Without a doubt, the most exasperating part of using a Cricut machine is when you unload the mat to find your cuts messy or not all the way through. Ohhhh…the frustration is REAL! And while most crafters instantly assume the machine’s Fine Point Blade is to blame; more often than not, the problem is actually with the cutting mat. Today I want to talk about the importance of using really sticky mats on your Cricut projects and share some quick and easy ways to both clean and re-stick Cricut mats so your projects turn out right every time…without the frustration!

A Cricut StandardGrip Mat shown with painter's tape and spray adhesive

When Your Cricut Isn’t Cutting Clean…

We’ve all been there:

  • You design your project with all the perfect details.
  • You spend forever picking out just the right color paper, vinyl, etc.
  • You prep your mat, load it into the machine, press Go, and then eagerly wait with anticipation….

Only to have your project come out horribly cut and imperfect.

If you’re anything like me, having to re-load and re-cut a project is frankly maddening (especially when I’m short on time, materials, or both!) When this happens, most of us are quick to change either the blade or machine pressure. But there’s actually one thing you should always check and remedy first: the mat.

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Love them or hate them…good, sticky mats are imperative for your projects to cut perfectly. If the cutting mat does not securely hold the material in place, it can (and will) wiggle around, sometimes imperceptibly. When this happens, the blade won’t perfectly drag through the material, resulting in incomplete or messy cuts. No amount of pressure or a fresh blade will give you perfectly clean cuts with a tac-less mat. 

But before you run off to the store to replace all your mats, there are some quick, easy, and quite effective things you can do (with items already in your craft room!) to clean and re-stick Cricut mats!

Variety of Cricut cutting mats

Proactive Cricut Mat Care

First…let’s talk about taking care of our mats before we get to “fixing” them. Ever heard the phrase “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”??? It definitely applies here!

The better you take care of your mats during your everyday crafting, the longer they will last you.

The Protective Plastic Sheet

LightGrip Cricut Mat with plastic covering

Every single Cricut mat…from StandardGrip and LightGrip to FabricGrip, StrongGrip, and even the Card Mat…comes with a clear protective sheet. These sheets aren’t just for shipping or retail packaging…they are intended to be kept and used during the entire lifecycle of your mat.

These plastic sheets serve two primary purposes:

  1. They cover and protect the adhesive surface of the mat so that they don’t stick to other things when the mats aren’t in use. These sheets ultimately allow you to stack mats on top of each other, place them in baskets, on shelves, etc.
  2. Additionally, they prevent environmental dust from sticking to your mat. Leaving your mats exposed and uncovered causes them to collect dust, which will reduce their stick more quickly.

Whenever your mat is not in use, take care to always replace the protective sheet. If you damage or lose the sheet (they are crystal clear after all, and quite easy to misplace!), use a piece of clear contact paper or thin scrapbook paper instead (although this isn’t as ideal since the paper will “pill” just a bit onto the sticky surface.)

After Every Use

A Cricut StandardGrip mat shown with hand and scraper

Every time you run a mat through your machine and unload materials, get into the habit of doing some “light cleaning.” Although many materials will come off perfectly, if you ever have lots of debris left behind from cardstock or the paper backing on vinyl, use the Cricut scraper tool, a lint roller, or even a sturdy plastic gift card to remove as much as you can.

Not only do (very) little scraps of paper affect the overall stickiness of your mat, but they can create an uneven cutting surface which also leads to imperfect cuts. You don’t need to use the more “aggressive” cleaning techniques I outline below every time, but always scrape or brush away obvious scraps before storing your mats or running another project.

How to Clean Cricut Mats

Even with solid mat care habits, you will eventually find yourself with less-than-sticky mats (and LOTS of frustration!). In an effort to restick Cricut mats and get back to perfect cuts, your very first step should always be to give them a good cleaning above and beyond what’s discussed above. Although Cricut cutting mats have a sticky surface, there are several easy and effective ways to remove built-up lint, debris, and other gunk…and cleaning alone can often restore their tackiness!

