Drop Cloths 101

Posted on June 3, 2022

If you have ever attempted a painting project yourself, you likely have an appreciation for drop cloths. For those who haven’t, a drop cloth is a large sheet of canvas, plastic, paper, or other material used to catch drips and spills. Drop cloths can be used to cover furniture, floors, cars, or other large objects in danger of accidents. Today, we will answer a few common questions regarding drop cloths and why you would want to use them.

Why Are Drop Cloths Important?

Drop cloths can be considered cheap insurance. Hopefully you will never need it, but when you do, the return on investment can be enormous. Imagine destroying an irreplaceable tapestry because a dog tipped over a can of paint, or a roller nap that comes apart while loaded with paint.

Drop cloths are available in inexpensive materials that can simply be discarded when they become soiled. Drop cloths pay for themselves over and over because some can be cleaned and reused again for the next project. Other drop cloths are one time use only and allow the user to simply toss the dropcloth, avoiding the effort of cleaning.

Do Drop Cloths Come In Different Thicknesses?

Drop cloths do indeed come in various thicknesses for different applications. Heavy duty, reusable drop cloths are often made from canvas or polyethylene and are often referred to as tarps, but they serve the same purpose. Many of these drop cloths (tarps) will be reusable by simply hosing them off with your garden hose and allowing them to dry.

Disposable drop cloths are usually found in the paint section of your hardware store and are available in thicknesses not much thicker than food wrap, to 6 and 8 millimeter builder’s plastic. This type of drop cloth is usually less expensive than the reusable version, and eliminates the cleaning process. Most professionals will select a thickness based on use, so they might use a thin drop cloth to cover furniture and a thicker drop cloth on the floor.

Can I Use Any Material As a Drop Cloth?

You can generally use any material as a drop cloth, but beware the limitations. For example, if you want to use an old sheet or rug as a drop cloth, be aware that they will likely be porous. This means that although they may catch a pint of spilled paint, the water in the paint may soak through the material. Drop cloths designed for use with liquids like paint are much less likely to absorb moisture, preventing it from moistening the other side.

You can certainly use old sheets, carpets, or curtains you are going to throw away anyway as a drop cloth. These work best when trying to capture dust, like drywall compound or sawdust. Professionals will often use cardboard or other packing materials to collect dry materials, and plastic or polyethylene drop cloths for liquids like paints and stains.