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What is Shelf Paper?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Shelf paper, which may also be called shelf liner or contact paper, is used to line drawers and shelves and may come in a variety of types. The most common types have adhesive backing. When the shelf paper is installed with adhesive it doesn’t detach easily, and it can sometimes be very difficult to remove all vestiges of paper from a drawer or shelf. This can make replacing the paper or repainting interiors of cabinets challenging.

Most shelf paper is sold in rolls so that people can cut various sizes as needed. Rolls may have different widths and lengths, and those considering papering might want to evaluate widths of things like cabinets prior to purchasing a roll. Some people seem naturally gifted at applying adhesive contact paper, while others struggle with the adhesive and can’t place the paper down evenly. Careful measuring can help and working slowly may make a difference too.

There are number of fabrics and designs in which shelf paper comes. Standard paper may be a single color and be plastic coated. Some papers are a combination of fabric and other materials. Various designs exist too which may coordinate with kitchen design.

The principal idea behind shelf paper is that it may be more sanitary and may protect certain types of wood from damage. The issue of whether shelf paper is sanitary really depends on type. Most types made from paper may actually attract paper-loving insects, and things can get underneath the paper, like bits of old food, even if the paper has been attached to a surface.

It’s certainly true that some forms of shelf paper may provide protection to surfaces. For instance, placing wet glasses in cabinet shelves may gradually warp and stain the wood. Shelf paper does provide a barrier there, though many people simply prefer to use an oil-based paint that will provide this protection or materials other than wood to make shelves more durable.

Due to some prejudice against contact paper, which may be justified, manufacturers have turned to different types of paper that may prove more sanitary. Instead of coating paper with adhesive, they may instead provide shelf liners made of materials like PVC. Some of these look like fine mesh and come in rolls that can be cut into various sizes. They are easily removed and replaced if a person wants to clean a cabinet, yet they do tend to stay in place because of their material and weave.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments
By anon304978 — On Nov 23, 2012

I bought a cabinet from Ikea that I use to store china and tablecloths. The 'teak' finish stained everything! I wish I had known. I'll be buying a shelf liner now.

By SteamLouis — On Jul 11, 2011

Did you guys know that there is environmentally safe shelf paper?

I was so excited when I got to know about this because I keep hearing about how some types of paper towels and shelf papers have chemicals in them that are dangerous for the environment and our health. But there are green shelf papers available.

I'm personally using cork roll right now because I had some left over from a project. It's natural and

doubles up as shelf paper.

By serenesurface — On Jul 10, 2011

I don't use shelf paper liner just for shelves, I use it in different ways as decoration as well.

For example, I lined an old closet with a really pretty shelf paper that made it look like new.

I've also used it for decorating the kitchen and bathroom walls.

The only difficulty I've had with this is that the shelf paper that is found in most home improvement stores have very generic, in fact boring, designs. I solved this by buying shelf paper online.

You can find many different styles and designs online, much much more than you will ever find

at the store.

By burcidi — On Jul 10, 2011

I found some scented shelf paper at a retail store and bought some because it was on discount. I had never heard of scented shelf paper before but I thought it might be a good idea.

Some drawers have a weird natural scent to them. I think it's the scent of wood. But I don't like that because my clothes sometimes smell like it. That's why I usually put a couple of perfumed drier sheets in between my clothes so that they smell good.

I placed the scented shelf paper I bought in the drawers in my bedroom. It smells so good now! My clothes are not in contact with the wood and don't smell woody and every time I open a drawer, it smells like flowers! I really love this, I'm so glad I found it!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor,...
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