Oilcloth Vs. Vinyl – What’s The Difference?

Oilcloth Vs. Vinyl – What’s The Difference?

Choosing a type of wipe clean tablecloth can be confusing with all the different fabrics available.

Two popular types of wipe clean tablecloth is oilcloth and vinyl. The main different between the two fabrics is that oilcloth is made from woven base fabric like cotton and is finished with a clear PVC coating. Vinyl on the other hand is a single sheet of PVC that has no base fabric and no coating.

Let’s explore the full differences below…

Oilcloth Vs. Vinyl Comparison Table

Top coatingClear PVCNone
Base fabric100% CottonNone
FinishesMatt & GlossMatt only
Max Width132cm140cm
Finished EdgesOptional edge bindingOptional edge binding
Cost per meter (approx’)£15.00£8.00
Oilcloth vs Vinyl compared

Oilcloth Explained

Oilcloth is a material that is made by taking a plain woven fabric, typically cotton, digitally printing a design on to the surface and then coating it with a layer of clear PVC. This layer is either a gloss or matt finish.

This coating makes the material waterproof and durable, making it useful for a variety of applications such as tablecloths, aprons, and outdoor gear. It is also popular in arts and crafts as the woven base allows for it to be sewed.

Traditionally, oil or a similar substance was used to coat the fabric before PVC. This is where the term ‘oilcloth’ came from.

Related read: What Is A Oilcloth Tablecloth?

How To Spot Oilcloth

Underside of oilcloth

The easiest way to tell if you are looking an oilcloth is to look and feel the underside and top side.

The underside (as seen in the image above) will be a woven fabric, usually 100% cotton. It’s usually white and you should be able to see some of the topside design coming through the woven fabric.

The top side will have a clear PVC coating, which can be a gloss or matt finish.

Pros & Cons Of Oilcloth


  • Base fabric and PVC coating makes it more durable than vinyl
  • Can easily be cut with a pair of scissors
  • Does not fray
  • Matt and gloss finishes available


  • More expensive than vinyl
  • Not machine washable
  • Top PVC coating may feel too plasticky so some people
  • Has a maximum width of 132cm which is too narrow for larger tables

Buying Oilcloth

We sell a range of high quality oilcloth tablecloths seen here. We cut to size and shape to fit your table. Optional edge binding is also available to give your oilcloth a neater finish.

Vinyl Explained

A vinyl tablecloth, also known as a PVC or plastic tablecloth, is a type of table covering that is constructed using a single sheet of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. The design, pattern or print is directly printed on the PVC layer, and the back of the tablecloth is supported with a thin layer of non-woven fabric for additional stability and durability.

How To Spot Vinyl

Underside of vinyl

The first sign to check if you are looking at a vinyl fabric is the underside.

Vinyl does not have a woven base, and instead, a non woven backing is usually applied (as seen in the image above). As vinyl is made from a single sheet of PVC, the underside will be blank white.

When looking at the topside, you will notice that no coating is applied to the surface and the design is exposed. The lack of a base fabric and coating will give the vinyl fabric a very thin and flimsy feel compared to oilcloth.

Pros & Cons Of Vinyl


  • Vinyl is cheaper than oilcloth
  • Can easily be cut with a pair of scissors
  • Does not fray
  • Ideal solution if you want a cheaper table cover


  • Less durable than oilcloth as there is no base fabric or top coating
  • Some people may not like the thin feel
  • Not machine washable
  • Has a plastic feel
  • Does not drape as well as oilcloth because it is more ridged.

A More Natural Feeling Option

Water-repellent coating on our acrylic tablecloths

If you don’t like the plasticky feel oilcloth and vinyl fabrics have, then you should consider buying an acrylic coated tablecloth instead.

Acrylic coated tablecloths have a much softer feeling than oilcloth and vinyl which enables them to drape similar to a normal tablecloth.

In addition to the feeling, acrylic tablecloths can be machine washed infrequently to keep them looking newer for longer and hygienically clean. They are also available in extra wide widths up to 180cm.

You can read more on the benefits and what acrylic coated tablecloths are here.

Or you can browse our huge range of acrylic tablecloths designs here.