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How to Choose a Drop Cloth

Ask This Old House painter Mauro Henrique explains which type of drop cloth he selects for which project


  1. Professional painters avoid standard canvas drop cloths, as they’re not great at preventing paint spills from absorbing and staining the floor. Instead, they prefer canvas backed, plastic lined drop cloths.
  2. Thick plastic drop cloths should be used outdoors, particularly for covering plants, shrubs, etc. Mauro recommends not using them on the ground or on the floor because they can get slippery.
  3. Thin plastic drop cloths are used for protecting furniture and other materials that can’t be removed from the room being worked in. They should not be used on the floor because they can tear easily and because they also can get slippery.
  4. Tarps are good for exterior projects, particularly scraping paint off the sides of a house. They shouldn’t be used when it’s time to start painting.
  5. Paper drop cloths are great for trim and edge work. Mauro likes to cut 4-5 inch sections of paper, tape it along the bottom edge of the baseboard, and then lay his canvas drop cloth on top of that to work.

All the drop cloths Mauro mentioned he uses, including the canvas, plastic, and tarps, can all be found at home centers and painting supply stores.