Looking to weatherproof your gear? You’ll need just two simple ingredients: beeswax and some “carrier oil” such as petroleum jelly. When heated, the combined ingredients will seal and protect your leather and canvas jackets, hats, bags and boots. It’ll also help preserve gun stocks, axes and other metal tools and equipment.
Since ancient times, beeswax has been used for its medicinal, antiseptic properties. Like honey, it is antifungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. It’s an excellent sealant that protects wood and leather, and a lubricant that “greases” iron and prevents it from rusting. Moreover, beeswax doesn’t turn bad. It can be heated for use again and again.
Mix beeswax with oil and you get a cheap, natural waterproofing solution that can last for years and years. Petroleum jelly is a good carrier oil, penetrating the surface of your gear and locking in the wax. It can seep into seams and through the tiny, microscopic pores of cotton, canvas, denim, leather, wood and metal surfaces.
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Alternatively, you can use linseed or flaxseed oil, shea butter, coconut oil or soya oil. Often, boiled linseed is preferred because of its quick-drying characteristic. It also has a polymer or plastic-forming property which hardens and binds it into a flexible solid. However, when combined with beeswax — which in itself turns rock-hard during cold temperatures — linseed is usually used and thinned with turpentine. Turpentine is a by-product of sap from pine trees, which acts as a solvent. So if you opt for linseed oil you’d have to consider the added ingredient and cost of turpentine. Also, both linseed and turpentine are flammable and smell harsh. The odor dissipates after a few days, as does the flammability. But these are factors you’ll want to consider at the outset.
As an option, you can add essential oils to make your gear smell good and to repel mosquitos and rodents. Mice like beeswax, so go for essential oils that repel them, such as peppermint, lemon, citrus, eucalyptus or citronella.
To make sure the wax-oil solution penetrates, expose it to heat. Applying heat to your freshly waxed gear would not only set the wax more quickly, but it would also soften your material and open up the pores, allowing better absorption.
Here’s the recipe.
- 2 oz. beeswax
- 8 oz. petroleum jelly (may use boiled linseed oil as an alternative)
- Optional: 1 tbsp. essential oil
EQUIPMENT AND MATERIALS:
- A heat source for cooking. (A hot plate would be preferable over a burner or open flame since the ingredients are quite flammable.)
- A throw-away cook pot. (Any used but clean tin can would do.)
- A measuring cup
- A paint stirrer, tongue depressor or any clean stick for stirring
- A clean rag, spray bottle or paint/roller/cleaning brush
- A hairdryer or heat gun
- A wide-rimmed storage container (candle tins or small glass jars work best)
- Shave or chop the beeswax into small chunks and set aside.
- Warm the petroleum jelly in the tin until it liquefies.
- Add the wax little by little until completely melted. (If you’re using linseed, liquefy the wax first, turn off the heat, and then add the linseed oil and turpentine.)
- Cool the mixture and apply it onto your gear. When waterproofing cloth, some people choose to do this while the solution is still warm and in liquid form, with a spray bottle. But they run the risk of shrinking and scalding their cloth. A petroleum oil-based mixture tends to cool quickly, too, and can turn into paste within minutes. So better to cool it completely, and apply with a rag or brush in wax form.
- Wipe the excess off the edges and seams of your gear.
- Heat with a heat gun or hair dryer set on high. If not, put it aside for 24 hours to allow the wax to set and cure. You’ll see the color of your material turn one or two shades darker.
- Store the remaining wax in a sealed container. (If it has cooled completely into a hard wax, reheat it so you can pour it into the container.)
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- If you’re using linseed, go for boiled linseed oil, which has quick-drying agents. The recommended solution is one part melted beeswax, one part turpentine, and half part linseed oil, all in fluid measurements.
- If you want your solution to be a softer, creamier paste, use less beeswax and more oil/s. But note that more wax makes for a higher waterproofing capacity.
- For best results, apply multiple coats. But be sure to dry and cure your material sufficiently in between applications.
- Work in an open, well-ventilated area since the ingredients are flammable. For extra precaution, wear gloves and safety goggles.
- The best time to do your waterproofing would be on a warm, sunny day.
What advice do you have on waterproofing? Share your tips in the section below: