Turn old bed sheets into durable waterproof tarps

The following video shows how to take old bed sheets and turn them into durable waterproof tarps.

The reason I am sharing this project here is because it looks to be a more durable tarp than the plastic tarpaulins you would buy at the hardware store and isn’t that expensive for what you get. A cheap tube of silicone caulk is about $5 and the gallon of Naphtha is $10. 

From the video it says to find the volume of your bed sheets and use 3/4 of that volume in solvent (naphtha). Then using a ratio of 5:1 (Naphtha:Silicone) combine until the silicone is dissolved into a maple syrup consistency and soak your bed sheet in it. Hang to dry for a day and you have a waterproof fabric tarp.

To be honest I am tired of the UV rays of the sun and wind beating up my cheap plastic tarps and may try this out. This will probably hold up longer durability-wise and I don’t see it losing it’s waterproof ability like some fabrics do because it isn’t just a topical coating that can be rubbed off and silicone is a strong synthetic material that won’t break down as easily or quickly like bees waxed canvas would.


  • Comments (9)

    • 2

      I’m sorry but I haven’t watched the video.  Any discussion on flammability or health concerns with those chemicals?

      • 1

        He does talk about the health concerns and to only do this process in a very well ventilated area like outdoors. He mixes up the chemicals in a sealed plastic bag inside of his ventilated workshop for this video.

        Naphtha is very flammable and while he doesn’t discuss it’s flammability it does evaporate fast and looks to only be used to break down the silicone. Once you hang dry it, all the naphtha is evaporated and the baked in silicone is what’s left. That’s my guess at least. It shouldn’t be flammable after it has dried.

      • 1

        My biggest concern is that these might be very flammable.   Most tarps are flame resistant in that they won’t ignite easily but will burn.  I wonder if a bed sheet, dipped in these chemicals, might ignite easily?

    • 1

      I wonder how this silicone “wax” would compare to the Barbour wax that I used on the Carhartt jacket I waxed. Looks to be much cheaper that’s for sure!

      Zippo lighter fluid is refined naptha and will eat through many things. I can see it breaking down silicone and thinning it out like this experiment talks about.

    • 1

      California has banned Naptha.   what should i try instead?   



      Dow Corning® DS-2025 Silicone Cleaning Solvent?

      (unless CA has banned all of these).  Or is my best bet a vacation in Nevada?

      • 1

        You need an oil soluble solvent.  Vineager and acetone are water soluble.  Mineral seal oil is still available in CA I think.  This will work fine, but it dries much, much slower.  If you cannot find Mineral Seal Oil, let me know.  I buy several thousand gallons at a time, so I can send a sample gallon for you to try,

    • 2

      I found this video about the same time it was posted here!  I’ve used naptha a lot as a solvent for spray painting old horsedrawn carriages as it dried faster than ordinary paint thinner.

      I have a small fortune invested in “waterproof” horse blankets that lose their proofing in a season or two.  Every effort I’ve made to re-proof them with various products has been a complete bust.

      When the warm weather comes back, I plan to pressure wash my least expensive horse blanket and try this method.

      My biggest concern is that you can’t put new caulk on top of old caulk.  If the seal fails, I’m pretty sure it will never be waterproofed again.  So I’m skeptical about using it on tents, garments, etc.  There’s a marine waterproofing product in the 303 line that looks very good.  I’ll also use that on one of the more valuable blankets.

    • 1

      This technique can also be used as a quick fix to water proof old leather that is dried out and on the point of splitting or re proof old tents. Rather than naphtha we would use white spirit in the UK because it’s a widely available household chemical with multiple applications 

    • 1

      Hey yall, wondering if any of you tried anything else? Whitmer (I’m sure you have heard of her) has just banned naptha in my state (Michigan)  too, unfortunately. Now, I too am looking for a different chemical to use instead.