Carhartt coats and bibs are warm, rugged, and dependable. What they definitely are NOT is waterproof or windproof.
Do not hang up your trusty friend just yet for a new coat or outerwear! There are a couple things you can do to greatly increase your Carhartt’s water shedding abilities!
To waterproof a Carhartt cotton-canvas coat and bibs, it is easiest and safest to rub a bar of wax (generally beeswax blended with paraffin or plant-based oils) onto the fabric. Melting the wax with a blow dryer will melt it and impregnate it into the cotton canvas, thus making it hydrophobic and waterproof.
That’s the quick and easy explanation, but there are a few subtleties and trade-offs that you should be aware of BEFORE you start this process.
Easiest Way to Waterproof Carhartt Outerwear (or Other Cotton-Canvas)
This is my absolute favorite way to waterproof a Carhartt jacket, anything canvas (as long as it’s relatively small), and other work outerwear.
It only involves a few materials and maybe 30 minutes of your time per wax layer for a coat or bibs.
Materials Needed to Waterproof Carhartt Outerwear (or other cotton-canvas):
The concept is very simple, but does take a little elbow grease.
The steps are as follows:
- Rub the wax bar into the entire cotton-canvas garment by hand. This will leave a white and shiny coating where you have applied it.
- Use a blow dryer or a heat gun on the low setting to melt the applied wax into the coat, vest, or bibs.
- Apply additional coats as needed.
- Immediately wear your outerwear if you desire.
Yes, that’s it. No smell, no drying time.
Pros Cons Relatively inexpensive method A bit labor intensive if you don’t have the right technique No prep time Only 95% effective in hard rains Ready to wear immediately afterward Wax is difficult to apply to seam overhangs 95% Effective (with 2 wax coats) Does NOT leave the coat feeling hard and brittle Jacket remains relatively breathable No smell whatsoever
The entire process takes about 30 minutes per layer of wax that you apply to a coat or bibs. If you just try it for your first, you might find that it takes an hour. Here’s some tips to speed up the process.
- Placing your garment on the floor while kneeling on one end and stretching the opposing end with your support hand will greatly speed up the rate at which you can apply the wax bar
- The second layer applies quicker than the first
- Apply a little wax along the actual zipper and melt it to get rid of a stubborn zipper
- Two coats is definitely better than one, but go nuts with as many as you’d like!
- Place a basketball inside the hood when applying the wax to stretch it and make application easier
- Pinch the seams (especially on the shoulders) to pucker them up and rub the wax under the overhang of the seam
- Apply extra to the elbows and cuffs (not the elastic) in order to prevent fraying of the fabric over time
- After two applications of wax on my large Carhartt hooded coat, my 90g wax bar was reduced to 53g — your mileage may vary, but that should give you an idea of how much is used
- CAUTION: If you do this process on a hard wood floor or laminate, you will have a skating rink wherever the wax touched the floor! Clean up with dish soap and hot water or it will remain a slip hazard.
Keep in mind that with two properly applied coats this method will, in my estimation, make your outerwear 99% waterproof against a light rain, a splash, or most snow.
If you have a driving rain, it’ll protect you well (I’d say 95%) but you’re likely going to discover the spots that you missed or didn’t apply enough.
In other words, you’re making your Carhartt outerwear extremely water resistant.
If you want to waterproof your Carhartt outerwear like a boss and take care of the last 5%, then check out the next section. ⬇⬇⬇
Most Effective Way to Waterproof Your Carhartt Outerwear (or Other Cotton-Canvas)
It consists of double-boiling a mixture of the following:
- Microcrystalline Wax (1lb melted first by itself by double-boiling)
- Low Odor Mineral Spirits (8oz added after wax is melted)
- Pure Tung Oil (2oz added after wax is melted)
- Tung Oil Finish (6oz added after wax is melted)
Once these are thoroughly mixed, you then use a cheap 2″ paint brush to paint this mixture on your jacket. Apply heat with a blow dryer or heat gun to allow it to penetrate into your coat.
You then have to allow the jacket to dry and cure for the better part of a week.
Pros Cons As close to 100% waterproof as you’re going to get Takes 3+ days to cure and be wearable As close to 100% windproof as you’re going to get Mixing components is dangerous if using open flame Long lasting Significantly reduced breathability of material Gives it that “tin cloth” look Also… gives it that “tin cloth” look Gives material incredible durability, stain resistance, and protection from abrading Makes outwear stiff and wax “creases” can show Seams are easy to treat since a brush is used
Things to Know Before Applying Wax to Cotton Canvas and Carhartt Outerwear
Keep in mind that there is always a tradeoff when making any item waterproof with wax.
The first is that the more wax you use, the less breathable the material will become. Sure, it will shed water like an otter’s coat, but your body heat won’t be able to escape anymore either. Now, you may very well make the coat soaking wet from the inside due to your perspiration.
The second thing to keep in mind is that treating your Carhartt work wear with wax will change the color unless you use black. I only have black Carhartt coats and bibs, and they simply remained the same after the wax was melted in. If you have brown, navy, or olive, expect them to darken several shades.
I recommend applying an extra wax coat to the shoulders, elbows, and cuffs. The shoulders will get the most precipitation, and the elbows and cuffs will be protected from fraying and holes with the extra wax.
Be extremely careful if you attempt the second method (where you mix the 4 ingredients) while using an open flame and double boiling things. Fumes can spontaneously combust. Trust me, I have made this mistake before when double boiling pine pitch and using an open flame. You can have a 2′ tall flame in a second from a little tiny jar. It’s not fun!
If you do have a flare up, do NOT use water! It will only spread it. Just cover the jar with a lid of some sort to starve it from oxygen. Have the lid ready before you begin!
Can I use Camp Dry or Scotch Guard to Waterproof a Carhartt?
Using Scotch Guard or Camp Dry sprays is a very convenient way to make your jacket water resistant. With the canvas material, I found that it just wasn’t up to the task with anything more than a very light mist. Then again, I only sprayed it with one pass over everything.
Spraying it several times will likely improve expectations.
If you spray, you will need to wait at least 24 hours before wearing the material and it will smell for a few days beyond that.
Using sprays has one BIG disadvantage in my opinion — they do not protect your Carhartt from fraying, tearing, or abrading.
Areas like your cuffs, elbows, and knees (bibs) will all start to wear thin if you keep the Carhartt in its original form or only use sprays for waterproofing.
Using a wax to impregnate the canvas will dramatically increase the longevity of your material by acting as a shield. You can always reapply the wax as well every season if you’d like.
How to Waterproof Carhartt Boots
The only material you’ll need in this case is a can of mink oil and an old cotton cloth.
Clean the leather on your boots first of any dirt and debris, and then use the cloth to protect your finger as you dab out some mink oil from the can.
Apply it generously on all leather surfaces and leave some extra along the seams and ESPECIALLY where the upper attaches to the sole of the boot.
Use a blow dryer to melt the mink oil and heat up the leather. This will allow it to sink right in.
You can wear your boots after about 15 minutes.
The color will be darker (unless you have black). Wipe off any excess mink oil that could not sink in.
I apply the mink oil and heat it until it no longer sinks into the leather. This tells me that the leather is saturated and will repel water like a champ!
Some people say that mink oil will soften leather too much. I’ve never had a problem with it with my Carhartt boots and I’ve been doing this process every fall for 3 years on the same pair of boots and they still look and perform great!
No wet socks for me!