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Wax Cotton Raingear

PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2017 8:42 am
by Dave Z
Wax Cotton Raingear

Keeping dry is tough without PVC, which tends to break down after a few years, and is hard to patch without the right adhesive kit.

Waxed Cotton is good stuff and a lower-tech solution.

As far as I can track it, it was developed by the British Navy for at sea use as a replacement for 'oilskins' (cotton or linen saturated in linseed oils).

While not perfectly water-proof, good fabric, well-designed and made keeps one substantially dry. The big pluses that it's very tough, repairable and the treatment is renewable. Any suitable design of cotton jacket can be treated in the field, so we can make our own. Other fabrics may work also (see comment below).

Treatments are mixtures of oil (most work, some are better... linseed was traditional but goes rancid... citrus oil blend may help?; mustelids (mink, marten, weasel, etc) are great but potent smelling); avoid used crankcase oil (carcinogenic)) and beeswax or equivalent (toilet bases are mounted on 'johny rings' of synthetic wax that'll do... dismount toilet from floor to scavenge).

The oil is primarily a thinner for the wax. You want a blend that is thin and penetrating when warm and cools to a paste or just crazing finish.

Some blend a little kerosene or gasoline (petrol) into the treatment to temporarily thin the mix and help penetrate fibers before evaporating off. For full effect, simmer fabric in the slew... but this can be dangerous. Consider cooking over hot rocks from a distant fire, and using a double boiler.

Cotton has the advantage that it swells when wet, so waxed cotton tends to absorb damp, then lock wet out. Thicker and higher denier (thread count) fabrics help. A lofty underlayer (such as a wool sweater) helps us stay warm against that damp. Look for this quality in synthetic fabrics if experimenting beyond cotton.

There are many good commercial brands with press-waxed fabrics (top o' the line). Barbour is a reliable brand, for one. Vacuum bagging or an improvised (hot) roller press (maybe even a wringer?) might improve DIY wax jobs, either of which might be possible in post-cataclysm years.

Dave Z


PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 9:42 pm
by Dave Z

Re: Wax Cotton Raingear

PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 11:16 am
by Bruce Mardle
I used to wear waxed-cotton jackets a lot. I think I gave up mostly because they tend to accumulate unsightly creases. Granted, that's unlikely to be a consideration if foraging in the rain to barely survive!
Also, you can't clean them with detergents and they're relatively heavy.
On the other hand, I guess it'll be a long time after The Apocalypse before we can make Gore-Tex again! (And maybe we shouldn't; the last time I shopped for a jacket, I noticed a lot of them were advertised as fluorocarbon-free.)

Re: Wax Cotton Raingear... Ponchos

PostPosted: Thu Mar 16, 2017 1:49 am
by Dave Z
Recently, I came across waxed cotton ponchos made by Dakine ( Like, duh!

Ponchos are way easier to sew up in a post cataclysmic world, and much easier to waterproof (having fewer seams). In a pinch, they can double as shelter, ground-cloth or sail. Two can huddle under one for warmth and dry. Plenty of room for a pack underneath.

A belt or two helps tame them down in heavy wind. They work well with hip-high boots (which can be part of the modular footwear system proposed here:

Something to consider.

Dave Z

Re: Wax Cotton Raingear... DIY Dressings

PostPosted: Tue Nov 22, 2022 1:32 am
by Dave Z
DIY Wax Cotton Dressings

I found, then sadly lost a very interesting YouTube video comparing ingredients for DIY dressings. The usual ingredients are paraffin or beeswax, linseed oil and mineral spirits or turpentine.

(Annotated) conclusions of the comparative tests:

  • Microcrystaline Wax... Finer but longer chain molecules yield greater plasticity, elasticity and oil integration.
  • Tung Oil... Lower oxidization rate and increased antifungal properties. Considered by some sources to be less toxic (certainly compared to 'boiled' linseed oils)
  • Turpentine (not compared in the video)... My personal preference for the pleasing smell and natural anti-fungal properties. You can distill your own from wood (see The Knowledge).

NOTE: Wax rings are used to mount toilets in most homes, and work great with DIY dressings. In the event of collapse, it's a go-to scavenge.

Recipes are all over the place, starting with 1 part wax : 1 part oil : 1 part spirits. I recommend experimenting with proportions on test patches before committing to a full batch.

CAUTION!!! All ingredients are flammable. Use safety gear, double boilers and keep fabrics well aired against spontaneous combustion until the volatiles have evaporated.

Dave Z