How to Make Waterproof Canvas Tarps With Turpentine


Fall and winter is a great time to inspect your canvas tarps for wear and tear and perform maintenance. This way, come spring, you can unfold your tarps when you need them and hit the ground running. If your tarps look worn, the time is right to waterproof them with turpentine. Make your own mixture, grab a paint roller and get ready to pour it on -- so that your tarps will stop the rain from pouring on you.

Things You'll Need

  • Paraffin or soybean oil
  • 2-gallon bucket
  • Dropcloths
  • Paint roller
  • Old bed sheet
  • Make a homemade waterproofing mixture by dissolving 1 pound of paraffin – a white and waxy substance available at drug stores – in a double boiler. (Cut up the paraffin to speed up the process.) Add the paraffin to 1 gallon of turpentine and stir. Or mix 1 gallon of soybean oil (found in grocery and health food stores) and ½ gallon of turpentine and stir.

  • Lay dropcloths on your garage floor or at least along the edges of where you will lay the canvas tarps. As a multi-day project, you’ll be glad you spread out the tarps in the garage since you can close the garage door overnight and then open the doors to provide ventilation as you work by day.

  • Lay the canvas tarps on top of the dropcloths.

  • Dip a paint roller into the turpentine mixture and spread a thin layer over the canvas tarps. Run the roller vertically and then horizontally over the tarps to ensure that the turpentine soaks into the canvas.

  • Let the turpentine dry thoroughly; how long depends on your climate and the humidity, but it should be dry within two days.

  • Apply a second coat in the same manner as the first: thin and thorough. Let this coat dry thoroughly, too.

  • Place an old, flat bed sheet on top of the waterproofed tarp and roll it up until you’re ready to use it in the spring. This step will help keep your tarps clean even when you haven't take the time to waterproof them.

Tips & Warnings

  • Place an extender arm on the end of the roller so you can stand while applying the turpentine mixture.
  • Don’t be alarmed if the tarps seem stiff; they may even have shrunk a bit. This is a normal consequence of working with turpentine. After you stretch out the tarps and use them once, they should return to their normal feel and size.
  • Keep cigarettes, cigars and flames away from the turpentine as you work. It is flammable.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images
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