A variety of Cricut cutting mats

I diligently scrape off my mats after every use; but the picture above demonstrates that over time, there will still be a considerable build up of tiny paper and fabric scraps. So before you move ahead with thoroughly cleaning your mat(s), re-run a scraper or lint roller across them to remove larger chunks.

A Cricut StandardGrip mat shown with a hand and lint roller

Clean Your Mats With Baby Wipes

While some Cricut fans advocate rinsing your Cricut mats with dawn dish soap, warm water, and a sponge or using Awesome Cleaner, I’ve personally never found these methods necessary or all that effective. Instead, I prefer to clean my mats with alcohol-free baby wipes. With a fresh wipe, work in a circular motion around the entire surface of the mat to remove finer pills of paper and residue.

TIP! Don’t have baby wipes on hand? Use a paper towel saturated with soapy water.

A Cricut StandardGrip Mat shown with hand and baby wipe

The FabricGrip Mat for the Cricut Maker is notorious for leaving behind threads and pills, especially felt. But take a look at how clean I was able to get my mat with just a baby wipe and some light scrubbing.

A clean FabricGrip Mat

The baby wipes do a great job of pulling up debris and residue while keeping the adhesive coating on the mats in tact. In fact, once you let the cleaned mats fully air dry, there’s a good chance they will be sticky enough to use without the re-sticking trick I outline below.

How to Re-Stick Cricut Mats

Heavily used mats, no matter how clean you get them, will sometimes just not have enough tackiness left to work properly. In these instances, you can use a variety of craft adhesives to make a Cricut mat sticky again.

Spray Adhesives

After years of trying different tricks, my absolute favorite way to re-stick Cricut mats is to use spray adhesives.

Here is what you need:

A Cricut StandardGrip Mat shown with painter's tape and spray adhesive

Start by using the painter’s tape to cover up the perimeter of the mat, lining up the tape with the outside of the white printed grid. This ensures no adhesive lands on the parts of the mat that feed under the machine’s rollers. If these border areas get sticky, it (negatively) affects how the mat moves in and out of the machine (and therefor, how your design cuts).

A Cricut StandardGrip Mat shown with painter's tape

A Cricut StandardGrip Mat shown with painter's tape

Next, move outside (if necessary) and spray your mat(s) liberally with spray adhesive. If you use Quilt Basting Spray or Easy Tack, you can replace the protective plastic sheets or start using the mats right away.

A Cricut StandardGrip Mat shown with painter's tape and spray adhesive

If you used stronger (permanent) sprays, let the adhesive dry for a few minutes to lessen the tac before using/storing. Although you want your mats sticky enough to hold materials tight, you also don’t want materials permanently adhered.

A Cricut StandardGrip Mat shown with painter's tape

What Else Can You Use to Re-Stick Cricut Mats?

I always have several cans of spray adhesive on hand; but if you’re reading this in a pinch and you don’t, there are some other adhesives you can use to re-stick Cricut mats.

With these types of glues, you will need to apply them liberally across the entire surface of the mat (except the perimeter) and then let them fully dry before using/storing:

It’s Okay to Buy New Mats

Finally, I want to remind you that inevitably…if you use your Cricut machine a lot…you will likely have to buy new mats at some point. For as much as I craft (both for the blog and personal use), I will do eeevverything I can to keep my mats going, usually way longer than I need to. And then when I finally break down and buy new mats, I’m always so surprised by how much better they really do work! If you find yourself having to clean and restick your mats every few cuts, it’s time for some fresh mats. Watch for Cricut “stockup” sales and snag bulk sets when they are half price!

A variety of Cricut cutting mats

Whether you’re reading this in a pinch because your project isn’t cutting well or are just looking for creative ways to extend the life of your mats, I hope the tips and tricks I’ve shared here today help. By taking good care of your mats and using some simple methods for cleaning and resticking them, I think you’ll find you can extend their life much longer than you think!

See You Soon!