PUL Fabric Guide 46


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Sewing Bee Fabrics Tutorial
Fabric Guide - PUL (Polyurethane Laminated) Fabric

Polyurethane Laminate Fabric Guide: How to use and sew PUL

What Is PUL Fabric?

Our fabric guide video tutorial below attempts to explain to you all about polyurethane laminate fabric. We will be answering the questions such as what is PUL fabric made of? What does it look like under the microscope? How waterproof is PUL fabric? How do you sew PUL Fabric? How do you wash it PUL Fabric? What projects can it be used for? And how durable is it?

Prefer to read instead of watch? Then just scroll on down and we'll chat all about it!

See our full range of solid colours, patterns and plush PUL Fabric

PUL FABRIC is the most versatile waterproof fabric I have come across, and yet somehow this amazing fabric has yet to make it to many fabric stores.

What does PUL Fabric Stand For?

PUL Fabric is short for Polyurethane Laminate Fabric. It is a fabric that is usually polyester but occasionally cotton, that has been covered with a layer (sometimes 2 layers) of polyurethane to make it waterproof.

PUL fabric - easy to cut and sew with

Where does PUL come from?

Originally designed for use in the medical industry to withstand repeated washing as well as autoclave cleaning, which is a type of high heat steam sterilising cleaning system, this fabric has been manufactured to be both durable and to be easily washed at 50°c. However, many of the modern and exciting patterned PUL fabrics are better suited to washing at lower temperatures to maintain colour vibrancy for longer.

 

What Is PUL Fabric Like?

Polyurethane laminate fabric has the wonderful properties of being both waterproof as well as breathable which means it will keep moisture from passing through and yet heat is able to escape.

Polyester fabric is coated in usually 1 or 2 mil thicknesses of polyurethane. Both are just as waterproof as each other and there is very little difference in the feel of the fabric or the types of projects that you would use them for. The closest thing I can liken the laminate to is similar to cling film in the way it moves stuck against the back of the polyester fabric.

It is a relatively light fabric compared to many other waterproof fabrics. It also usually has a slight stretch. It doesn't fray, is difficult to crease, dries very quickly after getting wet, and doesn't stain easily. This makes it a great choice for sewing waterproof clothing, baby bibs and nappies, cloth pads, changing mats and more.

Which Way Up Does PUL Fabric Go?

Most PUL fabric has 2 distinct layers, with the exception of sandwich PUL. Regular PUL fabricis made from a layer of polyester knit fabric which then has the back side of the fabric covered in a layer of polyurethane laminate. It doesn’t make any difference which way around you use it in regards to its waterproof properties but the colour of the fabric will be more vibrant on the non-laminated side as this is intended to be the front of the fabric.

Although the fabric is breathable, it is also worth noting that having the laminated side directly against the skin can feel sticky, so you may in this case choose to use the fabric the other way up or use it with a breathable lining layer for comfort. Once the fabric has become wet, the water will run straight off of the laminated side, however it leaves the polyester side of the fabric feeling damp if that side comes into contact with water so this may influence your choice of which way around you prefer to use it too.

Sandwich PUL fabric is slightly different in that it has a layer of polyurethane in the centre, with polyester on both the outer sides, so the waterproof layer becomes sandwiched in the middle. In this case, it makes no difference which way up the fabric is used other than which side has the clearer pattern or more vivid colour.

Is PUL fabric completely waterproof? We test it and find no leaks

What is the difference between normal PUL fabric and Sandwich PUL fabric?

As sandwich PUL has 3 layers – polyester knit, PUL in the centre, followed by another layer of polyester knit. This has pros and cons compared to using the standard PUL fabric, which is just 1 layer of polyester knit with a polyurethane laminate backing.

With double the polyester, this will give the fabric a heavier feel to it similar to other double knit weight fabrics such as Ponte Roma or scuba. Having no lining and no uncovered backing would be well suited to sewing projects where the underside will be directly against the skin, such as waterproof trousers, or where you want to have the same colour/pattern visible on both sides of the fabric. It is often a more expensive fabric with more limited patterns available so it may work out cheaper or easier to match the pattern to your project by using regular PUL fabric and lining it.

