Caring for Your Self-Healing Cutting Mat

I love my self-healing cutting mat. Probably one of my best friends, in the sewing room anyway. But did you know that your mat needs some regular care in order to keep it in tip top shape? Otherwise it will begin to look like my old mat here. (Eek!)

before-mat

Caring for your self-healing cutting mat is easy. Every now and then you will want to take a little scrubber (like the kind used for dishes) and brush off your mat to release any loose threads that get caught. You don’t need to rub too hard, just a light touch is sufficient.

Cleaning Your Mat

Once you have the excess loose threads and fibers removed, it’s time to moisturize your mat and bring that surface back to life. A quick bath in a solution of vinegar and dish soap will do the trick, plus it should also remove any surface stains on the mat. (Except for ink stains – those are a little tougher.)

To soak your mat, place it in a bathtub or container that is large enough so your mat can lie flat. Add a solution of ¼ cup white vinegar per gallon of cool water and let it soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure the water is cool! Warm or hot water can warp your mat.

vinegar-poured-in Now add a bit of mild dish soap and take another soft brush, gently scrubbing the surface of your mat. This will get any straggler fibers that may be trapped in the cuts on your mat and prevent it from self-healing. (Note: you’ll have to keep an eye out for any hitch hikers who may decide to join your mat bath. Baxter thought he needed a soak too.)

baxter-tub-hijacker This special solution will absorb into your self-healing mat and make it nice and supple again. You can dry the mat with a cotton towel or let it air dry flat. Make sure it’s flat too – you don’t want it to warp as it dries.

And that’s it! Easy. Just remember, keeping your mat clean, moist, flat, and away from excess heat will preserve it for years to come.

Happy quilting!


Related Video: How to Care for Cutting Mats

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Discussion
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103 Responses to “Caring for Your Self-Healing Cutting Mat”
  1. Nancy

    What if you don’t have a tub? Is there another way? I have recently purchased a new mat and would like to keep it as new as possible. Thanks for the article!

    Reply
  2. Katie

    Is there a way to repair a warped mat. I just bought new one and on the way home in the car(it was hot) and it warped on one side. Is there a way to unwarp it? Thanks

    Reply
    • National Quilters Circle

      Hi Katie. I’ve tried many ways to unwrap, unfortunately I am not aware of a way. With that being said, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way. Let’s see if any of our other experts have an idea.

      Reply
      • Jewellene

        I placed a warped mat on my patio(flat surface) and allowed the sun to heat it. I then placed something flat on top for a day, once mat was heated from the sun and afterwards it was as good as new.

        Reply
        • Judith BRumm

          This worked for me as well. The mat warped in the hot car and was a mess by the time I got home. I used this method of wetting it and laying it flat on the balcony to dry with some books on top of a towel on the mat. Temp was about 100 in the sun. didn’t take long for it to be as smooth as new!

          Reply
        • Joan Stewart

          I have done the same with some bricks on top until it cooled down. If I travel with it, it is the first item to go in the car, flat in the boot. No problems since.

          Reply
        • Sylvia

          Thanks! I absent minded and sat a hot dish on mine and wrapped it. I replaced it but I cannot bring myself to throw it away.

          Reply
      • Nancy Kuba

        I had a mat that had been stored standing up and it was badly warped. I soaked it in plain cool water for about an hour and then laid it on my sidewalk in the sun. Amazingly it flattened out perfectly. It took about 2 days in the Florida sun.

        Reply
    • Judy

      To make a warped mat lie flat ,lie it in the hot sun on a completely flat surface . It will become flat . One of my daughters decided to use mine to iron on . I did this and I can now use it again

      Reply
      • Sharon

        My daughter also used it to iron…however I live in the PNW and hot sun is rare where I live. Any other suggestions since a sunny day = 60 degrees

        Reply
    • Susan Mann

      Peta, I found a way that wonderfully fo rme. My mat was really warped IN a hurry one day i slipped my largest mat between my box spring and forgot it . When i took it out i was sure it was ruined, I put on the hood of my car on a hot day. When i got it off the car it was like brand new.

      Reply
  3. Linda Sohm

    I didn’t know this either. But my mat is too big for the tub. Can I just spray the solution on?

    Reply
    • National Quilters Circle

      Hi Linda. You can, but you won’t get the full effect the tub gives. Do you have a children’s pool you can put an inch of water in?

      Reply
  4. Marjorie Goble

    I use my gloves (the ones with the little rubber grippies) on the fingers to clean my mat. Just rub over the mat in circular motions and it will remove any pieces of fabric, threads, bits of batting, etc. Then just pull the little matted clump from your glove and you’re good to go.

    Reply
  5. Cheryl Buchanan

    I had cleaned my mat and let it dry for a few days. Then I put a new blade in my rotary cutter and it cut all the way through my mat. As many years as I have been cutting I’ve never had this happen. Has anyone else?

