Tips On Making Slipcovers With Drop Cloths

I had no idea there would be such an interest in learning how to work with drop cloths in a home decor application, but several readers seemed very excited about it.  I aim to please, so here it is!

First of all, let me say that I was skeptical and hesitant to jump on the drop cloth bandwagon.  I have always made my slipcovers out of white cotton twill and you can purchase that for about $3.00/yard at Wal-Mart.  What finally pushed me to try the drop cloths was a pair of wing chairs I wanted to cover that had a high contrast blue and white plaid fabric and it showed through my usual twill.  I needed something that was a heavier weight.  The drop cloth was my cheapest option.

So, I went to Lowe’s and bought a couple of Finish Factor Canvas 8oz weight drop cloths.  They run anywhere from $5.00/piece for a small one up to about $30 for really, really big ones.  I’ve been purchasing the ones that run about $13.00.  It takes about 1 1/2 4′x 15′ to cover a wing chair with piping, pleats, and a ”T” cushion.

So, here are the things I have learned along the way…
1.) Drop cloths are very stiff and dingy-looking right out of the package.  They at least need to be washed.
2.) How to bleach a drop cloth: I know it may sound silly to write out directions for how to bleach something, but I’ve tried several different ways and this is what is the easiest and most effective.  Put your drop cloth in your washing machine.  Start the regular wash cycle and allow the tub to fill with warm water.  Add a couple of cups of bleach and make sure the fabric is fully submerged.  Stop the cycle when the tub is full.  Close the lid and leave it for several hours.  Once it has soaked for a while, continue the cycle and allow it to run.  Repeat this entire process a second time, but add laundry soap in addition to the bleach.  Repeat this one last time, but only add laundry soap, no bleach.  Dry in the machine on high.  If you’re making a slipcover with this, you want it to be preshrunk, so that’s why you want to use warm water and a high drying heat.

3.) Drop cloths are thick.  Make sure you get heavy duty needles and use a new one when you’re starting a drop cloth sewing project.  I think I broke four needles on my wing chairs and one on my dining room chair slipcovers.  If you’re fighting with your machine (and it’s not the bobbin thread), try using a new needle.  When the needle is dull or slightly bent, you are going to have all kinds of problems.

4.) Because of the thickness of the fabric, drop cloths do not ruffle well.  If you want a girly touch, pleats will be less frustrating.  Trust me.

5.) Despite all of the bleaching, they will never be perfectly white.  They end up being a grayish off-white.  They also have a little bit of a nubby, rough texture and look slightly rumpled.  If you want something that looks perfectly white and crisp, you will not be happy with drop cloths.

6.) Drop cloth canvas will tear in a straight line, which is so handy for people like me, who don’t like measuring.  This means, if you want your pleated skirt to be four inches wide, you can make a small cut at the four inch mark and tear it the rest of the way.  The line will be perfectly straight.  A lot of home decor fabrics will do this as well, but not all, so be careful!
7.) And my last tip is to use the hemmed edges to your advantage.  You have four hemmed edges on each drop cloth, so use those for an edge you would need to hem anyway.  This saves tons of time and sewing.  I used the hemmed edge for all of my dining room chair skirts.  One less thing for me to sew!
So, are you ready to give drop cloths a try?
As a P.S., I wanted to answer a question I had about washing the painted slipcovers.  Acrylic paint will survive just fine in the wash.  It will get a little softer and slightly faded, but that only adds to the antique grain sack look.  I have not tried bleaching the fabric after it’s been painted, but I don’t think that will be an issue, either.


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Comments

  1. I'm going to try this. I hope I'm successful!

    thanks,
    Bernadette @ agirlandherhome.blogspot.com

  2. I put a 4 x 12 in their own huge bins to bleach. I periodically swooshed and rearranged. Still they came out blotchy. What a shame.

    I'm wondering if it's best to wash these things first to get out any crap they may have to provide a clean porous slate for the bleach to penetrate.

    I got mine from sherwin Williams. They are the almond color type not the brown oatmeal type at home depot. I wonder if I can unblotch these.

