How to Clean a Waxed Cotton Jacket

If you’re a stylish dude who loves the great outdoors — or just likes looking as though he loves the great outdoors, no judgment — chances are high you have one or two of favorite waxed jackets stored somewhere in your wardrobe waiting, itching, to be used in the real world.

Waxed jackets have become a style staple through the centuries and they have stood the test of time because of their toughness, ruggedness, and water-resistant properties.

Generally, waxed cotton is a high-performance fabric that has a long-standing history. It is made by weaving cotton yarn into a strong canvas fabric and then treating it with wax to create a barrier that is highly resistant to wind and water.

However, while your waxed jacket might be as tough as a nails, without proper care, you may not get the best protection from it. One of the main goals of owning one is to keep you warm and dry. If these qualities are compromised, then the purpose of a waxed jacket is defeated.

The best part of owning a wax jacket is that it gets better with age, but even the most trusty material needs a little care and attention to keep performing at its best year in year out.

[Read more: The 7 Best Waxed Jackets for Men]

With the right level of care and maintenance, your waxed jacket can remain your worthy outerwear companion for everyday commutes and outdoor adventures in all weather conditions, all year round.

Whether you have had your wax jacket for years or you just invested in a new one, you will need to clean it at some point. But if your wax coat isn’t looking as good anymore, it’s nothing a little tender, love, and care can’t fix. A lot of brands will tell you your waxed jacket shouldn’t be washed at all. So what do you do when it’s dirty?

However, a lot of brands will tell you your waxed jacket shouldn’t be washed at all. So what do you do when it’s dirty?

There are a lot of questions about the right way to clean a waxed cotton jacket to retain its waterproof qualities and resistance to abrasion.

This guide has covered step-by-step tips and tricks for DIY cleaning and reproofing of your wax jackets. There are also answers to FAQs, and basically, all you need to return it to pristine condition.

tom beckbe tensaw
The excellent Tom Beckbe Tensaw Jacket

Should You Clean Your Wax Jacket?

Although waxed cotton is hardwearing and durable, it also requires cleaning, care, and maintenance. Cleaning your wax jacket doesn’t involve too much or take a lot of time; the cleaning process is relatively minimal and only requires a few items.

However, unlike other clothes, you can’t take your jacket to the dry cleaner, wash it in a washing machine, or use a detergent when cleaning waxed cotton jackets. The cleaning process is peculiar but straightforward, so it is essential to follow the cleaning directions in this guide to maintain the looks of your coat and retain its features.

The number of times you clean your waxed jacket depends on how often you wear it. If you wear it often and engage in a lot of outdoor activities, then it’s not a bad idea to clean it every season, at least four times a year. This is dependent, of course, on how much you can stand wearing a dirty jacket, though it’s worth noting that even if you don’t mind dirt, it can cause stitching and so on to break down more quickly than if it were regularly cleaned. 

[Related: All the Surprising Benefits of Waxed Cotton Jackets]

otter wax canvas cleaner

What You Need to Clean Your Waxed Cotton Jacket

  • Damp cloth or sponge
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Cold water
  • A canvas cleaner (optional)

Here’s your step-by-step guide. Most people elect to simply use the first three items on the list above and they work great, but if you want a little extra luck, consider purchasing Otter Wax’s Canvas Cleaner, which is specifically formulated for cleaning waxed and oiled fabrics without damaging that weather resistant coating.

shoe brush

How to Clean Your Waxed Jacket

Here’s your step-by-step guide.

  • Start out using your soft brush to brush off the dirt, dust, and stains on the surface.
  • Next, move on to gently clean the surface of the jacket with a damp cloth or wet sponge, with some of the canvas cleaner mixed in if using. Only dampen with cold water and take out the dirt and marks — no detergent.The idea is not to get the exterior soaked in water. Just get the material relatively clean, removing the stains on the surface with little water.
  • After this, hang your jacket and allow it to air dry before storing it in your wardrobe.
  • Make sure it is also a well-ventilated area and allow the coat to dry thoroughly.You can leave it outdoors for 24 hours to 48 hours to be on the safer side.
barbour bedale jacket outside
The famous Barbour Bedale jacket

Waxed cotton jackets, like Barbour jackets are pretty expensive and require adequate care even when cleaning. (You don’t want to ruin your coat.)  

If you have worn your jacket for up to a year, you can also reproof it after cleaning to maintain its waterproofing and weatherproof properties. In the course of this guide, we will provide DIY steps on how to reproof your wax jackets.

[Related: Is Waxed Canvas Waterproof?]

How to Get the Stink Out of My Barbour Wax Jacket (With Vanilla and Vodka)

You can follow the simple steps to have your waxed jacket revived and looking like new.

The basic instructions you follow in cleaning your wax jackets are pretty different from the steps required to stop your jacket from smelling.

