Can you cut paper with your sewing scissors?

Advice from the experts on whether cutting paper with your sewing scissors really dulls the blade or not. Really interesting reading.

Ah ha – the age old question.  Should we keep our sewing scissors just for cutting fabric.  Will cutting paper somehow ‘dull’ the scissors, make them less sharp, or less able to cut fabric if we dare to cut paper with them as well?

Is this just an urban myth?  Did seamstresses of old simply pass on this mantra to stop the family endlessly borrowing their sewing scissors.  Was it just told to make sure the sewing scissors were always there when they needed them? We’ve all seen the funny memes on social media warning of the dire consequences of using our sewing scissors to cut paper.


It’s discussed from time to time in the sewing chat group, and there will always be those who say yes they cut with paper occasionally and still have nice sharp scissors.  We all will often cut out our tissue paper patterns with the sewing scissors, or lie the pattern out on top of the fabric and cut both layers at once, tissue and fabric.  I won’t lie, sometimes I find myself reaching out and picking up the wrong scissors when I’m cutting out my PDF sewing patterns from regular printer paper.  The sky hasn’t fallen in on me yet!

I did once discover hubby cutting mosquito netting with them, but I don’t think that would have done too much harm.  We’ve all heard the horror stories of what other reckless husbands might have been caught doing – cutting wire,  opening cans, removing screws and other such horrors!  Yes, that might just be grounds for divorce!

6144164298_5c902cb000photo credit: SewingMachine-0352 via photopin (license)


But is it all just hearsay and doom and gloom, or should we really lock those scissors away?

So I asked some scissor experts:

Jackie Webster, Sales and Maketing Manager at Havel’s Sewing – “That is an excellent question!  You will receive a different answer from experts and artists that use their scissors daily.  I certainly have!

The technical answer is, do not use fabric scissors on paper, and vice versa.  I stand by this for one reason.  I was a hair dresser and if I used my hair cutting scissors on anything else, they were useless!  I think there is a difference in paper grain and fabrics.  Even denim is different than that of paper grains.

I have an artist that swears she has used our scissors (Sew Creative Line)  on paper, leather, denim, and all other types of fabrics, including silk!”

400319567_7aee5e7294photo credit: scissors via photopin (license)


Kris, Customer Service at Kai Scissors – “Yes, using your fabric scissors on paper will indeed dull them, this is why:  Various clays, and/or calcium carbonate, are a component of many papers, including cardboard. They are there to make the paper stiff.   These minerals are abrasive and dull the scissor.

I would recommend never using your fabric scissors or shears to cut any kind of paper because they will become blunt and make the whole process of cutting fabric slow and a chore and can ultimately damage the cloth.”

3526362046_55573d911fphoto credit: Project365/Day 132: Las tijeras gigantes via photopin (license)


Marta P. at Fiskars/Gingher Customer Service and Warranty – “All items dull scissors.  Paper is cellulose and has finishing agents, fabric is natural or manmade fibers. So if you cut denim, wool, polyester, nylon, spandex etc, those fibers will dull scissors faster than regular light and medium weight cotton. If you are only cutting cotton with your scissors, cutting paper will dull them faster. If you are using them on all different materials, cutting paper with them will not necessarily dull them faster than those other harsher fibers.  All scissors become dull with use, and you can cut paper with them, you will just need to get them sharpened more often.

Paper does produce a lot of lint, which collects on the blades and quickly makes the scissors or shears feel rough when opening and closing them. This paper lint should be frequently wiped off of the blades in order to restore a smooth feel.

You can cut paper with any Fiskars or Gingher scissors or shears, but we do not advise cutting paper with our knife edge scissors or shears. Because the knife edge is not necessary for cutting paper, and since paper lint needs to be wiped off the blades frequently, it is better to use scissors and shears which do not have a knife edge as this very sharp edge presents an extra need for caution in handling.

15877855380_db560da2a8photo credit: Nähküche Closeups via photopin (license)

The last word about paper versus scissors

Here is a good explanation from the ‘ask the scientist’ forum:

“Various clays, and/or calcium carbonate, are a component of many papers,including cardboard. They are there to make the paper stiff, to adjust the absorption of inks, to keep the paper hard when it is wet (wet strength), and as a filler (Clays are less expensive than wood fiber in many cases, depending upon the quality of the paper.) These minerals are abrasive and dull the scissor.” 

Our readers thoughts and experiences

If you are a member of the sewing chat group, you can catch up on the earlier discussion here in this thread.  If you aren’t a member yet – why not! It’s the best sewing chat group on Facebook – apply to join right away and start asking, answering, sharing, learning and having lots more sewing fun.  See you there.

