What are Vinyl Placemats?

Kate Monteith

When the protection of a fine tablecloth or dinner table is imperative, vinyl placemats offer a good solution. A vinyl placemat offers table protection for each individual place setting, with easy clean-up. Vinyl placemats are relatively inexpensive, and they come in thousands of shapes, colors and designs to suit any taste.

A tablecloth may be used in addition to placemats to protect a table from spills.
A tablecloth may be used in addition to placemats to protect a table from spills.

People with small children might especially appreciate the many attributes of vinyl placemats. A vinyl placemat can form a protective barrier between a dinner plate and a valuable tablecloth without compromising on style. The placemat can contain spills and crumbs, and can quickly be wiped clean for another use. A vinyl placemat will also protect a table from hot plates and cups. Additionally, they will retain their shape and original colors virtually forever.

Vinyl material can be made in a variety of colors.
Vinyl material can be made in a variety of colors.

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Vinyl is made of a plastic polymer called polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that allows for durability, flexibility, and thermal properties. Thin sheets of vinyl are sandwiched with a liner material and heat sealed around the edges to form placemats. The liner can be flexible or stiff, and the cover can be glossy or textured, depending on the design of the placemat. Some vinyl placemats are made of one thickness of vinyl, with no liner material whatsoever.

Some people prefer fabric placemats to vinyl, simply for the expanded choice of stylish materials. There are thousands of choices in placemats beyond vinyl, including woven textiles, hand-dyed, beaded, and quilted placemats. There are some with fancy tassels or fringe, and even some made of wood or bamboo. When it comes to washable placemats, however, vinyl is the winner every time. Some placemats do not allow for washing, making them a poor choice in the long run.

The great thing about vinyl placemats is they can be almost any color imaginable. They can also be cut in any size or shape, including square, round, oval, and hexagonal. They can be reversible, so that both sides may be used. They can be imprinted with any picture, logo or pattern desired; and in crisp, true colors. Multi-colored strands of vinyl can be woven to form a basket-weave pattern. The placemats may also be made of vinyl mesh, offering lightweight table protection.

Despite their benefits, using vinyl placemats may not be the best choice for everyone. Though research is ongoing, several studies have indicated that products made from vinyl, and in particular PVC, may release harmful substances like dioxin and phthalates, both of which are associated with causing cancer. These substances may, however, only be released in significant quantities when PVC products are heated, and may not pose a risk in everyday life.

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