When you notice an unpleasant smell from your Barbour, there is no need to panic. First off, Barbour wax jackets have a unique smell because of the wax impregnated them.

It can also result from all the outdoor activities your jacket has been a part of over time. Your jacket can pick up food smells, cigarette smoke smell, or the smell of whiskey. A blend of these smells over time can be offensive. (Or ruggedly masculine, if you’re the kind of guy who likes tobacco-and-whiskey colognes.)

Fixing the smells entails more than just wiping down or brushing off dirt. You can follow these simple steps to have your jacket smelling fresh again:

barbour bedale jacket outside

  • Place your jacket on a padded hanger.
  • Brush off the stain on the surface with a soft brush or wet cloth
  • In a spray bottle, mix two ounces of water and two-ounces of vodka.
  • Spray your jacket with the mixture.
  • Hang the jacket outside or close to an open window and leave for 3-5 hours to air dry properly.
  • Next, place the jacket on the hanger inside a garbage bag such that the hanger is visible from the top of the bag.
  • Dip two cotton balls in two drops of vanilla extract and place them at the bottom of the garbage bag.
  • Wrap the end of the bin bag around the hanger, hang it up and allow the vanilla to soak up all the unpleasant smell for another five hours.
  • Take out the jacket from the bag throw away the cotton balls.

This process will have your wax jacket smelling fresh and revived again. You can now hang it in your wardrobe till you are ready to wear it.

tom beckbe tensaw jacket firing range
The Tom Beckbe Tensaw Jacket

Waxed Jackets DOs and DON’Ts

If you own a Barbour jacket, these ‘Do’s and ‘Don’t’s won’t seem so new to you since most of them have it stitched inside the jacket. This is because some wax jacket cleaning mistakes that cost you can’t be fixed.

That said, here are some care instructions to follow when cleaning your wax jacket.

  • DO start off your cleaning process by brushing out dirt, dust, and mud
  • DO use cold water when cleaning your Barbour wax jacket
  • DO wipe all the marks with a damp cloth and water.
  • DO allow your coat to air-dry in a well-ventilated place to help preserve your jacket’s water and weatherproof properties.
  • DO reproof your jacket once every year to maintain its waterproof nature. You can do DIY by using a specialized wax dressing or sending it down to a professional wax jacket cleaner.

tom beckbe tensaw jacket with shotgun

  • DON’T use warm or hot water on your waxed cotton jacket. This can strip your jacket of its waterproofing wax and oil. When this happens, it can’t be re-waxed again.
  • DON’T wash your jacket in a washing machine to avoid damaging the wax coating.
  • DON’T use detergents, bleach, solvents, or other chemicals on your coat.
  • DON’T try to dry clean your jacket.
  • DON’T keep your waxed cotton jackets in direct sunlight and heat sources so the wax won’t end up coming off
  • DON’T  repair yourself. Contact Barbour customer service or any garment menders and have them fix it themselves.

Reproofing Your Waxed Jacket

After cleaning your jacket, you may notice some areas looking lighter in color than others or places where the wax is worn from continued usage. (It typically starts wearing away at the elbows.) This may affect the general appearance of your jacket and have it look older than it really is.

Among others, all that outdoor walking, hunting, bird shooting, and hiking has got to show on the material one way or another.

This can be fixed by re-waxing your jacket to restore its water-resistant qualities. Once your coat is completely dried from the initial cleaning process, you can reproof it yourself with a bit of patience, some wax, and some heater.

Here’s how:

  • You will need to get a few items, including paraffin wax or beeswax. Good options are Otter Wax’s Fabric Dressing or Filson’s Oil Finish Wax.
  • You’ll also need a flat surface to lay your wax jacket, a hairdryer, heat gun (optional), a sponge or an old cloth, and a brush.
  • Start out by melting your wax, since your jacket is already cleaned. You can do this with your heat gun directly or place the tin of wax in a pot of hot water and then on a stove to melt it.
  • Once you have your melted wax, use the clean cloth to apply the wax all over your jacket in a circular motion. Make sure to spread evenly across the entire coat and pay more attention to those areas that look worn out.
  • Focus on one area of the jacket at a time, and give it some time to absorb the wax. You don’t need to re-wax the pocket lining, collar, or jacket lining.
  • Once the wax is evened out on the entire garment, clean off the excess wax and heat the jacket again with your hairdryer. This will help it to absorb all the wax into the material.
  • Hang your jacket in a warm place and dry overnight. This should take 24-48 hours for a good result. Also, ensure you separate it from other clothes with leather or upholstery material so avoid getting wax on them.
  • After it is thoroughly dried, you can put your jacket back into the wardrobe and get ready for another season of outdoor adventure with a fresh and clean waxed cotton jacket.


