Water Resistant vs. Waterproof Tarps

What is the difference between water resistant and waterproof tarp material?

This is a very common question that is worth exploring to ensure you are actually purchasing what you need.

Water resistant tarps can withstand the entry of water into the fabric for a short period of time while waterproof tarps offer complete protection from water or moisture.  Waterproof products can be taken under water (submerged) and will maintain impermeability, but resistant products cannot.

Water Resistant – Canvas Tarps

Canvas tarps are water resistant.  They are treated with oil & wax to make them water & mildew resistant.  Thus, if canvas tarpaulins are pitched or angled properly the water will run or slide off the cover.  However, if water pools or collects, eventually the tarp will begin to perspire, absorb moisture or seep.  Water resistant canvas tarpaulins protect and conceal equipment or machinery while eliminating condensation.  Canvas tarps are breathable and very strong.   However, canvas tarps are not recommended as car or boat covers, as wax and dye in canvas tarps may rub off and stain car or boat exteriors. Canvas tarps are not recommended for use as over-the-road trailer tarps or truck covers as they are more susceptible to rips & tears than Vinyl tarps.  Canvas tarps are not suggested for indoor use as space dividers, sidewalls, tops or roofs for tents, canopies or building structures as they more susceptible to rips and tears than vinyl.

Recommended uses for canvas tarps:

  • campgrounds
  • light trucking
  • equipment supplies
  • agriculture
  • curtains
  • painting
  • shades
  • firewood/lumber


Waterproof – Vinyl Tarps

Not only are vinyl tarps waterproof, but they also have high tear and abrasion resistance & offer UV protection.  Since Vinyl tarps are waterproof, they completely block water; however they are not breathable.  In addition, they are also oil, acid, dirt, grease and mildew resistant, and easy to clean by simply wiping the material. Vinyl laminated polyester is also flame retardant, which is ideal for school gymnasiums, theaters, warehouses and businesses.

Recommended uses for vinyl tarps:

  • boat or car covers
  • high strength trucking
  • roofing
  • field covers
  • construction & industrial


Chicago Canvas & Supply carries a wide range of water resistant canvas and waterproof vinyl tarps, including various weights, colors and textures.  All tarps have triple-thick hems and brass grommets every 2′ on all sides. For questions on which tarp is best suited for your application, email us at email@chicagocanvas.com.

7 thoughts on “Water Resistant vs. Waterproof Tarps

  1. Joyce Sandvig says:

    This is the problem: my grandson received from his mother and pair of water-resistant boots for Christmas, & he got into an argument with grandfather the difference between waterproof and water resistant! Oh my stars! So I’m asking which one would hold up better as he works in construction. Thank you, Joyce Sandvig jlsandvig1@gmail.com

    • Chicago Canvas & Supply says:

      Thanks for your question, Joyce! Something we get asked a lot.

      Water won’t seep through with waterproof boots, but the material is not breathable.

      Water-resistant boots will be more breathable; the water will run off the boots, but if soaked, the water can seep through eventually. Hope that helps!


    Thank you I got some information and knowledge about water proof and water resistant. Further Please clarify me the following. I am designing a product for India. In India summer is very severe. Here 3 wheeler auto rickshaws, jeeps are more. So in summer travelling in these vehicles is very difficult. So reduce inside temperature a product is planned. Please guide me which canvas or tarpaulin is used in olden days which they used to prepare WATER BAGS. The travelers used to tie in front of trucks, these water bags and used to travel and when feel thirsty they used to drink water from it. I want exactly this variety of canvas for my product. Can you please guide and educate me?

    • Hi there–we think vinyl will hold water the best. But, the vinyl will need to be heat-sealed. Otherwise, wherever it’s sewn, there will be pinholes and openings for water to run out. Hope that helps!

  3. Mae says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful blog with us. It’s really nice to read. Keep sharing!

  4. Diane says:

    Hi. I am planning on camping/living out of my SUV for a while, by taking the seats out of the back and converting it into a sleeping/living space. For days when I won’t have access to a shower, I will be bathing in the car (behind curtains). I’ll be using spray bottles of soapy water, or a camp shower, and think the best way to do this is while lying down. I thought a waterproof tarp might be a good idea for something to have underneath me, then wondered if I could build a low frame with PVC pipe to make a sort of bathtub and line it with a waterproof material. Maybe I’d sew it into a container that can attach to the PVC frame with Velcro and seal the seams. I’d have to figure out how to empty the water when done, but I like the fact that the tarp could be folded up and put away afterwards. Do you folks think a waterproof tarp would work for this idea?

    • Brad Mangurten says:


      The vinyl coated polyester is your best option. The material is durable and waterproof, and will keep the water contained.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *