Kitchen Basics: Guide To Shelf Lining

This article discusses the different types of shelf liners available to use for kitchen shelves and how to install it yourself.

A shelf liner is a material used to line shelves. Shelf liners are commonly made of materials such as plastic, coated paper, or cork mats that allow the liner to lie flat on top of a shelf. Most shelf liners are inexpensive and easy to install and are used for a variety of reasons. Most often, they are used to protect shelves from getting dirty and to prevent glasses and dishes from breaking on hard surfaces.

Shelf liners come in 12", 18" and 24" width rolls that are usually 10 or 25 feet long. The material is cut with scissors to fit the size of the shelves. A different kind of shelf liner is used for wire shelves. It is made of thicker weight plastic sheeting, usually in prefabricated sizes, and snaps into place over the wire shelving.

In the past, the material most often used in making shelf liners was coated paper with an adhesive peel off backing, for example, contact paper. Now, several kinds of plastic materials are used, usually in combination with rubber to provide a non-skid surface that helps it stay in place on top of a shelf.

Shelf liners are available in a surprising variety of colors and patterns, usually geared toward a kitchen or bathroom theme. Plastic may be thick or thin, soft and pliable or stiff, and ribbed or smooth. A thicker shelf liner provides more cushioning for your glasses and dishes. A ribbed design allows moisture to escape from glasses or dishes that may have water left on them from washing, but may also allow dirt to collect. Many shelf liners are stain and water-resistant, durable, and easy to clean. Some can even be thrown in the washing machine.

In addition to plastic, cork mats are sometimes used to line shelves. Cork is a natural material harvested from the bark of a cork tree. Cork mats are about 1/8th inch thick and provide extra cushioning. They absorb moisture, while at the same time are resistant to mildew. Do it yourself options for shelf liners include vinyl wallpaper, which comes in rolls, and plastic coated fabric place mats.

There are both non-adhesive and adhesive varieties of shelf liners. Non-adhesive liners are safe to use on most surfaces including unfinished, painted and stained wood, laminate, glass or metal.

Adhesive shelf liners have a low tack adhesive that sticks to the surface of the shelf, which is exposed when the backing is peeled off. They are trickier to install and should only be used on unpainted wood surfaces, vinyl, laminates, metal, or glass. If you find an adhesive shelf liner in the perfect pattern, but don't want to bother with the adhesive backing, an option is to use the adhesive shelf liner but not remove the backing.

If you live in a rented apartment or old house, shelf liners are an excellent way to cover up dirt and soil ingrained into the wood of the shelves caused by years of use, or the remains of old contact paper stuck to the shelves. Shelf liners are also a great way to dress up your cupboards and give shelves a uniform appearance, especially if you have clear glass cabinet doors.

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