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  How often should I re-proof my Canvas tent?

Cotton canvas is naturally a waterproof material in the same way that traditional wooden boats are waterproof, similar to the planks cotton fibres swell and plug the holes to stop water going through, this means that the material needs to be weathered to become 100% waterproof. It is not advised to apply a waterproofing product to a new bell tent as it may interfere with this process.

Once a bell tent has been left out in the rain or had a hose left on it once or twice the material should be watertight and should remain so for a while.

How do I know if I should re-proof my tent?

The canvas is waterproof, you can tell by the 'beading' of water droplets on the outside of the tent. When the water stops that beading (and the tent takes longer to dry out) it's time to re-proof your canvas.

The most likely place water can penetrate the material is in the seams. If you are experiencing moisture build up around the stitching of your canvas bell tent the likelihood is you're due a waterproofing!

Types of waterproofing

Waterproofing product – There are many different synthetic waterproofing products such as fabsil available on the market that promise to seal and protect your canvas against the wet weather. These can usually be sprayed or painted on.

Silicone spray – Silicone is non-toxic and perfectly safe to use on any camping gear and the cotton material will remain breathable after use. It can be sprayed on easily and is best applied when the bell tent is up and in dry weather. A popular example is Scotchgard

To Apply:

  • Shake the can of silicone spray
  • hold 6-8 inches from the bell tent and sweep while spraying for an event coat – keep spraying until the bell tent appears to be wet.
  • Wait 6-8 hours for the bell tent to dry.
  • After 12-24 hours apply a second coat for extra waterproofing

Paraffin Oil/Wax – Paraffin and bees wax has been used for centuries on canvas material to re-waterproof it. This is very similar to re-waxing a wax proof coat. The process entails melting the wax with paraffin or white spirit and applying to the bell tent with a brush. This should be repeated every 6 months or so to remain waterproof.

Your bell tent should always be re-waterproofed after washing as detergents will strip away the wax/silicone waterproofing. Click here to read about how to clean your bell tent.


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*Selection of fixed size bell tents in the UK. Excluding modular and folding tents.

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