Taking Care of your Waxed Cotton Goods
Today's post will be about taking care of your waxed goods and how I re-wax my garments when the need arises.
But first, a little history on the subject...early mariners recognised that wet sails performed more efficiently but slowed their ships due to the extra weight. From the 15th century, mariners applied fish oils and grease which resulted in a much more efficient performance in dry weather and lighter sails in the wet. Out of the leftovers, they cut waterproof capes for their own use.
At the end of the 18th Century, this technique was perfected by a Scottish based sailmaker Francis Webster Ltd who added linseed oil to flax sail creating oiled flax. Lighter than the sailcloth, the treatment was utilised by the Royal Navy and early tea clippers which helped establish faster trade and more agile battleships.
People are often quite daunted by the process of re-waxing their items when in fact it is quite an easy process and doesn't take that long to do. I'm often asked on how I do it so I have decided to document the steps required.
Another question people ask is when should they re-wax their garments, in my experience it is when either the garment starts letting in water or when you can see the cotton is starting to show its true colour underneath. Some people just annually re-wax their items to be on the safe side.
Wax of your choice (Filson, Otter, Barbour)
Bowl of cold water
Hair Dryer / Heat gun
2 x Brush
Step 1: Preparation
Get your newspaper laid out on the floor to protect the surface from the tacky wax. Get a bowl of cold clean water. Warm up the wax either by putting the tin of wax in warm water or by using the hairdryer on it, this is done for an easy application.
Step 2: Clean
Use the brush to clean the surface of the garment, I usually soak the brush with some of the clean water and make sure to go over the whole surface area. Give the garment about 10 minutes to dry up.
Step 3: Wax
If you left the wax in warm water it should now be ready to apply, if you are using the hairdryer give the wax a blast now. Then using either your hands or a clean cloth get some wax and start applying it into the garment and rubbing it in, in a circular fashion taking care to get good coverage throughout. Where there are seams you can apply more wax as these areas are more prone to leak in wet weather. When you have applied the wax to all of the surface areas on one side, get your waxing brush and use it to work all the wax in evenly.
Step 4: Heat
Now grab the hairdryer and start blasting the surface area in a circular fashion to make sure you are getting every spot, this will help for the wax to penetrate the cotton and permeate it for the following seasons. Once done, go over them once more with the brush and work in the excess wax that has come to the surface.
Repeat Steps 3 & 4 on all the sides of the garment.
Step 5: Hang
Once you have finished waxing everything all you need to do is hang the garment for about 24 hours, this will let the wax to work its way in and settle. If you see dry spots the next day, I would just repeat the process on those areas and let the garment hang again for a day or so.
Step 6: Wear
After 24 hours your garment is ready to use again with the new benefit of it being water repellent again. Just beware that the garment will be tacky the first few times you use it again so be careful with where you sit or what you press against.
Hope you folks found that useful and maybe you will give some of your items a rewax next time.