How is PUL fabric breathable but still waterproof?

You can see underneath a microscope in the photo below, with a pin tip for size reference that the polyester fabric side has a very tight fine knit weave on the coloured front, yet despite being completely waterproof, still has breathable microporous spots on the white laminated back. These allow air and vaporised water (sweat) to travel through but not water droplets as these are too large to pass through.

PUL fabric under the microscope, how is waterproof fabric also breathable

Is PUL fabric stretchy?

The beauty of laminating polyester knit is that it has a slight stretch to it. This means that it will move with your body if you are using it as clothing, and have less chance of seams being pulled open under fabric wear and strain. Polyester is usually used instead of cotton as it creates a much more flexible fabric than when cotton is laminated.

Does PU laminate fabric stetch? Yes, there is moderate 4 way stretch.

Is PUL fabric durable?

It is a very durable fabric with many people reporting that they have been able to use nappies made with this material for the nappy wearing duration of at least a couple of children with only the elastic needing updating between children. You can imagine how much they are getting used and washed. I made my son's nappy wraps to go outside his cloth nappies when he was tiny and they stayed in perfect condition despite being used 3 1/12 years constantly between him and his little sister and being washed every other day for that whole time.

Polyurethane is more durable even than thermoplastics, so as a coating it lasts extremely well. Combined with polyester fabrics, which are inherently strong, resistant to tearing and don't damage over time with repeated washes and abrasion, this combination makes for a long-lasting fabric.

 

How Can you Make PUL Fabric Even More Durable?

If damage occurs to the laminated side of the fabric, then over time and use /repeated washing, the laminate can begin to separate away from the polyester. This is usually only a problem if you have large areas of unsewn laminate without any backing to protect it. For example, this happened to me with a large unlined laundry wash bag that got turned inside out into the washing machine - over time, small damage inside the washing machine where it was rubbing over sharper surfaces such as zips and velcro caused damage. This is simply fixed by using sandwich PUL, or adding a lining layer, or turning the fabric so the polyurethane is inside or within a protective laundry bag, or washing it without other abrasive laundry items. I used a bit of old curtain lining to line my large full load of laundry wet bags for our cloth nappies after that and with the added lining it was happily going for a couple of years with no problems until we stopped using nappies and it became a washable recycling bin liner instead which is still just as good 6+ years after making it.

 

Is PUL Eco Friendly?

Yes and No. Polyurethane is much better at biodegrading than many other types of plastics, however, polyester is very poor at biodegrading. However, this fabric is very durable and is very well suited to replacing many single-use plastic products such as sanitary towels, breast pads, continence pads, plastic bags, nappies and much more. In this respect, a small piece of fabric that may last through regular use for 10 years or more will save many many pieces of single-use plastics from going to landfills.

Visit our shop to see our selection of solid coloured PUL fabric

How Do You Sew PUL Fabric?

Sewing Machine

When it comes to sewing with polyurethane laminate, it is easy to sew with the laminate coating inside your fabric layers or facing the feed dogs. However, sewing the polyurethane laminated side against the presser foot of the sewing machine, especially with multiple layers can have a tendency to be sticky under the foot which can cause the fabric to drag and stretch more on the top than the bottom or have issues with stitch formation and thread breakages. This can be massively reduced by using a walking foot, knit foot, Teflon presser foot, roller foot, or by sticking some washi tape to the underneath a regular presser foot. Or, you can make it sew easier by putting greaseproof paper, stabiliser or tissue paper between the PUL fabric and the presser foot and just tearing it away after. I have also heard of people putting a drop of sewing machine oil on the foot/feed dog to help it glide through but haven’t tried this myself. If you want to try it, I recommend you check it doesn't mark the fabric with some scraps first.

Needle And Stitch

As this is a stretch fabric, I would recommend using a ballpoint needle (around 75-90 should work well). To allow movement of the thread with the stretch of the fabric, you will need to use a zigzag or stretch stitch, or use a straight stitch with a twin needle.

