How To Clean Oilcloth Tablecloths Simply And Efficiently (For Beginners)

Oilcloth tablecloths are handy and can add a beautiful touch to any home. Whether you use yours indoors or outdoors, you will need to know how to keep it clean and stain-free to keep it looking new. Thankfully, it is simple to clean an oilcloth tablecloth, and even a beginner user should be able to manage it.


Oilcloth tablecloths can be cleaned by wiping them with a damp warm water cloth. Add a little detergent if needed. Oilcloth should not be bleached but you can use ammonia to remove sticky residues. Wipe away any staining agents like tomato-based foods.

If you are the proud new owner of an oilcloth tablecloth, congratulations. You have purchased a beautiful item that, if well cared for, will serve you for years. Oilcloth tablecloths are attractive investments, especially if you have children, messy family members, or frequently entertain outdoors. Keeping your oilcloth is a relatively simple endeavor. Read on as we tell you how. 


The Beginners Guide To Cleaning An Oilcloth Tablecloth Efficiently

Oilcloth is a fantastic invention. It was initially created using close-woven linen covered by a coating of boiled linseed oil. The linseed oil provided a waterproof covering that made the table easier to clean than regular cotton tablecloths.


Today, most oilcloth tablecloths are coated with vinyl or PVC, but the purpose remains the same. Oilcloth tablecloths are great for indoor and outdoor use and can be seen in many restaurants. Their easy-cleaning properties make them an obvious choice for parents, grandparents, and anyone who encounters mess regularly. 


No matter what type of mess your tablecloth incurs, it is not advisable to machine wash an oilcloth tablecloth or to tumble dry one. Instead, wipe it clean and let it completely dry in the sun and air before storing it. When storing an oilcloth, be sure to roll and not fold it. Folding it will result in lines that are challenging to get rid of. 


The waterproof quality allows oilcloth tablecloths to be cleaned with so little difficulty. Let us look at how you can clean the everyday messes, potential stains, stickiness, and transferred dirt off of yours. 


How To Clean Everyday Mess From An Oilcloth Tablecloth

Everyday mess is bound to happen. This category includes things like spilled water, juice, food, water-based paint, and the like. 

How To Clean Everyday Mess From An Oilcloth Tablecloth
How To Clean Everyday Mess From An Oilcloth Tablecloth

To clean everyday messes from your oilcloth tablecloth, you will need the following:

  • A clean rag
  • Warm water
  • Detergent if you feel it is necessary (dish soap should be sufficient)
  • A clean, dry towel 


How to go about cleaning the tablecloth:

  • First, dust or remove large debris, such as chunks of food, ice blocks, etc. 
  • Wet your rag in the warm water and wipe the tablecloth, so the entire area is wiped clean. 
  • If the tablecloth is still dirty, pour a drop or two of detergent into the warm water. Mix the water until bubbles appear. Dip the cloth into the soapy water and wipe the tablecloth again.
  • Once the tablecloth appears clean, dry it with a clean towel.
  • Allow it to air dry until completely dry.


Optional extra: If you want to add extra shine to your oilcloth tablecloth, consider wiping it with diluted white vinegar after cleaning. Let it air dry or dry in the sun for a lovely glow. 


How To Clean Potential Stains From An Oilcloth Tablecloth

Although oilcloth tablecloths are resistant to most messes, they can be stained by certain dyes. Most foods that are tomato-based can cause staining to occur on your oilcloth tablecloth. Foods that could dye your oilcloth tablecloth include Bolognese, curries, berries, red wine, and beetroot.


Look out for ballpoint pens, felt tip pens, shoe polishes, nail varnishes, hair dyes, and dyes from clothing around your tablecloth. All of these items can leave nasty stains and, depending on the color and design of your tablecloth, could be challenging to remove. 


Still, there is usually a way to remove even tough stains from oilcloth tablecloths. If you see a spill, it is best to wipe it immediately. Once it has been wiped, try out the following process to remove the stain.


To clean stains from your oilcloth tablecloth, you will need the following:

  • Hairspray (yes, you read that correctly)
  • Paper towels or baby wipes
  • Detergent (dish soap will work well)
  • Ammonia or white vinegar
  • Warm water
  • A clean rag
  • A clean, dry towel


How to go about cleaning stains off the tablecloth:

  • Remove all excess debris and the mess that made the initial stain. 
  • Wipe the tablecloth down by dipping the clean rag in the warm water. 
  • If the table is still soiled, add a little detergent to the water and agitate it until bubbles appear. Wet the rag again and wipe the tablecloth once more. If the stains persist, pour out the soapy water.
  • Try a little hairspray. Spray a little on the stain. Leave for about five minutes, then wipe it off with a baby wipe or paper towel. If the stain lifts, simply rinse the area with water. If the stain persists, continue to clean with the following steps. 
  • Mix one part vinegar or ammonia with three parts water. Wet a corner of the rag and test clean a small corner of the oilcloth tablecloth. 
  • Leave the area for a few minutes. If the site has stayed the same, you can proceed.
  • Wet the entire rag and thoroughly clean the stained area until the stain lifts. 
  • Once clean, wipe the tablecloth with plain water again.
  • Dry it with a clean towel and then allow it to air dry in the sun until it is completely dry. 


How To Clean Stickiness And Transferred Dirt From An Oilcloth Tablecloth

You may find that after storing your oilcloth tablecloth for a while, it may have become grimy or sticky. If you keep a plastic cover over the oilcloth for a long time, a sticky residue can be left behind when you remove it. 


Another issue that sometimes plagues oilcloth tablecloth owners is transferred print or dirt. Wet newspapers or other paper can leave an impression on the oilcloth. This can prove challenging to remove. 


Let us look at ways to remove stickiness and transferred dirt from an oilcloth tablecloth.


To remove these types of dirt, you will need the following:

  • Clean rag
  • Warm water
  • Clean, dry towel
  • Detergent (dish soap)
  • Milton or other sterilizing fluid
  • Ammonia or vinegar
  • Hairspray 
  • Baby wipes or paper towels


How to go about cleaning stickiness or transferred dirt off the tablecloth:

  • Wipe the tablecloth with clean water.
  • If the dirt persists, add dish soap to the water and agitate the water.
  • Wipe the table with soapy water. 
  • If the dirt persists, throw out the soapy water and dilute Milton, ammonia, or vinegar to suit your preference. Please dilute your choice of cleaner as per the instructions on the packaging. 
  • Wipe the table using the new solution and scrub any stubborn areas. 
  • Apply a spray of hairspray for small areas with lingering stickiness or transferred print. Let it set for around five minutes, and then wipe it off with a baby wipe or paper towel.
  • Once clean, dry the tablecloth with a towel and let it air dry thoroughly in the sun.


Please note: It is advisable to do a test area before cleaning your entire tablecloth when using ammonia, vinegar, or Milton. 



Cleaning an oilcloth tablecloth is relatively easy. Prevent stains from setting in by wiping spills as quickly as possible. Most dirt can be wiped off an oilcloth using water and a cloth. A mild detergent can keep it clean, and vinegar can add shine. Always allow your oilcloth tablecloth to air dry completely before rolling it to store.

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