    Reply
  6. Jeanette

    I just wish I had a bath in this house. Is there an alternative if you don’t have a bath or large laundry trough.
    ?

    Reply
  7. Jess

    If you don’t have a tub or kiddy pool, use a garbage bag! Find a flat spot outside, slip your mat in the bag, add water/vinegar/soap, and fix the opening so it doesn’t spill out. I’ve done this with my oven racks and other flat items and it worked great!

    Reply
  8. Jan

    Is this method of care suggested for all materials that mats are made of? All brands? I see that you are soaking the very popular brand of green mat. My mat is is a harder surface blue one. Should I soak it? And in the past, I had a translucent white one that eventually develloped places so cut that it became unusable. Would this method of care have prolonged its life?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Jan. This method is usually suggested for ‘self healing’ cutting mats. This is due to the fact that those mats need to retain some kind of moisture in order to keep their self healing properties. As for other non- self healing mats, I recommend using the edge of a ruler to push out or brush away bits of fabric that can get stuck down in the cuts of the mat. If you are getting large piece of cuts areas so cut up that they are unusable, it is best to just replace the mat. I would recommend trying to not always cut in the same spot on your mat. For example, if you are repeatedly cutting 4″ strips, don’t always line up the fabric and cut at 4, 8, 12..etc.- instead offset the fabric to utilize different areas of the mat. This can help make it last longer.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  9. Nancy Salin

    I have a double sided mat. One side for cutting and the other an ironing surface. Do you know if it can be soaked

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi,

      I would not recommend soaking this kind of mat as I am unsure how the pressing mat side would dry. I recommend trying to find care instructions for the specific brand of mat you have.

      Cheers!

      Reply
  10. Debbie Dawson

    Thank you so much for this information. I had no idea and I will be sharing with my quilting friends.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi,

      How much soap to add depends on how much water you are using. If you are filling a sink or shallow bath, just a few drops is plenty. You do not want to be adding so much that you create a lot of bubbles.

      Cheers!

      Reply
  11. maryb

    I have a Martelli 3-piece round lazy susan cutting mat. The underside is not a cutting mat, its “non-slip”. What is the best way to soak or clean it?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi. Rather than soak this part of the mat, I would recommend simply wiping it with a damp cloth.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
    • JoAnn Neely

      I would contact Martelli and ask them how to clean it properly. Their products are very expensive and I would hate for you to ruin it.

      Reply
  12. Patricia

    I so love this invention. I work at Joann fabrics and I tell my guests all the time about how to care for there cutting mats, they like to hear all the new suggestions and little tweaks I give them. Thank you

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Pat. There are several ways to get a warped mat to lay flat again. First, you can try simply laying it out and seeing if it will “relax” over a day or so. If not, add some weighted books to the sides overnight and see if that makes it lay flat. If neither of these methods work you may need to add a little heat to your mat to get it to lay flat again. I know this may seem counter intuitive, however, you are simply going to be slightly warming the whole mat. The best way to do this is to lay it in the sun for a day and allow it to warm up. Once it warms it will either relax on it’s own or you can add the weighted books back to the sides and allow to to sit for a day.

      Reply
  13. Julie B

    I use a pastry scraper to get the fine fuzz off the surface of the mat…found out it works really nifty. Did not know about the soak, wash cycle though..thanks for the info.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Lynn. Yes, you can clean your mat the same way, however remove it from the lower pad that allows it to spin. This part shouldn’t need to be soaked anyway.

      Reply
  14. Judy Roux

    The easiest way to remove ink from anything is……. hairspray. I have used that countless times and it always takes out the ink. No matter if it is felt marker or pen.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Lesha. You can use the little scrubber to remove threads and bits of fabric any time you find that there are some sticking in your mat. As far as soaking your mat- you shouldn’t have to do that very often. Once in a while, or when you notice it starting to become very dirty should be enough. I have been using the same mat for several years now and have not had to soak mine yet.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
      • millies_mom47

        Hi, when I bought my self-healing mat no one told me how to take care of it and there was nothing on it telling me how the healing part worked or how to care for it. So I thank you for this information. Since I don’t know anything about self-healing mats could you tell me as I haven’t yet done any moisturizing baths, if I do this will the cuts I’ve made go away? Some of mine are pretty deep.

        Reply
  15. Luanne

    Thanks for the great tip! Any idea how often we should be cleaning our mats? Every 3 months, every 6 months; maybe it depends on how often you use the mat?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Luanne. It definitely depends on how often you use your mat. I will lightly brush and clean mine whenever I see lint or bits of fabric starting to stick to it and then only soak it every year or so. Doing small cleanings every now and then can cut down on how often you need to soak your mat.