Thread

As this is a polyester fabric, then I would choose a matching polyester thread. Polyester is more durable than cotton so this will increase the lifespan of your finished project.

Construction

Every time you pierce the surface of it e.g. with a pin or as you sew with the needle, you are making a tiny hole which will change how effective the waterproofing is. However, pop it in the tumble drier on low for 20 minutes and it will seal small the needle holes back over or put it on medium heat for a quick blast! Clever eh?!?! If you don't have access to a tumble drier, simply pin within the seam allowances or use clips instead. Prewashing is not required for this fabric.

 

How Do You Wash PUL Fabric?

Washing PUL fabric couldn't be easier. PUL fabric can be washed in the washing machine up to 50°c. However, to keep the colours and patterns vivid for longer, we recommend washing at 30-40°c with similar colours. The only caution to be aware of is that if there are large areas of the polyurethane laminate exposed, I would suggest turning the fabric so that the laminate side is protected on the inside, or by placing it inside a protective laundry bag, or by washing the fabric separately from another laundry with abrasive surfaces such as zips and velcro.

 

How Do You Use PUL Fabric?

PUL fabric is great for a wide range of uses. Being light, waterproof, breathable, durable, washable and quick to dry suits all sorts of sewing projects. Here are some ideas for things you can sew with PUL fabric:

 

Clothing

  • Rain hats
  • Rain coats
  • Puddle jumping, hiking, outdoor sport or fishing trousers
  • Costume making where you may get wet e.g. carnivals / live-action role play (LARP) / re-enactments, cosplay etc

Household

Baby

Random Uses!

Did you know that moss grows well on PUL?! Why not check out how we used it to make our fairy house with a living moss roof.

This list is in no way exhaustive! If you have used PUL for something else, drop us a comment to inspire others!

 

Where Can I Buy PUL Fabric?

We stock a wide range of both patterned PUL fabric and plain solid colours of PUL fabric. These are available with free delivery to the UK, and some international shipping options are available.

 

We hope you enjoy our tutorials and love hearing what you think so please leave us a comment.

Happy Sewing!

 

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46 thoughts on “PUL Fabric Guide

  • jancountrygirl49@aol.com

    How do you wash Polyurethane Laminate?
    Inside out?
    Is it best to hand wash and hang to dry?
    What about using your washer on gentle and low spin?
    Will the washer gradually deteriorate the fabric faster than hand washing?
    Use of net laundry bag in the washer?
    Hang to dry?
    Or a 2-3 minutes in dryer?
    What laundry agents are the safest to wash Polyurethane Laminate in?
    I have scoured the internet and the only thing that comes up is a site for “The Laundress” selling their products.
    What about Tide?
    Dreft?
    Woolite?

    I surely do appreciate any info you can give me.

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      Polyurethane laminate fabric can be washed up to 50°c, however, we recommend machine washing it ideally at 30°c to make the colour and laminate last longer. You are free to hand wash it but I am not aware of any particular benefits of doing that compared with machine washing it. PUL fabric can be dried in a tumble drier on low heat or hung out to dry. Personally, I have wash bags that I made about 7 years ago that are cotton lined with PUL fabric that have been machine washed weekly at 40°c with the rest of my washing in a regular non-bio laundry detergent and hung to dry – they are still showing no signs of deterioration. The only time I have ever had an issue washing PUL was a large unlined sack that got a scratch in the laminate (likely because it was going through the washing machine inside out with the laminate side facing out bouncing around with velcro reusable nappies so the velcro probably just caught it). Over time the laminate around that scratch gradually started to separate. So from my experience, I choose to not wash it with unfinished edges (pre-washing isn’t required) and to wash it with soft clothes (avoid washing with velcro or any clothes trimmings that might be scratchy etc). If the pul laminate backing is exposed (for example a waterproof bedsheet etc) I generally put it in the centre of the drum with as much of the exposed laminate folded in on itself – wrapped inside a big towel or similar as a precaution, but mostly I just line it with cotton or similar and don’t worry about it.

