How to soften waxed canvas depends on why it’s stiff. If it’s stiff because it’s old and dried out, the answer is to re-wax the canvas. If it’s stiff because it’s brand new, you’re in luck: waxed canvas is unique for the speed with which it naturally ages, developing a worn-in, vintage look and texture very quickly. (That’s one reason artificially aged versions haven’t really caught on – unlike denim jeans, leather jackets, etc.)
If you need to re-wax your canvas bag or jacket, check out our How To Rewax A Canvas Bag article.
If you’re just in a hurry for your new waxed canvas bagto look and feel old, first consider this option: JUST USE IT. Sometimes it’s best to earn that character and texture you’re looking for.
If that’s not getting the job done fast enough for you, try these ideas (*at your own risk*) to get a head start on breaking it in:
Repeatedly roll and unroll the bag or jacket.
Roll it up in plastic and let the neighbor kids jump on it in the driveway.
Rub the surface with fine grain sandpaper to rough up the look and soften the finish.
Drag it behind your mountain bike on a (not muddy) gravel road or trail.
You will find some forums suggesting you repeatedly wash your waxed canvas bag or jacket in the washing machine in order to soften it. Beware: the reason this will soften the bag is that it’s breaking down the wax coating, deteriorating the integrity of the durability and waterproofing. (Which will mean you’ll need that re-waxing article, after all.)