Today will present how to repair a self healing cutting mat here. Over time, the self-healing mat seems not to ‘heal’ as it should. This is the first sign that the mat needs some repair or at least maintenance. Unfortunately, a good number of quilters and sewists seem not to know all is not lost whenever a self-healing mat develops permanent grooves.
There are several methods of restoring a self-healing mat once it starts retaining cut marks. One of these methods involves rehydration. I’ll share more methods that you can revamp your cutting mat to bring out the best in it.
There are also a few practices that you should engage in to ensure your mat lasts as long as it should. If you didn’t know these tips, then your mat probably has already sustained some damage. We will discuss how to address the repair part first, then look at the care and maintenance practices later.
How to repair a cutting mat
Cutting mats will often experience two types of damage; warping and non-healing grooves. The latter is best addressed by cleaning and rehydration, as we shall see under maintenance, while the former needs a more proactive approach.
Repairing a warped cutting mat
When you purchased that mat, one of the necessary storage instructions was that you should not fold it nor store it upright. This is to ensure the mat doesn’t warp- a rather stubborn problem to deal with.
So, now your mat is warped, how do you flatten it? There is no single method that guarantees to restore your mat 100%. What we have are methods tried by various users with considerable success, sometimes surpassing the 85% mark!
Step-1. Get a perfectly flat and thick piece of plywood. The thickness should be anywhere between 3/8 to ½ of an inch. The piece of plywood should be wide enough to cover the entire surface area of your mat.
Step-2. Place the plywood on a flat concrete floor, preferably outside, exposed to sunlight all day.
Step-3. Next, place your warped cutting mat over the plywood
Step-4. Place a heavy glass plate over the mat. Again the glass plate should be wider than the mat to cover the entire mat surface and not just the warped area. Note that window glass cannot do the trick. The type of glass to use can be tabletop glass or the types used for shelving or dresser top glass.
Step-5. Let the setup remain all day under the sun and overnight as well, without disturbing it.
Step-6. The next, just before sunrise, the mat will have cooled and straightened. Remove the glass, the mat, and the plywood. You can proceed to use the mat or give it a wash to rehydrate.
The above method does produce results but is not backed by any mat manufacturer. Nevertheless, it’s worth trying before throwing your beloved mat.
Some other methods you can try on your mat include:
- Placing the mat outside on a concrete surface all day. The idea here is to let the mat straighten by the sun’s heating.
- Storing the mat under pressure, i.e., between two relatively rigid surfaces. The easiest way of doing this is placing the mat between your mattress and the box spring support for a couple of days or weeks.
- Submerging the mat in hot water (this is highly discouraged for a mat in good form!), and then letting it dry in the sun, laid flat.
Now that you know the most severe damage your mat can suffer – warping, don’t you think a stitch in time would save you the nine? Certainly! You can avoid warping the mat by avoiding the everyday habits such as the ones listed below:
- Placing the mat by its edge (vertically or inclined without support on both sides)
- Ironing on the mat
- Placing hot food or drinks on the mat
- Storing or using the mat near heat vents
Instead, always store the mat on a flat surface, typically under your mattress or couch, that is, if your cutting table is occupied by other stuff. If you’re out of flat storage space, support the mat on both sides with rigid cardboard so that it remains flat and spread out as you store.
How to maintain and rehydrate your mat
Cutting mats, especially self-healing mats, are not the cheapest items in a quilter’s workshop. It makes so much sense to maintain the mat in the best way to ensure it lasts. Fortunately, the cost of maintaining a cutting mat is meager compared to replacing the mat altogether. All you need is what you’ve always had in your kitchen or household.
- A soft brush – ideally a mushroom brush or a toothbrush
- A quarter-cup white vinegar
- Mild dish soap (preferably Ivory, but Dawn can also do)
- A bathtub
There are four main steps in cleaning a cutting mat:
Step-1. Removing the loose fleece
After every use, threads and fiber remain embedded on the mat. Lightly scrub the fuzz with a soft brush. It takes light effort to accomplish this, so don’t apply excessive force lest you damage the mat. Also, scrubbing hard may not damage the mat immediately but will cut short your mat’s lifespan.
Step-2. Preparing the cleaning and moisturizing solution
The conditioning solution should be made from a quarter (1/4) cup of white vinegar for every gallon of water. Make enough solution to fill the bathtub, ensuring the water is neither hot nor cold.
Place the mat in the tub so that it remains flat while soaking. If you have a mat larger than the tub’s bottom, let the mat bend up the sides. You will then have to reposition it two to three times during soaking to ensure the entire surface is adequately soaked.
Let the mat soak for between 15 to 20 minutes. This is the ideal soaking time for a mat that has been on schedule. If yours has been on the road for years without moisturizing, let it soak for longer, up to an hour.
Step-3. Cleaning the mat
Add a generous amount of Ivory or Dawn dish liquid in the tub and scrub the mat with the soft brush. Any remaining fibers will come off now. After all, removing the stuck fibers is the main reason for scrubbing, so ensure you do a thorough job.
Step-4. Drying the mat
After cleaning in the tub, rinse the mat in cool water to remove any residue and the excess soap.
Dry the mat by laying it flat in the sun. Some people recommend drying the mat with a towel, but this is often with the risk of fibers reentering the mat. You’ll want to be careful with the towel you use.
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When to replace a cutting mat
You should replace a cutting mat whenever cleaning and repairing are no longer effective. This is when the mat develops permanent grooves or doesn’t self-heal whenever you cut on it.
Some mats are double-sided and thus last twice as long as single-sided mats.
To prolong your mat’s useful life, avoid cutting on the same area repeatedly, and flip the mat as often as possible to avoid stressing one side.
Generally, a cutting mat should last at least six years with average to moderate use.
A self-healing mat is easier to maintain than repair. At this point, you know the ins and outs of caring for your mat, as well as some ‘repair’ hacks. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure- avoid folding the mat, and moisturize it to avoid replacing it often.