Waterproofing woollens

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Sep 1, 2003
The review of the Swanndri shirt mentions a gradual loss of water resistance, and that set me to searching for something I read some time ago about proofing wool. I finally tracked it down to a copy of Horace Kephart's "Camping and Woodcraft" from 1921. Here's an excerpt:

"It is easier to waterproof woolens than cotton clothing. Simply make a solution of anhydrous lanolin in benzine or gasoline, soak the garment in it about three minutes, wring out gently, stretch to shape, and hang up to dry, shifting position of garment frequently, until nearly dry, so that the lanolin will be evenly distributed... woolens impregnated with lanolin shed rain better than cloth treated by any of the chemical processes. The goods are not changed in weight, color, or odor... The waterproofing is permanent... The strength of the solution to be used depends upon climate. For a hot, rainy climate use four ounces of lanolin to a gallon of benzine; for average conditions in the temperate zone, three ounces to the gallon; for cold climate, or winter use exclusively, two ounces to the gallon, as cold has a tendency to stiffen cloth that has been steeped in a strong solution. The three-ounce formula is right for blankets."

Kephart was presumably using U.S. gallons, which are one fifth smaller than Imperial gallons.

Does it work? I've never tried - something about rinsing my jumper in gasoline makes me nervous - but certainly lanolin is a venerable waterproofing material for fishermen's ganzies. I'll throw this one over to a brave soul, preferably a non-smoker, to try the recipe and let us all know how it turns out.


White bear (Admin)
Apr 16, 2003
Thanks for that bigjack a very worthy bit of info. Now the question is.....Do I risk my Swanni :yikes:

I need to get up the review of the Nikwax Polar Proof I used to re treat it. It worked very well.

Anyone with an old swanndri of any sort willing to give it up for a good cause :rolmao:


Oct 15, 2003
met a lady selling handmade woolen gear at a show who sais to put a small ammount of baby oil in the rinse when washing as it replaces the natural lanolin in the wool fibres

tried it on my faithfull woolly hat and it works a treat

bloody cheap too!


Sep 1, 2003
"Did I mention I am a Luddite with wretched computer skills?"

No, but then I'm someone who still habitually refers to a radio as a wireless, so I guess you're in good company.

Nikwax Marketing

New Member
Nov 19, 2003
East Sussex
Try Nikwax Polarproof. This product adds surface water-repellency which reduces water-absorption, minimizes weight gain when wet and maintains insulating properties. Nikwax Polarproof lasts several washings and does not need to be reapplied after every wash like other treatments. Polarproof is an easy-to-use wash-in treatment that can applied by hand in a hand wash or in a washing machine if your care label allows. Contact 01892 786 400 or visit your local outdoor stockist.

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