  • Cari

    Would it be good for reupholstering a 1950s style set of kitchen chairs. I am trying to stay away from PVC. It sounds like PU is a safer less off-gassing product? Is this correct? Thanks! Cari

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      I’m afraid I don’t know how different fabrics off-gas, but for reupholstering, I would say they aren’t really a like for like swap. PVC would be wipeable and is a much thicker fabric, holding its shape on top well. Whereas PUL is much thinner and as the top layer is polyester, it needs washing to clean it which might not be suitable for the kitchen. Personally, I would pick a vinyl fabric as the best choice, or maybe if your budget allows you could consider leather for a more natural alternative.

  • Chico

    Right or wrong side? : I often get asked if there s a right or wrong side to PUL and as far as the waterproof-ness goes there isn t really, you can have either side as the right side and it will work just the same. That said, for aesthetic and comfort reasons the knit side is often used as the right side as it usually has a pretty pattern or colour and as the laminate side is shiny it s probably more comfortable to have this away from the skin or it d be a bit sticky. You can line your garment of course which will overcome this, and cloth nappies usually have an inner fabric which is closest to the skin, or PUL is often used as a shaped wrap which goes around a fitted nappy which has no waterproof layer of its own. In pocket cloth nappies the shiny side is often used as the right side simply because it makes stuffing the nappy easier.

  • Linda Kerlin

    Hello Linda,

    thank you for the very informative PUL info. I know you recommend up to a 50 degree wash. Do you think the fabric would be compromised in anyway if it was put in a 60 degree wash? I’m investigating it for making washable hospital gowns that would be required to have the 60 degrees.

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      It was originally a fabric designed to be washed at that temperature. I doubt it would make much difference to do a wash at 60 but in the long term over repeated washes maybe it could affect the lifespan of the colour fastness or bonding between the PUL. Maybe you could try testing a patch.

  • Sarah Carmichael

    Hi, I am thinking about making some sails for my garden, which I want to put on a 35mm rod using curtain grommets, so they can be opened and closed easier. Woul your PUL material be strong enough. Regards

  • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

    Hi, thank you so much. We don’t have JoAnns in this country so it isn’t a range I’m familiar with. But, from what I can find out I’d be looking for samples of stretch pleather which is a type of faux leather made by adding a plastic/polyurethane coating to the outside of the fabric to give the shiny appearance, whereas most PUL is coated on the back. Although sandwich PUL has a front coating too, I can’t see it being as comfy for cosplay. Good luck finding similar!

  • Janet Warwick

    I have made a baby changing mat for my niece who is expecting her baby in January 2020 I have washed it at 30deg and hung it out to finish but because I have 3 layers ie and it has taken ages to dry
    Poly cotton
    Next layers is fabric from a mattress protector
    Then the PUL
    Can you advise what temperature to dry it in a tumble dryer?
    Really enjoyed using this product

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      The PUL will take higher temperatures – up to 50c wash. I expect it will be your mattress protector layer that will limit your temperature setting so I’d check the info for that to guide you better. So pleased it has come out well for you.

  • KarenC

    Hi,
    Thanks for the info on PUL. I have been interested in PUL for a number of years with the intention of making a rainproof jacket out of it. However, the shiny side makes the fabric look a bit unfinished as an inside layer. I would like to keep the flexibility of the PUL but at the same time add a lining that would improve that look but also dry as quickly. Do you think in this case it would be better to line it with PUL too and put the both shiny sides together. Would this work? Can you get PUL in high visibility colours?
    kind regards
    Karen

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      Yes you could absolutely do that and even make the coat reversible then, or you could just use a light polyester layer. Alternately, you could get sandwich PUL fabric which has the fabric finish on both sides. I have seen plenty of polyurethane laminate fabric in bold colours but I haven’t come across any PUL in a reflective high visibility finish.

