Worst Drop Cloth Ever: Reader Has To Replace His Carpet

A drop cloth is one of those items that doesn’t have varying degrees of effectiveness. It either works or it doesn’t. In Matt’s case, it didn’t work. Matt bought a canvas drop cloth from Home Depot. He did this because he was under the impression that a canvas drop cloth would prevent paint from getting on whatever he placed it over. Unfortunately for Matt, the drop cloth was too thin and paint soaked right through, ruining his carpet. Read Matt’s email inside.

Matt writes:

After the annoyances of thin plastic drop cloths (they get staticy and stick to your feet), I went to Home Depot to buy a new one. They offered several main types: paper (figured this would tear and paint would leak through), plastic sheets (see above), and canvas. Canvas is not only lightweight like paper, but I figured it would last longer. In all the above assessments I was correct. We primed and painted our dining room with our lovely new drop cloth and the walls look grea (brown on one wall and “sand” on the others)!

So my wife gets clean-up duty and as she removes the drop cloth, there’s a lovely surprise: our carpet now matches our walls in several spots! There are brown spots, sandy colored spots, and also some patches of white primer color, how lovely.

Now, I am not necessarily blaming the Home Depot for this, but to whoever made this drop cloth, what exactly was the purpose of this item? Was I supposed to use it to make pillows, as a blanket for a cool night, seriously, if a drop cloth doesn’t stop paint, what is the point of it?

The wife and I are now going to yank the carpet out and install wood or laminate flooring (no drop cloth required), and I hope my tale of stupidity and failing drop cloths will save someone elses carpet!



Ouch. Oh well, Matt. Look on the bright side. Hardwood flooring increases the value of your home? We asked Matt to share the brand of drop cloth he used so that other people would know not to rely on it.

Matt writes back:


Went by the HD tonight to pick up some items and took a look at the drop cloths. I purchased a 9×11 (well okay, 8’9″x11’9″) “Performance Select Canvas Drop Cloth” (8 oz). This item is specifically made for the Home Depot, but many stores (online) carry the same thing (size, shape, color), so they probably all come from the Canvas Drop Cloth Factory in China.

Anyway, while poking around the Home Depot website, I caught this gem:

Drop Cloths & Tarps (Buying Guide):

Butyl Backing: If you purchase a canvas drop cloth, look for one with butyl backing. This rubberized coating serves two important purposes. First, it makes the canvas nearly impenetrable, no matter how much paint gets spilled on it.”

Well, that sure is helpful to know now!

I hope my ignorance about drop cloths can help someone else.

Honestly, it’s not that crazy to expect a drop cloth to stop paint! Drop cloth. Stop paint. Makes sense.

Matt, your sacrifice shall not go unnoticed. Others will learn from your example and buy butyl-backed drop cloths. While doing this, they will think of you and smile. “Thanks, Matt!” they will say aloud, to no one.

Or, conversely, they will do what we always do, which is place a crappy plastic drop cloth under a cheap canvas one. The canvas is more durable to walk on, and the plastic sheet provides an extra layer of protection. —MEGHANN MARCO


Edit Your Comment

  1. JKinNYC says:

    Fabric. Gets wet. Soaks through. Shocking?


  2. Canadian Impostor says:

    @JKinNYC: I’d agree with the sentiment if he was one of those “REPLACE MY CARPETS” whiners.

    He seems to be fairly level headed and sending this out as more of a warning.

  3. dbeahn says:

    I have to agree. If I’m buying (what looks to be) a thin, cheep drop cloth I’d want to test it to be sure it would soak up but not soak through.

    From the pictures of the soak through, it appears to me that it wasn’t “drops” of paint that got through, but rather a spill of paint.

    Drop clothes are designed to catch drips, not spills.

  4. Jon Mason says:

    @dbeahn: Yeah, did they guy pour paint all over it or what? More paint has seeped through that one spot than I dripped on my drop cloth painting my whole house…

  5. protest says:


    here’s a tip, when you paint, try not to tip over the entire paint can, or lay soaked rollers on the drop cloth, or have a fun contest of ‘who can step in the paint tray and then walk around like a clueless hack’ the most.

    if you hold a cheap canvas drop cloth up, you can see through it, doesn’t take a genius to figure paint will get through there too. if you buy cheap stuff, you get cheap results, next time splurge a little and go for the $10 drop cloth instead of the $2 one you expected to hold the hoover dam.

