waterproofing boots

DIY Waterproofing for Clothes & Boots

As far as Nature’s elements, being cold is possibly the worse natural physical agony a person can experience. (Tip: Keep a waterproof lighter with you so you don’t get caught without fire.) Check any Salvation Army shelter and they’ll tell you winter, especially an extraordinarily cold winter, is when they witness the worse pain and suffering. Knowing how to DIY water proofing of boots and clothes helps immensely.

Fact is the only thing worse than being cold is being wet and cold. The water actually acts like a coolant that enhances the ability of the cold to seep right through the material of your clothing. On the flip side it draws the heat away from your body and transfers it to the wet clothing, a double whammy with deadly consequences. Trying to figure out how to dry wet clothes is a whole another problem. Our best bet is to attempt to waterproof our clothing and footwear.

Trial & Error

Edison, Ford, Einstein all suffered many failures before getting it right, so staying with that philosophy let’s begin with what won’t work. Number one, when the SHTF Walmarts will probably be the first place looted, and if it isn’t the waterproofing sprays they sell are all chemically formulated and frankly .. aren’t worth a damn. They advertise to repel water, not stop it and they are unbelievably expensive. The old adage of “you get what you pay for,” does not apply here… No matter what you pay you ain’t getting much.

We found some home remedies which involved mineral spirits, turpentine and even used motor oil. I honestly can not say whether these methods work or not. Due to the stench these products produced and the possible situation that standing by a campfire warming yourself you could turn into a human torch, I passed on investigating these.

Waterproofing Clothes

The first thing to do is decide what clothing you are going to waterproof, which may sound silly, but a nylon dress shirt just ain’t gonna hold up. The key is to choose clothes with a tight weave. The watering substance is intended to cover the material and fill in any gaps in the weave. Tighter gaps … better protection. May I suggest a pair(s) of blue jeans, a blue jean or similar strength work shirt, a canvas overcoat or coveralls. These are only suggestions, but you get the idea of what I mean about rugged and durable materials.

There are several things to consider before starting the process. Achieving the proper mixture of the waterproofing elements can be a bit tricky. Too much of one element and the shirt will feel crusty, not enough and the waterproofing is not properly bonded. One good thing, you won’t ruin the clothing, you’ll just have to redo it, which requires several rewashing.


It’s difficult to estimate the exact amount of waterproofing liquid you’ll need as the type of weave and size of the clothing plays a huge role. This list is an example of a starting point. Once you become familiar with the procedure and how you want the end result, alter ingredients as you please.

  1. 1lb of beeswax. Stay away from food grade beeswax unless you have more money than you need. Go to the local hardware store and buy a wax toilet ring(s). They’re the same thing, but much cheaper.

  2. 2 quarts of linseed oil

  3. ½ cup pine tar (This is optional as the pine tar will help maintain the beeswax flexibility and stop mold from forming, but is not required. It may also discolor

  4. ½ cup orange oil (This too is optional. Substituting or adding orange oil instead of linseed oil will give it a better fragrance.)

I would highly suggest you perform the waterproofing procedure outside or at least in a well ventilated garage, etc.

Prepare your work area and get started:

  1. Spread a 8×8 or 10×10 piece of plastic sheeting on the floor. You don’t want beeswax getting on your flooring
  2. Lay your clothing out as wrinkle free as possible. You want complete saturation and covering of the material.
  3. You need a heat source, a small campfire, propane burner, kerosene heater
  4. Using an old pot or bucket suspend over the flame
  5. Heat the beeswax and linseed oil together at medium heat. It will help speed the process of you cut the wax into slivers.
  6. Stir until contents are completely liquefied.
  7. If you choose to add pine tar or orange oil, do so now.
  8. Using a paint brush, brush the liquid over the entire piece of clothing/ or pour small amounts onto the clothing and thoroughly brush.

Waterproofing Boots

There are excellent boots that are waterproofed from the manufacturer, some not so good. But, in any event the waterproofing will eventually begin to wear thin, a 40 to 50 mile rough mountain hunting is a good rule of thumb. I know that sounds like an incredibly far distance for some hunters, but some Rocky Mountain hunters will cover 7 to 10 miles a day.

I’ve seen hunters (and hell, even I’ve done it until I learned better) prop their feet close to the campfire in order to warm their feet. Heat melts Gore-Tex and will render your expensive boots leaky nearly immediately.

The actual process of waterproofing your boots is essentially the same as for clothing, except much easier in my opinion. Begin with thoroughly cleaning the boots. I don’t mean spit shined, I mean free of any debris, pebbles, screws, etc. Remove the shoelaces, might be a good time to inspect and possibly replace them.


Melted Wax

Set the boots and the wax ring in a warm place, near a heating vent, wood burning stove or in the sunshine if its summer and hot. Don’t allow them to become too hot, just warm to the touch. Then using your fingers, which you’ll probably want to wear plastic gloves, and a small rag, rub the wax into the leather. Be liberal in the application, but remember excess wax will have to be removed when finished. Pay special attention to seams as that’s an obvious place for leakage. Once finished set the boots back near the heat for a couple of hours to allow the wax to naturally penetrate crevices. Use a soft cloth to wipe of excess and you’re ready to go.

This procedure is excellent, but will eventually wear away. Simply repeat the process for additional miles of dry walking.

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