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Canvas vs. Waxed Canvas

BY Buffalo Jackson Insight canvas care
BY Amanda Uher

If you’re on the hunt for a canvas bag, you may be asking, “What’s the difference between canvas and waxed canvas?” While both un-waxed canvas and waxed canvas are popular, durable materials, there are some key distinctions.  


The thick cotton weave of canvas is extremely durable and resistant to tearing. Its relatively smooth surface isn’t easily snagged or torn and can endure tough wear. And while it’s a breathable fabric, canvas still manages to effectively block wind, making it a popular choice for manufacturing workwear.   

Caring for canvas is fairly straightforward, as many canvas products can be thrown into the washing machine (check the label for direction on that), or can be easily scrubbed with soap and water. Air drying is always recommended.  

Waxed Canvas

Waxed canvas takes all the best features of canvas and then adds some valuable features. Centuries ago, sailors noticed their canvas sails caught better wind when wet; but wet sails are heavy sails, so they figured out they could cure the fabric. This allowed the canvas to receive water on the surface, but not soak in.  

Fast forward to today, and waxed canvas is used to make bags, backpacks, tents, outdoor gear, and so much more. The wax coating amps up the wind resistance repels water, and even ages beautifully. Like high-quality leather, waxed canvas looks and feels better the more you use it, developing a fine patina over time.  
Some say maintenance of waxed canvas is tougher than regular canvas. You definitely cannot machine wash waxed canvas. But, because of the wax coating, scuffs and marks actually add to the character of the item rather than making it look dirty - so, you don’t need to clean waxed canvas very often anyway. Also, over time, the wax coating will thin and you’ll need to re-wax the canvas (usually every 1-2 years, depending on the amount of use).  

This is a step obviously not required of un-waxed canvas; but again, it’s not a frequent thing and the benefit may outweigh the inconvenience, depending on your needs.


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