A waterproof tablecloth will not stain.

How to Waterproof a Tablecloth

by Linda Erlam

Tablecloths protect the table surface, and in doing so, they take the brunt of day-to-day life. But as any mom knows, spills happen; food get ground into the fabric; and some foods even stain the material. Trying to remove the stains may damage the tablecloth itself. Having a tablecloth that is waterproof helps the cloth last longer and protects the table from liquids that soak through. You can waterproof your cloth in one of several ways; choose the method that suits your DIY comfort level.

Iron-on Vinyl

Wash and dry your fabric to remove the sizing or starch-like stiffener used in the manufacturing of new fabric. This step allows for better adhesion of waterproofing products and prevents additional shrinkage.

Prepare a surface as large as the tablecloth. Cover a piece of plywood with cotton batting and wrap it in an old sheet, stapling the sheet in place on the underside of the plywood. Staple the surface completely flat and tight.

Lay the cloth on the pressing surface with the right-side visible on the surface. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to adhere the vinyl to the fabric.

Stain Repellent or Waterproofing Spray

Wash and dry your fabric.

Lay a sheet of plastic over your table, extending it past the surface by at least 12 inches all around.

Position the tablecloth on the table and smooth out all the wrinkles.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions and spray the entire cloth surface with spray. Let the cloth dry completely.

Apply three or four more coats of the stain repellent spray, allowing the cloth to dry completely between coats.

Wipe the cloth after use with a slightly damp cloth and allow it to dry before folding for storage. If you must wash your cloth, re-apply the spray according to the manufacturer's instructions.

White Glue

Dilute white, clear-drying, all-purpose glue to make a 1/4-glue, 3/4-water mixture. Stir the mixture well.

Lay a sheet of plastic over your table; use a plastic sheet larger than the tablecloth.

Lay the tablecloth out flat on the plastic, wrong-side up.

Paint the white glue mixture over the entire surface of the fabric. Use a sponge brush, roller or paintbrush, but ensure that you spread the mixture evenly over the surface.

Allow the cloth to dry completely and apply a second coat. Allow it to dry.

Turn the cloth over and apply two or three additional coats to the right-side of the fabric, allowing the cloth to dry fully between coats.

Spray the entire surface of the cloth with a matte or gloss clear sealant.

Items you will need

  • Tablecloth
  • Pressing surface, if required
  • Iron-on vinyl
  • Iron
  • Stain-repellent spray
  • Plastic dropcloth
  • White glue
  • Mixing container
  • Paintbrush, roller or sponge brushes
  • Spray sealant


  • Stain-repellent fabric sprays will not totally waterproof the fabric, but they will keep spills on the surface long enough for you to get up the spill with cloths or paper towels.
  • Waterproofing sprays are heavier and are intended to prevent any liquid from transferring.
  • Test the sprays on a small piece of fabric first to ensure they do not discolor your cloth.
  • Use a clear-drying glue to ensure that the fabric is more pliable after waterproofing.

About the Author

Linda Erlam started writing educational manuals in 1979. She also writes a biweekly newspaper column, "Design Dilemmas," in the "Lakeshore News" and has been published in "Design and Drapery Pro" magazine. Erlam is a graduate of the Sheffield School of Interior Design and is a practicing interior decorator and drapery workroom operator.

Photo Credits

  • Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images