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How to waterproof fabric: Turn old sheets into waterproof tarps

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Tarps and especially waterproof tarps are common multi-tasking items to have among your camping and RV supplies. But did you know you can make waterproof tarps easily yourself by recycling old sheets? The video below shows how to waterproof fabric. Most any kind of fabric.

But water repellent sheets can especially be handy for campers and RVers for covering things on rainy days, or hanging shade from an awning, or providing a dry space to picnic upon. You could even use the technique to make your own custom shower curtains.

The silicone-treated sheets still look and feel like fabric. They retain the sheets’ flexibility.  However, they will shed water just like a plastic tarp. Even better, the woven fabric is significantly stronger and longer lasting than plastic tarps that easily break down under the repetitive strain.

The technique shown uses silicone to coat the sheets.

They also demonstrate a way of securing your newly made waterproof sheets with a rope, that is much stronger and more secure than the grommets typically found on commercial tarps.

How to waterproof fabric—what you’ll need:

  • A bucket that your sheet will fit in
  • A tube of cheap window and door silicone
  • Naphtha or mineral spirits
  • A garbage bag
  • A rope or clothesline to dry on

A five-to-one ratio of solvent to silicone works well, and the video shows you how to mix it. You will coat and soak your sheet, then dry.

While the video demonstrates making a tarp from an old sheet, it also talks about how to waterproof fabrics of other types such as backpacks or clothing.

Be sure to watch through to the end for the ingenious method of attaching a rope to your tarp, without grommets, using a method called a “button.” But not a traditional button like on clothing.

This method is actually stronger and more secure than grommets as there are no holes punched in the fabric. And holes in the fabric always weaken it.

The method is super quick and easy. All you’ll need to make a “button” is a small pebble or an acorn and a piece of rope. Genius!

##RVT1072

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mimi
2 months ago

I really appreciate that you posted this link. Excellent video, well presented and easy to follow.
We have been thinking of waterproofing a large fabric awning and this video has given us a very simple way to do it. Thanks!

Cheri Sicard
2 months ago
Reply to  mimi

That is awesome to hear. Hope it turns out well.

Snoopy
2 months ago

Well I’ll most likely not be making my own waterproof material. But what I did learn is to how to clean up silicon with Naphtha solvent. I’ve tried different solvents in the past & mostly have not worked. Very interesting article & presented well! Side note, his way of drying his fire wood was totally cool!
Snoopy

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