You have several objects outdoors that need coverage: a car, a woodpile, equipment like lawnmowers, and even a boat. If you don't have a garage or a carport, how will you cover all of these investments? Tarps offer a universal solution to all of these objects. When secured in place by bungee cords, these tarps can protect nearly any object. But, however, if you venture to a store or website selling tarps, which one should you choose? Most manufacturers and distributors carry a combination of polyethylene, canvas, polypropylene, and vinyl. Do each of these have different uses?

The answer is yes. Polyethylene tarps, also known as simply poly tarps, are the most commonly used material out of all of these. A poly tarp comes in medium and heavy-duty varieties. The difference between these is an eight by eight and 14 by 14 denier count. All poly tarps can spend some time outdoors, with heavy-duty materials being able to spend several months outside. All are treated to be waterproof and UV resistance and offer a basic amount of breathability to prevent mildew and mold from forming on the object covered.

Polyethylene tarps are also used on trucks to cover loads that cannot be exposed to water. Vinyl and polypropylene are used for the same purpose, however. Polyethylene and vinyl cover loads, such as wood and asphalt, that cannot be exposed to water, while polypropylene, essentially a mesh tarp, is better for gravel and other materials not affected by water and moisture.

Canvas is another common material used for tarps. Although thicker, canvas can tear easily and, thus, only has limited uses. Canvas tarps can be used outdoors to cover objects, such as equipment and woodpiles, for a brief period. Additionally, these tarps are ideal as drop cloths. The nature of cotton duck keeps the canvas from moving when draped over furniture. The canvas, then, prevents furniture and other objects from being ruined by paint.