So that lasted long... and How to Restore an Oilskin!

"Oh yeah! I'm totally going to get into blogging on Barnmice!" Over 5 months later I have 2 blog posts to show for it. I will get back on the horse, and this time I won't get off it. Let's just pretend like that hiatus never happened, okay?

Last weekend I was very fortunate to be given a full length oilskin duster. The catch? It was covered in mold. I'm not talking like a little spotting, I'm talking old-leather-halter-left-in-a-barn-for-50-years moldy. When I texted my boyfriend a picture of it in a lump on the ground he couldn't guess what he was looking at, even after many obvious hints. The coat was gross. It stunk up my car when I brought it home. Cleaning it in the garage stunk up the garage. Do you get the picture now? Well if not here is a terrible cell phone picture of it:

So now that you get the picture I can tell you how to fix this problem when ever you come across an oilskin that someone is about to toss because for some horrible reason they let get this bad!

Vinegar is going to be your best friend. I'm talking lots of vinegar. You are not supposed to wash an oilskin because it will strip the wax off it. This is when you get tossed into the mud or maybe dealt with a little more poo than you thought you would in a day. A oilskin that is this moldy will not be holding onto any of it's proofing anyways so we might as well start with a clean slate.

With a stiff brush (and hopefully an open-air location) brush off all the mold. If you're sensitive to air particles or have more brain cells than me, a dust mask is a great idea. I pulled up my shirt over my nose. I am still around to tell the story. Couldn't have been that bad, right? (I'm kidding, please don't tell me how stupid this was of me. I know it was, I was just too excited to put things off) Once you have a nice mold-free surface spray your coat down with vinegar. Some places will suggest a 1:1 ratio of water to vinegar, possibly just to help use less vinegar but it's not liquid gold we are using so feel free to use it straight. After everything is covered with vinegar and your coat cleaning location smells like a French fry stand leave the coat to sit over night.

Next toss your chip truck uniform in the wash with more vinegar. Don't be afraid of the vinegar. Embrace the vinegar. I used a bit of laundry detergent as well to clean it while it was in there. Warning! Oilskins are made of a cotton canvas so don't be putting them in hot water! You could end up with a cocktail dress length coat. After you have washed it, put it in for another spin. At this point you won't smell the mold on the coat if there is or isn't any so hang it up and let it dry. -Side note: It turns out these coats are quite heavy when wet. Hanging one up on your shower curtain rod it probably a bad idea. Don't ask me how I know this.- When your coat is dry give 'er a good sniff! Still a little on the musty side? Vinegar! Stat! Okay, not stat, but if you are anything like me you will want to be wearing this coat by now so make it stat! This time you probably don't need to wash it again. Unless it is worse than mine, if so you better be posting a before and after photo somewhere for me to see!

Once it is dry again stick it in a garbage bag with a couple dryer sheets. She'll smell nice a purdy! Or do like I did and throw it in the dryer on AIR (no heat here!) with a couple dryer sheets. Smelling good, or at least okay? Perfect!

Now comes your test in patience. Reproofing.

For my coat I used a products by Outback Survival Gear called Leather Seal. I had researched a bunch of different products to use including linseed oil, mink oil, "duck back" stuff, and this stuff. I was not sure which one to use but I had heard about the mink oil rotting your stitching. If I was going to be putting in this much effort on my coat I was not going to restitch it because it rotten. I heard great reviews about this leather seal but the only place I could seem to find it was Saratoga Saddlery in Saratoga Springs, NY. To wait to have it shipped to Canada would likely kill me so I continued my search. I was at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto this past week and as I was walking through the trade show someone was trying to get me to have my boots sealed by him on a sales pitch. I loved the product and bought a can. When I looked into the bag after the fact, what did I buy? Leather Seal and at the Saratoga Saddlery booth, none the less! What are the chances of that happening? Anyways, back to the reproofing.

After an hour of working wax into a little, tiny corner of my coat with my hands I proudly posted the results on Instagram. Much to my amazement an oilskin restoration shop commented on my technique and explained to me how to do it better (and in less time then it was going to take me with my original method). Oh social media, how I love thee!

Toss you can of wax in a bowl of freshly boiled water to soften it or completely melt it like mine did. Take a blob of your wax with your fingers and slop it into your coat's fabric. Keep working it in until it is no longer white and the coat takes on a much darker colour. Now just keep on keeping on! Pay very close attention to your seams as you don't want them leaking in on you because you failed to seal them. When you get a chunk of your coat done get your hairdryer out and turn it to the highest setting. Go over your freshly waxed area. This will help the reproofing melt further into the fabric and bind to it. This is the part that I never saw online. I would like to thank Otters Oilskins for that tidbit of information!

This is what your finished product should look like. See the shiny cape? That will dry and match the rest of the coat.

Now that your cotton coat is now back to being an oilskin let it dry for a day or to. This will help the wax dry and rid the coat of its stickiness.

Every couple of years, every year, or every decade your coat will need to be reproofed again. The use of the coat will eventually rub the wax off and it will lose it's water repellent properties. You can simply maintain the coat by applying wax where it needs to be or redoing the whole coat if that is required.

Now throw that coat on a go for a hack in the rain! And please, for the sake of the coat's next owner's sanity, just hose it off every now and then! Don't let it get this gross!

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Comment by Barnmice Media on November 16, 2014 at 7:54pm

Ali thanks for sharing how to revive an oilskin, I had no idea and this could be very handy for somebody!

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