Self Healing Cutting Mats – How Do They Work? [A Complete Guide]

Self-healing cutting mats. Have you heard of them? If you are a keen crafter or hobbyist who frequently indulges in art and crafts projects, you may use a craft knife or a rotary cutter for your projects.

Not damaging the surface on which you work may be something that may concern you deeply (apart from your task coming out extraordinary well, of course!).

Self-healing cutting mats are absolutely indispensable to enjoy your hobby or task without ruining your working surface. If your working surface is made of wood or glass, cutting mats are an effective way to protect and safeguard your precious furniture.

No matter how careful you work, you must have had moments where the scissors or knife you used slipped and disfigured your tabletop. A rotary cutter will cause even more damage.

If you have buttery fingers or you frequently indulge in arts and crafts, sewing, or quilting, a self-healing cutting mat may be just what you are looking for! 

About Cutting Mats

1. Types of Cutting Mats

Cutting mats are mostly categorized into two different sub-types.

1. Hard Surface Mats:

The first type is hard-surface rotary cutting mats. These mats are relatively much stiffer than the softer surface variants out in the market. Owing to the nature of their harder PVC material, your knife blade is bound to slide over the mat surface without grooving them.

2. Soft Surface Mats:

The second type comprises soft surface mats. These mats are relatively thinner and flexible, sporting a fine layer of multi-colored vinyl on top. Your knife blades are more likely to create small scratches upon the surface that quickly reclose; hence awarding them the description “self-healing.”

2. Size of Cutting Mats

It does matter a lot. Ideally, you should choose the mat that best fits your available storage area. If you plan on making use of a rotary cutter, you might want to consider a full-size cutting table mat.

1. Small (5″ x 5″, 6″ x 8″, 12″ x 12″ and 12″ x 18″)

This range of small-sized cutting mats is ideal for beginners willing to transition into quilting, papercraft, or any other crafting hobbies for that matter. Works best for small cuts and small pieces.

The small size makes them all the more portable, easy to store, and ideal for on-the-go beginners taking crafting classes, attending retreats, or working in guilds. You might however need to constantly rotate the cutting mat from time to time when making cuts from different angles.

2. Medium (12″ x 24″, 18″ x 24″ and 24″ x 36″)

Fits on most kitchen and sewing tables; is perfect for portable use in your sewing or quilting studio.

If you’re interested in quilting, a 24-inch fabric cutting mat would come in handy for precise cutting of strips in a single fold without having to constantly readjust your position. This is the ideal choice for regulars that are willing to invest hours of work into their hobby.

3. Large (24″ x 70″, 35″ x 70″ or 40″ x 70″)

Sounds like you have a dedicated workplace for your crafting endeavors! These are termed continuous grid rotary mats and work swell if you want to cover a tabletop with a protective cutting mat, depending on the size of your work surface.

These cutting mats have screw-on mat clips that help keep hold multi-piece mats securely together as well. However, beware of storing them in places other than their designated worktops since it’s hard finding sufficient space and not end up warping them in the first place.

3. Thickness of Cutting Mat

Self-healing cutting mats vary in terms of thickness too. We’d want you to get the ones best suited to your needs. Most cutting mats come in two types of thicknesses: 2 millimeters and 3 millimeters.

1. Hobby Grade:

These cutting mats are usually 2 mm thick, have a relatively plastic texture often turning out too smooth or rough. They’re most commonly called “hobby craft mats” and aren’t really the ideal choice for straight knife use.

The thinner cores in these self-healing cutting mats are what makes them much more prone to grooving. One key indicator of a low-quality cutting mat is separated laminations.

2. Professional Grade:

These self-healing rotary cutting mats usually comprise 3 mm thick variants made up of 3 individual plies. These are much more durable, less susceptible to grooving/gouging and generally have longer lifespans.

4. Texture and Glare of Cutting Mats

Another crucial aspect that’ll either improve or worsen your experience. Excessively smooth textured cutting mats can lead to accidental and even fatal slips. What’s more, is that these mats can turn out to be a bit too shiny and reflect a lot of light on exposure. Then again, a harder texture is detrimental to the consistency of your blade’s cuts as well.

When choosing a cutting mat, it’s best that you take on the middle path. The mat should ideally make use of a moderate texture, medium tooth ruggedness with a non-glare surface that doesn’t cause unneeded reflection

What is a self healing cutting mat?

Cutting mats are categorized into hard-surface or soft-surface( self-healing). They are mostly made of durable rubber, glass, or Polypropylene(PP). Cutting mats are available on either of the two surfaces: hard or soft.

