What is Canvas and Why You Need It In Your Work Arsenal.

Most of us are familiar with the brand  Carhartt.  As the industry leader since 1914, the majority of their products focus on "Cotton Duck Canvas" .   Up here in western Canada, Carhartt was the only brand you could find in our major box stores for the greater part of my career in trades. I have worn most of their duck canvas products and I can honestly say that it is one of the most durable types of fabric I have come across aside from leather.

So for those of you who are not familiar with the differences between simple canvas and duck canvas, I will explain the basic differences and give you some of the top brands to follow.  



Canvas VS Cotton Duck

 Canvas has been a pioneer fabric since the late 1800's.  Created with military, railroaders, sailors and miners in mind, it was developed into sails, tents, bags and work wear because of its abrasion resistance and durability in all elements.   With  its plain weave, its rough appearance, and texture, British sailors  found its characteristics beneficial in catching winds on the high seas.      Cotton duck canvas has a tighter weave and is used more often in work wear and clothing products because of its softer characteristics and lighter weight.  The tighter weave provides even more durability and abrasion resistance.  Most of the popular work wear companies like Carhartt and Dickies use a duck cotton blend canvas. Where as the basic canvas is gear more towards tents, bags, and artist canvas.  Below you will find the comparison of the two weaves, "Simple Weave" canvas on the left and a  " Duck Weave"on the right. 


Canvas, Cotton Duck Canvas


Advantages of Cotton Duck Canvas

  • Relatively smooth texture
  • Snag/Tear resistant
  • Natural ability to block wind
  • Naturally burn resistant compared to synthetic counterparts
  • Material relaxes the more it is worn and washed. 


Care instructions for Cotton Duck Canvas Work Wear

The most important part about owning a pair of Duck Canvas work wear is HOW YOU TAKE CARE OF THEM!  Taking care of your canvas will give you prolonged durability and we all know how important that can be for those of us who don't have a HUGE budget for work wear.  

  • Wash your cotton ducks in cold water
  • Dry them in the dryer under Medium heat, remove as soon as they are dry. Do not leave them in too long.
  • You may use a mild detergent to apply to most stains, let sit for 5-10 minutes and use a fine brush to work into the stain.  Wash as mentioned above.


Brands That Use Duck Cotton Canvas


 Industry Uses and applications:

Now if you are new to the trades and you are out looking for your first pair of work pants, you might be overwhelmed by the selection ;) haha Right!   Most likely the first thing you will see is a pair of canvas pants. 

Now not every trade needs canvas pants.  If you are an equipment operator, chances are, the last thing you will want to do is wear a stiff pair of canvas pants, while bouncing around your cab all day! Although canvas does break in quite nicely and becomes softer the more its washed, its still not comparable to comfort of say a  stretch denim type work pant.  Also, unless you are the type of operator that is in and out of the cab all day I would highly suggest something a little more comfortable.  Most of the brands listed above have their designs with a stretch denim. 

Some of the trades that use canvas pants most are:

  • Carpentry
  • Welding
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing

Now there are MANY more trades that use canvas specific products however because of their strong composition, durability, abrasion resistance, snag resistance and natural burn resistance, it makes a perfect match for the more dynamic work environments that present themselves in these trades.  Welders for example need to have room for layers , layers for outdoor weather conditions as well as layers to protect themselves from burns. Most canvas pants designs have a ton of pockets too which is perfect for trades and jobs that require on hand storage of tools like layout tools : tape measures, pencils, squares and hammers.

I honestly find with canvas style products, Im not worried about wrecking my work gear.  Im not worried about grease, or paint or welding spatter.  Its truthfully the one material I feel protects against most elements and for the most part, lasts.  

In the following article "Canvas Blends"  I will go over where these blends provide the most protection and why you should choose a blend over the original cotton canvas.

IF you enjoyed this article and want to read more about different materials, feel free to leave a comment below, and like, follow and share!!




Up Next: Canvas Blends and Waxes. 

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