November 23, 2015
How to Wax a Cotton Jacket
Hey there folks this Brandon and with this video I want to show you how to wax a cotton jacket or coat. The reason for this is because I’m trying to gear up for winter and fall. It’s getting really rainy and I just got this new coat and it’s not water resistant or water proof. You’re going to need a few tools, here’s the tools you’re going to need. One, you’re going to need a cotton jacket, hat, coat, whatever it is you’re trying to waterproof. It’s got to be cotton, and I’ll get to that in a minute. Second, you’re going to need some Otter wax, this is the wax we are going to use to waterproof the jacket. I’ll get into more details as to why we are using this instead of some other options in just a moment. Third, you’re going to need a heat gun or a heat tool to help melt the wax to make sure that it gets on the jacket evenly. Fourth, you’re going to need a really inexpensive, cheap paintbrush to help spread the wax on the jacket once its melted, and finally you’re going to need a pillowcase and an electric dryer, I’ll explain why in just a moment. I’m going to get to the step by step instructions in just a minute, but I want to briefly talk about why I recommend that you only do this to cotton garments.
I’m going to be talking specifically about jackets for this example, the reason is this. Most winter clothing is made out of wool or cotton or some sort of man-made material like polyester. You’re not supposed to use wax on wool and the reason for that is because wool comes from animals and animal hair is naturally water repellent. If you have a nice wool jacket like a pea coat or some sort of woolen winter coat you don’t need to water proof it using any sort of wax. The wool will naturally repel water. Cotton on the other hand comes from plants which are designed to absorb moisture, therefore this is not a waterproof or water resistant material which means that we need to wax it. Now of course there are other options out there. There are Gore-Tex fabrics and all sorts of man-made materials, but I prefer to use a more traditional cotton jacket because of the way it feels, the way it drapes on the body, the way it hangs and because it’s very breathable. Waxing a cotton jacket is a little bit time consuming, but it’s one of the best solutions for giving yourself a nice stylish, comfortable jacket that’s also weather repellent. The problem with using Otter wax is that the instructions that come with it are really limited. These are the instructions on how to use the Otter wax and they’re completely wrong. If you follow the Otter wax instructions you’re going to ruin your garment or you’re at least going to make it not waterproof. Instead we need to figure out the traditional way of waxing a garment just using this product instead of mixing our own wax.
Let me briefly talk about this jacket. I had this custom-tailored for myself using a website that allows you to put in your measurements and choose fabrics and create your own jacket, press go and it ships straight to your door. I included a link in the description of the video if you want to make your own. The reason for that is that is because I have very odd proportions, I’m a larger individual, as you can see with short stubby arms. Every jacket that I buy off of the rack I’ve got to get adjusted somehow. It ended up being cheaper for me to just get a custom tailored, custom fit jacket and so that’s what this is. The thing is if you buy a jacket, high end cotton trench coat from Burberry or some place that has a great track record of making well made garments you can buy them that are pre-waxed but they’re going to be like $300 to $400. It’s really expensive to buy a high quality, pre-waxed cotton jacket. What we need to do with this video is figure out a very cheap way to do it. It’s really cheap inexpensive and it doesn’t even take a lot of time. In 24 hours you’re going to have a completely waxed waterproof jacket. You only need to reapply the wax once a year if that, if you don’t use it a lot you may not even have to reapply the wax for multiple years, so let’s get right into it.
The key to using Otter wax to wax your jacket is to use a lot of force and quick friction. The reason for this is you need to impregnate the fabric with the wax. The only way to do that is if the wax is in liquid form. You can try to heat the wax using your heat gun and then heat the fabric before applying the wax. Make sure that you don’t burn the fabric. Don’t hold the heat gun in one place over the fabric. Make sure that you sweep it back and forth and keep it always in constant motion. Then it’s the hard part, you’ve just got to get to work. Grab the wax, sit down or get into a crouch position, lean over your work space and dig in. You need to do firm, fast, repeated strokes. The color of the fabric is going to change, there’s no getting around that. Your fabric will get darker even after the wax dies, the color will change to a darker shade of the original color of the fabric. I found that it was nearly impossible to get very much wax on the fabric in large broad strokes. Instead I only found success by doing short quick vigorous strokes in a small area. Once the wax was applied, I would take the heat gun to melt down any solid wax that had curled up then use the brush to spread it out evenly.
This is a long hard project. It was much more difficult than I thought it was going to be. I got tired very quickly and I had to take frequent breaks. Also, some of the more awkward parts of the garment are going to be fairly tricky, for example, seams on pockets, seams between layers of fabric, and button holes are especially tricky. I found that you can use the edge of the wax bar pretty well for seams. You’ve just got to make sure that you rub it in really well. Another thing that I noticed while waxing this jacket is that it’s much easier to apply the wax when you have a very hard surface beneath the fabric. When I moved to the shoulders it was much more difficult to get the wax off of the bar and on to the fabric because I had this soft cushion in the shoulder pads that was making it harder for the wax to get grip. I had to redouble my efforts and work ten times harder to get the wax off the bar for the shoulders. For this jacket the shoulders were particularly important because that’s where the rain is going to fall; it’s going to fall on your shoulders.
This wax is good for work garments and for casual pieces of clothing that you’re going to use every day. Backpacks, jeans, work shirts, and cotton coats like this trench coat. As you can see while I’m waxing this coat, the wax doesn’t apply in a clean even finish. There are parts of it that look a little mottled and discolored, that’s due to the lining. Sometimes you’re going to rub the wax over the lining which is going to cause dark streaks, and there are going to be some places that don’t take the wax quite as well as others. Those are going to cause little light streaks. When you dry this in the dryer it’s going to change because the wax is going to melt and the motion of the dryer is going to cause the wax to spread out which is going to give you a much more even tone, but you will never have a solid color like you did originally. This waxing process gives your coat texture. It makes it look kind of vintage and worn and a little bit edged. I actually like this look, I think it gives the coat some character. I think it makes it look much more interesting so it doesn’t bother me, but if you’re trying to wax a garment that you’re using for dressy occasions, instead I would probably not wax it and use an umbrella or something like that.
I miscalculated when I purchased my bar of wax, I bought one large bar of wax and I thought that it was going to be enough to cover my entire garment, but I was wrong. I got over halfway done with it when I completely ran out of wax. I did half of the back, half of the front and the entire collar, and then I ran out so I had to purchase another bar to complete the job. Since I had to take a break with half of my coat done and the other half not done I decided to use this opportunity to experiment with a before and after look. I went ahead and put it in the dryer. As you can see the dryer melted the wax and the motion of the tumble dryer caused the wax to spread out. This evened out the look of the wax and it dried perfectly. I filled a little spray vile with water and I tested both sides of the fabric. I tested the untreated side, and as you can see the cotton soaked the water right up. Then I tried the waxed side and as you can see the water immediately started to bead. Here’s a close up shot. This is what the fabric looks like after the wax has been applied and after it has dried in the dryer and then dried on a rack for 24 hours. As you can see the fabric is darker and there is a lot of textural detail. It looks worn and sort of vintage. Here’s a shot with some water sprayed on top, as you can see it beads up beautifully. After I took this shot I soaked up the water with a rag and it didn’t even leave a mark, the wax works.
Once you’ve completed waxing the coat, put your coat in a pillowcase, tie an end in the pillowcase, put it in your electric dryer put the dryer heat on about medium heat and then dry it for about 10 to 20 minutes, you might decide to do it for an entire load, and that’s going to be OK. The reason you’re doing that is because the heat from the dryer is going to melt all of the solid wax and then the force of the dryer is going to make all of wax spread out. It’s going to even out the tone of it as you can see. This is the after, as you can see there are fewer streaks that you saw when you were doing the waxing. That’s because I put it in the dryer and that caused the wax to spread out and cover all of the different spots. I will point out another thing as you can see this side of the jacket is much more even in tone, it’s very flexible, I can move and it’s not making any marks. This side of the jacket is a little less even in tone, especially right around here, I’m moving my arm and as you can see where the wrinkles are forming it’s making small marks. The reason for this is because I just finished waxing this side of the coat and this is the side of the coat that’s been drying for several days while I’ve waited for my new bar of wax to arrive from Amazon. So this is after just a few hours and after having dried it in the dryer and as you can see it hasn’t dried fully. This is why it’s important to wax your coat, put it in the dryer, and then set it out to dry for 24 to 48 hours. If you do so your coat will act just like a regular piece of fabric. Its not going to have a waxy feel to it, its not going to have a waxy smell to it, it’s not going to move like a thick waxy fabric, Its going to feel normal. Whereas this side still feels a little waxy to the touch, it’s got a faint waxy smell to it and it just doesn’t move like a normal piece of cotton fabric. So dry it in the dryer, and then hang it out to dry in a warm dry place for between 24 and 48 hours.
After you pull it out of the dryer you may see places on your garment where you applied the wax a bit too thick. You can fix this with your heat gun. Take out your heat gun, put it on the lowest heat possible and then gently bring the heat gun into contact with the really thick wax pieces until it melts. Now you don’t want to burn your garment so instead make circular motions pass it backwards and forwards until the wax melts, then take out your brush and gently brush it down. Now I want to show you exactly what to expect; here’s a before and after. Here is before and here is after the waxing and drying. This was a much more complicated project then I thought it was going to be. I did the math, all said and done, waxing this coat took 4 hours – two hours to do one side and two hours to do the other side, and it hurt; my muscles are aching afterwards. I’m still glad I did it, I’m going to have a nice waterproof jacket now. I’ve already tested it, its waterproof, it works, it looks great, it feels great. I’m pleased with the construction and the quality of the material so it was worth it for me to do. I do recognize that most of you are probably going to be doing this on smaller items, even those of you who are going to be doing a coat, you’re probably a lot smaller than I am, so the coat that you’re going to have to deal with is probably half this size so it will probably take you half the time. Just learn the lessons that l learned and put aside an entire afternoon to work on waxing your jacket if it is a very large piece of fabric like mine is. Then just dedicate the time necessary to get it done, and then enjoy your coat. Don’t forget I’ve got links to the wax that I used in the description of this video, I’ve got a link to where you can get either this exact jacket, or any other jacket that you might want to build, custom tailored to yourself in the links of this video. Be sure to expand the description and check out all of the links that I’ve posted there. I’m going to cover a lot of the stuff and the tools that I used in this video right there easy and convenient for you. So be sure to check that out before leaving.