The importance of cleaning your waxed jacket and keeping it in top shape can not be overemphasized. If you would get the most out of your coat and enjoy the worth of your investment, you would put in some effort to clean and maintain it generally.

Re-waxing yearly is one way to expand the lifespan of your jacket and ensure continued waterproofing. It will also help you eliminate any unpleasant smell you notice on your waxed cotton jacket and have it smelling fresh again.

If you can’t find the time to do it yourself, send it out to a professional. For Barbours jackets, you can contact Barbour Repairs and Reproofing to learn about the services offered and which suits your need. That said, any tailor or garment repair service should be able to take care of you.

How long do waxed jackets last?

Wax jackets are made to last long, perhaps your whole life. They are also hardwearing, meaning they can handle abrasion and scratches and won't get damaged easily.

What is the most popular wax jacket?

Barbour wax jackets are the most famous wax jackets. However, in most cases, people just refer to wax jackets as Barbour jackets. Their jackets are renowned for its durability, quality, and its water-resistant properties. Some of the most popular Barbour wax jackets include; Barbour Ashby Waxed Jacket, Barbour Classic Beaufort, and Barbour Powell Quilted Jacket.

Can you put a waxed jacket in a washing machine?

No. Your wax jacket should not be washed in a washing machine; even the slightest cycle can strip it of its wax coating, damaging it to the point where it can no longer be reproofed. You should also not tumble dry your waxed jacket.

Can waxed cotton hold water?

One of the reasons waxed cotton or canvas is so popular is its water-repelling abilities. On its own, cotton readily absorbs water. This is because the cotton fibers have a lot of space between them, so water moves to fill out these spaces. However, when the cotton is treated with wax such as paraffin-based wax or beeswax, it develops a waterproof nature. It is also weatherproof, meaning the wind won't be able to penetrate either.

Do Barbour jackets smell bad?

If you own a Barbour jacket, you may notice a musty smell. The smell is partly the odor of the wax sealed in the jacket to keep it waterproof. It is also because you can't wash it without damaging the proofing. Cleaning with a canvas cleaner (like Otter Wax's), spraying with a 1:1 mixture of vodka and water, and letting it hang in a garbage bag with a couple of cotton wool balls soaked in vanilla essence, are great ways to fix the small.

How do you take off excess wax from your jacket?

An easy way to take it out is to use your hairdryer to heat up the material and wipe off the excess with an old cloth as it comes out.

Can you steam waxed jacket?

No. The steam can rip it off its waterproofing by shedding the wax coating. You should also never use starch, bleach, detergents, solvents, or any other type of chemical on your waxed cotton jacket.

Are waxed jackets worth it?

Determining if waxed jackets are worth it largely depends on what you are looking out for in a coat. Wax jackets are worthy companions for your outdoor adventures as they will keep you warm and dry during unpredictable weather. They are also tough enough not to get damaged through all that climbing, walking in the woods, hiking, and any other outdoor activity. Also, if you are looking to combine style, functionality, durability, and longevity, then you should try a wax jacket. That said, wax jackets are not all that breathable and can get stuffy when worn for long in summer weather.

Is waxed cotton breathable?

Not really. As a result of the wax impregnated into the cotton material, the fabric quite heavy, damp, and not very breathable, unlike other modern synthetic waterproof materials, which are a lot lighter and breathable. However, after using your wax jacket for a while, you would notice the wax coating would reduce, and it would become more breathable. The rule is the less waterproof a waxed cotton material is, the more breathable it is. The more water-resistant it is, the less breathable it will become.

Can you iron a wax jacket?

if you must iron, then do so over medium heat because the wax and oil can melt due to the heat of the iron. Also, to protect the fabric, use a protective cloth to iron carefully and smoothen out the wrinkled area or uneven creases. From time to time, allow the material to cool off a bit before using the heated iron on it again. Another way to loosen wrinkles and soften creases is to simply hand press the material and all the affected areas. Afterward, you can hang your jacket overnight before wearing it again.

Can you wear waxed jackets in the rain?

Yes. Waxed jackets have been loved for their waterproof features for a long time, from the early sailors to military men, motorcyclists, and other outdoorsy men. They are sure to keep you dry even in an unexpected downpour because of the waxed exterior finish, which repels water.

Can waxed jackets be repaired?

As they're made of cotton, waxed jackets can be repaired or altered — but it's best to leave this to a professional. If it's a Barbour jacket, contact their customer service and have them pick up the coat and handle the repairs at a cost.

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Nick English

By day: Manhattan-based journalist with reporting experience on four continents, published in Vice, Men's Health, Popular Science, and a bunch of other places.By night: ravenous consumer of anything and everything related to high end men's boots.Stridewise is where I nurture a maniacal obsession with footwear and share my findings. Say hey: [email protected].

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