  3. Yes. Mine came out all blotchy as well. I wanted to wash them first but I didn't. Just did the bleach soak. 2 drop cloths wasted. I did this in in big bins and felt I had plenty of water and periodically swooshed.

    I did notice the black spots more pronounced after bleaching also.

    I'm going to try just adding bleach to the front loader and make it run as long as it can. No actually Im not sure I want to waste another 13 bucks. Idk. I'm just so stunned the simplest thing didn't work for me.

  4. I have used drop cloths as drapes for several spots in my house & pool house…they are WONDERFUL & because of their thickness they block out the sun and heat…I love them!

    I've wanted to try a drop cloth clip cover for my couch & wanted to ask you…since this post is almost a year old, how have these held up for you?

    Thanks so much. :)

    mandy

  5. This is great information. Do you know if anyone has done a slipcover for a small recliner? I think I can figure it out but would love to hear about the experience of someone who has done it!
    ~Adrienne~

    • Jeannie says:

      Adrienne,

      Did you ever get a reply? II would like to make slip covers for a recliner also and was wondering if you got any good information.

      Jeannie

      • Adrienne & Jeannie, I have not made a slipcover for a recliner, but I know someone from another blog linked one up a long time ago to one of my furniture parties. It looked great! They made a separate slipcover for the leg pieces and attached them with Velcro to each section.

  6. Could you tell me where to find such drop clothes. I order 4 from an online store, and when I received them, they had seams down the middle which made them useless to me slipcovering my sofa. I called another online store and they said they also have seams. Do you recommend a brand or online shop or good old hardware store?

    Thanks in advance. I love the pictures and ideas.

    Jacey

  7. I'm toying with the idea of making drop cloth slipcovers for two chairs in my den. I will want to wash them periodically after they are made and I am wondering if they tend to unravel at the seams or get "stringy". I don't want to serge them, but I will if I have to.

    Thanks!
    Linda

  8. I thought I asked this question yesterday, but don't see it here

    I want to try a small project using drop cloths and was wondering if you use a drop cloth that is a blend of cotton/ Poly or do you stick to all cotton? Also is 10 oz. Weight going to be too heavy? Home depot does not seem to have 8 oz listed.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I love working/sewing with drop cloths, but my concern is their flameablitly(sp?). The drop cloths from home depot have a sticker on them that say they are flammable. Does washing them help?

  10. Dawn Beaver says:

    Hi — love, love, love your slipcover video series. I have painstakingly watched each one at least 10 times before and during my slipcover sewing! I think I know every word you say! Thanks so much for inspiring me and also to NOT have to be perfect. I fell like God is “birthing” something in my mind and heart for a career path and I’m quite excited. Quick question…I bleached four Finish Factor drop clothes for my project. Three turned out just fine, but one came out “blotchy” (of course, I noticed this AFTER it became the front of my wing chair…too late to change it now). I bleached the remaining fabric again for four hours and the blotches are still there. Have you ever experienced this? Maybe there was something on this fabric to begin with and I didn’t notice, but it doesn’t seem to come out! Oh well, no one else will probably even notice it…and I love a good throw hanging over the back of my chair :)

    • Miss Mustard Seed says:

      I’m so glad these were helpful to you! Yes, I’ve had some issues with blochiness, but it’s normally very faint. I should update this, because I’ve stopped bleaching my dropcloths. It’s just too much work and it doesn’t change the fabric that much. It only lightens it a little. Anyway, I’m with you…a good throw and a pillow can cover a multitude of imperfections!

      • If you don’t bleach them now, do you do anything special with your drop cloths before making a slip cover. I am wanting to cover my couch and was wondering if I should or shouldn’t bleach it now?
        Thank you!

      • Melissa Williams says:

        I want to cover my leather couch with a slip cover. do you think a drop coth would be heavy enough to stop cat claws ?

