Love Your Linens

Use these quick tips when selecting and caring for table linens.


If you have a handsome wood or glass-top table, the trend is to use a tablecloth for only the most formal occasions. However, if you prefer not to show off your table or if you like linens, use a tablecloth that fits the look you desire.

Traditionally, white damask or plain white linen, with or without lace inserts or embroidery, is used for formal dinners. The damask weave, rather than the Jacquard weave, is considered the most formal. Use a table pad with a formal cloth and setting to provide a buffer between the tablecloth and table surface.

Length of Tablecloth
  • If your table is set up in a buffet format, the cloth should drop to the floor.
  • On a dinner table (without a buffet), the cloth drop below the top of the table should be 8 to 18 inches.
  • For a formal dinner, napkins should match the tablecloth.
  • For informal settings, the fun is in the mix and match of pattern and color.
Fast Facts About Napkins
  • Napkin sizes vary, but traditionally, dinner napkins are 24 inches square.
  • Luncheon napkins are approximately 20 inches square.
  • Cocktail napkins are about 6 inches square.
  • European dinner napkins measure 20 inches square and are available in some specialty stores.
  • Red wine: Sponge or soak stain using cool water. Pretreat with stain remover or liquid laundry detergent. Launder with fabric-safe bleach.
  • Gravy: Pretreat or soak with a product containing enzymes; soak for 30 minutes if stain is dry. Launder as usual; don't machine-dry until stain is out.
  • Butter: Pretreat with a prewash stain remover or liquid laundry detergent. Wash using hottest water safe for fabric. Re-treat if necessary.
  • Candle wax: Scrape off with a dull knife. If wax remains, place linen between paper towels and press with warm iron. Replace paper towels as wax is absorbed.
  • Olive oil: Pretreat with a prewash stain remover or liquid laundry detergent. Wash using hottest water safe for the fabric. Don't machine-dry until stain is out.
  • Tomato sauce: Apply a prewash stain remover or liquid laundry detergent. Wash with liquid laundry detergent and a safe bleach at a safe water temperature.
  • Lipstick: Sponge or soak stain using cool water. Pretreat with stain remover or liquid laundry detergent. Launder with bleach safe for fabric.
  • Coffee or tea: Pretreat with stain remover or liquid laundry detergent or rub with bar soap. Launder as usual. Rewash if needed.
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