Do Canvas Tents Need Waterproofing? (We Find Out)

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If you have found your canvas tent leaking on you in the middle of the night camping, you have come to the right place. I have searched all over from company websites to what others have done to prevent leaks in a canvas tent.

When you first get your canvas tent, you will need to waterproof it. Waterproofing your canvas tent is a lot easier than it sounds. The basic instructions are to get your tent soaking wet and dry it out. This will be done at least 2 times.

In this post, I will go further into detail on how to prepare your tent for its first camping trip and keeping the tent in good condition. Eventually, you may need to do more than the simple method of waterproofing or seasoning the tent. However, this is another easy process and is explained below.

How to Waterproof A Canvas Tent


  • Water from a hose or rain.
  • Space to allow the tent to dry.


  1. Set up your tent in your yard and get it completely wet with a hose or let it sit out in heavy rain.
  2. Allow the tent to completely dry.
  3. Repeat step 1 and step 2.
  4. To be sure your tent is ready, test it out. Spray water on it and see if water beads off it. Make sure to test the seams of the tent as they seem to take longer to fully close its tiny holes compared to just the fabric of the tent.
  5. Before you package your tent up, make sure the tent is bone dry. Even the slightest bit of moisture can cause mold to form even if the tent is used within a few days.
wet canvas
Water beading off the canvas.

Why Getting a Canvas Tent Wet Will Waterproof It

Every time you get the cotton fibers wet, the fibers expand. (1) As the fibers expand, the small gaps between the fibers get even smaller. As the tent dries the fibers stay expanded and keeps the fibers closer together. Each time you get the tent wet and let it dry, the gabs slowly go away. This prevents water from getting through and making it waterproof. This process is also known as “seasoning” your tent.

Keeping the Inside of the Tent Dry

Even though you waterproofed your tent, make sure to keep items off the sides of the tent. If there is an item leaning on the tent, water will wick away from the canvas and cause a leak.

How Often Should You Waterproof a Canvas Tent?

You can waterproof your canvas tent every 2 to 3 years if you keep it in good condition and use it about two to three weeks out of the year. To keep it in good condition means to make sure you are not keeping it constantly out in the sun or putting it away when it’s still damp. If you get lucky enough to camp when it doesn’t rain and you have shade on your tent, it will last even longer.

Spray on Waterproofing for Canvas Tent Products

Over time you may notice that the above method of waterproofing your tent may stop working and this is when you invest in these products. If you really wanted to, you could use these the first year you have a tent as well. If you are using these products the first year to supplement the basic waterproofing with water, I would make sure to use it over the seams and stakehole areas. These areas are a bit harder to waterproof.

One thing to remember about these spray products is that you may need to reapply them every year as they wear off easily.

2 waterproofing products

Kiwi Camp Dry V.S. Star brite Waterproofing

Kiwi Camp DryStar brite Waterproofing
Container Sizes10.5 oz (297 G)22 oz, 64 oz, 1 Gallon
1st IngredientsSilicone BasedDistillates and Petroleum
ApplicationSpraySpray, Brush, or Roll
Drying Time24-48 hours6 hours
Average Suface Area CoverageNot Available80-465 square feet

How to Use the Waterproofing Products

  1. Set up your tent in a well-ventilated area such as on a tarp outside on the grass or driveway. I’ve heard that the Star brite product may kill the grass from an Amazon review.
  2. Make sure your tent is clean and completely dry. (see cleaning instructions below)
  3. When applying the solution wear gloves and goggles for extra protection.
  4. Shake the bottle and apply enough to completely wet the tent. Get a good dose on the seams, stitching of the tent, and the stakehole areas. Try your best not to get anything else wet.
  5. Allow the tent to completely dry.
  6. Wash your hands.
close up of canvas tent with rope in a hole
Make sure to check all seams when waterproofing your tent.

How to Properly Clean Your Canvas Tent

Materials Needed

  • Hose and bucket
  • Sponge or a soft brush
  • Cleaning solution. Vinegar works great.


  1. If you are using vinegar use 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water. If you are using a different cleaning solution make sure it’s safe for canvas material.
  2. Lay your tent on the ground and brush off all the dirt and dust. Using a clean broom or vacuum with its brush attachments will work fine.
  3. Get your tent wet from the hose.
  4. Now start to use your sponge or brush to clean the fabric with your cleaning solution. Start at one end of the tent and work your way down. Rinse throughout the cleaning process.
  5. Once done, set up the tent to help further rinse the tent. There is no such thing as over rinsing. We want to make sure the cleaning solution fully rinsed off.
  6. Allow the tent to fully dry.

Helping Others

After reading this post, I hope you no longer have to ask, “Do canvas tents need waterproofing?” You can now help others in keeping their tents clean and leak-free. Walk them through it or just send them this article their way. I have sharing buttons near the start of this post. Happy future camping. 🙂