Wax cotton has a reputation as an old school waterproofing technology.

However, with the recent resurgence in “heritage” design, wax cotton is making quite the comeback.

This renaissance is amplifying the popularity of wax cotton jackets and bags from brands such as Filson, Orvis, and Barbour.

Like any waterproof technology, it is a good idea to take proper care of your wax cotton gear. With that in mind, we present the following photo essay on how to re-waterproof your wax cotton jacket using Nikwax Wax Cotton Proof.


Dirty Wax Cotton Jacket


This Orvis Wax Cotton jacket was filthy! As you can see, it wasn’t repelling water as well as it should.


Clean Wax Cotton Jacket


The first step is to wash the jacket in Nikwax Tech Wash. This jacket was so dirty that it took multiple cycles to get it clean! If your care label says not to machine wash, hand wash or sponge clean the item. While it’s still wet, lay it out on a protected surface.


Waterproofing a Wax Cotton Jacket


Start spraying Nikwax Wax Cotton proof on the jacket. The waterproofing will be opaque and white, but don’t worry, it will dry clear!


Waterproofing a wax cotton jacket


Keep spraying the jacket. Ensure maximum coverage, especially seams and hard wear areas.


rub in the wax cotton waterproofing


Once covered, rub the Wax Cotton Proof into the jacket. Make sure to remove all excess waterproofing!


waterproof the back of the wax cotton jacket


Flip the jacket over and waterproof the back.


Ensure even wax cotton proof coverage


Buff the entire jacket, making sure to get even coverage and to remove any excess.


Waterproofed wax cotton jacket


Let jacket hang dry. It may take a day or two to dry completely. Voila! Clean and Waterproof.




Another Satisfied Customer!

48 thoughts on “Caring for your Wax Cotton Jacket”

  1. Hello, does this procedure works on a ’90 barbour spey wax cotton? How it will be the final “looking finishment”?Thanks, Francesco

    1. It will indeed! Depending on age, you may want to hand wash the jacket- or even spot treat it – with Nikwax Tech Wash. Follow the care instructions on the label for cleaning for best results. Once the jacket is wet from cleaning, follow the rest of the steps. Our Wax Cotton finish will be breathable and water-repellent. It will not look extremely shiny, but will have a mild sheen. Hope that helps!

  2. I have just bought a new Held wax cotton motorcycle jacket. Would it be prudent to treat it with your products now or wait until the jacket needs reproofing

  3. Hi there, I have a brand new sea salt wax cotton jacket that I managed to spill beetroot juice down today. I have put it in the wash – is it necessary to re wax after every washing?

    1. Hi Lucy,

      Oh dear! Were you able to get the stains out? What did you wash it with? If it was a regular detergent it may have left behind a residue that could compromise the water-repellency. Test to see if it’s still waterproof by either running the jacket under a faucet or spraying it with water. If it beads up, no need to re-waterproof. If water soaks into the fabric you may need to re-wash with Tech Wash to get rid of the detergent residue, then use the Wax Cotton Proof while the jacket is still wet (as in article). Hope that helps!

  4. Greetings,

    Is removal of wax from waxed cotton a possibility? If so, does anyone have a good procedure?


    1. Hi Ryan,

      That would depend on the type of wax used. We have never removed wax ourselves, so if anyone else has helpful tips- let Ryan know!

  5. hi,
    I have a caped shoulders waxed coat,its been in the shed for a few years and its not smelling too good.can I wash this to freshen this up?

    1. Hello!

      Try spot treating the coat with Tech Wash, diluted with water, and a soft bristled brush. Rinse, and hang to dry somewhere with good air circulation (like a covered patio).

  6. I have a Barbour Bushman wax jacket,it was filthy and looked scruffy,filled a bath with handwarm water and about four capfuls of Nikwax Tech Wash and gave the jacket a scrub using an asda soft bristle scrubbing brush,took off all the dirt and the deposits of black wax,rinsed it in clear water and then laid it flat .
    painted on Nikwax Cotton proof ,buffed it in to the fabric to remove surplus and when completed left it to hang and dry in the shed,Took three days for jacket to dry,mainly because of cold weather ,the inside took the longest.
    Result a great “new” looking jacket that is waterproof again.
    Have used the recommended wax before and this is so much easier and cleaner and does the same job.

