How Do Self Healing Mats Work? (Cutting Mat Uses & Guide)

Cutting mats are becoming an essential sewing accessory. They protect your surfaces while giving you lines to guide your cuts. Now they have self-healing mats but they do not have any healing power. Just the ability to cover up old cuts so you can cut again without problems.

How do self healing mats work? We cannot speak for all self-healing mat makers but one brand puts tiny, independent pieces together and when you make your cut, you are actually going in between those pieces. Then the ‘memory’ of those pieces has them springing back to their original position.

To learn more about self-healing mats and how they work, just continue to read our article. It gives you as many facts as possible so you know what makes those mats tick. Self-healing mats may be just what you are looking for.

How do Self-healing Mats Work?

The concept is actually quite brilliant. The makers of these mats and their inventors found a way to press independent tiny pieces of material together to make a solid mat. They then painted lines on them or grids to guide your cuts.

When you line up your fabric along those lines and press your cutting tool against the surface, those tiny pieces separate and let your knife or rotary cutter glide through without damaging the mat.

When you have passed different sections on your mat, the ‘memory’ given to those tiny pieces by the inventors has them springing back to their original spots. In other words, there is no real healing taking place, just the design of the mat at work.

Now, you have to be cautious when using your cutting tools. If they are not razor sharp and well on the dull side, you can actually slice up those independent pieces and make them useless. Or you will cut them off the mat.

When all goes well, you should see no mark in your mat and it appears to have followed those famous words, ‘physician, heal thyself.’

How do Cutting Mats Self Heal?


It is difficult to get into all the technical details as, one, it would be very boring to read and you won’t finish this article. Two, those details are not published as of the time of this writing.

The best way to describe how they heal has been given in the previous section. However, they are not perfect self healers. As has been mentioned dull knives or rotary cutters can slice sections of those independent pieces and ruin your mat.

Also, another way to ruin your self-healing mat is to cut t an angle. Anything over 90 degrees cut either way and you run the risk of damaging the mat. When you cut gashes into the mat, your future cuts will have obstacles to overcome.

The design of the self-healing mat is done in such a way as to provide you with a smooth cutting surface every time you need to make a cut. This design makes them a cut above regular cutting mats which by now you have put many lines, grooves, and ditches into.

You may have to pay more for these mats, but you do not have to buy them as often.

Are All Cutting Mats Self-healing?

No, there are different types of cutting mats that you can use. Self-healing options are just one of the bunch and these cutting mats can come with different features. One may have a non-slip surface that doesn’t let the mat move when you cut.

It holds the fabric in place as well, allowing you to make secure, precise, and accurate cuts. There are folding mats that help you cut when your sewing spaces are not that large.

Then there are mats for right-handed people and for people who use either hand. Another option doubles as a desk blotter and comes in several colors. Many are reversible and allow you to use both sides for different purposes.

What you have to watch out for is how these mats are marketed. When placed in the sewing section of those national chain stores, the prices seem to be doubled of those cutting mats placed in the craft section. The two sections basically hold the same cutting mat.

To save some money check the craft section and compare for yourselves. You might get a nice surprise.

What are Cutting Mats Used For?


The primary purpose of cutting mats is to protect the surface you are working on. Not everyone is blessed with a large sewing space and special tables that handle all their cutting duties. They have to use good tables at times or their floors and carving cutting lines into those expensive items is not good for the marriage or those items.

The next purpose of cutting mats is to help you get those precise and accurate cuts you need to finish your sewing project. having a little help is not wrong and the cutting mats provide you with that help.

If they come with a non-slip surface, that is an extra boost when you are working with slippery or stretch fabrics. The cost of these mats range, depending on their size, design, and if they have special features like folding, non-slip surfaces, or are reversible.

Then, these different cutting mats will work with different cutting tools. You should read all the information that comes with these mats first so you know what you can do and use before you start slicing away.

Usually, rotary cutters are the ideal cutting tool to use on all cutting mats, including self-healing ones.

What is a Self-healing Cutting Mat Made Of?

