4 ways to make everyday items nonslip aboard a boat

Non-Slip Solutions

On any boat, things like to go sliding on tables and countertops — and even if counter and table lips prevent them from going on down to the floor, it’s annoying.  Sometimes you can buy products with nonslip bottoms (such as the cutting board I recommend).  Other times, you can’t find one that you want, the “marine” version is just too expensive or you just like something you already have, as was the case with our dog’s food dish.  You’ve probably got drink holders in the cockpit, but about other things?

As we cruised, we found four good ways to turn everyday items into ones that didn’t slip as Que Tal heeled or otherwise moved.

Non-Slip Placemats

West Marine carries a great line of inexpensive non-slip placemats ($2 each).  We didn’t use these all the time, but they were invaluable in rolly anchorages and on passage — even just having a snack in the cockpit while daysailing.

They’re also a good mat for playing cards, dominoes or dice games like Farkel or Yahtzee (all were popular cruiser games in the Sea of Cortez).  With a couple of these on the table, playing pieces don’t go sliding across the table, leaving you to wonder where they all went.  And dice won’t bounce off the table and through the cockpit grating.

As shown in the photo, these come in a variety of colors to match your decor.  They’re made of an open, rubber-y material that can be scrubbed and doesn’t mold or mildew.

NOTE:  West Marine offers free shipping to any of their retail stores.  Expedited shipping is also available.

Non slip shelf paper imageNon-Slip Shelf Liner

While we used a lot of non-slip shelf liner on galley shelves and in the bottom of lockers, we also cut pieces to fit on several open shelves and also a few pieces to put on the cockpit cushions near where we sat, so that we could set books and other small items down without them slipping onto the floor. It’s inexpensive and very easy to cut with just a pair of scissors.  It’s also good between dishes when they are stowed so they don’t rattle against one another.

Non-Slip Rug Mats

Rug mat imageWhen we bought Que Tal, she had a really cute little throw rug at the bottom of the companionway stairs.  It had a nice rubber back, almost like a bath mat.  In less than 6 months in tropical heat, the rubber backing was peeling off and pieces were everywhere, including in the bilge and then into the bilge pump.

That rug was quickly discarded.  And knowing the problem, we weren’t about to buy another rug with rubber backing.  But we did want a rug there.  And the one we got was an accident waiting to happen as it slid on the teak-and-holly sole.  The answer was a nonslip rug mat.

You can cut the mat so it’s just a little smaller than the rug, and it sits between the floor and the rug. It looks like a beefed-up version of the shelf paper and works well.

Carpet stores and many other places sell nonslip mats for ridiculous prices, about three times the price of the one I’ve linked to here.  I’ve looked at those more expensive ones and don’t see much difference.  I’ve always used the cheap ones and they do well — I’ve got a couple that are over 10 years old, were used in our old apartment, went on Que Tal, and are now used in my kitchen.  They haven’t degraded at all.

Wal-mart also sells inexpensive no-slip rug mats IF you get them in the hardware department.  The ones in the housewares area are much more expensive — or at least they were about a year ago when I bought several for the rugs on our porch.  After using them for a little over a year, they’re doing fine and I don’t see what more the expensive ones offered.

Caulk tube imageMake Your Own Grippy Surfaces

. . . and the really nice part about this is that you’ve probably got all the supplies you need already on board (if not, you should)!

Simply smear a thin, even layer of silicone caulkon the surface that you want to be non-slip, such as the bottom of a plate — or your pet’s dish.  (I’ve also heard some people say they use rubber cement, but others have said that rubber cement tends to come off easier.)  A plastic putty knife works well for applying it.

Let the silicone dry without coming into contact with anything else.  Now you have a nice rubberized non-slip item!

If you’re doing this on dishes or something else that you’ll wash frequently, use a little care when washing so as not to dislodge the silicone.  It will last longest on surfaces that aren’t glossy and slick, but if you’ve ever tried to get extra silicone caulk off a project after it’s dried, you’ll know that it’s usually pretty hard to dislodge it.