  7. I have accidentely treated my Denim riding jeans with nick wax wax cotton waterproofer – will it work as well?

    1. Hi David,

      It will absolutely work! It might have a slightly waxier hand than with regular Cotton Proof, but it will still breathe and be water-repellent.

  8. Doesn’t it usually require two coats of Nikwax cotton proof to make a jacket really waterproof and able to stand up to the heaviest of down pours. I am sure that just one coat would not be enough especially if you were reproofing a Barbour jacket. I would give it two coats for good measure.

    1. Hi Duncan! One coat should suffice. Nikwax waterproofing is water-based, so it goes where the water goes (why you should apply when wet). This means it ensures great coverage and gets into the fibers effectvively. It is not a traditional wax where layering is key. That being said, if you want to apply two coats- go for it!

    1. Hey Nick!

      Great question. Depending on the specific fabric composition of your jacket, we have 2-3 products that sound like they would work for your situation: Cotton Proof, Wax Cotton Proof, or Polar Proof.

      Cotton Proof adds DWR to cotton, polycotton, and canvas, reducing weight-gain and maintaining breathability.
      Wax-Cotton Proof adds DWR to wax cotton jackets and items, rejuvenating inherent water repellency and prevents “wetting out.”
      Polar Proof adds DWR to fleece jackets and items, reducing weight-gain and maintaining breathability.

      Cotton Proof is a great starting point, as it works on a slightly wider variety of fabrics. If you are having trouble deciding which product fits your jacket description most accurately, feel free to drop a line to our friendly customer service team (customer.service@nikwax.com). They’d be more than happy to point you in the right direction for your specific jacket.

      Thank you!
      – Brennon

  9. I have an old wax jacket (over 25 years old!) that I’ve never once re-waxed so thought it was about due. Bought some Nikwax Cotton Proof and followed the above instructions and it really is as good as new (if I can remember that far back)
    The Nikwax was easy to apply and has left the jacket with a nice wax ‘sheen’ that will hopefully keep the rain out. I use about 2/3 rds of the bottle so a little left over if I have to retreat any spots later. Great product.

    1. Hey Sean!

      We love hearing this! Yes, Cotton Proof and Wax Cotton Proof are great for that very thing. The main difference between most waxed-jacket coatings and Nikwax, is that most wax jackets have a layer of wax melted over the top of the fabric (as a shell, of sorts), where as Nikwax treatment penetrates the fabric and is absorbed into the individual strands of the fabric, making it more flexible and longer-lasting. Often times, the melted-on wax layers require a lot of time and energy to re-invigorate, and can flake off after hardening and becoming brittle over the years, as the fabric is worn, worked, creased, and stretched.

      Glad you found out the easy and most effective way to resurrect your old jacket!
      – Brennon

    2. Hi Sean, how did you clean your wax jacket before waxing? Did you clean it with Nixwax Tech Wash? Machine wash or hand wash? Was the bad odor removed because of washing? Is the jacket still in good condition after washing? So you used the Cotton Proof for waxing and not the Wax Cotton Proof? Sorry for so many questions. I wan to make sure if Nixwax products is the right solution for my Barbour jacket. Thanks.

  10. Hi!
    I have a FILTHY Filson jacket, can I use this product to clean it? It`s still waterproof, I re-waxed a few months ago, but maybe I re-waxed over some dirt.
    Any ideas to clean it?
    Thanks in advance!!!

    1. Hey Marcel! It’s distinctly possible that you may have sealed in some dirt, with that most recent re-waxing. I will pass on your situation to our customer service team, so that we can work with you on figuring out what the best next steps are. Look for an email soon. – Brennon

  11. Hi I have a 5yr old Barbour jacket (brown). It’s really stinky. Is it safe to hand wash it with Nixwax Tech Wash to clean it. I suppose that the stinky smell goes away. Then maybe I will just rewax it afterwards. Your advise please. Thanks.

    1. Hey Jovel!

      Yes, you can wash Barbour jackets with Tech Wash, either in the machine, following the directions on-bottle, or by hand, following the directions on-bottle. To thoroughly clean the jacket and ensure that you have given your jacket full exposure to the cleaner, I suggest using a washing machine. Hope that helps! – Brennon

  12. I have a Barbour Beaufort Ducks Unlimited jacket from 1990 that has a few motor oil stains on it. Is there any way I can remove or lighten the stains but not loose the wax proofing?

