Canvas vs. Plastic Drop Cloths

Painters need a number of supplies in order to get the job done, and a high quality drop cloth is just as important to a painter as a paintbrush or can of paint. Drop cloths are placed over flooring and furniture and are designed to protect them from paint splashes and splatters. Drop cloths come in a number of different materials, but canvas and plastic are two of the most popular choices. What type of drop cloth will offer your valuables the most protection? Here’s what you need to know about canvas vs. plastic drop cloths:

Price

Drop cloth prices can vary depending on the size of the item, the quality of its construction, and the retailer. But in general, plastic drop cloths are less expensive than canvas drop cloths. In fact, canvas drop clothes are the most expensive of all drop cloths. It is tempting to purchase the drop cloth that costs the least simply because of its low price, but remember that price is just one of many factors you should consider before choosing a drop cloth.

The Weight of the Material

Plastic is a lightweight material, which makes it easier to throw over furniture. Since plastic is not heavy and bulky, it is the perfect material to use as a cover for odd-shaped furniture pieces. However, the lightweight nature of plastic also has its disadvantages. Professional painters know that when it comes to drop cloths, heavier fabrics are better because they are thicker than lightweight materials. Thick materials are more absorbent, so they absorb more paint and prevent it from soaking through to the furniture or flooring.

It can be hard to throw heavy canvas over a piece of furniture on your own, but this shouldn’t be the reason you decide against canvas. Ask a friend for help putting the drop cloths in position so you don’t feel the need to settle for a material that is easier to handle. Canvas also comes in a variety of different weights, so consider choosing a slightly lighter canvas if you’re concerned about an unmanageable weight.

Durability

Another important factor to consider is the durability of the drop cloth material. Professional painters think of canvas as an indestructible material–and for good reason. Plastic can tear easily, so it is not a good choice if you intend on covering sharp objects that could puncture the material. There’s no need to worry about puncture marks or tears in your canvas drop cloth, however. If you purchase a canvas drop cloth, it will last for years as long as it is stored and cleaned properly.

Slippery Surface

Since drop cloths are placed on the floor, it’s also important to consider the slipperiness of the drop cloth material’s surface. Most canvas drop cloths are designed with a rubberized butyl backing, which will grab onto the furniture or flooring and hold the drop cloth in place. This backing ensures that a canvas drop cloth will not slip and slide under your feet as you walk across it.

Plastic drop cloths are not designed with this feature, so they may not stay in place. This is a major problem when painting outside since a strong gust of wind could send your plastic drop cloth flying across the lawn. Both inside and outside, the lack of grip on a plastic drop cloth creates a dangerous safety hazard. If you cover your flooring with a plastic drop cloth, it’s important to wear slip resistant shoes and watch your step carefully. You should also consider taping the plastic drop cloth down or using weights on the edges of the drop cloth to hold it firmly in place.

Absorbency

As previously mentioned, canvas is a thick material that can absorb a great deal of paint. Plastic, on the other hand, is impermeable, but not absorbent. If paint is spilled on a plastic drop cloth, the paint will run down the length of the drop cloth instead of absorbing into the material. It will not seep through the plastic and ruin your flooring or furniture, but running paint could lead to a huge mess if every inch of your furniture and flooring is not covered with a drop cloth.

Reusability

Professional painters tend to gravitate towards canvas drop cloths because they are reusable. A canvas drop cloth can be washed and used an infinite number of times. But, plastic drop cloths are typically single-use products. It’s not logical for a professional painter to choose a plastic drop cloth since they paint so often, but this is a practical choice for homeowners who only need a drop cloth for a single painting project.

Impact on the Environment

Eco-conscious consumers may want to consider the impact that each drop cloth material has on the environment. Canvas drop cloths are durable enough to use over and over again, so you won’t produce as much waste as you would if you were to purchase a new plastic drop cloth for every paint project. Canvas is also made out of cotton, so it is a recyclable material that is accepted at nearly every recycling facility. Cotton is biodegradable, so it will break down over time even if the drop cloth ends up in a landfill. However, the same cannot be said for plastic. If choosing an environmentally-friendly drop cloth is important to you, it’s best to go with canvas instead of plastic.

By now, you should have a general idea of the differences between canvas and plastic drop cloths. For more information, contact Chicago Canvas & Supply. We are your leading source for textiles, theatre fabrics, tarps, drop cloths, and more. To ask us questions or request free material samples, contact us today by calling 1-866-389-2218 or emailing email@chicagocanvas.com.

Drop Cloth Projects Beyond Painting

One of the products our customers love to depend on are our drop cloths. Whether plastic, rubber or canvas, drop cloths or drop sheets are generally used to protect surfaces during projects. Particularly, painting projects–which is why you might have heard the term “painters drop cloth”.

Most drop cloths are washable and reusable, so there’s a lot you can get out of them. The possibilities for drop cloth projects extend as far as your imagination can go. It’s time to dust off your old drop cloths and see what else you can be using it for!

Drop Cloth Uses for When You’re Not Painting

Since drop cloths are used to protect surfaces, you can use them all the time just for that.

  • Keep unused furniture looking new by protecting them from dust and sunlight.
  • Prevent scratches on your floor during a renovation, while moving, or during parties.
  • Keep your car seats and other furniture clean from house pets.
  • Use for temporary yard work when you don’t have a tarp around. For example, gardening, or raking leaves. (It’s important to note that if you need anything water-resistant, tear- or wind-resistant, do not use drop cloths. They won’t stand up to regular wear and tear like a tarp would).