  • Ian Jones

    The. Hadith I work with wishes to send a large quantity of pul to Africa to be made into sanitary pads by local tailors. They are having trouble sourcing it there, but they can get towelling, fleece and flannel.
    Can you recommend a cheap reliable source in the uk. It’s urgent

  • Jan

    Wow! I knew about this fabric, but thought of it only in terms of diapers and bibs… so many more uses. Thanks for all the details about the laminate side vs. the knit side. My mind is just abuzz with ideas about how to use this. I’ve been wanting to make little raincoats for my dogs to keep their regular coats dry, but all the vinyl I’ve found is so stiff. This sounds perfect. With the laminate on the outside it’s something they could wear all day on misty sometimes rainy days.
    Jan

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      I’m so pleased you found it helpful. You are absolutely right, it is such a fantastically versatile fabric. I’ve seen some fantastic dog coats made with PUL fabric so I’m sure your dog will be very thankful for your sewing! Linda

  • BlackKat

    Hi,
    I want to make a waterproof wash bag and am thinking of using this for the lining. Is it soft to the touch? Ive seen wash bags in stores which are soft and feel lovely – its this feel which I am going for. Can you help me please?
    Thanks,
    BlackKat

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      Hi, yes it is quite soft so it probably is what you’ve seen. Our 2mm PUL is a little softer than our 1.2mm so there is some variation in it. I use it for lining my wetbags (I use cotton on the outside) and they are soft, dry quickly after washing and have lasted several years already. Hope that helps.
      Linda

  • Fiona Wright

    Hi, I have a question. I made a feeding smock for my daughter. I used a bamboo fleece with PUL underneath – PUL side facing up, and on top was just a woven cotton. Now when she ate lasagna and I then washed the smock, it stained the cotton fabric. Is that something that you have heard happening? Could it be because the food is soaking in and then just sitting on the cotton and therefore staining more easily?

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      In my own toddler feeding experience, anything that can stain will stain!! The PUL and bamboo may have made it a little more difficult to rinse out, but I’ve had several cotton based clothes stained from carrot and tomato based foods that had nothing backing them so it’s likely more to do with the cotton than the backing. I just used to make bibs of PUL on its own because I’ve never managed to stain that! My usual plan of action for carrot/tomato stains is to rinse them under cold water immediately then pop it straight into a bowl of cold water for at least a couple of hours then add a stain treatment directly to it before washing. Using heat straight away seemed to set the stains more in my experience. Hope that helps!

  • Sherri Taylor

    Hi there! I just wanted to double check. Is PUL fabric food safe? I was wanting to use it for snack bags for back to school but I just wanted to make sure this would be okay.

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      I’ve seen a couple of manufacturers who have had their PUL tested to be certified as food safe. Our PUL doesn’t have a certification because the manufacturer we use does not feel that the additional cost would be recouped by having that certification. I have used it for snack bags with no problems, I just wouldn’t put any hot food in it.

  • S

    Hi, on this page there is a photo of blue whale patterned pul. Do you actually stock this? I couldn’t find it on your site but would really like to buy some. Thanks.

  • Val

    Loved the information on the PUL fabric going to try this on a boby mat for neice who is expecting her baby in November . IMy parther and I do quilting workshops and this fabric will be introduced into mour projects . The girls in theclasses will love this especilly fir making things for their grandhdren .

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      Thank you Val. I’m so glad you found it useful. I’d love to see what ideas you end up using it for. It makes a brilliant backing for patchwork play mats or picnic mats for taking outside. I bet that would be really popular for your classes 😀

  • Amanda

    Thanks great information as always. I was considering making my own nappies for my little man but was weary about PUL fabric..But not at any more.Thanks for all the great tips and advice.x

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      Thanks. You’d be hard pressed to find a cloth nappy that’s not got PUL in these days. It’s perfect for them 🙂

  • Sarah

    Wow that’s amazing that putting the fabric in the drier seals the hole! This would be so perfect for puddling jumping trousers. I just need a sewing machine now… hmm. Your blog is very inspiring. Now following you on Instagram xx