How to Waterproof Cotton Fabric Using Two Simple Methods

Here’s the deal:

Wet clothes and gear sucks.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Waterproofing cotton fabric will save you the dreadful experience of wet gear and clothing. It isn’t too hard to waterproof things at home.

The effort is well worth the small-time investment required. You’ll be much better off when you’re caught in the rain while hammock camping or braving the outdoors. There’s two methods we recommend you use for easily waterproofing cotton fabric.




camping outdoors with waterproof gear

Using Granger’s Clothing Repel to Waterproof Fabrics

The easiest way to waterproof your fabrics and garments is to use Granger’s performance wash and clothing repel detergents.

Granger’s performance wash is a detergent that you can use to prime your garments for waterproofing and wash currently waterproof garments.

After using the performance wash, Granger’s other product clothing repel can easily be washed in with a quick cycle in the washing machine. The result is a lasting waterproof coating that is superior to traditional silicone spray coatings.

All of Granger’s products are environmentally friendly, making it a great choice for wearing outdoors. The duo of performance wash and clothing repel can be picked up for very cheap on Amazon.

grangers duo product

Performance wash and clothing repel are scent free and won’t affect the colors of your clothes. They’re great for hunters, campers, wildlife enthusiasts, and outdoors enthusiasts.

I would recommend you use these two products to waterproof your clothes, unless you have a very old rain jacket or piece of outerwear that is already falling apart.

In these cases, it’s better to opt for a silicone spray or wax. If you need to use a silicone spray, we’ve written an informative section later in the article you can jump to by clicking here.

How to Use Performance Wash and Clothing Repel to Waterproof Garments

The process first starts with Granger's performance wash. Performance wash cleans the clothes of any dirt, dust, or stains, and kills odor causing bacteria. Using performance wash also primes the garment for being waterproofed with the clothing repel wash.

Here’s how to use the performance wash to clean your garment and prepare it for waterproofing.

Using performance wash to prepare garments for waterproofing

  1. Scrape off any caked-on mud or dirt from the fabric
  2. Make sure your washer’s detergent bay is free of any previous detergents. If you’re worried your washing machine still having some lingering detergent, you can run an empty cold cycle without any detergent to wash out any leftover detergent out.
  3. Zip up any Velcro pockets and close any pockets on your garments.
  4. Pour two capfuls of performance wash for a single jacket or pair of trousers. Add three capfuls of performance wash for two garments. If you need to wash more than two garments, split them into separate loads, according to the performance wash instructions.
  5. Place your garments in your washing machine.
  6. Let your washer run a thirty-minute hot water wash and rinse cycle with a water temperature around 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). Be mindful to read your garment’s wash tags, in case they need extra care when washing.
  7. After washing, either air dry or tumble dry on low to medium heat if your garment’s drying instructions allow.

Now you’re ready to move on and use the clothing repel wash to apply a waterproof coating.

Waterproofing Using the Clothing Repel Wash


Make sure your washer’s detergent bay is free of any previous detergents. If you’re worried your washing machine still having some lingering detergent, you can run an empty cold cycle without any detergent to wash out any leftover detergent out.

  1. Zip up any velcro pockets and close any pockets on your garments.
  2. Pour two capfuls of clothing repel for a single jacket or pair of trousers. Add three capfuls of performance wash for two garments. If you need to wash more than two garments, split them into separate loads, according to the clothing repel instructions.
  3. Place your garments in your washing machine.
  4. Let your washer run a wash cycle with a water temperature around 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). Be mindful to read your garment’s wash tags, in case they need extra care when washing.
  5. After washing, either air dry or tumble dry on low to medium heat if your garments drawing instructions allow.

Your garments should now be clean and have a new waterproof coating. The Granger’s coating is pretty tough and should last awhile of camping and outdoor adventures.



Can You Wash Clothes Waterproofed With Granger’s Products?

Yes you can! You shouldn’t use ordinary detergents, but you can still wash your waterproof clothing without ruining the coating.

Just how you normally would waterproof your garments with Granger’s, you can wash them and apply the coating again at the same time.

First using the performance wash, and then another cycle with the clothing repel to apply a waterproof coating.

Avoid using traditional detergents if you wish to retain the waterproofing. Regular detergent can strip the waterproof coating and you’ll be left back at square one.

Using Performance Repel Spray to Waterproof Fabrics

Granger’s Performance Repel spray is an environmentally friendly, fluorocarbon spray that doesn’t require heat to activate its tough waterproof protection. After a quick waterproof spray and an air dry, garments will be waterproof and retain their breath-ability.

performance repel spray

I find that the Granger’s Performance Repel spray works better than silicone sprays of equal price. Silicone sprays seem to wash off easier and don’t have as much power as fluorocarbon when it comes to repelling water.

Applying Performance Repel Waterproof Spray

If you want a spray-on waterproof solution, here’s a great eco-friendly solution from Granger called their Performance Repel spray. It’s more effective than silicone sprays without weighing your clothing down or making it stiff.

Here’s how to apply the Granger’s Performance Repel spray. For the best results, wash your garment with Granger’s Performance wash and apply the performance repel spray while the garment is drying but still damp.

