Making Greenland Wax

Well, it’s been raining for days and in barely a week temperatures have dropped from nearly tropical to 13 celsius. I’ll have to face it, it’s autumn. Time to waterproof my stuff. I read a lot about Greenland wax and otter wax, and though: “that shouldn’t be hard to make”. Turns out, it isn’t! These waxes that are used to waterproof fabrics rarely contain more than two ingredients. I made a three ingredient recipe that smells great and is easy to make.

To make 105 grams of wax, you need:
50 grams (or 1 part) of beeswax
50 grams (or 1 part) of parrafine
5 grams (or 1/10 part) of essential orange oil

Ingredients for greenland wax

Melt the beeswax and the parrafine in a double boiler. When everything is clear and liquid, add in the orange oil. Immediately take off the heat and pour into containers or brush on fabric. when treating large pieces of fabric, I like to brush on the wax and then melt it in with a heat gun. Be careful not to put on too much, though, or it will seep through when heating and it will make a mess. Better put on too little and touch up later. I use bars of wax, like on the picture above, to treat small pieces of fabric and touch up previously treated pieces.

Making greenland wax

You should be able to get these ingredients for a lot less than you’d pay for a bar of pre-made wax. The parrafine, for example, I got from old candles that were made of pure parrafine, which weighed exactly 50 grams per piece.. Do make sure it is pure parrafine if you’re going to recycle candles, though. Some candles contain different ingredients such as stearin or microcristallne wax, which are not suitable for this recipe. If you know any beekeepers in your area, you can probably get some cheap beeswax from them.

Most recipes you’ll see on the web won’t have the essential orange oil. Some do contain turpentine. It is used as a thinner to make application easier. The orange oil does the same in this recipe, but smells a lot nicer. Turpentine is a terpene based solvent. This is a type of organic compounds that forms an important part of many natural essential oils, such as orange oil. I’ve been experimenting with replacing turps with orange oil in some recipes and it seems to work fine. it is also quite cheap when you buy it in the right places. You can buy it at some stores as a natural degreaser and cleaning product. Don’t buy the tiny bottles sold for aromatherapy.

I just finished a bag made with linen waxed with this stuff. Works perfectly.

By the way, this recipe also makes some awesome scented candles.

Update: Another bag I made with fabric waxed with this wax..

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23 replies on “Making Greenland Wax

    • Lieuwe

      Hey Jodie, thanks for your comment. Glad you liked the post. I haven’t tried washing the waxed linen, but I think it would be a bad idea. Especially machine washing it, and even more so washing it on a higher temperature. The wax would melt and ruin your machine. You could try hand washing it at a lower temperature if it’s really necessary, though. On the other hand, the wax will prevent the linen from getting dirty for the most part. Hope that answers your question!

      Reply
    • Lieuwe

      Yes you can, especially on heavier types of fabrics. This stuff works essentially the same as otter wax. Only much cheaper, and nicer smelling.

      Reply
      • laurence fitzgibbon

        hi there, this is great, could one add whatever essential oil they like? or does the orange oil have something special… also i was thinking of adding some pine tar to the mix any advise on that element.. thanks

        Reply
        • Lieuwe

          Hi Laurence,

          Sorry for the late reply, missed your comment. I’m pretty sure that you can add any essential oil that is a terpene. Perhaps other essential oils would also work (as they would also evaporate, which helps drying), but I don’t know if they could have adverse effects on the wax in some other way.

          Reply
        • Lieuwe

          Hey! Sorry for the late reply. Glad you like ’em. They usually stay put, unless they’re on a really slippery surface like a high gloss cupboard or something. I think non-skid bumps would be a great idea for that.

          As for the pine tar, I really couldn’t say. I know some people use it as an ingredient for making tin cloth, but I don’t know if it would work in greenland wax as well.

          Reply
  • Bernie Burnsteel

    We camp in the Great Lakes woodlands. Wouldn’t rodents think your pack was lunch since it smells like food?

    Reply
    • Lieuwe

      That shouldn’t be a problem, I think. It’s not like the wax smells like peanuts or crackers.It’s the same smell as many mosquito repellents and I don’t think those attract rodents. But I must say that I have no specific knowledge of what the rodents up at the great lake woodlands like.