  11. nice advice about the dropcloths! i, too, have used dropcloths for slipcovering and for floorcloths, and though they are wonderfully economical to use, they can be a big pain in the rear because of the dinginess and the unbelievable stiffness of the fabric. they’re so durable, though, that it’s well worth the trouble to use them. this would have been really helpful to me when i had first used them! wish i would have seen this post then! lovely slipcovers, by the way!

  12. I learned about you through Pinterest.com I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog. Thank you for the great information!

  13. Annie Wood says:

    I have read several great sites on working with drop cloths, and your site is just super. I bought two drop cloths from Home Depot and have just finished all the steps with one of them, including adding the hydrogen peroxide in the last soak. I also used vinegar as a softener since I discovered at the last minute that I didn’t have laundry softener for the final rinse. I don’t currently have a dryer, so the drop cloth is hanging on the line to dry in the Arizona heat.

    I must say that the color looks essentially the same as the other one in the package I haven’t yet opened. I thought I had done something wrong–I even bought more bleach after the first soak and added an extra bleach soak step, with no whiter result. Anyway, I was grateful to read your note that the color didn’t change much for you either. That made me feel much less inept. I do feel that I should follow all the bleaching steps with the second cloth, though, just in case there is a slight variation otherwise. I’m detailing all this here just in case it helps someone else who is going to try using drop cloths too. Thank you for bringing us such excitement and pleasure in our craftworK!

  14. What great tips! Just posted about inexpensive sources for fabric (including dropcloths) and linked to this post.

  15. Erica says:

    Is it always necessary to bleach these? How do they look if you just wash without bleaching?

  16. Eileen says:

    Do you recommend any other brand other than Finish Factor? After looking at lowes.com can’t find them?

  17. Patty G says:

    You inspired me to cover my 1950′s ctional with drop cloths. It was easier than reuphostering the whole thing and after stapling the bottom edge it almost looks like it was reupholstered.

  18. Marian the trick to getting drop cloths soft after belching them is o run them through with a genourous amount of fabric softener….. Vinegar is also a softener for the all naturale folks. Then toss it in the dryer with about 20 dryer sheets.

    Totally softens up the fabric.

  19. MaryB says:

    Thanks for all the tips and tutorials. I recently started recovering my two chairs (very large wing backs) Started small witht he T cushions. They have worked out great…. now on to the rest of the chairs! I have tried bleaching mine and to be honest they really haven’t got much lighter. Years ago I made pull on covers for my cane suite in the UK from natural canvas. Over the years of regular washing (in very hot water) they went very soft and white so this may be the case with these as well. If not, I can happily live with the light beige colour.

  20. charlotte mobley says:

    Would it help to use a large capacity washer at a laundromat to avoid blotching?

    • I think that a large top loading machine at a commercial laundromat would be helpful to avoid both blothching and wrinkling, and have found that a slow spin also helps avoid wrinkles that tend to get set in while in a hot dryer. We found one large enough to wash a slip to our queen size fold out sleeper sofa, but washed the cushion covers separately.

      Liquid bleach (which I seldom use) is usually added to the water, perhaps before the machine is completely filled, and well mixed in the water before the fabric is added. This would avoid having the bleach poured directly on the top, but not all, of the fabric, and might minimize the blotching.

      I would wash the cloths in hot water to eliminate any finish or additives to the fabric, then rewash with the bleach, and then rewash with a fabric softener if desired. I would dry them on hot in between washes. The more you wash and dry the fabric before fitting it to your furniture, the less shrinkage you will have when the slip is washed after completion. I would test painting on a swatch that had been washed or dried with a softener to be sure that it did not affect the ability of the paint to adhere.

      When the completed slipcovers are washed, they will be easier to put back on the chair or sofa if they are slightly damp, especially if they have been made to fit snugly. A seamstress who made my first set of slips taught me this; I don’t know if it is in the instructions – just found this fabulous site.

  21. charlotte mobley says:

    has anyone found a resource for cream or better white???? Not the “tweedy” ones or darker at Lowe’s or Home Depot…

  22. Vicki says:

    HI,

    I followed the directions and my drop cloth became blotchy–is there anyway to get the blotches out?

