Skip to main content

What Are Floor Cloths And How To Make Them.

History of Floor Cloths

Floor cloths are large hand painted cloths. They originated in the earlier 1700's, possibly even sooner. They became very popular among the wealthy to cover their bare wood floors and depending on the artist they could be extremely elegant and quite pricey. They also became quite popular and became quite common among the working class but were not as elegant and were made from salvaged sail cloth from ships. They were also know as "oyl" or "oil" cloths because oil was rubbed into the front and back to protect the paint. The paints used didn't last very long and tended to dry out and chip off. Oiling them not only protected the paint but gave the cloths extra durability. The original green floor cloth used by George Washington is still displayed on the floor at Mount Vernon. Floor cloths were still popular up until the time linoleum was produced. After that they sort of faded from the scene for a short time but are now becoming quite popular as "Floor Art". You can find them produced commercially with the more traditional styles used during their heyday or made by individuals in the popular Folk or Primitive art styles, Abstract, Modern, Contemporary, Retro and any other style somebody comes up with. They come in various sizes and shapes to fit anybodies decorating tastes. Some of the ones I have made and sold are now hanging as wall art.

How To MakeYour Own Floor Cloth

Making your own floor cloth is easy and a great deal of fun. Whether you are making it for yourself, as a gift, or making them to sell, they are a great outlet for your creativity because the sky is the limit on designs. It's all up to your imagination. They look great with any décor and seem to last forever.

Now lets get you started.


Canvas - 1 quart of Gesso or 1 gallon white latex or flat paint, (if you plan to make more than one), Acrylic paints, Brushes of varying sizes, Pencil and eraser, Fabric glue or pinking shears, Water base polyurethane.


1. First you will need some canvas. 7 to 8oz cotton duck is what is normally used. You can find floor cloth canvas already packaged but it can be a bit expensive. I like saving money so instead of buying it by the piece I went to my local home improvement center and bought a large 7oz canvas painters cloth. The floor cloths I made were 2ft x 3ft so I got 6 out of it for less than the price of what one name brand canvas would have cost.

2. You will need to decide what size you want the floor cloth to be before you cut then leave a margin if you want to turn the edges under all around. I personally didn't turn mine under and glue them. I found it made the cloths look bulky and unattractive. I chose to cut my cloths out with pinking shears. It not only made the cloths lie flatter but gave a bit more artistic value to them.

3. After it's cut to size You will need to coat the cloth front and back with Gesso. This is quite expensive, sometimes up to $13.00 for a quart depending on where you get it, or, do as I did and buy an $8.00 to $12.00 gallon of semi gloss or flat white latex paint. You can do several cloths with a gallon as to one or two with the Gesso. I have painted for years and I truly didn't see any difference between the two so I opted to save more money and make more of a profit when selling my cloths. The paint can be applied using a soft bristle brush or as I have found to be easier and quite faster, a small roller.

4. Now you have a totally blank canvas in front of you. Scary huh? Don't let it scare you. You don't have to be an artist to paint one of these. Besides I'll be telling you how you can make one with out painting. So relax and grab your paints. If you aren't very artistic you can also use stencils or trace your design, what ever suits you or your style.

5. Once you have your cloth painted and it's completely dry, (Acrylics dry very fast), It's now time to seal your cloth. Grab your can of water based polyurethane. DO NOT USE oil based thinking it will give your cloth better protection. It yellows as it dries. Only use it if you have done a traditional design and want it to have an "aged" look to it. I ruined one of mine that I did in black and white. Water based gives just as good protection. Don't shake the can but stir gently just in case there is some settling. If you shake you will have small bubbles in the finish. Do the front first. That will keep you from scratching or ruining the design if it comes in contact with dirt or a rough surface while coating the back. Apply at 3 or more coats front and back letting it dry completely in between coats. Three coats will be plenty but some people like a high gloss look and may add more coats to the front.

Scroll to Continue

6. Before you put your cloth down on the floor please get some slip preventive tape to apply to the bottom as these floor cloths can slip on hard surfaces. Once that is done you are now ready to start using your beautiful floor cloth.

Now for those of you who feel you don't have an artistic bone in your body, here's how to cheat when making a floor cloth.

1. Find a heavy material with the pattern or design you like.

2. Cut it to size, (again pinking shears are best.)

3.Coat front and back with 3 or more coats each of polyurethane.

4. Affix the slip preventive tape to the underside and you are ready to use your cloth.


Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on November 10, 2010:

You have some beautiful selections of floorcloths. You instructions are clear and concise, easy to understand. Great job.

AnythingArtzy (author) from OHIO on December 21, 2009:

yes it does.

Ivorwen from Hither and Yonder on December 21, 2009:

I have always wanted to make one of these, but was not sure how to keep it from becoming a slipping hazard. Does the tape work on carpet?

Related Articles