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Napkins Buying Guide

Available in a variety of colors, patterns, and textures, cloth napkins are an easy way to update and personalize the look of your table without buying new dishes. They make even everyday meals feel special, and whatever their color, they’re "greener" than paper napkins. 

Types of Napkins

Types of Napkins

Fabric is the primary difference between cloth napkins. Your most common choices are linen, cotton, polyester, and blends of these three. Each fiber or weave has its pros and cons, and each is practical in some dining situations.

Linen

Classic linen napkins provide a high-quality look, and natural linen’s long fibers are absorbent and durable. However, napkins made from this fabric often cost the most and involve the most care.

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Hoffmaster

The look and feel of real linen in an absorbent, convenient disposable. Line-Like is a high quality convenient replacement for lin...en. Linen-Like is ultra soft, noticeably thicker and much more absorbent than real linen. One napkin will last an entire... read more

Hoffmaster

The look and feel of real linen in an absorbent, convenient disposable. Line-Like is a high quality convenient replacement for lin...en. Linen-Like is ultra soft, noticeably thicker and much more absorbent than real linen. One napkin will last an entire... read more

Hoffmaster

Hoffmaster offers a complete line of environmentally preferable Linen-Like Natural products. 55% recycled fibers 40% postconsumer ...waste EPA approved read more

Hoffmaster

Hoffmaster offers a complete line of environmentally preferable Linen-Like Natural products. 55% recycled fibers 40% postconsumer ...waste EPA approved read more

Cotton

For everyday use, 100 percent cotton napkins boast many colors and patterns and offer a softer feel than linen napkins.

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ferm LIVING

Dress your table in style with these Splash Cotton Napkins by Ferm Living. Available in two colors, the modern splash design will ...add a touch of glamour to festive holiday decor. Made from 100% cotton these napkins are sold as a set of four in either... read more

Synthetic Blends

Although napkins made from polyester and other synthetic fibers are handy for casual family meals, they are not as absorbent and feel less substantial than natural-fiber napkins.

Other Materials

Fabrics such as silk, satin, or lace make elegant -- although less durable -- napkins for special-occasion dinners.

Purchase Considerations

Purchase Considerations

When shopping for cloth napkins, set your priorities based on how they will be used. There are so many choices and price levels that you might want to buy some napkins primarily for dinner parties and others for casual, everyday meals.

Color & Pattern

For formal occasions, start with napkins that match your tablecloth -- generally white or ivory. For informal use, you can be creative in mixing colors and patterns, but keep your other table linens, dinnerware, and the room’s decor in mind. For example, if your dinnerware has a pattern, solid-color napkins take a supporting role. On the other hand, you can accent plain white dinnerware with patterned or textured napkins. Also consider your menu and diners: Serving pasta or pizza to children? Use napkins in a stain-hiding print or dark color. For supplemental napkin sets, have fun with holiday themes or decorative trims.

Care

Cloth napkins make the best impression when they’re clean and crisp. Check labels for care instructions. All napkins -- except perhaps for silk, satin, and lace -- should be machine-washable. Linen, cotton, and linen/cotton-blend napkins look better after ironing, while synthetic-fiber linens are less prone to wrinkles.

Size

Cocktail napkins range from 6 to 10 inches square. Napkins for sit-down meals are intended to protect your lap from spills and stains, so they measure 18 to 24 inches square. Some specialty linen stores sell larger “European-size” napkins.

Quantity

Stock up on at least a dozen cocktail napkins if you throw parties. Luncheon and dinner napkins are often sold in sets of four. Assume you’ll need one napkin for each place setting, then add more in case of accidents. Have backup sets on hand for use when others are being laundered.

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