Kitchen Basics: How To Properly Apply Shelf Liners

How to apply shelf liners: cutting, preparation, application, and list of tools.

Shelf liners are an easy way to spruce up your kitchen shelves, while at the same time protecting your glassware and dishes from hard surfaces. Shelf liners are either made of plastic, coated paper, or cork and lie flat on the shelf through static friction or because of an adhesive backing. Rolls of shelf liner are available in 12", 18", and 24" widths and in lengths of 10 or 25 feet. Here is what you need to know to properly apply shelf liners to your kitchen shelves.


Shelf liner



Ruler or Tape measure

Straight Edge


First, remove everything from the shelves and thoroughly clean all surfaces. Wipe with ammonia or rubbing alcohol to eliminate any residue from cleaning supplies. This is especially important when using adhesive shelf liners.

Determine what sizes and how many rolls of shelf liner you will need by measuring the length and depth of each shelf that you want to line. It is important to measure all of the shelves because they might not all be the same size. Typically the depth is the same while length may vary.

Cutting to Size

Using a flat surface such as a countertop, choose a roll of shelf liner that is the same or wider than the depth of the shelf you want to start with. For example if the shelf measures 10" x 24", choose a roll that is 12" wide.

Roll out the liner and measure to a length that is about 1/2" longer than the length of the shelf. The extra length will accommodate any irregularities in shelf size. Many shelf liners have a grid on the reverse side of the pattern, which is divided into 1/2" increments. This makes it easy to measure and cut the shelf liner even if you don't have a tape measure or ruler handy.

Use the guidelines to cut the shelf liner to size. If there are no guidelines, use the straight edge to draw a line and cut along the line. You may need to trim the width as well, depending on the depth of the shelves.

Application - Non-adhesive Shelf Liners

Place the liner on the shelf. It should fit snugly without leaving any gaps between the side and rear of the cupboard and the shelf liner. Older cabinets may not be square and you might need to adjust the size by shaving off 1/4" or so to make the shelf liner fit properly.

Repeat the process for each shelf that you want to line. Then place your glasses and dishes back on the shelves.

Application - Adhesive Shelf Liner

When using adhesive shelf liners, the backing should be pulled off so that the liner sticks to the shelf. Alternatively, you can leave the backing on if you are not worried about the liner slipping.

Place the adhesive liner on the shelf and adjust the fit. Trim excess as needed. To apply, peel a small piece of backing off at the back corner. Typically the backing peels off in sections. Place the liner on the shelf in the correct location, and then press down on the corner without the backing. Slowly peel the rest of the backing off the liner while pressing down to ensure the liner adheres to the shelf.

Use the same method to apply each shelf liner. When finished, place your glasses and dishes back on the shelves.

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