  6. Falconfire says:

    See that expectation that a drop cloth is made ONLY to stop paint is where they went wrong (and another example of why you should really pay attention when you weekend warriors go out there to do some home improvement)

    Drop cloths are ment to just keep stuff off things you dont want to get stuff on. In the case of your canvas drop cloth, I would use that to stop sanding dust, or wood shavings, or even normal household dust (if Im like going at a air duct or something) from getting on things. I would NOT use is for painting as painting canvas drop cloths are expensive as hell and too much for what could simply be taken care of with a paper border guard and a plastic sheet laid down for the 5 gallon bucket (you ARE using a 5 gallon bucket and not those silly fucking paint trays are you?)

    read books, look things up, and ask people who know before you buy things. Dont go doing something stupid cause you didnt inquire.

  7. xyberspam says:

    I was the paint manager at a Home Depot for 3 years, things like this frequently happened, where customers assumed that if there was something on the ground, paint couldn’t get through. Canvas drop cloths do come from the Canvas Drop Cloth factory in China (don’t worry no melamine), but they are not treated or lined to prevent seepage. A canvas cloth is used by some contractors to help control over spray or small dribbles. If you had spills that left stains as big as you did, you might consider using smaller containers, or something larger like an old 5 gallon bucket. P.S. Paint almost never comes out of carpet if it has a chance to dry.

  8. Can’t really slam someone for having a little brain gas. Gotta hand it to anyone that can stand up (especially in a forum) and say “look what I did, learn from it”. I’ve seen a lot worse mistakes (and people hurt) from less attention to detail.

    Thanks Matt

  9. tracilyns says:

    this happened to me when i had an overzealous friend help me paint a room. we put a sheet down to protect the carpet, but she dripped everywhere the result: yellow paint all over my new gr… to scrub the paint out of the carpet, and it worked like a charm. all of the paint is gone, and it didn’t remove the color from the carpet either.

  10. tracilyns says:

    buh. silly me trying to use html.

    anyway. we used “Goof Off” to get the paint out of the carpet. it works. here’s a link to their product: http://www.valsparglobal.com/val/resident/goof-off.jsp

  11. MercuryPDX says:

    As mentioned earlier, a drop cloth is for drops. If you’re a messy painter, it’s in your best interest to get a plastic tarp (Blue… has grommets on the edges). Nothing gets through those, and you can reuse it.

  12. etinterrapax says:

    If it’s latex paint on a synthetic rug, a microfiber towel and a lot of elbow grease might get it up. Do it soon, before it dries hard. I’ve yet to find the substance that microfiber towels won’t remove from carpet, but I haven’t tried them on gum. Thank God.

    Agree about the canvas drop cloths. They aren’t meant to protect against anything more than the occasional drip. You still have to try to be neat. I hate plastic too, but taping it down helps.

  13. JKinNYC says:

    @Jason: I agree. I was just kinda mocking him for not thinking about it :)

  14. zaky says:

    It’s karma for having beige carpeting.

  15. hills says:

    I just painted last night – I use drop clothes that are paper-like on top (soft) and have a plastic liner on the bottom – still inexpensive, doesn’t stick to your feet, and paint doesn’t go through it.

  16. WindowSeat says:

    Ninety percent of painting is in the prep. If you’re using quality tools,mask what needs masking, don’t dip your brush all the way to the heel and use a bucket and screen instead of a &^%$#@* paint try you shouldn’t need much more than a three foot wide canvas drop cloth to catch any small drips. Also, the drop cloth is there to catch drops, not for you to walk on. I don’t care how thick the canvas is, if you walk on a drop cloth with wet paint on it, you’re going to push paint through the fabric.

  17. WindowSeat says:

    er t-r-a-y

  18. ScramDiggyBooBoo says:

    Lets not forget the purpose of a drop cloth. To stop paint from getting where you dont want it to. This failed. I would at least try to get money to replace the carpet but if he figured..ehh..guess we’ll put hardwood down he must not be in the poor house.