The inventors or the manufacturers they work for are not going to give up any secrets to anyone. About 10 years ago a well-respected professor whose body of work was on self-healing polymers was stunned when told by the student that these polymers were on the open market in self-healing cutting boards.

All that we have been able to find so far is that self-healing cutting boards are made from ‘unique composite PVC vinyl materials plus solid plastic cores’. Then those materials are layered in multi-ply sections and painted to get them ready for cutting.

This explains why many sewers who cut their too large self-healing boards down to size end up taking a lot of breaks during the cutting process. And why they have sore hands when they finish. Plastic is hard to cut with regular scissors.

The websites we got the information from are not 10 years old but published this year, so technology has not changed too much since the self-healing cutting boards first came on the market.

One thing is for sure, these boards are made to last you a while but they won’t last forever as they will soon stop self-healing.

Do Cutting Mats Wear Out?


Eventually, all cutting mats will wear out. Some last longer than others, i.e. 20 years compared to 6, but at some point, you will have to treat yourself to a new cutting board. When you make the change you should see a world of difference.

Not only will you have deep grooves carved into them, but the coloring of the lines and grids will also wear down to a point you can read the numbers or see the lines. One lady paid $100 for her cutting mat and it lasted that 20 years we spoke about. Not a bad investment.

To avoid this problem you can have several cutting mats on hand and of different sizes. That way the mat stays in better shape as it is not used as often. One sewer went to the length of having one cutting mat for each sewing project she was working on.

You do not have to do that but if you want your mat to last, you should have more than one. The trick in buying more than one comes from another sewer, she waits till the mats are on sale for 50% off before she buys one. She buys them whether she needs them or not and no matter the size.

By the way, self-healing mats will dry out on you and not self-heal anymore. They need to remain moist to work well.

How do You Fix a Self-healing Cutting Mat?

The way to keep your self-healing mat in top shape is to provide top care for it before it starts to degrade and lose its self-healing powers. As the old saying goes, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’

To do proper care you should soak the mat in vinegar, dish soap, and water. All you need is 1/2 cup of vinegar per gallon of water used and 15 minutes approx. The water cannot be warm or hot or it will warp the cutting mat.

Brush the mat first before soaking it to get all the loose threads off first. When you add the dish soap you need to scrub again but both times you only need light pressure. Only a small bit of soap will handle this part of the job.

As you scrub, the solution will be absorbed by the mat, making it nice and supple again. Air-dry the mat until it is completely dry. Also, keeping the self-healing mat hydrated is the way to keep it from wearing out sooner than it should.

When to Replace a Cutting Mat


This is going to be up to your judgment as you will be the first to know if the cuts are too deep to use the mat if the numbering and other details are worn off and so on. Some people get attached to their cutting boards and do not like to part with them.

When that situation occurs they continue using their mats well past the past due date. The key to know when it is time to replace the mat is if the surface isn't smooth enough to give you nice straight cuts.

Or there are too many grooves and ditches in them your rotary cutter looks like it is bouncing down a dirt country road. The best thing to do is to have several new mats on hand that hasn’t been used. Moving these into place as soon as your favorite mat shows signs of degrading helps solve the separation issues.

Then if you need a magnifying glass to read the lines or numbers, etc., that is a good sign that you need to replace the cutting mat. it is your call on this issue and you need to learn to say enough and change the mat.

What Material Cutting Board is Best

Not all cutting boards are made from the same material. For kitchen work, you have a wide variety of materials but they may help you cut but they do not have the lines you need to make precision cuts. But if you want to use one of those then glass, marble, granite, hardwood cutting boards are the best to use.

For sewing and craft cutting boards the self-healing ones see, to be made from the same material. The self-healing polymers and hard plastic cores. You are not going to get many variations from that option.

The regular cutting boards have a variety of materials used to make them, just like the kitchen options. These are not as strong as the kitchen options and the ones you should avoid are the ones made from cardboard or soft materials like that.

Plastic cutting boards are good as would be the PVC made ones. You will have to look at the different models on sale in your local region and choose the harder materials over the softer ones. The ones like cardboard can dull your cutting tool on the first cut.