      Reply
  • Denise

    Hi there,
    So I made some of this wax, tried twice. after ive brushed a thin layer on to the denim and I heat it to set it with the Hairdryer it disappears into the denim completely and the waxy look is gone, it only feels waxy but doesn’t look it at all.

    Has this happened to you? what am I doing wrong do you think?

    Hope to hear from you

    Reply
    • Lieuwe

      Hi Denise,

      The problem is probably that you brushed on a thin layer. I usually sort of slather it on, and then blast it in with an industrial heat gun. It should really look saturated, dark and wet. You can’t really put too much on, because it will just leak out the other end. I try not to put too much on, though, because I don’t want to waste any wax. Let the fabric cool down completely afterward. It might be stiff at first, but it soon gets very supple with use. I only use this recipe for bags and such, don’t know how it would behave in clothing with body heat and all. What are you trying to wax?

      Reply
      • Denise

        Thank you for the reply, I have tried different amounts, going from little to a normal amount and then a little thicker layer and it all just disappears when I put it through heat. Although I use a hair dryer. Do you recon that is the problem? It does sort of dissolve into the denim.

        I tried it on a denim jacket and denim jeans. as I mentioned before. They feel all waxy but do not look waxy..they don’t have that waxy look. I guess I just have to get the otter wax that they use specially for denim clothing to get that wax look. I got bit over excited when I found this and bought bout 10lb of each wax…lol

        Reply
  • Kari

    Seems simple and cheap enough to make in large quantities. Funny question: How much would it take to cover for example one square meter? And how waterproof is it? I’m planning to make a linen tent for viking markets, and Scandinavia isn’t exactly famous for sunny weather.

    Reply
    • Lieuwe

      Hi Kari,

      Thanks for your questions and sorry for the late response. Christmas and everything, you know how it goes. To answer your question: how much you’ll need for a square meter really depends on the type of fabric. I’ve only used it for high quality long fiber linen (the type I use in these bags) and cases. I think use about one bar (50 grams) per square 1 to 1.5 meter. It is quite water proof. I live in the Netherlands (lots of rain) and use the bag every day. I ride my bike everywhere (as all Dutchies do) so the bag does get wet. But nothing ever got through to the inside or even the lining. The water just beads off the fabric. I have no idea if it would work for larger surfaces, in tents and such. If you end up trying it, let me know!

      Best,
      Lieuwe

      Reply
  • Neil Allen

    This material is commonly called ” tin cloth ” a major manufacturing firm in my area advises customers only wipe the cloth and Not machine wash it. They have been making items out of this material since 1890’s

    Reply
  • Bunba

    You put too much beeswax in your greenland wax. The original wax contains only one part beeswax to nine parts paraffin. This makes the wax harder. The wax acts different depending on the quality of the fabric. More cotton more wax, cotton blend like Fjällräven G-1000 is 65/35 polyester/cotton needs less wax because of the lower cotton content. The heavier the fabric the more you need wax, that’s why the wax literally disappears in canvas or denim.

    Reply
    • Lieuwe

      Hey Bunba,
      Thanks for the feedback. You’re probably right that my recipe is different from the original greenland wax. That’s because I had no recipe to make it, but came up with it through experimentation. I’ve only used it on heavier fabrics (canvas, denim, drill, heavy linen, etc.), so I guess that’s why this recipe has worked out for me. I’ll keep your advice in mind if I’m going to use lighter fabrics, and if it works well, I’ll update this page accordingly. Thanks again!

      Reply
  • Ken Robinson

    I was stationed in England awile and I got this wonderful Jacket called a “Waxy”
    Is this wax suitable for maintaining it?
    An interesting fact. I was sent to Oklahoma after England. After a few years of hanging in the hot closets
    the wax seeped down to the bottom of the jacket. A big wax ring around the bottom.

    Reply
  • Daros Giordan

    hello mister .. yesterday i was waxing my canvas bag with beeswax,linseed and parafin and i was so confused with my bag there’s no white patched on my bag ? can you give me some reason why did this happen?

    Reply
  • gezz

    thank you so much for sharing the recipe! not only that i cant find any of these commercial waxes, “fabric waxing” isn’t even a thing in my language! but luckily i can find the ingredients and your recipe! thanks

    Reply

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