  19. Jon Mason says:

    @@ScramDiggyBooBoo: Why should he get money to replace the carpet? He used a thin sheet of canvas designed to catch drips, and from his pictures it looks like he used it as a lining for some sort of a paint lagoon…

    Umbrellas are designed to keep you dry from rain – doesnt mean you shouldnt expect to get wet if you go for a walk in a hurricane…

  20. jgodsey says:

    >Canvas is not only lightweight like paper,

    you bought thin canvas and thought it would keep paint from soaking through, you are a dolt.
    thin canvas is for covering tall immovable furniture and catches drips and spatters ONLY.

    even THICK canvas drop cloths aren’t waterproof. you have a wall to wall carpet you put down plastic.
    homedepot is not to blame for your foolishness.

  21. acambras says:


    I didn’t get the impression that Matt was blaming HD for his foolishness. He pretty much admitted that he screwed up. I think his message here wasn’t “HD sucks,” but “Hey, when you buy a dropcloth, don’t make the same mistakes I did.”

  22. jamesdenver says:

    Old heavy camping tarps. Period.

  23. ribex says:

    This is one of the most pointless items I’ve seen on Consumerist. No offense to Matt in particular, but you could fill countless blogs with the stupid things people do. This would be Consumerist “News” if he got a dropcloth that was SUPPOSED to have the coating and didn’t, or if he hired someone to paint and THEY used the dropcloth but refused to take responsibility.

    Very disappointing to see this show up on the site.

  24. I get old heavy curtains from Goodwill. They are cheap, and heavy like tarps, and they work really well. And most of them are lined.

  25. milty45654 says:

    It’s a “drop” cloth…not a paint can spill over cloth. It stop “drops” from ruining your carpet….so when you paint a ceiling, little drops don’t hit the carpet. You can’t spill crap on it and expect it not to penetrate a fabric cloth.

  26. tadowguy says:

    Hi, this is the screwer-upper checking-in. As I stated, I am not blaming Home Depot as this is obviously my mistake. However, I would have to imagine that there are many readers who buy similar items and expect them to stand up to paint drips. Most of the areas seem to be where the paint dripped off the side of the can. My wife did most of the painting, so I can’t explain the “rolleresque” paint mark without causing domestic problems (most of the others are drops). We are obviously not professional painters.

    Since HD and other stores sell these items in the paint aisle, I am hoping to save others some problems.

    PS – I don’t plan on asking HD to replace anything as this is obviously my mistake.

  27. SkyeBlue says:

    I may be wrong but isn’t canvas kind pourous? I really wouldn’t trust it enough to use it as a drop cloth to protect my carpet from a liquid material. Something like a heavy plastic that liquid couldn’t leak through unless it had a tear of some kind would have been a much better choice.

  28. tadowguy says:

    @jamesdenver: Thats a great idea. Would an army surplus type place have those?

    @hillsrovey: Did it tear when you walked on it (or seem like it might)?

  29. satoru says:

    Though still plastic I recommend going to Lowes for your plastic drop cloths. What I did was to ‘ahem’ acquire large amounts of the plastic sheeting they give away at the exits of Lowes. You can take as much as you want. Its great because the sheets are really long and about 3ft wide. There are perforations every 20 or so ft, so you still have to be semi-careful about spills. Still they’re free and have tons of applications (like covering 10 cubic yards of mulch over a rainy weekend) :)

  30. pestie says:

    @ribex: OK, so you’re disappointed. Don’t whine about it. Consumerist doesn’t exist just to service your ideas of what it should be. This is useful information for me, and I’m glad it’s here. So STFU and move on to the next post if you don’t like this one. Jesus. Sometimes people’s sense of entitlement toward the Consumerist editors pisses me off.

  31. Jon Mason says:

    If it’s paint running down the side of the can causing you trouble, i tend to use a 0.5cm 3 foot x 4 foot piece of scrap wood I have in the middle of the room as a “base” for opening paint cans, pouring, storing brushes, rags for wiping up etc. then you can use cheaper drop clothes around the rest of the room as you should only be dripping tiny amounts outside the main wooden base – keep all the mess in one place…

  32. Bay State Darren says:

    Was it labelled “drop cloth”? Was it with the painting supplies and/or Home Destrot employees and/or packaging advocate for use while painting? Shouldn’t the retaillers and manufacturers know whether or not it is, in fact, a painting drop cloth more than some guy whose never seen that individual product before?

