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What Are Tarps Used For?

A blue tarp being used to hold much while a homeowner fills up a wheelbarrow and spreads it out on the garden bed.

At first glance, a tarp, also known as tarpaulin, looks like a simple item that is used to protect items from getting wet. However, with a little creativity tarps become useful tools for many different projects for the home. These ten tarp tips will show you how a common tarp can become an essential tool for anyone looking to enhance their life and boost productivity.

1. Build a Slip ’N Slide

a group of teenage boys sliding down a tarp style slip and slide

During hot summer days, nothing's better than slipping and sliding across the backyard on a homemade water slide. Fortunately, they're really simple to make - and will provide the kiddos with hours of outdoor summer fun! All you need to create this water slide is a tarp, soap, and a water hose.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • First, lay the tarp on the ground with the longer side on a slope. Larger tarps make better water slides because they provide a longer sliding pad.
  • Second, place the water hose at the top end of the slope. If your backyard doesn’t have a slope, place the hose at the slide’s starting point with the water flowing onto the tarp.
  • Third, drizzle soap over the entire tarp. Be sure to apply a lot of soap onto the tarp because the soap acts as sliding lubricant. If you or your children have sensitive skin, it may be necessary to wear clothing when sliding.
  • Fourth, take a few steps back from the tarp, get a jogging start and slide yourself into hours of fun in the sun with this life hack.

2. Simplify Leaf Clean Up

using a green tarp to collect leaves and yard debris while raking

We all know one of the most dreaded fall tasks is leaf clean up. Leaf clean up is difficult because transporting leaves in lawn bags or moving them with a rake seems like it takes forever. However, next time you’re out tackling this dreaded task, try raking them onto a tarp to move them to the desired location or into a larger pile that is easier to pick up. The best technique for transporting those pesky leaves is to rake the leaves onto the middle of the tarp, then grab all 4 corners of the tarp at once and drag to your desired location. This lawn life hack will make for a speedy fall clean up.

3. Make a Pruning Drop Cloth

a person dragging a tarp filled with lawn and garden debris after prunning back flowers and bushes

A pruning drop cloth, also known as a hedge trimming cloth, is simple to construct. Simply wrap a standard tarp around the base of the tree or hedge and the tarp will catch the clippings that drop. This life hack keeps your landscaping looking pristine by keeping the clippings out of your rocks or mulch, and making them easy to dispose of when you’re done.

4. Kill and Prevent Weeds

Forget chemical applications and use a tarp as a substitute. To use a tarp to kill weeds and grass, place the tarp on the section to kill. Then stake down the tarp and add weight to it. The time it takes the vegetation to die will vary upon weed type, region, and season. Note: It may be necessary to cut holes in the tarp for it to lay flat on the ground.

5. Make a Frost Guard Windshield Cover

Frost built up on a cars window shield.  A woman is using an ice scraper to remove the frost.

In the winter time, scraping frost off of your windshield can be a nightmare and driving with a small window of visibility is dangerous. With a simple tarp you can make your own frost guard windshield protector. Simply place a small tarp across your windshield and strap it down using bungee cords. When doing this it’s important that your bungee cords are attached in a manner that will not scratch your vehicle.

6. Maintain a Tidy Vehicle

A truck with a trailer filled with grass clippings is covered with two green tarps to hold in the debris

Many of us love to have a clean car, but common chores and errands can make that a difficult task. However, a tarp life hack can be used to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape while completing your errands. For example, next time you’re landscaping place a tarp down in the truck bed to prevent mulch from permanently living in your truck bed. For those who don’t own trucks, place a tarp in your trunk when you get any item that would potentially leave your car messy like water softener salt, firewood, and even groceries.

7. Prevent Pet Hair in Your Vehicle

A black and white dog sticking its head outside of a passenger window in a moving car.

As many animal lovers know, animal hair is difficult to vacuum, especially when it gets all over your car. To prevent a hairy car, place a tarp down in your seat next time you take your animal for a trip. When your trip is over, roll up the tarp and clean it off for your next animal adventure.

8. Keep Your Car Cool

Tarps can also be used to create shade and keep your vehicle cool. If your vehicle will be parked in the hot sun, try placing a tarp over the windshield to help keep it cool.

9. Create Shade and Keep Dry when Camping

A beautiful sunset over a camp site. There is a blue tarp above a orange tent with a green camping chair sitting outside the opening of the tent

Probably one of the most essential camping supplies is a tarp. When camping, a tarp can be used for many purposes like creating shade or rain protection. The most common use while camping is to place a tarp under a tent to keep the bottom of your tent clean and prevent the ground moisture from wetting the bottom of the tent.

10. Protect Your Driveway

When dumping landscape material on your drive, especially dyed mulch, it is a good idea to put down a tarp to prevent the dye from staining your concrete. In addition, the mulch should be covered by a tarp to prevent it from getting damp and making it more difficult to spread.

As you may have noticed, tarps are one of the most essential tools for any type of homeowner or DIYer. If you happen to need one, you’re in luck because tarps are available from as well as your local Do it Best Store!