Canvas & Waxed Canvas Fabric - What it is all About?

canvas and waxed canvas detailed guide

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You are looking for a classy but natural bag or accessory but you're lost in the flow of information about these popular and remarkably durable materials

You are on the right page to find out the principal characteristics and distinctions between canvas and waxed canvas.

 Let's have a look at some key features!

Canvas Fabric: When Lightweight Meets Robustness

What is Canvas? 

Canvas, and especially cotton canvas is a remarkably robust and durable material, used for centuries in many civilizations for its properties. Its surface is very smooth and it is extremely tough to tear the fabric because the meshes are very thin, guaranteeing maximum strength to the bag, that can endure tough wear.

Another significant advantage of the canvas is that it is a lightweight material and therefore extremely breathable, allowing you to store wet clothes in it without risking to die opening your bag when you come back from a sports session. However, the material still blocks air and various impurities, perfect for travelers looking for a practical and lightweight bag to carry around.

Where does the term "Canvas" Originally Came From?

This material was not always made of cotton or linen as it is today. Originally, the weavers of the time used mainly hemp to weave. It is the use of this material that gave canvas its name, "canvas" being a derivative of the Latin word "cannabis" which literally means "made of hemp".

It is estimated that the first use of cotton in the manufacture of canvas products dates back to around 1500 B.C., particularly in the Indian plains. Later, thanks to trade, cotton cloth gradually spread to Europe, around the 8th century.

light blue cotton canvas backpack laying on the floor

How is Canvas Fabric Made?

Cotton canvas is nowadays mainly made from cotton or linen. The weaving technique is marked by a tight weave where the weft threads cross the vertical warp threads in a perpendicular manner, above and below each warp.

To make a cotton canvas, one can choose to use a two-ply yarn or two single yarns braided together, giving weight, strength and texture to the final material.

What is the Difference Between Duck Cloth & Canvas? 

We often read that duck cloth and canvas are two diametrically different materials. This is not the case. Duck, whose origin does not come from the animal but from the Dutch "doek" which means "linen cloth", is a cotton cloth with similar characteristics to canvas.

The only "difference" lies in the weight of the fabric used, often thinner than canvas, and a tighter weave, with two threads together in the warp and one in the weft.

Cotton canvas and duck cloth are very similar and opposed to other canvas fabrics because they both share a plain weave pattern instead of twill weave one. We can therefore say that duck is a type of cotton canvas.

women's rucksack made of cotton canvas cloth

Is Canvas Material Weatherproof?

If not treated of processed with materials like wax, cotton canvas is not fully waterproof but water-resistant. Don't stay too long under the rain because, even if the fabric isn't very porous and will repel most liquid at first, it will eventually absorb the water or moisture at some point and get soaked

However, it's very easy to waterproof a canvas fabric. You can chose do go natural or choose a chemical method. Basically, you just need to cover one side of the fabric with either a waterproofing spray or wax (paraffin or beeswax will do the job perfectly).

Waxing cotton can be done with a hairdryer by melting the wax directly onto the fabric or by melting it in a recipient and apply on the fabric with a brush. First signs of this techniques were found in the early 1900s on shipyards where sails were waxed to make them tougher and weatherproof.

How to Clean Canvas Fabric?

Taking care of a canvas bag is also very straightforward as it is an organic and unprocessed material. Indeed, it can be washed simply with soap and water, provided that it is rinsed well with clear water and then dried afterwards.

We advise you to use cool to warm water as hot water might cause the fabric to shrink.

Here are some examples of our cotton canvas bag: 




Vintage Canvas Backpack



Retro Canvas Rucksack



Waxed Canvas Fabric: the Extra Feature that Makes the Difference

Where Waxed Canvas Comes From?

Waxed canvas appeared during a period of sailboat innovation. Indeed, during their journeys, the sailors had noticed that the sails of their boats were more wind-activated and more efficient when they were wet, as the water filled the holes between the meshes of the fabric.

However, the wet sails were too heavy. That is why they made them completely waterproof, maintaining their effectiveness by applying wax on them.

Since then and until today, waxed canvas is mainly used for this water-repellency characteristic. It is used in particular to design objects that are likely to be subject to bad weather: tents, backpacks, outdoor accessories, etc.

While texture and comfort may seem "rugged" the first time around, the advantage of the waxed canvas is that it becomes more refined and softer over time, developing a patinated appearance over time.

waxed cotton canvas backpack and its leather strap

How to Clean Waxed Canvas?

Taking care of a waxed canvas bag is a little more "challenging" as there is wax on the fabric, but follows a similar process. You don't need to wash a bag made of waxed canvas unless you feel the need, as the wax cover protects the fabric against dust and most stains.

However, over time, the wax layer can become thinner and it is advisable to re-apply a layer of wax every 6 to 12 months, depending on your use.


Here are some examples of waxed canvas bags: 

Vintage Rucksack Handbag


Vintage Rucksack Handbag

Canvas Hiking Backpack


Canvas Hiking Backpack

Vintage Laptop Rucksack




On Eiken Shop website, we're offering both fabrics, so that our adventurers can choose the material they prefer. Our bags are also made of Crazy Horse Leather, one of the best quality cow leather on the market. 

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