    1. Hey Peter!

      Tech Wash is not designed to remove wax layers, so using it to clean your jacket should be just fine. The older the jacket, the more likely that the wax layer is flaked, flawed, or weakened already. If you follow the steps in the Wax Cotton post above, you should be good to go! Thanks for reading! – Brennon

  13. After the first treatment, does it make sense to apply one more coat of this product? Will another treatment even “take” to the fabric after the initial application has dried?

    1. Hey Ben! In some ways, once the product has applied itself to all possibly-treated areas/fibers, then it will be at a “max” application, of sorts. In other words, applying more and more and more of the product doesn’t necessarily mean even more and more and more waterproofing. The fibers of the fabric won’t really receive the product after it has been treated well.

      Hope that helps! – Brennon

  14. Hi,

    I’ve bought both the Tech wash and the cotton proof spray to treat my Hackett wax motorcycle jacket. Assuming everything works as it should with the wash and the re-proofing, would there be any advantage in me adding a traditional wax layer from a tin?

    1. Hey Dominic! Tech Wash is the correct choice for washing wax cotton jackets, so you’re good to go there. I assume you mean you’re using Wax Cotton Proof Spray? If so, then no, you won’t need any additional waxes for performance. Hope that helps! – Brennon

  15. Hi, I recently purchased a vintage Westfield wax cotton canvas jacket. It’s in good shape but needs a re-waxing. I see that the tech wash recommends machine washing, whereas the tag of the jacket states not to machine wash. I was wondering if it’s still okay to run it through the machine. Please advise, thanks in advance.

    1. Hey Miranda! If you garment says don’t use a washing machine, then you can hand wash with Tech Wash. The instructions for that are on the bottle. Hope that helps!

    1. Hey HK, yes, Wax Cotton Proof can be sprayed directly onto the fabric, evenly and gently. Make sure your jacket is clean first, using Nikwax Tech Wash. Even if the jacket is brand new, it likely has dust and other particles embedded (invisibly) in the fabric fibers from the factory, shipping, etc. Then, after the clean jacket sits damp in the bottom of the washing machine drum, take it out, lay it out on a flat surface (put a garbage bag or some other layer beneath the jacket), and evenly apply the Wax Cotton Proof, covering all surface areas of the jacket. Hope that helps!

  16. Hi, I’m ordering a jacket that Kavu doesn’t recommend washing.
    Fabric: 8oz. 100% cotton twill with light wax coating.
    Is this a candidate for the Tech Wash and Wax Cotton Proof treatment?
    Thanks for your help!

    1. Hey Steph, without knowing the exact jacket model, I can’t say for 100%, but likely yes, it is washable with Tech Wash and re-waterproofable with Wax Cotton Proof. Tech Wash is a gentle cleaner, not a detergent, so KAVU might just be thinking of standard detergent when they say “No washing.” Standard detergent deteriorates the wax finish and performance functionality. Hope that helps!

  17. Does the Wax Cotton Proof Spray add wax to the garment, or does it use some other chemical to achieve waterproofing?

  18. Hi,

    What is the main difference between Wax Cotton Proof versus Cotton Proof? I have an orange waxed cotton jacket from Best Made, and I am trying to decide which product to use after washing with tech wash.


    1. Hey Garrick! Our Wax Cotton Proof is designed for garments that have (or had…) a factory applied wax treatment when first purchased. Over time, that wax fades, flakes off, erodes. WCP helps re-apply a water-repellent layer onto the garment, after that erosion has taken place. Cotton Proof is primarily for adding repellency to cotton, polycotton, and canvas materials. Hope that helps!

  19. Hi, I have a Barbour waxed jacket which has three large oil stains on the back. Will these oil stains come off if I use Tech Wash? Does anyone have any experience with this? Thanks for your advice.

    1. Hey Hans! Our Customer Service team is stellar and this a perfect question for them! Give them a quick call: 206-633-0063. They can have some good recommendations for you. Thanks!

    1. Hey Marko! Based on what I see from Filson’s website about the jacket, I’d lean towards Wax Cotton Proof. I’m sure Cotton Proof would also have some effectiveness too. Overall, definitely wash the jacket in Tech Wash first, before doing either waterproofer.

    1. Hey Pier! Tech Wash is what you want to wash with, but follow the individual garment care label on the jacket for washing instructions, in terms of temperature, cycle type, etc. Hope that helps!

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