Be sure to check out Sticky Pads, Tree Frog Pads and Gecko Grips, too.

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  • Barry Jones
    Posted at 24 September 2011 Reply

    I am looking for a non slip material as thin as possible, but with adhesive properties to one side…………do you have such material?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 25 September 2011 Reply

      Instead of looking for a material, I’d just put a very thin coat of contact cement on the surface that you want it to adhere to and let it dry without putting anything on it. Once dry, it’ll be non-slip!

    • Jeremy
      Posted at 22 July 2016 Reply

      Google slick pads
      They’re amazing.

  • George Brown
    Posted at 08 January 2012 Reply

    I have an induction hob in the galley of my power cat. (A induction hob works by inducing heat in metal pans by magnetism and is (i) safer than gas because the hob itself does not get hot and (ii) as responsive as gas because the heat is turned on and off immediately with the magnetic field.) I’m looking for a nonskid pad which will be able to withstand the heat between the glass surface of the hob and the bottom of the heated metal cooking pan. I imagine the mat would be made of the same substance as silicon heat-resistant oven mitts. Any recommendations?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 08 January 2012 Reply

      Interesting question. I’ve got two possibilities for you, both available at Amazon (that’s where the links go to):

      1. Wilton Silicone Baking Mat — While it calls itself nonstick for baking, it actually “sticky” for setting a pan on. It’s safe up to 500 degrees F. (slightly over 250 C.) Many other baking mats are partially fiberglass, meaning that you can’t cut them to size and also that they’re not as nonslip. These are 100% silicone. This one is 10″ x 15″ — there is also one that’s 11″ x 17″.

      2. Le Creuset Cool Tool — it’s designed as a trivet, and I don’t know if the ridges would work for you or not. 8″ in diameter and heat resistant to 482 degrees F. (250 C.) I have one and it’s definitely non-slip as anything silicone is.

      If you get one of these, or something else, I’d love to hear back about how it works!


  • Susan Parker
    Posted at 06 September 2012 Reply

    I keep a stash of those square silicone pot holders on board. They work great as a non slip solution. I use one under our cat Mickey’s water bowl. I use several on the galley table to prevent dishes and pans from maring or burning the table top and to hold them in place.

  • Debra Perfitt on Facebook
    Posted at 28 October 2012 Reply

    Great tips. Thanks

  • Theresa Wright Williams on Facebook
    Posted at 28 October 2012 Reply

    Thanks for the great ideas. VALUABLE!

  • Lavinia Maggs
    Posted at 18 June 2013 Reply

    Carolyn- the previous owners used some sort of “putty” to affix a picture and lightweight metal sculpture wall art to our walls of our trawler. It was quite secure – grey in color, hardened and removed without marking the wall. I cannot figure out what this product was – but it was great and better than Velco in this instance. Do you have any idea what this product is?

    • Brigitte Hanes
      Posted at 23 August 2013 Reply

      I use Museum Putty. It’s clear. Works like a champ.

      • Lavinia
        Posted at 03 September 2013 Reply

        Thanks Brigitte! Is that something I can get through Amazon? I’m currently in Trinidad.

        • Carolyn Shearlock
          Posted at 03 September 2013 Reply

          Amazon has several different brands — Museum Putty and Earthquake Putty are the same thing. Here’s the link to their best selling one (you have to be buying something else as otherwise the the shipping is cost-prohibitive): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0002VA9NA/?tag=theboagal0a-20

          Here’s the same thing in a buy-by-itself version (it’s slightly more expensive): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000FJU290/?tag=theboagal0a-20

          I used a lot of Poster Putty on the boat because I’d never heard of Earthquake Putty before meeting some cruisers from California, but the Earthquake Putty/Museum Putty holds a lot better.

