How any why you should wax your clothing
Water proofing clothing with wax has been around for well over 100 years. And as with many things, the old ways are sometimes the best. Before the development of Gore-Tex and synthetic fabrics, people had to get creative when it came to making their clothing both waterproof and breathable. I first learned about using wax for waterproofing from my grandfather who every spring would cover most if not all of his camping gear in wax. This was especially the case when it came to hiking/work boots.
As with many people, I lost interest in waxing and waterproofing my clothing and focused more on simply buying the latest and greatest when it came to outdoor clothing. However, I finally got tired of having wet cold feet and went back to my grandfather for some tips and tricks for staying warm and dry.
Side note: My grandfather is an epic badass who among other things, grew up in the mountains (arguably in the highest elevation house in Oregon State) without electricity. He spent his winters in an un-insolated bunkhouse that would easily get covered in over 4 feet of snow every year. Needless to say, he knows a thing or two about keeping warm and dry.
Wax clothing mishap: There are two sides to leather. One that is rough and absorbent, and one that is smooth. During WW2 the American forces would use wax to waterproof their boots. Some outfits thought that it would be a good idea to make the boots with the rough side of the leather on the outside. Their thinking was that this would allow the leather to absorb more of the wax. It turns out they were correct. Unfortunately, it also absorbed more moisture as well, which meant the men were much more prone to getting cold/wet feet.
Waxing clothing is really simple, inexpensive, and above all it works. All you need is an hair dryer/heat gun, wax, and clothing. The more porous the clothing the better (jeans, canvas, etc…). However, be warned that wax will cause your wool and flannel to look much different.
Unfortunately you can’t just use any wax. Rather you need a specialty wax that is designed for this purpose. I use a brand called “Otter Wax” that is made in Portland OR (click here to buy)
Step one: Preparing your clothing. Wax begins to melt when it is exposed to heat (Captain Obvious). As such, you can make the application process much easier and smoother by first warming up you clothing with a hair dryer. This will cause the wax to become softer and more easily applied.
Step two: Applying the wax. Simply rub the bar of wax across the warm clothing. Make sure that you apply the wax evenly across your clothing. Keep in mind that it’s a lot easier to apply wax than it is to take it off.
Step three: let it soak in. After you have covered your clothing in wax, you will then want to re-heat your clothing with a hair dryer. This will allow the wax to more thoroughly soak into the clothing. You can also use this as an opportunity to run your hands across the clothing to make sure that you have an even coating.
Step four: Let your clothing sit. You will need to let your clothing sit and dry in a warm dry place for at least 24 hours. They will smell a little of wax, but with will dissipate over the next few days.
Caring for you waxed clothing: Once your clothing is waxed there are a few steps you will need to follow in terms of washing and caring for them. First off, you don’t want to just throw them in the washer with you wife’s favorite linens. Rather you should wash them by hand in cool to lukewarm water. You should also avoid putting them in the dryer. Instead put them on a rack to dry out.