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Making Oil Cloth
7 January 2017, 20:29,
Making Oil Cloth
Here is a recipe for making oil cloth. It is the old style method of waterproofing tents and gear. Tents, bags, ponchos and slickers, canvas packs or rucksacks. Even wet weather clothes.

I have used this recipe for 40 years with success. I posted it on a U.S. forum 5 years ago and it has been used by people around the world with equal success.

What I have listed is the American terms for the ingredients and I have been informed by an Australian friend that "Mineral Spirits" as known in the U.S. is called "Spirits of Naptha" in Australia, so it may be known by that name in the UK.

This recipe is very specific and the instructions must be followed closely for it to work. Other products or mixtures can not be included or substituted.

Oil Cloth recipe
Sparky asked about making oil cloth so here goes. There are lots of recipes available but most of them do not work well. This recipe works and is quick.

First you need to prep your cloth. 100% cotton works best. You can get canvas at Walmart, or by a canvas painters tarp at the Paint store or Harbor freight. Do not use the cheap 8oz canvas tarps, their weave is too open and they never close up. The best way to prep it is wash it in hot water and dry it on hot setting. This shrinks the fabric and closes the weave.

Next you need to mix some simple chemicals. You will need one quart of mineral spirits (You are not wanting mineral oil. Mineral oil will not work), which is available as "paint thinner" at Lowes, Home Depot or any paint store. You will also need a quart of boiled linseed oil. It is available at the same place. If you go to Sherin Williams or Porter paints you can get tarp and chemicals at the same stop.

Mix the mineral spirits and linseed oil 50/50. Shake it up good. You need the combination of chemicals. The linseed oil waterproofs the fabric and the mineral spirits allow the oil to dry. If you use straight linseed oil the fabric will never dry and will remain oily and sticky forever. (At this point you can also add pigment if you want color in the tarp.)

Hang your prepared tarp from a clothesline or the back yard fence and paint it with the solution. Make sure it is saturated well. Leave the tarp hanging until it dries. With the 50/50 mixture it will take about 48 hours. It will take the smell about a week to disperse. It is best to leave it hanging in a shaded spot for at least a week.

My method is not only the traditional method, it is also cheap. It costs only a fraction of the cost of Camp Dry, Scotch Guard or commercial waterproofer.

I have a couple of the linseed/mineral spirit tarps that I have been using for 15 years. The waterproofing never wears out and it does not rot the canvas.

I have also used this recipe to waterproof knapsacks and possible bags. It is nice to know your possible bag will double as a water bucket if necessary.

Have patience. It is going to take some time. Things usually did back in the old days. This is not a treatment you will do on Monday to take to the woods on Friday!


The tarp must be left outside and hanging until the oils have dispersed well. Do not try to fold the wet tarp and store it. Linseed oil can cause spontaneous combustion if the fabric in folded or wadded up and stored before it dries.

Neither do you want to get this tarp or any items treated with linseed oil near the fire.
Don't believe anything until it has been officially denied.
8 January 2017, 08:58,
RE: Making Oil Cloth
Thanks for this MB.

I've cut and pasted it into my archive.

For what its worth, Mineral Spirit is known as White Spirit in the UK.

Essentially, in terms of recipe I guess that all need remember is that its a 50:50 mix Linseed oil: White spirit.

I have some ex mil equipment bags etc in my radio kit that were waterproofed in this way back in the 1960s. They are still un-rotted and still completely waterproof. So as you say, done properly, it lasts well.
72 de



STATUS: Bugged-In at the Bug-Out
8 January 2017, 20:30,
RE: Making Oil Cloth
Thanks for the translation on the White Spirits, I have discovered that the same chemical goes by several names world wide, or at least among us English speakers.

Many years ago when I found this recipe and first used it I treated a simple rucksack made from cotton canvas with a draw string top. I left the rucksack hanging from a tent pole at camp and it rained overnight. To my surprise I found that my treated rucksack worked as well as any water bucket I owned.

after that several of my reenactor friends made Ponchos using a simple scrap of canvas treated with this mixture. We used those slickers as general sourpuss rain-wear and shelters for many years afterwards. It makes a super tough finished product.

I have even coated cotton bed sheets to produce light weight tarp shelters.
Don't believe anything until it has been officially denied.

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