  • Linda
    Posted at 30 September 2014 Reply

    I am looking for a thin solid rubber pad to fit my oval dining table (1) to keep the table cloth from slipping and (2) to protect the wood from spills. I envision a material like a thin yoga mat or possibly the old flat rubber crib mattress pads that had a soft coating. I don’t have space to store the cumbersome custom table pads. Do you have such a material that I could cut to a 42″ by 104″ oval size?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 01 October 2014 Reply

      I’d probably look for a waterproof mattress cover and cut it to size. The 106″ long makes it tough; you might have to make it in two pieces that would overlap where they lay on the table. I have this mattress cover and I think it would work well for what you want: http://amzn.to/1JKAzMW

  • Cheryl
    Posted at 11 June 2015 Reply

    If I use the silicone caulk on my Corell dishes, can I still use them in the microwave?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 11 June 2015 Reply

      I wouldn’t — that is, I’ve never tried, as I feared what the microwave would do to the caulk after hearing stories of people who put a tube in the microwave to “warm up” only to have it explode.

    • Cindy On Delta Swizzler
      Posted at 29 June 2017 Reply

      I have been putting my dishes and mugs in the microwave with no problem whatsoever

      • Cindy On Delta Swizzler
        Posted at 29 June 2017 Reply

        I meant to add that they have silicone on the bottom

  • MikeG
    Posted at 14 July 2015 Reply

    Which of these mats have grip on both sides. I need something that grips my leg on one side and presents a non-skid surface for an 8.5 pound dog. Maybe 12″ wide and 3′ long. I assume most pads can be trimmed? Thanks

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 14 July 2015 Reply

      All the non-slip shelf paper has grip on both sides and would be that long. The placemats are also double-sided but not that long.

  • Lisa
    Posted at 19 July 2015 Reply

    We recently bought a ’88 Bayliner and while we love the boat we dislike the dated light-blue galley table. Is there any way to resurface or update the table-top or color?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 20 July 2015 Reply

      There are products made to re-surface Formica (I assume it’s Formica) or you can replace the Formica either with more Formica or other products such as Corian. For info on some of the products to resurface/paint Formica, here’s an article with info from other TBG readers (lots of good info in the comments): Restoring Formica

      • Lisa
        Posted at 20 July 2015 Reply

        Thank you for the quick reply and the great information! I really appreciate it! 🙂

  • Anna
    Posted at 01 February 2016 Reply

    Dear Carolyn,

    thank you so much for the useful suggestions!

    I would like to secure my trays on some wooden surfaces during passage. What material would be most appropriate as a liner under the tray? From my experience silicone in general is the most non grip. Would you advice yes or no for adhesive liners? Thank you!

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 01 February 2016 Reply

      I think you may need something stronger than just a liner when underway. I’m not sure exactly where you’re trying to put them or use them, but probably something like earthquake putty or Velcro would be a little stronger to hold them in place. Another option would be to use Command Strips if you’re not moving them around very often.

  • Maruta
    Posted at 08 July 2016 Reply

    I have a galley mat that was sticky but after the last rinse has become smooth and slippery. Anybody has suggestions on how to make it grippy again?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 08 July 2016 Reply

      I’m not sure exactly what type of a mat it is that you have, but the ones that are designed to be sticky normally regain their stickiness if you wash with a bit of dish soap and then rinse well and let it dry. If that’s what you did and it’s still slippery, I don’t have a clue why it’s not regaining its stickiness.

  • Dawn Read
    Posted at 23 May 2017 Reply


    I got a great tip for silicone on mugs, glasses and dishware from Bob Bitchin of Cruising Outpost Magazine.

    He told me to put a bead of silicone around the bottom of glasses, mugs, or plates and then turn over and press onto wax paper.

    Let it set overnight and just peel it off in the morning!

    It’s nice and flat that way, and works great.

  • The Boat Galley
    Posted at 23 May 2017 Reply

    Yep, it works.

  • Olly Perkins
    Posted at 05 June 2017 Reply

    Cool – I really like the suction idea

    • Olly Perkins
      Posted at 05 June 2017 Reply

      Oops I meant the silicon idea. I just read the suction cup glasses rack post.

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