Choosing the best cloth napkins
A cloth napkin buying guide
Cloth napkins are available in many different colors, patterns and textures and provide an easy way to personalize your table setting. Everyday dining experiences become more special with the addition of cloth napkins on the table. Cloth napkins are also more environmentally friendly than paper napkins. Consider the following factors when determining which cloth napkins to purchase.
>> Consider the occasion
Before you start looking for the best cloth napkins in a store's home supplies department, consider how they will be used. For starters, think about whether you need to buy cloth napkins for formal or casual dining, and if you plan to use them occasionally or every day. Consider festive cloth napkins for holiday entertaining or different designs and colors for different seasons. Regardless of how often you plan to set your table with cloth napkins, they can help make your kitchen and dining experiences more inviting.
>> What fabric do you prefer?
The main difference you'll find as you compare the best cloth napkins is the fabric. Although some are made of only one type of material, others can feature a blend. The most common designer cloth napkins are made of the following:
Linen: If you are hosting a formal or semi-formal dinner party, consider choosing linen. Not only will this type of cool cloth napkin add a high-quality look to your table, but the long fibers are quite absorbent, which allows these cloth napkins to last longer than most others.
Cotton: This is the best cloth napkin for everyday use. Cotton has a more gentle feel than linen and is available in a wide variety of colors.
Silk: This type of designer cloth napkin is most often used to decorate a table. They might be removed prior to a meal being served.
Synthetic blends: Synthetic blends like polyester are good for everyday use since they are strong, absorbent and easy to clean.
You can also buy cloth napkins made of satin, lace or silk organza for especially elegant occasions.
Lastly, take into consideration what you will be serving and who will be at the table. If, for example, you have pizza on the menu and young children attending dinner, plan to use dark-colored cotton or synthetic blend cloth napkins that effectively hide food stains and are easily treated and washed.
>> Consider the color and pattern
Cloth napkins are available in different colors and patterns, from traditional and contemporary to themed napkins. Formal cloth napkin designs are generally white or ivory with surfaces and borders that are slightly textured with embroidery or lace. Napkins used for casual dinners, on the other hand, might have more patterns or colors such as country checks in some combination of blue, white or red. To add a little glitz and glamour, consider cloth napkins with sequinned or metallic borders.
>> Consider matching cloth linen to dinnerware
While you may start by matching your napkins to your table cloths, also keep other accessories such as cloth placemats, table placemats or kitchen placemats in mind. Also note the styles and designs of your dinnerware, napkin holders and the room's decor. Everything used to set a table can be coordinated. Porcelain dinnerware, for example, would go well with traditional cotton napkins, while Corelle dinnerware would be complemented by linen.
If your dinnerware has a design, you can buy cloth napkins with a solid color that matches one already present in the setting. On the other hand, plain white dinnerware coordinates brilliantly with patterned or textured kitchen textiles.
>> Consider the size
While the average cloth napkin dimensions are square and around 15-23 inches, the size of your ideal napkin will depend on the types of meals you will be serving. Cocktail cloth napkin sizes are usually under ten inches, with cloth napkin dimensions for casual, everyday use measuring about 12 inches. Napkins for sit-down dinners or buffets can be as large as 24 inches, and very formal meals may feature napkins sized up to 26 inches. Look to specialty manufacturers if you prefer even larger “European-size" cloth napkins.
>> Consider the quantity
If you regularly throw dinner parties, buy at least a dozen designer cloth napkins. Keep in mind when ordering that lunch and dinner cloth napkins are usually sold in sets of four. Start off with one cloth napkin for each of your guests, and then have backups ready in case of food and drink spills. If you'll need cloth napkins for events over a consecutive series of days, buy extra so you'll have some ready for use when others are in the wash.
>> Caring for your cloth napkins
The best cloth napkins are clean, crisp and make your table even more inviting. While most cloth napkins - with the exception of those made of silk, silk organza, satin or lace - can be cleaned in the washing machine, remember to check the label for care instructions regarding appropriate washing temperatures and drying cycle times.
Once you have decided which cloth napkin fabrics, patterns and colors you prefer, consider which cloth napkin dimensions will be most suitable to your table and the meals you'll be serving. Then you'll be ready to buy the perfect cloth napkins to make your dining and entertaining experiences more special and memorable.