Best way to impregnate cotton cloth?

I hope that there are some dopers who have tried this and know which method works better, but I don’t need the answer fast. :slight_smile:

Background: I have a normal cotton cloth sewn into a bag. I have now realized that with bad weather in winter, I would prefer to keep the wooden object inside that bag dry from rain. What’s the best method for this?

Some 50 years or more ago, people used aluminium acetate (vingar acid earth) for a solution and dunked the cloth in there.

Today, wilderness gear and organic clothes manufacturers have some wax jackets, made from heavy cotton covered with beeswax. This has to be replenished after washing (and I don’t know what the wax does to the washing machine?), but since it’s only a bag, I’m not going to wash it once a week.

What would you recommend to keep the water off as much as possible, even if it happens to pour rain, as opposed to only repel slight droplets? While, if possible, still stay breathable from the inside?

Is there another method I haven’t heard off?


Teenage antics aside, have you tried NikWax Cotton Proof? It’s a wash-in water repellent. In my experience, unfortunately, coatings don’t work all that well.

You could also:
-Put object inside a ziplock bag. Put ziplock inside cotton bag. For better performance/durability, you can also get small kayaking drybags.
-Sew nylon/Goretex/eVent fabric inside bag to act as a waterproof liner (or sew the entire bag out of it). Be warned that you’ll have to tape, seal, or otherwise deal with the seams.

But why does wood need breathability? It’s not going to sweat or otherwise generate moisture on its own; even if the outer cotton gets soaked, it should dry in due time given sufficient light and airflow.

No, I haven’t tried anything yet, because I want to decide first on the best method. I also prefer natural things like wax to a chemical solution with unknown ingredients, if the results are equally good.

I might choose that as a second option, but the thingie is rather long, so I’d need a lot of bags/ fabric.

It’s wood in a specific shape, I fear that if it gets wet, it would warp / distort. And if I transport it to different rooms with different humidity, it will absorb and give off water vapour. I currently use the bag to store it at home for convencience, so breathability would be a benefit.


Oh - the double meaning of impregnate; I should have said water-proofing. Ah well, it’s late, didn’t look it up.

I believe most outdoor stores have solutions for use in waterproofing fabric that will be exposed to the elements; some at least may have ‘natural’ products as well as chemicals, and should have people with expertise in what to use and how to apply it.

Though I cannot resist the joke answer: “Buy a 13-year-old boy cotton socks.”

I had no idea that word meant that thing.

What is the wooden object? If it’s a musical instrument I would strongly recommend against any of the homemade waterproofing methods as they may leach into the instrument.

Go ahead, ask me how I know! That was an expensive wooden flute and it was ruined…

You’re going to have to use something other than coated cotton if you want true water “proofness”. If you just want to increase water repellent properties you might try Scotchguard. If you want waterproofness you’ll have to get a urethane coated synthetic fabric and those take special construction methods to ensure water tightness. Unless this is very valuable object getting Gore-tex fabric is likely to be an expensive project and will also require special construction and taping etc.

Here are some coated fabrics you can get in relatively small quantities.

The traditional waterpoofing turned the (usually cotton) fabric into an “oilskin”. This used to be done with linseed oil - and the oil would very slowly polymerise as it oxidised. Linseed oil isn’t used now. The usual answer now is a parafin wax, usually sold for the purpose of reproofing. However, it is never a solid coating, and it slowly migrates. It will eventually migrate onto whatever you have in your bag.

Some people still like oilskins over modern coated fabrics. Not sure why, I stick to Goretex mostly.

When a man and a cotton sack love each other very much, they have a special way of hugging…
Plus, impregnate doesn’t mean to make impregnable.

OTOH, it does mean to saturate a porous material with a chemical of some sort.

Right–I thought the thread was going to be about dyeing cotton cloth, but not with the purpose of waterproofing.

Smooth jazz & red wine?

Make a long skinny plastic bag for it, then put it the cotton sack?

I know, you’d need lots of bags, yada, yada, yada. Don’t sweat it, get a few of those large clear yard waste bags and a roll of packing tape (cello). Using scissors, cut bags down to the size that suits, tape up the open sides, attach ends etc, as required. Then, using a pencil or pen, punch a few holes into the constructed bag.

Voila, waterproof, but not so much as to create condensation, and removable when not needed!

First, sorry for your loss! Something as special as a flute … that must hurt.

Secondly, that’s neither what I expected to hear at all (never occurred to me), or wanted to, but definitly needed to hear. So now I have learned a new thing from the misfortune of another Doper. (Similar to how to carry batteries to avoid setting my pants/jacket on fire.)

Hijack: Over the past decades, I and others I know have experienced during hiking that Goretex stops being completly watertight and becomes only mostly watertight. The reason seems to be obviously that the thin important membrane that does the magical vapour transport/ droplet repelling rubs off - esp. where the backpack is - and, unlike human skin it’s based on, doesn’t grow back.

So when looking at the different categories of sailing clothes - depending on whether you sail in fair weather on lakes, or plan on crossing the Atlantic staying outside during storms for hours and hours - I not only bought a modern Gore tex jacket, but also old-fashioned oil-skin. Despite the unpleasantness of sweating under them, for which I wear special soaking clothes, they will stay water-tight no matter how rough the sea/lake/ weather is.

Yes, that’s the route I’m going to go - take a large garbage bag, the 90 or 120 l variety, which is already a durable plastic, and put it over the bag only when I’m outside in bad weather. Cheapest and quickest solution that does not threaten any contamination at all.

Many thanks for all your advice! :slight_smile:

To impregnate a “Cotton Sack” it’s obviously, “Cotton Gin” at a “Cotton Ball” with “Peter Cotton Tail”. :rolleyes:

I used “Scotch” Guard for shoes.