Oilcloth Fabric: History, Properties, Use, Care, Where to Buy

Introduction to Oilcloth Fabric

Oilcloth is a tightly woven fabric typically made of cotton or linen. One side of the fabric is then treated to give it a waterproofing finish. Linseed oil was previously used as the covering, although nowadays, a PVC coating is more common when marketed commercially.

Seamen and sailors first utilized this fabric to make sails. Oil-treated canvas or similar waterproofing ingredients like clays and waxes were once used to make this textile. Modern manufacturers use plastic or vinyl to support a polymer or cotton mesh basis. 

What is the History of Oilcloth Fabric?

Oilcloth became popular as low-cost floor and roof covering in the 18th century. A four-sided vertical frame was used to extend a linen cloth to create the fabric. The fabric was treated with a sizing liquid and rubbed smooth with a pumice stone to prevent it from becoming stiff and splitting. Paint color and linseed oil were mixed and applied to the textile.

Floorcloths were originally made in England, but American artisans quickly began producing their own. These practical, easily renovated floor coverings grew in favor during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries due to the efforts of homeowners and professional semi-nomadic sign painters. Eventually, it became an oilcloth.

With the advent of non-cracking plastics and the rotogravure printing process, the early oilcloth fabrication methods have become scarce and financially obsolete.

Properties of Oilcloth Fabric

  • It is highly resistant to water and stains.
  • It is hard and durable.
  • Its edges won’t fray or ravel.
  • It has vivid colors and designs.

How is Oilcloth Fabric Made?

Linseed oil was cooked for a lengthy period with metal salts, primarily lead dross, to produce boiled oil. Animal gelatin was used to measure the fabric after being stretched out on a tenter frame. After that, many layers of oil were applied and left to cure in between. 

The cure is dependent on oxidation, so thin coats and long drying periods are necessary. When squeezed together, overlaps between layers of fresh oilcloth would spontaneously incorporate.

When folded, the cloth tended to stick together. When folding, the cloth was coated with wax or pumice to prevent it from adhering.

Types of Oilcloth Fabric

Vinyl and cotton-based PVC are the two varieties of oilcloth that are available on the market today. Paradoxically, oilcloth, a material used in the past, has been supplanted by other materials to make room for mass production. Because of this, two different synthetic fabrics have been developed to simulate the properties of the original oilcloth, and they are currently vying with one another for market leadership.

Where is Oilcloth Fabric Made?

Oilcloth fabric is mostly produced in Asian countries like India, England, and China. China is the world leader in the textile market. Often, raw materials are sent to China for the finished goods to be made.

Common uses of Oilcloth Fabric

Oilcloth fabric is used for various products.

Indoor Uses

Tablecloths and placemats, for example, can be made from them and used in the kitchen. This cloth covers the interior inner surface or shelving of drawers or racks in the laundry. 

Outdoor Uses

It can be used to make liners for outdoor tables, winter coats, weatherproof luggage, tents, pillows, and grill covers when it’s taken outside. Some folks have been making lovely lunch bags using this material. 

In addition, one ingenious and inventive use for this fabric is the oilcloth message board, which can be hung in people’s lounge rooms, dining rooms, or offices. Tents and bedrolls are typically made out of oilcloths in muted colors.

Sewing with Oilcloth fabric

The Oilcloth fabric is a slick cloth that requires extra caution when sewn, even though it can be effortlessly cut with a rotary cutter and sewn. If one wants to get ideal results with their sewing, they should be sure to employ the appropriate sewing accessories, sewing notions, and supplies.

When sewing patterns and designs on the fabric, you should use a size 14 hand sewing needle. The sewing threads used should be monofilament threads. And the stitches should be longer to prevent tears on your sewing machine like the Brother SE600, one of the best sewing machines available.

Keeping these little tips and tricks, you can easily sew your Oilcloth fabric according to your taste and preference.

Dyeing with Oilcloth fabric

Even though it may be unheard of, Oilcloth fabrics can be dyed. The process is useful for designers and consumers with unique styles and preferred designs.

The fabric can be dyed depending on the composition of the fabric. If made using cotton and lace, the Rit All-Purpose Liquid Dye can be used as the best fabric dye available.

How to care for Oilcloth Fabric?

Oilcloth fabrics aren’t so hard to care for and can easily be washed and ironed without a hassle.


  • Because the oilcloth is waterproof, washing it in a machine is not only not suggested but also ineffective.
  • Clean with a damp cloth soaked in mild detergent, then rinse with vinegar to restore the gloss, if necessary.
  • It is relatively resistant to stains; however, pen lines and other surface blemishes can be erased with considerable ease.
  • The fabric can be dried by air-drying it on a flat exterior


  • Ironing oilcloth isn’t recommended
  • But if you still feel the need to do it, so use a shark steam iron
  • Steam press the fabric on the wrong side

Where to buy Oilcloth Fabric?