  1. Spray Performance Repel directly onto a freshly cleaned, damp garment from around 15cm away.
  2. Remove any excess drips or droplets with a clean cloth.
  3. Hang the treated garment to dry naturally, or follow the drying instructions found on the garment’s care label.

Can You Wash Garments Waterproofed with Performance Repel?

Yes, similar to the wash in clothing repel, you can wash garments waterproofed with performance repel. It’s best to wash the garments with performance wash to prime them for another touch-up coat of performance repel after the wash.

Using Silicone Spray to Waterproof Fabrics

Silicone spray is an alternate method to waterproofing clothes and cotton fabric. It’s not as easy, nor effective, as using performance wash, clothing repel, or performance repel.

If you need an alternative method for waterproofing larger camping gear consider using silicone spray. You’ll need a can of silicone waterproofing spray, which you can easily find on Amazon for cheap.

Silicone is non-toxic and perfectly safe to use on any of your gear. Once you have your spray can of silicone, you’re ready to put on a waterproof coating in only a few minutes.

scotchgard-waterproof-spray

The process is very similar for most brands, but may differ slightly with instructions. In this instance, I’ll be detailing how to use the Scotchgard waterproofing spray.

It’s got great reviews on Amazon and can be picked up for pretty cheap. This spray keeps the fabric breathable afterwards and it usually only takes one coat to waterproof most things.

Preparing Your Spray Area

spray station

This station is used for spray painting, but the idea remains the same.

The first step to waterproof rain gear fabric is to make sure you have a clear working area.

Find an area outside that you wouldn’t mind getting a little messy. Clear out any objects from the immediate vicinity that you wouldn’t want any over spray on.

Source a piece of cardboard or an old sheet back as a backstop for the silicone spray. Lay down your choice of backstop on the ground to complete the setup of your area.

Preparing Your Fabric/Gear

Now it’s time to prepare your fabric or piece of gear.

Make sure your fabric is clean and doesn’t have any loose dirt, mud, or paint on it. Loose materials could cake off and leave parts of your item without waterproofing.

Once your item is clean, lay it down flat on your backstop flat without any large wrinkles or creases.

If you’re spraying a pair of boots, untie the laces and loosen them to fully cover the tongue and laces. Your item is now ready to be sprayed with a waterproof coating.

Spraying The Coating

Spraying the waterproof coating isn’t too hard. Within a few minutes, you’ll have a waterproofed item that will be fully protected after about 12 hours of drying.

Check the directions on the can of your choice waterproofing spray. This tutorial assumes that you’re using the Scotchgard waterproof spray.

Most product’s instructions are fairly similar. So if you follow this guide using any spray, you likely won’t encounter any issues.

  1. Shake up your can of waterproofing spray
  2. Hold the can 6 to 8 inches away from the item you wish to waterproof
  3. Spray the fabric item sweeping strokes to evenly coat it.
  4. Keep spraying until the item is evenly coated. The coating won’t be soaking wet, but it will wet enough to notice that the item is no longer dry.
  5. If your item has more than one side, gently flip it over and spray the other side the same way.
  6. Wait six to eight hours for the first coat to dry. Your spray may take longer to dry, so be sure to follow the instructions on the can.
  7. After waiting 12 to 24 hours, you can apply a second coat for extra waterproofing toughness.

After Waterproofing

Your item should now be waterproofed. Silicone waterproofing spray maintains the breath ability of fabric while giving it a tough waterproof coating.

If you find that your fabric isn’t as waterproof as you like, try applying another coat.

Keep in mind that your fabric will get slightly stiffer with each coat. This is because the silicone dries in fabric threads to keep it waterproof.



Can You Wash Silicone Waterproofed Fabric?

Yes, fabrics waterproofed with silicone spray can be washed. Be warned, however, that you will likely need to apply the silicone spray after washing.

Detergents will strip away the silicone coating, in some cases entirely. While your fabric will likely still be water resistant after a wash, to keep the fabric waterproof, apply another coat and allow it to dry to restore the finish.

Luckily, the Scotchgard spray we recommend can apply quite a few coats with one can.

How Does Waterproof Spray Work?

Waterproof sprays work by applying a protective silicone or fluorocarbon coating to your fabrics.

The coating repels water by creating a barrier between the water and the absorbent fabric. Silicone and fluorocarbons repel water since they doesn’t absorb water or dissolve in it, and have properties that make water bead up and roll off their surface.

Both silicone and fluorocarbons are fairly lightweight too, making it a better solution for weight and waterproofing than heavy waxes.

After the coating spray dries, you’ll have a great waterproof coating that’ll protect all your fabrics from getting wet and waterlogged.

Silicone and flurocarbons also maintains the fabrics’ breath ability, making it a great choice for waterproofing anything from camping gear and clothes, to outdoor cushions and canvas.

If you work in the snow or a wetland like a swamp, waterproofing your boots is necessary for keeping your feet dry and warm.

Helpful Resources

Here’s a few helpful resources I found while researching this guide.

https://grangers.co.uk/products/performance-wash

https://grangers.co.uk/products/clothing-repel

https://grangers.co.uk/products/performance-repel

https://www.bladeforums.com/threads/best-way-to-waterproof-cotton-canvas.655449/

http://www.snowboardingforum.com/outerwear-accessories/48823-waterproofing-cotton-polyester-hoodies.html

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