As a resident of one the rainiest parts of the country, I have something of a love-hate relationship with natural fibers. I love the way they look and feel, but hate the way they handle in a torrential downpour. I also have a similar relationship with GoreTex. It’s a miracle of modern textile engineering and I love how it handles rain, but the coats made with it just never look as good as those made with natural fibers.
It took me a while, but after a bit of searching I found a solution to this problem: an all-natural fabric dressing called Otter Wax.
Creator Chris Chase made the first batch of the stuff about two years ago. He was working on a pair of espadrilles that he had just brought back from Argentina, and he wanted to make them repel water like his old Filson tincloth coat. “Tincloth is oiled in the factory for water repellency, and I just thought to myself, wouldn’t it be cool to do that with these shoes? I also didn’t want anything petroleum-based because I didn’t like the oily finish it produced, or the smell that it left on the fabric, so I started looking for other ways to do it and eventually came up with the beeswax blend I still use today.”
“I was actually looking at my Amazon account a couple days ago, looking at my order history from back when I got started. Back then I was ordering like four or five ounces of beeswax at a time, and cooking it in a pyrex bowl on my stove. I was making just enough to use on my projects, and then one day I had a friend over. I showed her the shoes, but she was much more interested in the wax I used to waterproof them. She convinced me I was onto something, so I did a little bit of research and found out that she was right – nobody was really making any kind of all-natural fabric dressing like the stuff I was using. So the next day I drilled a hole in the bottom of a crock pot and started making bigger batches.”
What’s funny is that Chase’s methods haven’t changed all that much since he got started. The equipment he uses is much bigger now, but the wax itself is still as simple as it ever was. It’s nothing more than a blend of beeswax, plant waxes, and lanolin; you won’t find any paraffin, silicone, or anything else synthetic in the bar. It’s also extremely easy to apply to your garments. You literally just rub the bar on the fabric in question and the friction you create when applying it is usually enough to soften the wax and allow it to spread evenly into the fabric. There’s nothing more to it – no irons, no blowdryers, no additional work of any kind. Chase does recommend that you let your newly-waxed items cure for at least 24 hours, though, just to let the wax settle in. It works great on canvas, tincloth, wool, denim, and nylon shells; and a bar only costs about 13-18 bucks depending on what size you get.
Place an order or find a local retailer on Otterwax’s website.
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