Waxed cotton has been around for a long time and was used as far back as the 15th century when fishermen applied fish oils and grease to the cloth they made their capes from this made them impervious.
Waxing of cotton fabric was perfected by sail maker Francis Webber in 1795 when the found the perfect formula for adding linseed oil to flax sails. Due to the clippers being used to transport tea and the increased competition to deliver it faster the sail makers started to experiment with waxed cotton fabric which is lighter than flax.
In the mid 1850’s the first waxed Egyptian cotton that had linseed oil applied started to become available in the form of clipper sails, they were made from strong two ply yarns of warp and weft this proved to be stronger and lighter which meant they could produce larger sails.
In the 1920’s cotton impregnated with paraffin wax started to appear thanks to the co-operation of three companies, the result was a highly water resistant cloth, breathable, but without the stiffness of linseed and no yellowing with age.
Today waxed cotton is impregnated with refined hydrocarbon wax and was developed to replace the cupro-ammonia wax treatment that was developed in the 1920’s. The advantage of using the newer refined wax is the removal of the smell associated with traditional waxed cotton.
Waxed cotton obviously became a huge success with sail makers and the producers of the waxed cotton started to look at alternative uses for the material that was predominantly being used for sails. Garment makers were quick to take up the new material and started to use the fabric in outdoor garments such as waxed jackets for farmers, gamekeepers and were used for Motorcycle Clothing in the UK.
Wax cotton was used by the British army in World War II and uses of waxed cotton garments crescendoed in the 1940’s and 50’s as army surplus was sold off.