      Reply
  16. Joy Bell

    Thanks, I didn’t even think of cleaning it. Great news….I don’t have to buy a new one…they are so expensive! What a good thing to know….thank you again!

    Reply
  17. Ronda

    I lay a damp towel over my mat, especially if I’ve used the same place to cut several times. I leave it until I need to use me mat again.

    Reply
  18. Zandra

    Thank You for the wonderful information about preserving the cutting mat.

    Reply
  19. Mary

    What do you do if you don’t have an area big enough available to lie your mat flat, what can you do for the moisturizing part?

    Reply
  20. Pam Doiron

    Hi, I would like to know which kind of a dish scrubber you are talking about. There are so very many, if you could be specific, I would appreciate so much. Also, a soft brush was mentioned. Again , what kind? Like a nail brush?? Thankyou so very much for your help.

    Reply
    • patwarden50

      I have a piece of rubber that is designed to clean my cutting mat that I use. It was very inexpensive and works great. If you have ever seen the crocheted little scrubbers, they work great too. Any scrubber that you can use on teflon coated pans would work. I would not recommend steel wool, etc.

      Reply
  21. Angie Lewis

    How often should we clean these self healing mats to keep them moist?

    Reply
    • patwarden50

      it depends on how dry/hot your area is and how much you use your cutting mat – the hotter and drier and more often use will require you to do this more often. I would recommend at least once a year as a standard. Also, if you are finding that you are having trouble cutting or your mat is just looking sad and overused, it doesn’t hurt to give it a spa day.

      Reply
  22. nona stone

    Is there any way to make the marks more visible. Mine have faded a lot hard to see. Thanks appreciate any suggestions

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi,

      Aside from re-drawing your lines with some kind of permanent ink I do not know of any ways to make the marks more visible.

      Cheers,

      Ashley

      Reply
  23. Dawn

    I had no idea I needed to do this – thanks for the great information! Cute dog, BTW, ?Norfolk terrier?

    Reply
  24. Pamela Tillson

    As a novice quilter with more time on my hands I look forward to any tricks of the trade like maintaining my mat.

    Reply
  25. Janet

    How do you care for a really large cutting mat. I have no tub large enough for a 4’X6′ mat! Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Janet,

      When you have a large cutting mat like this, you can still use the same technique for caring for your mat- you will just have to rotate the mat and work in sections (halves or quarters) to care for the entire mat.

      Hope this helps,

      Ashley
      National Quilters Circle Video Membership

      Reply
  26. Diana

    Many thanks for the suggestions for flattening a warped mat!! I’ve hung on to mine hoping to find a solution.

    Reply
  27. Kathi Brill

    Thank you for writing about this I will share the article and its origin with my quilting group.this is such a good discussion around the group and now we finally have the answer!

    Reply
    • millies_mom47

      Hi, I did a reply further up on an old date of 2017th I think. Anyway, in case you don’t see it, I have a question. Since I’ve had my mat for over 10 years and it’s never been moisturized or soaked or anything since there were no instructions with it and the internet wasn’t a big thing too much then and no one where I bought the mat told me anything about caring for it, I didn’t really have any idea how to use it. So I guessed. Now it’s old but still in what I think is excellent condition, it’s still pliable and bright but it has some pretty deep cuts (actually a lot of deep cuts). Once I do this soak will the cuts disappear or will it always be covered with cuts? What else do I do to take care of it?

      Reply
      • Customer Service

        Hello,

        Unfortunately those cuts will always be there. While doing the soak and caring for your mat can help prolong the life of it, at some point it is going to need to be replaced.

        Cheers,

        Ashley
        National Quilters Circle Video Membership

        Reply
  28. LW Radford

    Great instructions! My mat is 2nd hand so I will definitely try it. Did you notice there is a “cat Face” in the picture with your dog? It is directly below his front right paw.

    Reply
  29. Gloria Groom

    I am very new to quilting and enjoying the little I’ve done. My present project is one called “The Village”. Thank you for the info on “caring for your self-healing cutting mat”.

    Reply
  30. Cheryl L Schewe

    I tried sunshine, hot water, hair dryer – nothing helped. I finally took an old iron and parchment paper ( to protect the iron) and ironed it flat. Now it is good as new! I then ironed the bottom of the grand-kids sleds that had some big scratches on them. Smoothed them out, too

    Reply
  31. Deb

    I use my mats so much that they don’t “heal”. I even purchased a metal looking thing (looks like a kitchen scrubby with small handle) I just noticed this again on my largest from Joann’s about 6′ x 4′ because I’m (marathon) cutting some squares…makes things go quickly when a peer announces a new grand baby is on the way. Any ideas for the “nicks and grooves”? thanks

    Reply
  32. Debby

    Thanks for the upkeep info. What a find. Attempting to teach myself to quilt. Slow process.

    Reply