PUL Fabric Guide 39


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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 answer 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 with it? How do you wash it? What projects can it be used for? and how durable is it? And if you prefer to read your sewing tutorials, then keep scrolling down for a complete guide with pictures.

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

PUL fabric - easy to cut and sew with

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.

Originally designed for use in the medical industry to withstand repeated washing as well as autoclave cleaning, which is a high heat steam sterilising clean system, this fabric has been manufactured to be both durable and to be easily washed at 50°c.

It 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.

It doesn't crease, doesn't fray and doesn't stain easily making it a great choice for clothing, baby bibs and nappies, cloth pads, changing mats and more.

The fabric has 2 distinct layers to make up the sides. It is made from polyester knit which then has the back side covered in a layer of polyurethane laminate. It doesn’t make any difference which way around you use it in regards to it’s waterproof properties but I personally prefer not to have the laminated side directly against the skin as it can feel sticky. Most people like to have it with the knit side where you can see it because of the better colour/print appearance. It is worth noting though that once wet, the water will run straight off of the laminated side, however it leaves the polyester 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.

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

You can get sandwich PUL which has 3 layers – polyester knit, PUL in the centre then another layer of polyester knit. This has pros and cons compared the to the standard PUL - on the up side, you have pretty patterns or colours both sides and it will feel better against the skin than the laminated surface, but it is a little thicker and heavier which will make it stiffer, as well as it usually being more expensive so standard PUL is normally a good choice, and it can easily be lined with cotton or polycotton as an alternative.

You can see underneath a microscope, with a pin tip for size reference that the polyester 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 which 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

The beauty of laminating polyester knit is that is 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 also used instead of cotton as it creates a much more flexible fabric than when cotton is laminated.

Laminate comes in 1 and 2mil thicknesses. Both are as waterproof as each other but 1mil is more flexible and softer and so tends to be more versatile which is why all our PUL fabric is 1mil. 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 fabric.

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

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 nappy wraps to go outside his cloth nappies when he was tiny and they are still 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.

PUL is also very quick to dry so suits projects that will be washed frequently very well.

So what are the downsides or things to consider about this fabric? Nothing that isn’t common to a lot of waterproof fabrics. Every time you pierce the surface of it e.g. with a pin, you are making a tiny hole which will change how effective it is at this point. However, pop it in the tumble drier on low for 20 minutes and it will seal small the needle holes back over or 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.

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 in to the washing machine - over time, small damage inside the washing machine where it was rubbing over sharper surfaces such as zips and any lumps and bumps on the washing machine drum caused damage. This is simply fixed by adding a lining layer. I used a bit of old curtain lining to line my large full load laundry wet bags for our cloth nappies and with the added lining it has been happily going for a couple of years with no problems.

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

When it comes to sewing with PU laminate, I find no problems if I am sewing a layer of PUL to something else, or sewing it with the laminated side away from the presser foot, but sewing laminate side against the presser foot of the sewing machine, especially with multiple layers can be have a tendency to be sticky through the sewing machine. This can be massively reduced by using a walking foot, knit foot, Teflon presser foot, roller foot or putting greaseproof paper, stabilisier or tissue paper between the PUL and the presser foot and just tearing 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.

Want to try using PUL but don’t know what to make? Or maybe you have been using some but want some new projects, so here are some ideas for you:

CLOTHING

Rain hats and coats

Puddle jumping or fishing trousers

Costume making where you may get wet e.g. carnivals / live action role play (LARP) / re-enactments etc

HOUSEHOLD

Swim / sports bags

Picnic blanket

Incontinence products

Cloth sanitary pads

Waterproof mattress and pillow protectors

Reusable bowl or plate covers

Reusable sandwich bags

Lunch bags

Backing for bath mats

Lined laundry wet bag / Bin liner

BABY

Outer layer for nappies, nappy wraps, wet bags, nappy laundry bags

Outdoor play mats

Bibs

Changing mats

Mattress cover for Moses baskets and cots

Backing for breast pads

Changing bags

High chair splatter mats

COMPLETELY RANDOM

Did you know that moss grows really 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!

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

Happy Sewing!

 

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39 thoughts on “PUL Fabric Guide

  • 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