A number of years ago, I found a DIY tarp project that recycled old sheets into waterproof fabric. Lo and behold, when I tried it for myself, it actually worked a treat. Fast forward a few years and a recent cupboard clean-out left me with a sheet destined for the bin, so I thought this was as good a time as any to turn it into something better and share the process while I do.
This DIY tarp tutorial was supposed to be a video, but when I started editing it, I realised the sound had failed three minutes into the process. This is one of those things that’s much easier to show you with a video so apologies, I’ll try my best to ensure it makes sense this way.
Let’s get on with it, shall we? Here’s how to recycle an old bed sheet into a DIY waterproof tarp. It’s easy, I promise!
What you need for this DIY tarp project:
- A sheet
- Shellite (sold in the solvent section at Bunnings)
- Silicone tube (sold in the silicone section at Bunnings)
- A tough garbage bag
- A 10L bucket
- A larger tub (optional)
Tip: Do this DIY tarp project outside. Shellite is a solvent and has an odour that you don’t want to be in an enclosed space with. The reason I use Shellite as my solvent is that it’s low residual and not as harsh as some other solvents, making it less likely to damage the materials it comes into contact with.
To begin with, you’ll need to estimate the volume of the sheet you are working with. Do this by scrunching it up and pushing it down really hard into the bucket. My bucket was 10-litres and my sheet looked like it sat around the two-litre mark. Very accurate measuring, I know!
Next, you’ll need to take the sheet out of the bucket and line your bucket with your garbage bag. You’re going to pour the Shellite in here as this will contain the mess and fumes while you’re working with it. But first, you need to work out how much to pour in for your DIY tarp.
How much should I use?
The ratio that worked for me (and many others on the internet) is ¾. By this, I mean that if your sheet filled the bucket at around the two-litre mark, you should pour around ¾ of this amount into your bag-lined bucket. In this case, because my sheet was indeed two-litres, I poured in 1.5-litres of Shellite for my DIY tarp.
The silicone I used is also from Bunnings and it doesn’t really matter whether you get the cheap one or the expensive one, as long as it says 100% silicone on the tube. The ratio to use here is a 5-to-1 ratio of solvent to silicone. As that I poured in 1.5-litres of solvent, this means I need 300g of silicone for my DIY tarp. The silicone I purchased came in a 300g tube, so this worked out perfectly.
Squeeze the silicone into the bag with the Shellite. For those with a larger tub, now is the time to get it out, ready to use. The larger tub is purely to collect any spills if you’re a bit rough with the bag and it leaks.
Wearing gloves, hold the bag shut with one hand and using your other hand, gently massage the bag to mix the silicon and Shellite together while holding it over the large tub. When it kinda feels like maple syrup and has an even texture no matter where in the bag you feel it, it’s ready to go.
It’s time to add the sheet to the mixture
Now, go ahead and put your sheet in the bag with the mixture and loosely tie a knot in the top. You can now rest your bag on the bottom of the large tub, but one hand still needs to hold the top upright to prevent spillage. Once again, gently manipulate the bag so the fabric soaks up all the liquid. You’re well on your way to DIY tarp expert level now!
The fabric will have soaked up most of the liquid, so spills aren’t such a big risk. Knead it around to make sure the silicone mixture gets into every fibre. You’ll need to do this for about five minutes, at which point you can open the bag and check for any dry spots. If there are, keep massaging the mixture into the dry spots to ensure your DIY tarp is 100% waterproof.
On the other hand, if your sheet is completely saturated, feel free to hang your DIY tarp up on the line to dry. It only takes an hour or two to dry on a sunny day, and once it does, you’ll be able to spray it with a hose and watch the water bead right off it. At this point, you’ll also notice how soft and easy to fold the fabric is compared to a normal plastic tarp.
What will you use your DIY tarp for?
Mine is destined to be used as a cover for the dog’s crate, but as you know, waterproof fabric is handy and has many uses. What will you use yours for?
Do you have a great DIY project? We would love for you to share it with us!