against ground moisture or humidity. Also, rain hitting your tent while you sleep will eventually seep through pores in the canvas and soften up any pitch that has been set into it. That’s why properly waterproofing your canvas tent is so essential—as long as you follow these simple steps.

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