Your turn – so now tell me what do you think.  What has been your experience with cutting paper – or not!  And what was the craziest thing you caught someone doing with your best sewing scissors?


Like this article?  You might find this earlier one interesting too – all about sewing scissors.  Do you get what you pay for?  Does a higher cost mean a better cut?

Should you buy a really good pair of sewing scissors or will a budget pair perform just as well?

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22 Responses to Can you cut paper with your sewing scissors?

  1. CMH says:

    “…These minerals are abrasive and dull the scissor”, but one of the ways to sharpen scissors is to cut the very abrasive “sand-paper”, no?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      I have never heard of this, but why don’t you try and let us know. I really would like the answer to this.

      • CMH says:

        Number 2, here:-
        “Fold your sandpaper in half, rough sides outwards so that as you cut the rough sides meet the blades.” No indication is given as to what number grit is required, (ie how coarse or fine the “sand” should be); and the more astute readers might also be aware that “paper” is an integral part of the sandpaper. Perhaps the scissors are at once both blunted and sharpened 🙂

        Number 1 is cutting through tin-foil
        Number 3 is cutting through steel-wool

        I’d really love to know how affective these are. I did try cutting foil in order to sharpen my best embroidery scissors, but for me it was more than a little counterproductive 🙁 So now I am somewhat shy of trying any other homespun sharpening techniques without tangible evidence as to their effectiveness.

        Can any real people out there vouch for them?

      • Len says:

        I was taught to only use emory paper to sharpen scissors in a pinch. Very smooth emory paper. 200 grit or higher. It’s an emergency solution, far as i know. Nothing beats professional sharpening.

  2. Helen P says:

    I think this was much more of an issue in the past when all we were cutting was natural fibres; modern paper is much finer today than the rough pulp available in the early 20th century. I only have to look at how often I need to replace the knives on a serger, to realise that some synthetic fabrics are much harder on blades than modern paper. If your sewing machine needle blunts quickly, it is a sure sign that the fabric was abrasive on your scissors as well.
    As with kitchen knives sharpening little and often is more likely to keep your scissors sharper for longer. I cut most fabrics with a rotary cutter and sharpen the blade between each project.
    I have a pair of Fiskars micro serrated scissors which are great for cutting out slippery fabrics. I think there is more of a case for different pairs of scissors for different types of fabrics; maybe a special pair just reserved for quilting cottons.
    Maybe distraction is the best way to protect your scissors; I have a Skil multi cutter which can also cut tough stuff like cardboard and plastics, such fun that no one wants to use my old fashioned scissors anymore.

  3. i would like to know if scissors can be sharpened,i have a lot of them but don’t to throw them out.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Maryann, yes, scissors can certainly be sharpened and good ones probably should be sharpened as often as possible. It probably isn’t as easy to find a place to do this anymore though. Back in the old days, there would often be people who come by your house to sharp all the knives and they would do the scissors at the same time. In today’s more “disposable” culture, this doesn’t seem to happen so often. You can probably ask at your local cutlery shop. Hope this helps and kind regards, Mayra

      • Cheryl says:

        My husband keeps the good hair shears in the leather pouch they came in out of the reach of children. One to keep them from wandering away and to keep them from being used on paper, plastic and other things that the kitchen shears are meant for. The kitchen shears have thicker, heavier blades designed for rough cutting. The hair shears have narrower blades and have different cutting angles. He does have a lansky sharpening kit that he uses to sharpen knives, my sewing scissors and the kitchen scissors. So if the shears are dulled, they can be resharpened, but it is better to use the right tool for the right job. So his hair shears are kept sharp to trim my locks, not the kitchen shears. And the kitchen shears open packages, cut paper and other rougher chores.

  4. Joan Cyr says:

    I have a breast cancer flower glued to mine that means–THIS IS SPECIAL

  5. Karen says:

    I have lots of sewing scissors. I work with all different fabrics from fine silks,denim, home decor,stiff netting and every thing else. I have different scissors for the fabrics. My family shares them but know witch ones not to use unless working on the fine fabrics.

