How to Wash Vinyl Tablecloths: Machine and Hand Methods

Refresh your best vinyl fabric in a few quick steps

Vinyl tablecloth with illustrated lemons and foliage with bowl of lemons and glass pitcher and drinking glasses with lemonade

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5

Today's vinyl tablecloths come in every shape and style. They are designed for both indoor and outdoor use, as well as ease of care. Still, vinyl tablecloths require a bit of maintenance to assure they'll last for years, as long-term issues can include stains, wrinkles, and mold. Regular washing with basic dish soap and water will help keep your tablecloth free of stains and mold, and can be accomplished after each use to assure your cloth's longevity. However, a machine wash may be needed after every three uses.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Soft cloth or sponge
  • Washing machine or bathtub
  • Garden hose
  • Clothesline

Materials

  • Mild laundry or dish detergent
  • Isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide (for stains)
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Cardboard shipping tube

Instructions

 Detergent Mild laundry detergent or dish soap
Water Temperature Cold or warm
Cycle Type Delicate
Drying Cycle Type Tumble dry on low
Special Treatments Spot-treat stains with hydrogen peroxide or isopropyl alcohol
Iron Settings Low
How Often to Wash Machine wash after every third use
Materials for washing a vinyl tablecloth

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

How to Wash Vinyl Tablecloths in the Washer

There will come a time when your vinyl tablecloth needs a good overall cleaning. This can be done in your washing machine using cold water, a mild detergent, and the "gentle" cycle.

  1. Place Your Tablecloth in the Washing Machine

    Add the tablecloth to the washing machine by itself with no other garments of fabric.

    Loading a vinyl tablecloth into the washing machine

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Add Detergent

    Add a mild laundry detergent to your machine using the recommended amount on the bottle. Make sure it is bleach-free, and do not add straight bleach to the machine. Chlorine bleach, or bleach-based cleaners, can dry out the vinyl and cause it to crack.

    Adding detergent to the washing machine

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  3. Adjust the Cycle

    Set the washing machine's cycle to "gentle" or "delicate" and start the machine.

    Adjusting the washer cycle

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  4. Line Dry

    Once the cycle is complete, remove the tablecloth from the washer and hang it on a line to dry. Hanging it in direct sun for several hours will kill any active mold.

    Hanging the vinyl tablecloth to dry

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  5. Remove Wrinkles

    If your vinyl tablecloth comes out wrinkled, place it in the dryer with a few heavy towels. Set the dryer on low heat for two to three minutes. Stay nearby, and do not allow the tablecloth to overheat or melt. If the wrinkles are still prominent, repeat the process.

    Adding the tablecloth to the dryer with heavy towels

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

How to Hand Wash Vinyl Fabric and Tablecloths

  1. Wipe Spills Promptly

    Always wipe up spills on a vinyl tablecloth promptly. Use warm water, a soft cloth or sponge, and mild dishwashing detergent to avoid scratching the surface.

    Promptly wiping up spills

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Pre-Rinse Your Tablecloth

    Hang your cloth and rinse it well (using a garden hose).

    Rinsing a tablecloth with a garden hose

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  3. Wipe Down the Front and Back

    Saturate a clean white cloth with white distilled vinegar and give the vinyl tablecloth a wipe-down on both the front and the back sides.

    White cloth dipped in white distilled vinegar cleaning off mold and mildew on illustrated lemon and foliage vinyl tablecloth

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  4. Hang to Dry

    Hang your tablecloth on a clothesline and allow it to dry without rinsing off the vinegar. (Your cloth will not smell like a pickle. We promise!)

    Line drying a vinyl tablecloth outdoors

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

     

Tip

You can use these same cleaning tips for vinyl covers used to protect outdoor furniture.

Treating Stains on Vinyl Tablecloths

Spot-treat food stains by mixing a solution of one part water with one part hydrogen peroxide. Saturate a clean, white cloth, and apply it to the stained area. Let the solution sit for several minutes, and then wipe the tablecloth clean with another damp, white cloth. For heavy stains, try using straight hydrogen peroxide. Work from the outside of the stain toward the center to prevent spreading, and always rinse with a clean, damp white cloth.

Clean grease stains right away with a clean, damp cloth dipped in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. Work from the outside of the stain toward the center. This will prevent it from spreading. Once the stain is gone, rinse the area with a white cloth dipped in water, and then air dry.

Vinyl Tablecloth Care and Repairs

Vinyl tablecloths can develop mold or mildew when used outdoors. If this happens, place the cloth in direct sun for several hours to kill the active mold, before washing the tablecloth with white vinegar. To prevent mold, bring your tablecloth indoors after each use.

Rips in a tablecloth can be repaired using a vinyl repair kit, or by mending them with a special vinyl needle and thread. If you're using a repair kit, make sure to color-match your tablecloth to the patch or apply the patch to the back of the fabric (if possible).

Storing Vinyl Tablecloths

To store your vinyl tablecloth for use next summer, first, wash and dry it thoroughly. Next, roll it around a heavy cardboard tube to prevent creases and wrinkles. You can also fold your tablecloth neatly and store it in a plastic, sealable bin located in a cool, dry place.

How Often to Wash Vinyl Fabric and Tablecloths

Vinyl tablecloths should be wiped down with soap and water after every use, and spills should be mopped up immediately to avoid stains. Deep cleaning or laundering should be completed after every third use, when used regularly, and at the end of the season before storing.

Ironing

Deep wrinkles in your vinyl tablecloth can be ironed out, only if you are very, very careful. Use low heat and always iron the back of the fabric by placing a pressing cloth or damp towel in between the tablecloth and the iron. Lift the iron away often to prevent the vinyl from scorching or melting.

Tips for Washing Vinyl Tablecloths

  • Always avoid using harsh chemicals or solvents when cleaning vinyl tablecloths.
  • A quick wipe-down of your tablecloth after every use will extend the time in between deep cleanings.
  • Make sure to dry your tablecloth thoroughly before storing to prevent mold growth.
  • Never use an abrasive sponge or steel wool to clean vinyl tablecloths. These items may permanently scratch the fabric.
FAQ
  • Can you leave a vinyl table cloth outside?

    Vinyl tablecloths can be left outside, but low-quality vinyl may fade with sunlight exposure. Vinyl tablecloths with flannel backing should not be left outside during periods of rain, as the underside could stay wet and grow mold.

  • Can you iron a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth?

    Flannel-backed tablecloths can be carefully ironed. Make sure to iron the tablecloth with the backside facing up, and place a cotton cloth or towel between the iron and the tablecloth. Use the lowest setting on your iron.

  • What's the best way to secure a vinyl tablecloth to an outdoor table?

    Tablecloth clips work best for securing your vinyl tablecloth to a table. It will also cut down on laundering needs by keeping it from getting dirty. You can also use heavy tablecloth weights or rubber bands to secure the corners.