  • Hard-surface cutting mats: These are rougher, stiff, and more rugged. This enables the blade to skim over the mat surface without cutting into it.
  • Soft-surface cutting mats: These are thinner and more flexible than hard-surface. The thickness of these mats is around 2 or 3 mm.

Why use self healing cutting mats?

Cutting mats don’t just protect your surface. It also prolongs the durability of your blade by preventing it from becoming dull and blunt.

Moreover, it also gives you lines to guide your cuts when accuracy is an important factor. If you use a regular mat for cutting, grooves will be created.

The next time you use your mat for cutting, you would be dismayed to notice inaccurate cuts have occurred. Since these grooves are closed if you use a self-healing mat, you can cut with precision time and time again.

How does self healing cutting mat work?

Self-healing mats are called so because they leave no marks on the mat even after a blade cuts through. Unique materials go into the production of these mats. As a result, the groove left by the blades will automatically close, leaving no visible marks behind. 

Manufactured from tiny and distinct pieces of material pressed together to form a solid surface to cut on, they work for most cutting equipment. The blade you use will go between these tiny pieces, merely separating them instead of cutting into the entire surface of the mat.

Once a cut is made, the memory-retaining properties of the mat’s surface will enable it to “heal” or close back together once more.

Do Self healing cutting mats work with all kinds of blades?

While self-healing mats work with a wide array of blades, the blade you use must be sharp, or you will risk slicing through the mat.

If you use a blunt blade, it cannot make an accurate or thin cut, and the groove formed may not fasten completely. 

You should use your cutting equipment at a 90-degree angle. This way, you avoid cutting through the material/surface of the mat.

What you want to do is to separate the tiny pieces that would leave a groove on its surface. Not cut through the surface and leave behind an ungainly gash!

How long does a self-healing cutting mat last?

Your cutting mat will wear out eventually; it is not going to last forever! The longevity depends on:

  • The sharpness of the blades you use.
  • The amount of pressure you exert while cutting.
  • Type of material being cut and the type of knife used.

Ensure to use sharp blades, do not apply too much pressure on your knife while cutting, do not cut too many layers of material at any given point, and rotate your mat regularly to avoid cutting at the same spot repeatedly.

Store your mats flat, do not roll them over! Improper storage will lead to warping. Also, keep them away from direct sunlight to avoid warping. Extreme cold is also bad and may lead to brittleness or cracking. Once warped, the mats will be almost impossible to repair.

Avoid abrasive cleaners, solvents, or harsh chemicals that could damage your mat and remove the surface alignment grid markings.

You can use any all-purpose household spray cleaner or warm water and mild detergent. It is also advisable to use a microfiber cleaning cloth or towel to remove tiny fibers from the knife cuts. (avoid using cotton cloth).

After each use, use a lint roller or a lint brush to remove unseen fibers, surface lint, and fabric crumbs. If these are not removed, they will be pushed into the material of your cutting mat.

So, keep your mat clean!

How to care for a self healing cutting mat?

How to care for a self healing cutting mat?

Maintenance is incomplete without cleaning. You want to make the best use of your cutting mat, right? Cleaning tops the list and there’s no way around it. It’ll only help in prolonging their life and any other possessions for that matter.

Cleaning your self-healing rotary cutting mats is pretty simple.

You could start off with your daily household spray cleaner.

In case you want to try something original instead, you can easily make use of some mild detergent/soap mixed in a bucket of cool water.

The soapy-alkaline solution with the aid of a toothbrush will remove any unwanted dust, dirt, and grime from the surface without actually reacting to it. This helps maintain the overall surface texture, quality, printings, and color which would otherwise be compromised in using acidic detergents.

A soft sponge and a lint roller could come in really handy for removing all of that extra surface lint and crumbs. If not, you could make use of a soft toothbrush.

Do so for around 10-15 minutes. Last, but not least, a microfibre cloth can help wipe off residue fibers on your cutting mats, making sure they’re squeaky clean by the end of your cleaning sessions.

If you’re able to pull this off, consider it a job well done! Remember: consistency is key. Making sure your self-healing rotary cutting mat is cleaned on a regular schedule is what’ll help keep it useful for the years to come.

Final Note

Self-healing mats are a highly effective and cost-saving option that ensures accuracy and provides a long-lasting alternative to regular mats.

Just take care of them properly, and they will give you years of enjoyment for your printing, designing, sewing, quilting, and arts and crafts activity.

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