    Thanks for any suggestions.

    Vicki

  23. Hi everyone, I’ve been trying to bleach dropcloths without much success. I think the main issue is that mine are a cotton/poly blend. Cotton is bleachable however the poly is the problem. Any tips?
    Thanks
    CJ

  24. Hi Marian! I’m wondering if you can recommend another type of drop cloth? I checked at Lowe’s and didn’t see the Finish Factor Brand.

    Thanks!!

    • It seems that Lowes has dropped the Finish Factor brand! Didn’t they know they made perfect slipcovers? Anyway, I’ve started using hemp canvas fabric, which is about $11/yard, so it’s still inexpensive and durable.

      • Bethany says:

        I was wondering where you find hemp canvas for $11./yard? I haven’t found it that cheap before so need the scoop! Thanks!

  25. Meredith says:

    This process worked great for me! I turn on the washer, and wait for the agitator to start. Added the bleach and/or detergent, let it agitate for a minute, then pause the cycle to let it sit 3 hours. Not blotchy, but I also made sure everything was completely submerged.

    Question: does anyone know of a more earth friendly way to bleach fabrics effectively. My initial thought was “well, if I buy $100 stark white panels at West Elm, they’ve been bleached, just somewhere in a factory – the only difference is that I can’t see it.”

    However, after having used a half gallon of bleach for 1 curtain panel, it breaks my little tree-huggin’ heart to think of dumping 4 more gallons of bleach into our waterways for the rest of my panels (8).

    Does anyone have an idea for an alternative, or can pat me on the head and tell me that my bleach use is actually insignificant? How do those eco friendly companies that tout “bleach-free” do it? Or is everything in a world without bleach just oatmeal colored…

  26. Dorothy says:

    Of course, luck would have it that I have just found this website and I’m eager to make a slipcover only to discover that Lowe’s does not carry Finish Factor drop cloths anymore!!!! I am certain I’m not the only one looking for a terrific substitute.
    Can anyone recommend a readily available substitute other than the unidentified hemp fabric that Miss Mustard Seed has switched to? I need to shop on the internet if possible.
    Thanks for your help.

  27. Amanda says:

    what type of sewing machiene do you have? i noticed in a video you said you had it for a while…. i am looking for a new one. The one i have never works.

  28. Amanda says:

    sorry had a spelling mistake..
    what type of sewing machine do you have? i noticed in a video you said you had it for a while…. i am looking for a new one. The one i have never works.

    • I had a Kenmore model 385, which was about $150 when I bought it five or six years ago. I have never had it cleaned or tuned and I have used it to make countless slipcovers, pillows, curtains, etc. It’s done really well for a little, inexpensive machine. It’s still working, but I just upgraded to an upholstery machine.

  29. Nancy says:

    I need to cover a mid-century couch with something sturdy and I think I’ll try this. Has anyone ever tried dying a drop cloth cover? My dog will be sitting on it so white/beige won’t work for me. Also, I’ll probably buy the brand Lowes is selling at the moment. Any thoughts on this? Thanks.

  30. I think that we should help a local enterprise by
    hiring a nearby ‘man & van’ to move our bulky items of furniture.

  31. You’ve inspired me and given me information that is truly helpful. I have seen and heard about drop cloth projects, but I haven’t tried any yet. I love the bleaching first idea. I’m pinning this one!
    Laura

Trackbacks

  1. […] I painted the furniture with one coat of paint and then distressed the edges by lightly sanding with steel wool and sand paper before applying a coat of clear wax to seal the finish. I recovered the seat cushions with painter’s drop cloth that I first bleached out and then painted with red stripes of acrylic craft paint to achieve a french grain sack look, which was all inspired by Miss Mustard Seed. […]

  2. […] down to it, the price was right and so was the color after I bleached it for a few hours following Miss Mustard Seed’s […]

  3. […] it wasn’t too difficult to do. To save on cost I used a drop cloth, which I bleached using Miss Mustard Seed’s method. I purchased a 12 x 15, but only used half for both of these chairs. That worked out perfectly […]

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