    On my arrogant assumption these answers are yes, than this guy got screwed.

  33. QuirkyRachel says:

    Wait, they make fabric drop cloths. Doesn’t fabric leak?…

  34. SecureLocation says:

    Ya know, pro painters use fabric drop cloths. If the weave is tight enough, you can spill paint everywhere and it won’t leak through. If HD is labeling something as a drop cloth and selling it in the paint department, the buyer has every reason to think it won’t leak through.

  35. Hepcephus says:

    I’d love to see a wider shot of that metallic green object in the photo. Love seat? Baby grand?

  36. Kanchi says:

    This EXACT same thing happened to me just recently, probably with the exact same drop cloth bought from home depot. Now I did interior and exterior painting for years, and have used both canvas and plastic drop cloths, and this is the only one that has ever leaked through. I didn’t even spill, it was just large drops (of course the damage wasn’t as bad as Matt’s, but mostly because the carpet and paint are so similar in color).

    This is a partly a get a ‘get what you pay for’ scenario, since I wanted to try a cheaper product, but it’s also deceptive labeling, since the canvas DOES NOT FUNCTION AS A DROP CLOTH. It should not have been sold along side real drop cloths.

  37. sp3nc3 says:

    One thing to always, always, ALWAYS remember on a trip to any hardware store is that there are many applications for any given type of tool. When you go to the hammer section and see claw, ball-peen, tack, and sledge hammers, you don’t just get the tack hammer because it’s cheap. You buy the one that fits the job.

    The paper, plastic, and canvas drop cloths Matt saw all have different applications, and because he bought before he understood what those applications were, he got paint on his carpet. Ditto to those who praise Matt for not whining that Home Depot should replace his carpet though.

    Buyer beware. More importantly, buyer be aware.

  38. tcp100 says:

    Do you guys know that coffee is hot, too?

    Come on. Everything has a range of operation, a tolerance, and has to be used within reason.

    When you guys say “the buyer has every reason to think (paint) won’t leak through”, you’re acting as if this guy should have been able to dump 150 gallons of paint on the floor and roll around in it, and ANYTHING sold in the painting aisle at HD should have stood up to it.

    Certain tools are appropriate for certain jobs, and other tools aren’t. He bought the wrong tool for the job. The fact that it was in the paint aisle has nothing to do with it. If they sell rubber mallets in the hammer aisle, are you guys going to complain to HD when you can’t drive a nail?

    In my mind, I would have looked at that canvas drop cloth and instantly thought “hey, this isn’t liquid-proof”, but I guess that’s too much responsibility for the average consumer?

    A canvas drop cloth like he had WILL stop paint. Within reason. It will NOT stop pools of paint that are left to sit for hours – and you can’t blame HD for that..(Unless the OP came in and said “Yes, I am planning on spilling paint out of the bucket and letting it sit overnight. Is this appropriate?” and the rep said “Sure! This sucker will stop a flood of Dutch-Boy so thick that Noah would come back to life and build a second ark!”)

    Stupid companies are a really big problem as of late, hence the genesis of the Consumerist site. However, another problem (and fortunately the OP does NOT have this problem) is that so many people today don’t take accountability for their own damn actions.

  39. EtherealStrife says:

    Here’s a stretch. Use plastic drop cloths underneath canvas, if you’re going to use canvas at all. Some cheap canvas keeps the plastic from sticking to your shoes or blowing up with the slightest wind, while the plastic catches the spilloff.

    The couple times I’ve done that I was able to save both the plastic and the canvas. And as others have said, TRAYS. Use em for rollers, brushes, and the cans themselves.

    @Kanchi: Use a little commonsense when selecting products, especially as a “professional.” The lightweight canvas drop cloths work great, but they aren’t designed for holding a liquid. They’re still useful when painting (going over indirect splatter locations, or places you might transfer paint accidentally), and *should* be in the painting section. If you insist on using canvas for painting, use a tarp. Those are DESIGNED to block liquids. Canvas drop cloths are not, although some of the thicker ones will do it for you.

  40. wesrubix says:

    bummer what happened to your carpet. Since it’s shag, you might be able to trim it out, or even use paint thinner…

    As for drop cloths, the best one would be a giant condom because the latex in condoms (at least Trojans) is electrostatically tested, so you KNOW nothing is getting through. Until then, stick with plastic. Plastic does not seep.