Oilcloth fabric can be purchased from fabric and garment retailers. Clients can also purchase Oilcloth fabric from online stores and websites like https://amzn.to/4b6kxLB and Amazon, which have the best oilcloth fabric available, like the colorful Oilcloth Sunflower Yellow/White or Oil Cloth International Oilcloth Stella Cherries Aqua.

It can be sold in several ways depending on the seller;

  • By yard
  • By Inches
  • Can be cut to order

Historically, oilcloth fabric was usually made from cotton or linen, and treated with an oil coating to make it waterproof. Today, oilcloth can be made with different fibers, though it is often made with vinyl or a combination of vinyl with a cotton base. Oilcloth comes in different colors and prints and is great for many different projects since it is often waterproof and is easy to clean.

Best Oilcloth Fabrics

Here are our oilcloth fabric reviews.

1. Oil Cloth International Oilcloth Gingham Red

Nothing screams tablecloth like a red and white gingham print. This oilcloth fabric is made from vinyl bonded with a cotton mesh base. Oilcloth is very durable and extremely versatile. Aside from making tablecloths, oilcloth can also be used for craft projects, to make placemats, linings for drawers and shelves, and more.

  • This heavyweight fabric is made from 100% vinyl
  • Available in 47” widths and can be purchased for under eight dollars per yard
  • Fabric can be cleaned by wiping with a damp cloth

Shop Now on Amazon for Fabric Check Today's Price on Amazon

2. Oil Cloth International Oilcloth Stella Cherries Aqua

Oil Cloth International Oilcloth Stella Cherries Aqua

This heavyweight oilcloth fabric is made from 100% vinyl bonded with a cotton mesh base. This fabric is extremely durable and can be used for a wide variety of crafting and sewing projects. Oilcloth is usually very easy to care for, which makes it great to use for tabletop items and more.

  • Fabric can be cleaned by wiping with a damp cloth
  • Available in 47” widths
  • Fabric can be purchased for under six dollars per yard

Shop Now on Amazon for Fabric Check Today's Price on Amazon

3. Oilcloth Sunflower Yellow/White

This oilcloth fabric features cheerful sunflowers on a white background. Like most oilcloth fabrics, this fabric is made from 100% vinyl with a backing made of cotton mesh. This fabric is very durable, is easy to care for, and is also versatile enough to be used for tabletop, crafting, and utility projects.

  • This fabric can be purchased for under six dollars per yard
  • Available in 47” widths
  • Wipe with a damp cloth to clean
Shop Now on Amazon for Fabric

4. Oil Cloth International Oilcloth Mums White

Oil Cloth International Oilcloth Mums White

This beautiful oilcloth fabric features different colored flowers on a white background. Oilcloth fabric is perfect for making tablecloths and placemats, crafting, for utility projects like lining shelves or drawers, or can be used just to protect surfaces from water and other substances.

  • Made from 100% vinyl with a cotton mesh backing
  • Easy to clean- just wipe with a damp cloth
  • Fabric is heavyweight

Shop Now on Amazon for Fabric Check Today's Price on Amazon

5. Oil Cloth International Oilcloth Solid Black

Oil Cloth International Oilcloth Solid Black

Though oilcloth is available in many different prints, it can also be purchased in solid colors. This fabric can be purchased for just over ten dollars per yard. Sometimes a solid color is required or desired for crafting, lining projects, or even for tabletop décor.

  • This heavyweight fabric is 100% vinyl
  • Easy to clean- wipe with a damp cloth
  • Available to purchase in 47” widths

Shop Now on Amazon for Fabric Check Today's Price on Amazon

Oilcloth Fabric Buying Guide

Oilcloth fabrics aren’t just for tablecloths, though the fabric is very popular as a table covering, especially for picnic tables, because it is so durable and easy to clean. Oilcloth can generally be cleaned just with a  damp cloth. Oilcloth is very versatile and can be used for many other projects. Use it to line wet bags or other bags, for baby items like bibs, for use in the kitchen or pantry lining shelves and drawers, for placemats, for apparel items like aprons, for crafting projects, and more!

Ease of Working With Oilcloth

Working with oilcloth is fairly easy and straightforward. Of course, it depends on the project, but oilcloth is quite unique in that it can just be cut to shape or size. The edges don’t need to be hemmed or sewn or finished with any special product. Oilcloth is also quite easy to clean up, as usually spills and messes can just be wiped up with a damp cloth.

Pricing Out Oilcloth

Oilcloth is generally quite inexpensive to purchase. Some colors and patterns might range around the ten dollar a yard mark, but others can often be purchased for well below that, with some under or just over five dollars per yard. Oilcloth fabric is very durable and also quite versatile. It is usually heavyweight and easier to care for. The lower purchase price of the fabric is another great benefit of using oilcloth.

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Oilcloth fabrics have been around for a long time and have sustained their use for being beneficial in making products for all sorts of uses.


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