Oil cloth fabric – features

The characteristics, properties, and uses of oilcloth fabric, a type of fabric that has been treated to be waterproof or water-resistant.

Oilcloth is a hardwearing fabric with a special coating made on a woven backing material (usually cotton or linen) that makes it waterproof and water-resistant and stain-resistant. This high-density material is also quite strong and durable.

It is available in pretty prints and is ideal for making napkins, table cloths, coasters, placemats, outdoor pillows, etc. It is also used to make reusable gift bags, beach bags, beach blankets, and aprons. And to line bags and toiletery pouches. 

There are many types of oilcloths. The traditional Oilcloth is a  closely woven coated cotton or linen cloth with a boiled linseed oil coating; this was also known as oilskin. This was the only kind of oilcloth till the 1950s when vinyl laminated oilcloth was discovered.

Today the oil cloth can have a PVC/vinyl or an acrylic coating. It is also known as American cloth or enameled cloth. 

Most of the oilcloth available in the market have a PVC coating ie a plastic laminate is added on top of dense cotton fabric to make it stain and water-resistant. The glossy PVC finish makes the cotton thick and also durable. An acrylic-coated oilcloth is softer but a little rougher than PVC-coated oilcloth. 

The oilcloth has its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of oilcloth 

  • Highly resistant to water
  • Highly resistant to stain
  • Antibacterial
  • Easy to maintain
  • Easy to preserve the designs on a base fabric
  • Highly resilient
  • Edges do not fray or unravel

Disadvantages of oil cloth fabric

  • Highly prone to wrinkles
  • Can fade under direct sunlight
  • Vinyl oilcloth is toxic
  • It cannot be recycled.

How to care for oil cloth

It is easy to take care of your oilcloth if you know how to do it.

Do not place very hot dishes or anything which is hot on the surface of oilcloth – this includes very hot water. 

The oil cloth can be cleaned easily with just a wipe with a damp cloth.

To wash the oil cloth, fill a bucket with warm water. Add a little soap or other mild detergents. Stir to foam. Wet a soft cloth or a sponge with this soapy mixture. Make sure your sponge or soft cloth is not dripping water. Wipe the surface of the oilcloth gently. If there is any residue left, you can repeat the process. Or wipe the oilcloth with plain water. Finally, dry it with another soft cloth.

To store the oilcloth – Keep it rolled and not folded to avoid wrinkles. In case there are wrinkles and you want to iron them, never apply hot iron directly on your oilcloth as it will melt. Instead, cover it with cotton pressing cloth and then iron over it.

Oilcloth is a typical medium-thick fabric that can be sewn easily on a sewing machine if you take some precautions. Since it is a coated fabric it will stick to the presser foot of your machine if you sew on the right side. To solve this issue, you can either use a teflon presser foot or stick a small piece of tape on the bottom of your presser foot to prevent the sticking issue.

Check out these posts for more pointers : How to sew Vinyl; How to sew several layers of thick fabrics together on your sewing machine ; Different types of coated fabrics



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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.