Everyone is familiar with blue tarps. They are inexpensive and come in a variety of sizes, both with and without grommets. They are useful in hundreds of ways around the home and workplace, as well as on camping, boating, and hunting trips. Lightweight, water resistant, and flexible, these tarps can protect everything from lawn furniture to motorcycles, delicate flower bulbs to designer carpets.
These lightweight tarps provide excellent temporary protection against water and sun damage under many circumstances and conditions. They are frequently used to protect furniture and flooring when painting is being done. However, there are specific limitations to the ways blue tarps should be used. Understanding the specific applications for which they were and were not designed helps consumers be sure they are selecting the appropriate tarp for their need.
Long Term Cover
Blue tarps were not designed for long term cover. These tarps are intended only for use as temporary covers. They are lightweight enough to be easy to use, but they can not provide long term protection. If an item must be covered for more than two or three months, a heavy duty tarp would be a better choice. A heavy duty tarp is made with more fabric and is thicker, making it more durable and weather resistant.
Unlike lumber tarps, or a heavy duty tarp, the blue material will begin to break down after a reliably short period of time due to exposure to sunlight and extreme weather. While blue tarps provide excellent short term protection under most circumstances, they should never be countioned to last for extended periods of time, or to withstand rough treatment or severe weather. Sharp Edges
Blue tarps should also not be used to cover loads or materials with sharp edges , such as steel wire, concrete, rocks, tree branches, or glass. The material used to make these tarps is simply not designed to withstand that sort of treatment. As wind moves the tarp against any sharp edges, the material will rip and tear, exposing your items to sun and rain.
If something with sharp edges needs protection, lumber tarps can provide that protection without requiring you to build a structure. Lumber tarps are specifically designed for use over wood piles and for covering truck loads of lumber. Their heavy gauge material and heat-treated seams are better able to withstand the rough nature of the materials they are covering. A more heavy duty tarp will resist tears from twigs and branches, keeping your wood dry and secure. There are many varieties of lumber tarps and other heavy duty tarp products to choose from, depending upon the application.
Most people make the mistake of throwing their damaged or worn out “blues” in the trash. But these tarps are actually made out of polyethylene plastics and can be recycled in the same way as your plastic soda bottles and milk jugs. As handy as these lightweight tarps are, they will not last forever.
Realistic expectations and an understanding of a material's capabilities can help ensure that your possessions are kept clean and dry in any condition by using the proper tarp for your application.