Waterproofing a Canvas Tarp: Step-by-Step Process

Waterproofing Canvas Tarp

Waterproofing canvas tarps is an essential task for individuals who want to protect their outdoor equipment, coverings, and belongings from water damage. 

Whether you have a waterproof canvas tarp or not, adding an extra layer of protection can significantly extend its lifespan and durability. 

In this article, we will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to effectively waterproof your canvas tarp using various methods. 

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your canvas tarp remains resilient against the elements.

Are Canvas Tarps Waterproof?

Canvas tarps are not 100% waterproof, but they are water-resistant.

This means that they will repel water for a period of time, but be mindful that if the water is allowed to pool on the tarp or if the tarp is exposed to heavy rain for a long period of time, the water may eventually seep through.

So, it’s crucial to consider the conditions and use the tarps accordingly during your outdoor adventures.

Can you make canvas tarp waterproof?

Yes, it is absolutely possible to waterproof a canvas tarp. In fact, waterproofing canvas tarps can significantly enhance their performance and durability in protecting against water damage.

While canvas material itself is naturally water-resistant, over time, prolonged exposure to moisture can cause the fabric to absorb water and become less effective at repelling it.

The process of waterproofing involves applying a protective barrier or coating onto the surface of the canvas tarp. 

This barrier acts as a shield, preventing water from seeping through the fabric and causing potential damage.

How to Waterproof Canvas Tarp?

Preparing for Waterproofing Canvas Tarp

Before embarking on the process of waterproofing your canvas tarp, there are several necessary materials and preparations that you should make:

1) Gathering Necessary Materials and Equipment

To successfully waterproof your canvas tarp, gather the following materials and equipment:

  • Canvas Tarp: Ensure that the size of the tarp matches your needs.
  • Water-resistant Coating or Spray-on Wax: These products act as a protective barrier against water.
  • Tarp Accessories: This may include ball bungees, elastic cords, or any other supplementary items needed to properly secure your tarps.
  • Protective Gear: It’s important to wear a breathing mask and single-use gloves during the process.

2) Prepping the Canvas Surface

Properly preparing the surface of your canvas tarp is crucial for achieving optimal results. Follow these steps before applying any waterproofing treatment:

  1. Clean the entire surface of the tarp thoroughly with soap and water or use a gentle fabric cleaner to remove any dirt or debris.
  2. Allow sufficient time for drying until there is no moisture present in or on top of the fabric.

Applying Waterproofing Canvas Treatment

Now that you have prepped both yourself and your canvas tarp let’s move onto applying effective waterproofing treatments.

A critical consideration at this stage involves choosing suitable methods for applying the waterproof treatment.

3) Surface Preparation and Application Technique

  1. Create a smooth canvas surface: Using sandpaper or a brush, gently remove any rough spots or imperfections on the tarp. This step ensures maximum coverage while applying the waterproofing treatment.
  2. Apply a second layer for added protection: To enhance the durability of your canvas tarp’s water resistance, consider applying an additional layer of water-resistant coating or spray-on wax. The second layer acts as an extra barrier against moisture infiltration.

Read more about: Waterproofing Canvas with Wax

4) Waterproof Coating Choices

When selecting a waterproof coating for your canvas tarp, you have various options at your disposal:

  1. Spray-on Waxes vs Waterproof Liners: Spray-on waxes are easy to apply and provide a protective sealant that repels water effectively. Conversely, waterproof liners offer higher breathability while maintaining strong water repellency.
  2. Breathable Tarps Options: In some cases, having breathable tarps is preferable to preventing condensation underneath them. Consider using mesh tarps or netted covers designed specifically for ventilation purposes.

Note: Please follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using these products.

5) best waterproofing methods

There are several methods for applying waterproof treatment to your canvas tarp—each with their own advantages and considerations:

  1. Brushing on Protective Sealant with Bonding Primer: Apply a water-resistant coating using a paintbrush along with bonding primer to promote better adhesion between the sealant and fabric fiber.
  2. Application of Adhesive Sprays: For quick and efficient application, adhesive sprays can prove convenient in giving your canvas tarp reliable protection against moisture.

Remember: Ensure even coverage for best results, regardless of the method chosen.

Maintenance of Waterproofed Canvas Tarp

After completing the initial waterproofing process, it is crucial to maintain regular upkeep – this ensures the long-lasting effectiveness of your waterproofing treatment.

6) Tips on Maintaining Durability

Here are some tips to enhance the durability of your waterproofed canvas tarp:

  1. Frequency of Reapplication: Depending on usage and weather conditions, it is recommended to reapply the waterproof coating as needed.
  2. Touch-ups to Prevent Cracking/Flaking: Inspect your canvas tarp regularly for any signs of cracking or flaking in the waterproof sealant. If detected, promptly conduct touch-up repairs using adhesive sprays or brush-on protective sealants.

7) Longevity Considerations

To maximize the longevity of your canvas tarp’s water resistance, consider implementing these additional measures:

  1. Recycling Old Bedsheets as Waterproof Covers: Instead of discarding unused bedsheets, repurpose them by layering them atop your already-waterproofed canvas tarps for added protection.
  2. Use Oilskin Wax/Ole Time Woodsman: These specially formulated wax-based products can offer further water resistance capabilities when applied correctly. Always follow product directions and apply sparingly.

Read also about: Waterproofing A Canvas Tent

Safety Precautions When Waterproofing Canvas Tarp

It’s important to take several safety precautions when waterproofing your tarp:

  1. Protective Gear: Always wear a breathing mask and single-use gloves when working with any chemicals or treatments.
  2. Ventilation: Ensure proper ventilation in the area where you’ll be applying the waterproof coating to avoid inhaling potentially harmful fumes.
  3. Read Instructions: Carefully read and follow the instructions provided by manufacturers for both cleaning products and waterproof coatings.
  4. Proper Storage: Store all chemicals and materials out of reach of children and pets in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Taking these safety precautions will help ensure a safe environment during the waterproofing process.


What happens if you don’t waterproof a canvas tarp?

Waterproofing is crucial for canvas tarps to avoid water damage. Without protection, moisture can lead to mold, mildew, and fabric deterioration. Ensure longevity and protect your belongings by waterproofing your canvas tarp.

What makes a tarp waterproof?

A waterproof tarp is created by applying coatings or treatments that block water. Coatings and spray-on waxes repel water and seal fabric pores, maintaining breathability in some cases.

What is the best waterproofing for a tarp?

Choosing the right waterproofing for your tarp depends on your needs and preferences. Consider usage, climate, and desired breathability when selecting the best treatment for your tarp.


Waterproofing canvas tarp is an essential process that prolongs its lifespan and protects against water damage.

By following this comprehensive guide step by step, you can effectively waterproof your canvas tarp with ease and confidence. 

Remember to gather all necessary materials and properly prepare the surface before applying any treatment—a clean and dry surface ensures optimal coverage and adhesion. 

Regular maintenance through reapplication or touch-ups will help preserve durability over time. 

With proper care, a well-waterproofed canvas tarp becomes a reliable shield against nature’s elements—allowing you peace of mind during outdoor activities or storage endeavors

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