Canvas is a versatile fabric. From fashion to painting to home décor, canvas has many uses. Heavy-duty canvas fabrics are also used as camping tents and bags. It is a tightly woven fabric that is quite durable in any weather. But is canvas waterproof?
Typical cotton canvas is water-resistant, meaning it provides good water protection, but it is not fully waterproof. Water can seep through the fabric and attract mildew. But you can buy a waterproof canvas or apply a coat on the canvas to make it waterproof.
In this article, we will talk a bit more about the water-resistant properties of the canvas. You will also learn how to waterproof your canvas in easy steps.
What are Canvas Made of?
Canvas is a plain, tightly woven fabric. Nowadays, canvas fabric is made of cotton, but linen and hemp are also common materials.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and silk might add more resistance and durability to the fabric. Canvas is a durable fabric that can protect from high wind, UV rays, and rain.
Based on materials, canvas has different uses. Artists and painters cannot go by a single day without painting on canvas.
It is also used for making outdoor gear like tents and other camping materials. Then one of the common uses of the canvas is making protective clothes, shoes, and fashionable bags.
The traditional material for weaving canvas was actually hemp. In fact, the name canvas is derived from the Latin word “cannabis” which means “hemp made”.
According to historians, the ancient people of India started weaving cotton into canvases in 1500 BC. Eventually, they traded the fabric all around the world.
Throughout history, canvas has played a significant role in changing the world. Advanced civilizations like the Egyptians used linen-made canvas to make sails. Other civilizations also did the same. We all know how improving the sails of ships helped tread and commerce in the past.
Many European countries produced canvas fabric during the eighth century. The canvas became popular as a painting medium among the renaissance artists during the Italian Renaissance.
It brought appreciable changes in the art world by replacing wood panels that got easily affected by elements like heat and water.
Are All Canvas Waterproof?
Canvas fabric is quite strong and durable. The fabric can protect not only from UV rays but also from moisture.
As you know, the common materials for making canvas fabric are cotton, linen, and hemp. All these materials are water-resistant.
Apart from the material, the way canvas is woven affects its water-resistant abilities.
However, canvases made of only raw materials are not hydrophobic enough to make them completely waterproof. Water can seep into the fabric no matter how tough it is. If the water gets stuck in the fabrics, it can cause mildew.
However, if we apply waterproof coating on the canvas or combine other synthetic materials with the raw material, you can get a waterproof canvas.
Cotton is popular for weaving canvas more than other materials these days because it has higher water resistance. It can naturally hold out water. However, without proper coating, it is not fully effective waterproof.
Manufacturers produce canvas yarns from the rough fibrous parts of hemp, cotton, and linen plants. The fibers are thick and durable. Then threads of yarns are tightly knitted together to create the canvas fabric.
Manufacturers often apply a layer of PVC on the outer surface of the fabric for canvas used in commercial and industrial sectors. For painting medium canvas, the fabric is stretched on a wooden frame to apply gesso.
When water comes in contact with a cotton canvas, the cotton swells and seals the closely knitted canvas. It prevents water from going through the fabric. However, it has a limit, and eventually, moisture will leak through the canvas.
Same as cotton, hemp, and linen are also water-resistant materials. Linen is moisture resistant and breathable. Hemp is durable and can remain unchangeable even after facing a lot of moisture. You can coat the materials with a waterproof coating to make them more efficient in resisting water.
Also, you can buy a waterproof canvas. It is coated with a waterproof coating or made with better water-resistant material. Canvas made of synthetic and cotton combination is highly waterproof.
It is because manufacturers use hygroscopic synthetic materials, such as polyester and rayon, to interweave with cotton, hemp, or linen. Thus, the canvas absorbs less amount of water.
How to Make Canvas Waterproof?
Waterproofing your canvas fabric gear, clothes, and accessories is necessary if they come in contact with water or moisture from time to time.
You may have a canvas with no waterproof coating, or your old canvas has lost the coating layer. In both cases, you need to apply a waterproof coating.
The coating on the surface will prevent moisture from locking in the fabric. Moisture stuck in canvas fabric can cause mold growth. It can also make the material brittle. Hence, the coating helps the canvas to last long.
There are a few ways to waterproof your canvas. The most common methods are spray containing fluoropolymer formula or just waxing.
Waxing might be cheap, but it takes more time to apply on canvas fabric. On the other hand, the spraying method is much easier and faster.
How To Fully Waterproof Canvas Fabric?
You might want to waterproof your tent, clothes, bags, shoes, or any item made of canvas fabric. Here is how you can waterproof a material made of canvas fabric:
• First, take the item you want to waterproof and clean it thoroughly. If it is washable, dry it well after washing it.
And if there is no need to clean with water, use a lint roller to remove the surface dirt off the item. You can also vacuum the canvas fabric.
• To apply the fluoropolymer, or any waterproofing method on canvas, choose a well-ventilated area.
Waterproofing agents can create toxic fumes. Also, cover the floor and surrounding furniture to prevent solutions from getting on them.
• Now, choose a high-quality fluoropolymer spray. Apply it to your target product evenly. After that, let your item completely dry.
• To test if the waterproofing worked, hang it somewhere and splash a bucket of water over it. The water should not be absorbed. Instead, it should bead off the surface of the canvas.
• If it does not work, you have to dry the item and spray over the waterproofing solution again. Do not apply waterproofing coats on a canvas fabric without completely drying it.
There are a few other things to consider before choosing a waterproofing solution. Learn what type of canvas fabric you have. If you have a canvas item made of acrylic fiber, avoid silicone-based coating.
The properties of silicon break down the acrylic fiber. As a result, the canvas will become more prone to moisture and mildew.
So, check the elements of the waterproof coating and canvas type before you go through the waterproofing process.
Apart from spray solutions, you can use petroleum-based sealant to waterproof your canvas item.
You will find many high-grade petroleum-based coatings on the market. Spread the canvas and apply the coating in every nook and corner with a brush. Let dry canvas for a while.
After that, splash some water on the canvas to check its water resistance. The water should run off from the canvas and not get absorbed.
You should keep in mind that there is no way of permanently waterproofing a canvas. Sooner or later, the waterproof coating will come off, and you have to re-coat the canvas again. Depending on the quality of the coating and the canvas, you have to re-coat the canvas at least once a year.
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Uses of Waterproof Canvas
Canvas fabrics are versatile, and so it has many uses, especially outdoor uses.
Therefore, the canvas must be water-resistant and waterproof. Here are the most common uses of waterproofed canvas fabrics:
Modern ship/boat sails are made of canvas fabric. The fabric is thick, strong, and durable. Sails get exposed to extreme heat and rain. Thus, they need a waterproof coating to avoid getting wet.
Thick and durable canvas fabric is used for making tents for camping. During camping, it may rain, or moisture can accumulate on the tent.
Water may not seep through the tent easily, but it may sit on the fabric and weaken it. Hence, the tents are mostly made of waterproof canvas.
Canvas shoes are popular for their flexibility and durability. You may have to walk on mud or any wet surface wearing your shoes. Thus, the canvas fabric needs to be waterproof.
Different types of bags, especially backpacks, need waterproof coating. Backpackers and hikers carry all their necessary things in the backpack. So, it needs to be protected against water.
Various clothing for outdoor use like camping and sailing require waterproof canvas clothing. Canvas clothing is durable and water-resistant.
Coverings sheets for construction sites, cars, boats, and furniture require protective waterproof canvas fabric.
So, is canvas waterproof? Regular canvas fabric is not fully waterproof, but they have good water resistance. However, there are synthetic/acrylic materials that are waterproof. You can also apply coats on your canvas items to make them waterproof.