These are just some of the uses we can think of. What else can you think of? Drop (no pun intended) them in the comments below.

Repurposing Drop Cloths

Because of the durable nature of the canvas drop cloths, they can be used beyond the standard uses. Drop cloths can be repurposed or originally fashioned for a lot of cool projects. For example:

  • Drop cloth curtains – Whether using colored or natural canvas, drop cloth curtains and window treatments are a fun and useful DIY, and a great way to save money on costly décor. Drop cloths are also good to use as divider curtains, whether temporary or long-term.

 

  • Linens – Drop cloths are meant to protect against spills, so why not? You can make table cloths, napkins, bibs, floor cloths and rugs, bed linens and more. Decorate with fabric painting, dye your fabric, and/or sew in some more details.

 

  • Arts and crafts – If you have some extra canvas drop cloths lying around, why not use them to fashion some reusable bags, or create a mural or decorative tapestry for your home? What about creating something fun, like a fort or teepee for kids’ rooms? We’ve even heard of people using a drop cloth as a movie screen projector!If you’re not the creative type, a big piece of canvas can at least keep the kids occupied for a while. This is a good option for old and used up drop cloths you don’t want to keep anymore.

 

  • Upholstery and furniture coverings: The neutral color makes for a clean look. Ideal for farmhouse/rustic and minimalist décor. We talked about this in another topi, so if you’d like to learn more about this, check out our post: Drop Cloth Upholstery 101.
CCS Customer Photo;  Natural Dropcloth  DIY Curtains
CCS Customer Photo; Natural Dropcloth DIY Curtains
Drop Cloth Projects
Chicago Canvas Customer photo: Colored Canvas Dropcloth Couch Cover
CCS Customer Photo; SD Collective: Canvas Drop Cloth DJ Tent
CCS Customer Photo; SD Collective: Canvas Drop Cloth DJ Tent
CCS Customer Photo; Rubber Dropcloth being used for a group activity.
CCS Customer Photo; Rubber Dropcloth being used for a group activity.

If you have a drop cloth project you’d like to share, we want to see it! Leave a comment below, email us or leave a comment on Facebook. 😊

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GG Knows – A Dictionary of Textile Terms

Meet GG, one of the beloved founders of Chicago Canvas & Supply. Although she’s no longer with us, her vast knowledge of industry terminology lives on in this textile dictionary! Each month, we’ll pull from GG’s personal collection of terms—don’t miss out by subscribing to our blog over on the right-hand side of this webpage.

Ready to learn something new? Let’s get started!
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Drop Cloth Upholstery 101

Drop cloth is a versatile fabric that can be used for countless home and DIY projects. But did you know that painter’s drop cloth is also an ideal fabric for upholstery? We’ll show you why drop cloth upholstery has been so popular over the past few years, plus offer a few ways to upholster your furniture at home.

Why Use Drop Cloth for Upholstery?

So, with all the fabric choices out there, why use a drop cloth for your upholstery project? There are a ton of reasons why drop cloth is a great fabric, but here are just a few:

  • Very affordable
  • Durable cotton material
  • Good for beginners and for practice
  • Fabric comes with selvage edge (saving time on hemming)
  • Neutral color will fit many styles of room décor
  • Fabric can be painted on or dyed to desired shade
DIY Drop Cloth Upholstery - Customer Photo
Customer photo via Sandy Welsh

Convinced? Great! If you’re ready to purchase quality fabric for drop cloth upholstery, we recommend our 8-oz. cotton canvas drop cloths.

How to Prepare Drop Cloth for Upholstery

You can prepare your drop cloth for upholstery in 3 steps:

1. Soak fabric in a mixture of bleach + hot water + hydrogen peroxide for a few hours.
The hydrogen peroxide helps neutralize the bleach so it doesn’t ruin the fabric. Thecruxdesign.com recommends a 1:10 hydrogen peroxide and water ratio. About 2 cups of bleach should do it.

2. Wash in washer with hot water + laundry detergent, then dry.
Washing with laundry detergent helps soften the fabric. Plus, because canvas drop cloths are 100% cotton, you need to wash/dry to preshrink the material prior to cutting.

3. Iron the fabric.
This prevents wrinkling and helps for a neat-and-tidy end result.

 

DIY Drop Cloth Upholstery

There are several different methods of using drop cloth to “make over” furniture. You could either upholster your furniture or make a slipcover for it.

Tools to Upholster Furniture

Here’s what you’ll need for your drop cloth upholstery project (via HH&TW blog):

  • 8 oz. canvas drop cloth
  • Cardboard
  • Double-sided tape
  • Hot glue gun
  • Pliers
  • Staple gun with staples
  • Scissors
  • Screwdriver (flathead)
  • Upholstery tacks
  • Upholstery needles and thread
Chicago Canvas Drop Cloth Upholstery
Chicago Canvas Drop Cloths

Let us know how your projects go in the comments below. Have tips on drop cloth upholstery, or your own tried-and-true tutorial you’d like to share? We’d love to know! Email us your tutorials for a chance to be featured on our blog: email@chicagocanvas.com

Happy DIY!

How to Evaluate Drop Cloth Quality

Finally giving up on old sheets and newspapers for protecting surfaces while painting?

Whether you are a professional contractor or a weekend warrior, choosing the correct canvas drop cloth quality can make the difference between success and failure. Most canvas drop cloths are fabricated from Cotton Duckcloth. This has nothing to do with a duck or animal skins.  Duck refers to an even flat weave type of canvas.
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