Are Cutting Mats Heat Resistant?


Some are made to hold your iron when you need to press right away. But even those have difficulty with high heat levels. Generally, most cutting boards will warp on you if exposed to too much heat.

It will depend on what materials they are made from. While plastic and PVC are strong construction materials, they will melt or warp when the room or water gets too hot. You will find that you can use most cutting boards with heat as long as that heat isn't for an extended length of time.

When you forget to turn the iron off, you risk weakening the bonds of the material and then fatigue will set in lowering the mat’s lifespan. Also, the board becomes less flexible making it harder to work with.

Check the instructions on the mat before you make your purchase. if your sewing project needs extended amounts of heat, you may not be able to use the mat you want. You may have to make adaptions or find another mat to use.

What to do With Old Cutting Mats?

There are a lot of options available that are better than just throwing them into the trash and letting the landfill worry about them. The first option is to recycle them if they fit the recycling parameters. You will have to check those to see if your old cutting board qualifies.

Next, you can donate them to a company that turns them into stencils or turn them into stencils yourself. Here is a good website that provides instructions on how to do that.

Then you can see if the surface of the mat can be refreshed and brought back to being a cutting board again. There are some ways you can do this and if your husband is an expert on refreshing he can do it for you.

Also, you can paint them and add a clip to the top and turn it into a clipboard or add a little chalkboard to it and turn it into a kid’s toy or a communication center. Also, you can coat, cover, or add laminate, etc. to the old surface and put messages on it, menu items, or just be creative and make it a wall painting or hanging.

Once you start brainstorming you should be able to come up with a ton of ideas that keeps the old cutting board out of the landfill and spare you separation anxiety.

A DIY Self-healing Cutting Mat

If you can’t afford to buy a new self-healing cutting mat, and you have some craft skill s of your own, you can always make one yourself. It may not be fancy or last as long but it should give you time to save up enough money to buy a real one.


  • Corrugated cardboard cut to the size you need
  • 3 rolls of 1” masking tape (the number of rolls will vary depending on the size of the cutting mat)
  • Colored masking tape (optional but if you use this option it must be colored masking tape)
  • 1 square straight edge with a T at the top
  • One sharp utility knife
  • Roughly 20 minutes


  • Step 1: Cut the cardboard to the size you want. Anything over 8 1/2 by 11 will work for almost all cutting situations.
  • Step 2: Start wrapping the plain masking tape around the cardboard. Start at the top and work your way down, overlapping the rolls slightly on each pass. This is a bit tedious but don’t let yourself be distracted.
  • Step 3: Turn the cardboard 90 degrees and do step 2 all over again.
  • Step 4: do these two steps until you have about 6 layers covering the cardboard.
  • Step 5: apply the colored masking tape the same way for the last layer. make sure that the edges are finished nicely and when that is done, so are you.

The good thing about this DIY option is that you can add more layers once you start to see your initial ones start to wear out or get too many grooves in it. Plus, you can use a different color of masking tape every time you do this step.

Where to Buy Sewing Cutting Mats


Sewing accessories seem to be easier to find than your favorite fabric. The good news is they are sold just about everywhere. The first place to start is your local fabric or sewing supply shops. These individuals will appreciate your business

If you do not have one of those or they are out of stock, then you can move on up to your mall department store or big box stores. Walmart, Target, and similar stores should have some on hand for you to choose from.

But the real trick is to go to those national chain craft stores as they may have some in the crafts section a lot cheaper than the ones you will find in the sewing section. Check Hobby Lobby, Joann, and Michael's to see what they have on their shelves.

Finally, your last stop should be the internet. Amazon and other online outlets have a fine selection of cutting mats that make your sewing life a lot more enjoyable. They may even have them at a price you love. if they are on sale, pick up two just in case.

Some Final Words

You may not get all the information you want on how self-healing cutting mats work but just be grateful they do. This cutting mat option can save you money and the mats should last longer than regular ones.

Just be careful when applying heat and re-hydrate them regularly. Proper care helps them last a lot longer.

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