How Do You Waterproof a Tent Zipper

A tent zipper that needs to be waterproof

There’s nothing worse than waking up in a puddle when camping in rainy weather. Your shelter setup is supposed to protect you from the elements, not allow them to get inside and ruin your trip. In case you don’t have water repellent gear, you should probably get some before embarking on a journey in humid and rainy conditions. However, if you do have a waterproof shelter set up and you still get rained on, it’s time to take some steps and waterproof your gear.

The most common leaking points in any tent are the zippers. And no matter how well you sealed the fabric of your tent, if the zippers aren’t properly treated, they will let in liquids and ruin your camping experience. In order to prevent this from happening, you should waterproof your tent zippers, especially when camping in humid conditions.

You can waterproof a tent zipper by rubbing beeswax across it, using silicone, or applying various types of water sealant on it. You should be careful when employing these techniques because, while they will make your tent zipper waterproof, they can also permanently prevent it from opening.

Employed properly, these methods will keep you dry by preventing water from entering through the tent zipper.

Silicone Floor Wax

A very reliable way of preventing rain from coming through your tent zipper is by sealing it with silicone. There’s a variety of silicone sealants you can choose from. The easiest to use and the one that provides the most consistent results is silicone floor wax.

All you need to do is rub a little silicone floor wax up and down the zipper. You can rub it into the zipper teeth, as well as the sides. After you clean off the excess, you’ll end up with something that’s pretty water repellent. This method has proven to be quite reliable and easy to apply.

In addition to this, silicone floor wax acts as a zipper lube. You can even use this method on zippers on jackets and pants. Not only will it make them waterproof, but it will also make them smoother to use. You can even use silicone floor wax to work out the kinks and stops in your zippers.

Disadvantages of Using Floor Wax to Waterproof Your Tent Zippers

While this method is generally reliable, it does come with its set of drawbacks.

Floor wax can stay on the fabric and the zipper for quite some time after you rub it in. However, it will wear off sooner than most other solutions we will mention in this guide.

In addition to this, it will make the zippers a bit stiff. While this isn’t the worst thing to have if it makes your zippers waterproof, it can still be troublesome. Stiff zippers are usually more difficult to pack and will make stuffing your tent into its already small tent bag much more difficult.

Applying Spray Water Repellent to Tent Zippers

Water repellent is a great way to waterproof your tent’s fabric, as well as its zippers. Here’s how you should apply it to your tent zippers in order to prevent water from coming in:

  1. Set the tent up – set up your tent, preferably in a sunny, well-ventilated area, but not under a tree where some leaves or other particles might fall on it.
  2. Clean the zippers – Use a mild solution of soap and water and rub it in with a non-abrasive sponge.
  3. Wash the zippers – Rinse the soapy water thoroughly, until there’s no foam left.
  4. Let it dry – leave the tent to dry, but try to keep any dust or dirt from it. You can speed up the process by gently rubbing the critical parts, such as zippers or seams, with a dry cotton cloth.
  5. Apply a layer of water repellent – spray the product onto a closed tent zipper and let it dry. Do not apply the water repellent from too close, as it will make it harder to dry and will leave marks on the zipper.
  6. Let it dry – this should take about 10 to 20 minutes
  7. Apply the second layer – you can apply this layer on the other side of the zipper if you want. You will need to do it from inside the tent, which doesn’t have enough ventilation. So you should have some serious breathing and face protection. If you choose to apply the layer from outside the tent, you can just repeat step 5.

Water repellent in a spray is relatively easy to apply and it will definitely keep the water away from your tent. If you have any spray left after you’ve finished waterproofing the zippers, you can use it on the seams as well as the fabric of the tent.

A Liquid Seam Sealer Can Prevent Water From Getting Through the Zipper

Seam sealer is good for more than just providing water resistance for the seams of your tent. You can use it to also secure the tent zippers and ensure no water goes through them and into your tent. There are several ways of applying a seam sealer to the zipper of your tent.

The first one is the easiest. All you need to do is apply the sealer to the zippers. Use the brush that comes with the sealer package to apply a thin layer of the compound on the zipper. Avoid getting the seam sealer on any of the zipper teeth as this will make them more difficult to open once the sealer dries. Additionally, the layer of sealer you applied should be very thin. This will allow it to dry faster and prevent it from stiffening up your zipper.

In some cases, the sealer can be extremely viscous and thick. This is where the second method comes in handy. If the sealer is too thick to allow you to manipulate it properly, you can thin it out with toluene. If you’re looking to dilute your seam sealer with toluene, make sure to do it in a well-ventilated area. Toluene can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, and the respiratory system if inhaled. Also, add toluene bit by bit until you get a solution of perfect thickness – it should be like syrup.

Once diluted, you can apply the mixture to the sides and the teeth of the tent zippers, as long as you keep the zipper closed while you’re rubbing it on. Use protective gloves and avoid contact with the skin.

A Mixture of Beeswax and Glycerin Can Waterproof a Tent Zipper

If you don’t like the artificial, new age ways of waterproofing the zippers on your tent, you can kick it old school and employ some good old, time-tested solutions. By dissolving beeswax in glycerin in a 50/50 ratio, you will get a sort of gooey liquid that you can use to waterproof the zippers of your tent.

Before you mix the two ingredients, make sure you have thoroughly cleaned the zippers on which you’ll be applying the mix. Rub the solution into the closed zipper carefully and spread it evenly across the entire zipper.

Keep the zipper closed at all times until the mixture dries. After it sets, you can open the zipper and enjoy its new and improved water resistance.

There aren’t too many downsides to using this method of waterproofing. The materials used are natural and easy to find and apply to the zipper. They will make the tent zippers a bit stiff and more difficult to bed. This might be a turnoff for some people. However, beeswax is one of the most reliable ways of waterproofing your tent zipper and it can act as a zipper lube as well. Put these things together and you get a perfect combination for preventing leaks in your tent, even when camping in rainy weather.

Silicone and Mineral Spirits Solution

Another solution you can use is a mix of silicone caulk and mineral spirits. For this you need:

  • 1 tube of clear silicone caulk
  • 2 quarts of mineral spirits
  • 1 plastic bucket
  • a hand drill and 4 zip ties

You start by mixing the caulk and the mineral spirits in the bucket. We suggest pouring the mineral spirits first and then adding the silicone as it will take time for you to get all of it out of the tube. Additionally, the mineral spirits will prevent the silicone from sticking to the bottom of the bucket. The bucket should be big enough that the mix takes up only half of it. Tie the zip ties around a long shaft (preferably made from carbon fiber or plastic) so that they form an X. Mix thoroughly.

This method is used for making a tarp waterproof and it will work well on any tent zipper, rainfly, or even nylon clothing. Just make sure the layer you apply on the zipper is thin and that you apply it over a closed zipper.

Diluted silicone caulk can be used to waterproof tent zippers

Get Different Gear

If none of these techniques don’t work for you, it may be time to invest more money in a better tent and ensure the zippers are waterproof before making the purchase.

In addition to this, you could consider using something other than a tent. More and more campers all over the world opt for the tarp and hammock combo as it is lighter, more versatile, and keeps you off the ground. Understandably, this will not work in cold conditions, but it could be the solution you’re looking for if you only camp during spring, summer and fall.

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