Otter Wax Waxed Canvas Tote

There’s something so cool about waxed canvas. It looks rugged and worn. Durable and functional. It is water repellent and tough.  And though it seems to have gained popularity recently, the practice of waxing canvas is anything but new. It originated in England in the sailing industry and was widely used for waterproofing in the early 1900’s. Today it’s often seen to water-proof and strengthen bags, coats, shoes, hats, utility aprons and more. I love making zip clutches and pouches with waxed canvas.

Warning! This post contains a lot of pictures! I wanted to make sure you are well-prepared! So read on and get an idea of how to wax canvas and then stay for the tutorial. You won’t be disappointed!

 When the good people at Otter Wax offered to send me some products to try out, I was more than happy to accept. Otter Wax is made in Portland, OR. It is 100% natural, free from petroleum and comes in a cute little bar. They also make several other products like a fabric dressing that can be heated and applied with a paintbrush, fabric cleaner, and several leather care items.

You can also wax an existing item like a canvas coat or bag or can you wax your cotton canvas first. I’ve done both but find it easier to wax a flat piece of material. You do need to make sure to let it dry completely before trying to sew with it as your needle can become sticky and can jam.

Today I will wax both. I will show you the wax canvas process on a piece of maroon color fabric and then I’ll show you how to sew up a quick canvas reusable tote and then wax it.

I decided to stick with what I know and use the fabric wax bar. You rub the wax onto the fabric in sections, working it into the fibers by rubbing it with your fingers or with their cool wooden smoothing tool. I found that working the fabric wax back and forth in sections and then using the smoothing tool in the opposite direction worked best. It gave great coverage and I covered the piece quickly. It’s mess free and only takes about a day to dry!

Rub some wax on a small section of the material and use your fingers to rub the wax into the material. The heat from your hands helps the wax melt into the fibers.

Work in sections until you cover the entire piece evenly. Here you can see the difference between the waxed side on the left and the right side which hasn’t been waxed yet.

Here is the finished piece. The look reminds me a bit of leather. How awesome does that look!?

Give your newly waxed canvas a day or two to dry. Do not wash! Otter Wax Canvas Cleaner is great option for spot cleaning your pieces. It’s made with gentle castile soap and has a pleasant citrus scent.

Lighter fabrics will show more lint. You can see all the lint on the yellow canvas. I spot cleaned with the canvas cleaner and you can see how much of the lint was removed.


Ok, onto the tutorial! I’m going to show you a quick tote bag that once waxed will be water-repellent. Great for rainy days, trips to the beach, or sitting by the pool. With just a few supplies and a sewing machine you’ll be on your way!

You will need:

  1. 12″x32″ duck canvas, extra for optional front pocket
  2. 48 inches, (2) 24 inch segments of ribbon or cotton webbing for strap
  3. Otter Wax fabric wax bar
  4. Other supplies -sewing machine, thread, pins, pencil, ruler, scissors or rotary cutter

First, zig-zag stitch down both long sides to keep canvas from fraying. Fold right sides together, so the piece measures 12″x16″ with fold at the bottom. and sew down long sides with 1/2 inch seam. Open seam and press.


To box the bottom two corners, keep seam in center and fold the back fabric so the bottom fold is under the seam and it forms a triangle. Measure 2.5 inches across the bottom of the triangle, mark and sew. Do the same for the other side.


Turn bag right side out. Fold top of bag inside one half-inch and then another one half-inch to cover the raw edge. Make sure the width is the same all around the bag. Top stitch once or twice, depending on preference. I sewed two lines to make sure it didn’t come unfolded.

With a pencil, mark a dot that is two inches in from the side and two inches down from the top. Do this for all 4 spots where the strap will attach. Fold the bottom of the strap under one inch and center on the left dot on the front of the bag. Take the other end of the strap, make sure it’s not twisted and pin, centered on the dot on the right of the front of the bag.

Sew a rectangular shape with “x” in the middle to secure the strap to the front of the bag. Do the same for the back.

Now the fun part. You’re ready to wax!

Grab a bar of Otter Wax fabric wax and start rubbing in sections as mentioned earlier. I found that it worked best to go back and forth and then use the tool in the opposite direction to rub the wax in. The wax is virtually scent free, which I appreciated. I’ve gotten headaches from waxing with pure bees-wax in the past.

My daughter grabbed my phone and got some candids. She had fun “helping” me wax too.

It’s not shown here but definitely cover your work surface because when you flip over the bag to do the other side you won’t wax on your kitchen table. And now I know….

Keep waxing until the entire outside is waxed. The wax goes on easily but the bar can be warmed up in the microwave for about 10 seconds to soften if needed.

You can add a piece of canvas in coordinating or contrasting color to the front for a pocket. My plan was to add a yellow pocket but I didn’t have any more yellow canvas on hand. I did find some strips in my scrap bin from a prior project. I sewed them, right sides together and pressed open the seams. I backed it with the coral canvas and top stitched around the whole pocket. I added my label and then waxed the pocket. And because I am inpatient, I sewed that baby right on the bag and guess what? My needle didn’t get jammed up! Yay!

Keep your bag hanging in a dry and sunny place for a day or two, until it loses its tackiness.

See how the water beads up on the waxed fabric? Just rolls right off!

Now you’re ready to hit the beach!

I was an Otter Wax fan before and now I’m an even bigger fan. It’s an honest company and filled with quality people who are doing great things. If you haven’t yet, check them out at

I received these awesome products from Otter Wax in exchange for an honest review.The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own. Please post any questions or concerns but I reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason, so please keep it polite, people!

7 thoughts on “Otter Wax Waxed Canvas Tote

    1. Depends on the size of your project but the small bar has waxed a few small zipper pouches so far. I would think a big canvas coat might need a full bar otherwise you’d be safe to order one to get you started. The tote in the tutorial used about 1/4 of the large bar.

  1. Nice work! I also heard that once you have your fabric waxed, putting it in the Dryer, inside of an old pillowcase, and tumbling it for 10 minutes helps it coat evenly (tumble dry a towel after just in case you possible had wax get out of the pillowcase)… I am definitely going to try your technique soon. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great pictures and tips! I was wondering what your experiences were with wax first/then sew vs sewing the bag then waxing. I’m considering a waxed canvas and leather tote and wasn’t sure if it would be easier to wax first then assemble, but was also concerned about the wax and my sewing machine. Any thoughts or tips would be appreciated!

    1. Hi Teresa!
      I prefer the look of the waxed canvas when it’s waxed prior to sewing. That being said it is a bit trickier to sew with it before it’s fully dry. I would go ahead and wax a finish product first and see how you like it. Then try out waxing first, allowing to dry and sewing a simple project like a zip pouch. Let me know how it all turns out!

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