  41. Kornkob says:

    IF you’re really paranoid and want to protect carpet from paint, they make plastic that sticks to the carpet— it’s like 4 mil seran wrap with a tacky side about as sticky as a post it.

    I use it for parties at hotels (conventions) to keep food from getting ground it but it is more typically used by movers to protect the carpet when they are moving someone.

  42. TPIRman says:

    It’s incredible how many people stormed into this comment thread to inform the OP that he fucked up. Yeah, he knows. That’s the entire point of the post. Oh, you wouldn’t have used this drop cloth? Good for you. Here’s your medal.

    For my part, I could see myself making the same mistake — sometimes when you’re doing some remodeling that you’re not familiar with, you lose track of details like this. It’s not stupidity; it’s having other things on your mind — i.e., being human. Thanks for the heads up, Matt.

    +1 pestie

  43. r81984 says:

    Just stupid.
    “After the annoyances of thin plastic drop cloths (they get staticy and stick to your feet)”


    I think paint on your carpet is more annoying.

    The drop cloth did its job, and it is not fair to bash this drop cloth.

    This is one of those cases where we really need to bash the consumer for being stupid.

  44. swalve says:

    Drop cloths aren’t just for paint.

  45. Rusted says:

    Carpet makes a good drop cloth. Next time…..plastic.

  46. Ponygirl says:

    I agree with Bay State Darren.

    Since it is almost impossible to find a clerk in Home Depot, and, when you can, they give you v. v. bad information; often times the uninformed consumer has no choice but to intuit from what a product is shelved with as to its uses (or the images on the packaging). If Home Depot presented this drop cloth in the paint section it would suggest to the average customer it was intended for painting. Should Home Depot pay for a new carpet? I honestly don’t know, but I do believe that Home Depot, and other business should be responsible for how their product placement (and the images on their packaging) can effect consumer choices. I do believe, for example, that if a package shows happy suburbanites painting a wall while standing on this drop cloth than Home Depot was selling this product for painting. Yes. Then Home Depot has some culpability.

  47. ElizabethD says:

    A great argument for never having wall-to-wall carpeting…. besides the fact that it almost always looks like crap.

    You will love your new wood floors, Matt. :-)

  48. reliabletoaster says:

    I work for a rental property company and I paint several suites each month. I’ve found that the best thing to use as a drop cloth is a big piece of cardboard. It doesn’t soak through, and you can easily move it along with your foot as you go instead of having to pick-up the drop cloth and move it all the time. Best thing is, a big piece of cardboard is probably cheap like free!

  49. KatV says:

    The suggestion to spend a little more and buy a better quality $10 drop cloth apparently came from someone who has not actually been in a store looking at prices for canvas drop cloths in about 15 years, because in 2007, a 9-by-12-foot canvas drop cloth goes for anywhere from $18 to $23. Someone else advised Matt to buy plastic drop cloths to place under the canvas drop cloths. Why not tape or staple together ziplock style plastic bags and place them under a plastic drop cloth and then place all of that under a canvas drop cloth? This is ludicrous.

    People who commented that one shouldn’t expect a drop cloth to actually to what they used to be designed to do are morons. I presume they never buy anything for its intended purpose; how many of them are using microwave ovens as storage for books? Or think that cars are equipped with brake lights and turn signals for decorative purposes only?

    I agree with Matt. If I buy a drop cloth, I expect it to behave like a drop cloth, not a paper towel.

  50. Sarevilo says:

    I’ve just had this same experience with the same drop cloth.

    My complaint is that the drop cloth did not preform as the packaging showed. The packaging advertises use for painting, and shows much larger paint drips on the canvas than the splatters on mine. Still, the splatters and small drips soaked through to the carpet.

    If a product is advertised for a specific use, and fails under not as strenuous circumstances as advertised, then the manufacture should be held liable.

    I went to home depot, explained my situation, and asked how to clean the carpet without voiding my carpet warranty (I also purchased my carpet through HD). They took matters into their own hands, and filed a complaint with the manufacture, as well as put a claim into their insurance company. I’m not sure of the outcome, but had I read this post earlier, I would have steered clear of this product!