Cutting Mats

Self-Healing vs. Plastic Cutting Mat: What’s The Difference?

Wondering what is the difference between plastic and self-healing cutting mats? This article will walk through the benefits and disadvantages of each type of cutting mat to assist you in choosing which is best for you.

I remember when I was first getting into cooking and craft activities. My father had some old scrap pieces of linoleum in his workshop that he used for a variety of things like covering his work bench for protection or for covering the area that he did not want to get paint splattered on. One day, I found some plastic sheeting that he had picked up at a store. He told me it was for cutting boards, but I found this to be too weak or not durable enough for my use.

I carefully cut the plastic sheeting into small squares and then laid these out on the linoleum in a staggered format so that they were evenly spaced (like an abacus). The linoleum actually has these little grains that form into these long ridges as you wipe on and wipe off your knife as you cut. These long ridges allow for a more even and forgiving cut. I really liked the idea of using plastic, but I knew that I would have to make sure that these pieces were thick enough to allow for an uneven cut. So I used the tip of a knife to mark where these cuts needed to be made. This actually worked out quite well and a few of the sheets survived for quite a while.

I used one of these linoleum cutting boards as a self-healing cutting board to help my knives stay sharper longer. I had tried to use plastic, but after watching someone slice their finger open on it one too many times, I knew that my knives were safe with me on the linoleum cutting board. These boards were good for those who wanted something in between the two methods of cutting.

The Difference between Self-Healing vs Plastic Cutting Mats

A self-healing mat will, as the name applies, heal itself after cutting fabric. It is made of rubber or a similar material. It will spring back after cutting, so you can cut a pattern on it and it will look like new. These are also more forgiving than plastic when dealing with uneven surfaces. They are more difficult to clean up and they do not hold any liquids as well as plastic mats do.

A plastic cutting mat is an alternative to the self-healing mat because it won’t heal itself after cutting fabric, but you can cut fabric on both sides of the mat.

Modern Plastic Mats for Quilting

A plastic cutting mat has one advantage over a self-healing mat, it is less expensive. If you are starting out in quilting and do not want to invest a bunch of money, this may be a good alternative to get started.

The main disadvantage of plastic cutting mats for quilting is that they will wear quickly and allow groves to be cut into the mat after using a rotary cutter.

If you are new to quilting and unfamiliar with a rotary cutter don’t worry, it will be one of your best friends soon enough.

A rotary cutter is a tool that is used to make large cuts of fabric. A blade pushes the fabric away and the handle turns in a circular motion, cutting off sections of fabric. It can be intimidating for beginners to use, but after using it you will see how easy it is and enjoy the speed that you can cut with one hand while pulling your fabric with the other.

The blades on these rotary cutters need to be replaced periodically as they get duller, this usually happens after 40 hours of usage. It should cost less than $10 for a replacement blade and all you need to do is unscrew the old blade and screw on a new one.

Wondering what other tools are needed, read Tools Needed to Get Started Quilting

Self-Healing Cutting Mats for Quilting

The advantages of using a self-healing mat instead of plastic cutting mats and not having grooves on your mat after cutting fabric include: no more distracted cuts, durability, and extended life for your blade. These benefits make the self-healing mat the best option for any quilter.

The disadvantages of using self-healing mats for quilting is the cost. They are more expensive than a plastic alternative.


Self-healing mats and plastic cutting mats both have their pros and cons. It is important to know the difference in them and what benefits and drawbacks each has. Self-healing mats are a little more expensive than plastic cutting mats, but they provide more durability, extend life for your blade, no distracting cuts, and no grooves caused by the rotary cutter. Plastic cutting mats do not heal themselves after cutting fabric like self-healing does; however they allow you to cut fabric on either side of the mat and are less expensive.

We hope you enjoyed the review of different types of fabric cutting mats. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.

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