Cloth Napkins: Reasons to Switch from Paper

With my acceptance of the impermanence of things has come an increasing rejection of disposables, in particular paper napkins. For many years I’ve collected vintage kitchen linens which have amassed in my cupboards. I’ve been using my vintage tea towels for nine years now to dry my dishes after I moved here (no dishwasher), but napkins, however, were off-limits because I was worried about them getting stained. I enjoyed keeping them “new” and simply admired them from time to time except for use on special occasions. However, when I broke open the still packaged mid-century cloth napkins to use on the honeymoon harvest table earlier this week it got me thinking: Why not enjoy what I have right now? Isn’t being alive and well enough to eat and having a full plate of food a special occasion?! Isn’t that a way to not just say grace at a meal but show it?!

Pretty things don’t need to stay sealed and safe because life can get dirty.  It’s because life can get dirty that I want to stay clean, with style. 

Here are some other great reasons:

Cloth napkins are elegant. No matter how nice a paper napkin can be, it’s still just a paper napkin that kind of cheapens things at a special sit-down meal even though they don’t save money in the long run. Of course paper napkins have their place; moving forward we just don’t want that place to be at our table.

Cloth napkins are good for the earth. It means fewer toxic byproducts of paper napkin production in the environment and less garbage in our landfills.

Cloth napkins are retro and fun! Until the 1950s, paper napkins we’re the norm.

Cloth napkins are easy to maintain. Our napkins are 100% cotton or linen, and as long as I fold them straight from the dryer set to medium, wrinkling is minimal.

Cloth napkins are good old Yankee Thrift in practice. According to this calculator our cost for washing and drying a load a week is only about $25 a year. Since I launder these with the regular wash and line dry them the cost is even less!

Vintage and retro cloth napkins are pretty! We’re using colorful napkins that not only add flavor to a place setting but will help camouflage inevitable stains. 


8 thoughts on “Cloth Napkins: Reasons to Switch from Paper

  1. “Pretty things don’t need to stay sealed and safe because life can get dirty. It’s because life can get dirty that I want to stay clean, with style.” Averyl, I love this line! I completely agree!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve been using cloth napkins for years. I started mostly because I liked the look and a friend helped me to sew some. Now I can’t imagine using anything else. Older ones or ones that are red in colour are reserved for pasta night! Love your blog thoughts!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sarah! Thank you! I’m using our reds for pasta night, too.

      In the morning we used to use a folded paper towel for our oatmeal. A festive cloth napkin really helps brighten up breakfast. 🙂


  3. I remember our neighbour. She had to undergo minor surgery at the hospital and so she asked us to get her some towels from her bedroom cupboard: “But not the ones on the top shelve – they are too good.” I remember we laughed and shook our heads – she was 94 at the time! What exactly was she waiting for?

    But that little anecdote served as a lesson, because we became aware that we were acting quite similarly: we used an array of unattractive and cracked plates, a wild combination of cutlery, unsightly napery, drank wine from cheap glasses, used paper napkins instead of proper ones – because we always thought: “Now that’s far too good. Must save it for later”. Alright, I am not 94 yet, but at 59 (and my wife only a few years behind) we realize that we won’t have another 59 years to go. So now we we use our lovely china, the old English earthenware, our linnen, the old silverware from my grandmum, our crystal wineglasses – and not least of all the monogrammed napkins from my mum’s dowry…
    After all, that’s what they were made for – and the best way of appreciating them is to use them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Uli it’s so true! And for those who aren’t in their fifties and above, there are still no guarantees of tomorrow. Every day is a special occasion!


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