  6. Amy Elliott says:

    As I was working on a bag pattern this weekend, I will admit to using my cloth scissors to cut the paper templates. I kind of chuckled to myself for feeling guilty about using my own scissors inappropriately! On a different note, after making many mistakes on this pattern, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your pattern writing! This one hahas been so difficult to understand! Who uses numbers to differentiate the pattern pieces as well as the fabric pieces?! #pullingmyhairoutinAlabama

  7. Karen Allen says:

    Okay, I also never let anyone use my GOOD scissors, but here is another question for you. Does cutting thread also dull your scissors? I had this told me by another lady and couldn’t really believe it either. Anxious to hear your answer to this one also. Thank You Karen Allen;

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Karen, I’m sure if you cut enough thread it would eventually dull the scissors. But given how little material there is each time you cut thread, I think this would take a long, long time for the scissors to dull. Also, if the thread were made of some material other than standard cotton or polyester, that might accelerate things as well. Hope that helps and kind regards, Mayra

  8. Linda L. says:

    Thanks for this – it’s a very useful article. I’ve spent many years trying to train my family, with varying levels of success, never to touch my sewing scissors. A year or so ago, I was able to buy a set of several very good scissors which have coloured handles and so can’t be mistaken for common scissors. I do have another pair that I use for non-fabric cutting.
    Having read the article, I think I’ll have to find another set that I can dedicate to the fabrics that are harsher on the scissors.

  9. Marlene says:

    Good fabric scissors are expensive and you need them to cut fabric. You can buy scissors that will do a great job on paper for $1. So, why even have the discussion? Keep the high-priced sewing tool for fabric. Use $1 scissors on paper and throw them away when they break or get too dull for paper.

  10. chilebeanz says:

    My hubs & 3 sons knew to never touch my fabric scissors – all Ginghers. I bought them each good scissors – but not as expensive – and I never had a problem with family scissor abuse. Really cheap scissors are a waste of money. Buy quality and you will always be happy with the product and yourself, and be ahead financially in the end.

  11. Ruby says:

    I have 3 kids and a husband. From experience I can say using my fabric scissors on anything other than fabric will make them dull. I have one fabric scissor that I keep tuck away and had it for several years now, and I have a box of dull scissors in the garage from when my kids were home and going to school.

  12. Gail Laskow says:

    Deby, Once again you have written a wonderful and informative article. I am glad to hear that fabric scissors are still defended from paper cutting! What I did learn here, though, is some fabrics such as denim & wool, etc. will dull fabric scissors faster. Thank you for that!
    I have owned the same pair of Fiskar sewing scissors (orange handles) for 30+ years (2 sizes) and they are still as good as new and I sharpen them occasionally with the little oval Fiskar scissor sharpener. Works for me!

  13. Ruth says:

    I’m with Susan! I never use my really good sewing shears on anything but fabric, something learned way back in junior high home ec classes. I keep plenty of pairs of cheap scissors around for paper and stuff. I had several good pairs of scissors ruined by my kids when they were little, causing much yelling on my part and apologies from them (“I didn’t know…”). I learned to hide the good ones and leave the paper ones out in plain view. Now that they are grown I indulged in a very expensive and good pair for sewing, and I keep the paper scissors and the kitchen scissors where they belong. My husband even has several pairs of all purpose ones in his desk where he can find them. That way no one uses my “good” ones!!

  14. My husband used my sewing scissors to cut adhesive backed foam weather stripping because he “didn’t know where the other scissors was”! Worse yet, he did this about a week before Christmas when I still had several sewing projects to complete for gifts! I must admit, that was almost 40 years ago, but I still remember my shock. Thank goodness for a friend who knew of a place that sharpened scissors “while you wait”! A good sharpening fixed the problem, and he hasn’t done anything like that again!

  15. Betty says:

    My late mother had her sewing scissors hidden in her sewing cabinet (not that we couldn’t find them) and a household pair in the kitchen. We knew better than to even think about cutting paper with her sewing scissors!

  16. SusanR says:

    My great-grandfather was a professional tailor, and my grandmother and her sisters were professional seamstresses. They taught my mother to sew. All of them cautioned me to never use good sewing scissors for anything except fabric.They all kept their sewing scissors securely with their sewing equipment, and had what they referred to as “household scissors” handy in a drawer in the kitchen or a desk elsewhere for general tasks. My great-grandfather had his good scissors all tied to his cutting table and tailoring sewing bench, with long strips of fabric, so they couldn’t “wander away”. My mother painted the handles of the household scissors, so we’d never be confused which ones were okay to use.Unpainted, NO! Painted, OK! I do the same as they and she did, trusting their judgement. They also kept a pair of household scissors in their sewing equipment, in case there was something they didn’t want to use their good scissors to cut. Nowadays inexpensive household scissors can be bought with various colors of handles, so I don’t paint mine, but do keep household scissors in various parts of the house where they’re often needed and handy to find. And my husband knows to never use my sewing scissors, period, even on fabric, not that they’re ever anywhere easy for him to find. LOL

What do you think?