How To Ditch Your Paper Napkins

How To Ditch Paper Napkins |

Paper napkins. The staple of every American dining table.

So convenient and easy, right?

So, why would anyone want to use anything else?

We choose to use something different for several reasons:

  • Environmental- we try to avoid “use it and lose it” items in our household and on our homestead.
  • Financial- while paper napkins are not a huge expense, it definitely can add up over time.
  • Self Sufficiency- paper napkins is not something we can feasibly produce on our 10 acres!

The simple answer to each of these problems is- Cloth Napkins.

Cloth napkins are environmentally sound because they are made from easily renewable resources like linen or cotton, and they are reusable for years and years. Cloth napkins are significantly less expensive than the paper versions as well.

Lets take a family of four as an example. Assuming they use one napkin each for three meals a day (we aren’t even going to count snacks, or cleaning up messes, etc…)  then they will need almost 11 packs of these average cost paper napkins per year. That equals about $60 each year.

You can get a dozen of these cotton napkins for about $15, and they will have paid for themselves in about 3 months! Not to mention that you will be able to use them for YEARS to come!

In the self sufficiency category, cloth napkins are much more viable for us to produce here on the homestead. I could sew them myself from purchased cloth or a re-purposed garment, or we could even grow our own flax or cotton to make our own cloth! Self sufficiency at it’s best. 🙂

Still not convinced to ditch your paper napkins?

A lot of people worry about the “extra bother” of the care of cloth napkins.

It’s really quite simple, and doesn’t add to my work load in any measurable amount.

Here is how we use our cloth napkins:

I purchased a set of tan colored cotton napkins almost 4 years ago off of Amazon. We have used them EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. since then, and they are still going strong. I also found several sets on the clearance rack at Bed Bath and Beyond that someone had opened and returned. These are our “company napkins” that we only use when we have guests over for meals.

We each have our own napkin that we use each meal, and halfway through the week, we all get fresh napkins. If you are using a set of 12, this still leaves several extra “everyday” napkins to fall back on in case of spills, or super messy toddlers.

*I recommend using a wet dishcloth to clean up most toddler food messes! 🙂 Otherwise, you will be rolling through way too many cloth napkins.

I like to keep a clean dining room table, so we keep our napkins on the seat our respective chairs in between meals. I have seen some people use a basket, or hooks to store their napkins, or you could just leave them on the table at your place as well!

Around here, we do laundry once a week, so we always have a fresh supply of napkins to start our week with.

I wash them with our other laundry loads, using my homemade laundry detergent. 8 napkins make no difference in how many loads I do each week! 🙂

When company comes, we break out the less frequently used sets. I recommend getting a couple sets that can mix and match well together in case of larger crowds. These can be set around the table in a casual or formal place setting, or they can be stacked in a pile at the end of a buffet line.

A word on colors and materials.

For everyday use napkins, I highly recommend using a medium-dark color or print, and a cotton or linen fabric.

The darker color or print helps to hide small stains, and cotton and linen are much more absorbent than polyester. (ours are relatively stain free even after 4 years!)

For “company napkins” you can get a little more fancy with colors and fabrics.

Polyester is ok here since it isn’t going to be used as much, but we still prefer the feel of the cotton or linen. We have sets of white, navy, and gold/brown company napkins, and they are super fun to use! Just keep in mind what color of dishes and dining room decor you have when purchasing or making your cloth napkins.

If you want to make your own cloth napkins, they are incredibly easy. Basically just a large square of fairly heavy fabric that is hemmed all around. Most napkins are about 20″x20″ after they are hemmed.

It may take a couple meals to get used to using only cloth napkins, but I promise, you will fall in love with it.

Cloth napkins make even the simplest meals feel a bit more luxurious. Once you get accustomed to using them, you will be so glad you ditched you paper napkins!

My 10 year old step son was not a big fan for the first few weeks, but he quickly became a convert and is now a full blown “napkin snob”!

Cloth napkins are definitely one of my favorite ways to reduce waste here on our homestead!

How To Ditch Paper Napkins |

Do you ever use cloth napkins?


This post has been shared at Thrifty Thursday, Friday FavoritesTuesdays With a Twist, The Homestead Blog Hop, Down Home Blog Hop, The Home Acre Hop, Simple Lives, The Pin Junkie, Freedom Fridays, From the Farm Hop, Old Fashioned Fridays, Simple Saturdays, Simply Natural Saturdays, Wildcrafting Wednesday, and The Art of Homemaking

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11 responses to “How To Ditch Your Paper Napkins”

  1. Bethany says:

    We have been using cloth napkins at my home for about 15 years. For large crowds we fall back on paper. Some guests mistakenly think that we must be wealthy to use cloth when we see it as being frugal. Most of our napkins are about 10 yrs old and still working!

  2. Pam says:

    I have been using cloth napkins for about a year now. I bought mine at a garage sale so I don’t know how old they are but they still look great. Since I’ve been using them I don’t even like the feeling of paper napkins!

  3. Wildchildwandering says:

    When my 4 children were little back in the 80’s, I bought several packages (dozen each) of waffle weave 100 % cotton dishcloths and we used these for napkins. They were cheap enough back then that I had several dozen and they would stand up to hot water and bleach wash after wash. Now it is just my husband and myself, we had gotten back into the paper napkin habit. Definitely need to switch back to cloth. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. I didn’t until about 6 months ago. I was trying to find ways to save and started writing everything I bought down. I noticed I spent a large amount of money on paper towels (we go through a roll a day), so after that I made the switch. I am never looking back. It did take a little getting use to but now I prefer cloth.

  5. Daniela says:

    When I was growing up we always used cloth napkins at home and I always liked the feel of the cotton napkins. Then I had kids who thought there was nothing wrong with using up (i.e. messing up) one cloth napkin per meal, so we fell back on paper napkins. Inspired by your post, I tried to establish cloth napkins today (I still have a pile of napkins from before, plus a bunch from my mom and my greatgrandmother which are embroidered by hand and about 100 years old – I love those!). The kids were surprised at first, but they accepted the change, and I think they’ll come to love the cloth napkins soon. Thanks to your blog post! 🙂

  6. Jendi says:

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because my family has grown much more dependent on paper napkins. Not sure if I’m ready to take the jump, but maybe soon. I’m glad you shared this!

  7. L Allison says:

    I’ve been enjoying cloth napkins for at least five years now. I often find them at thrift stores for .25 or .50 cents. I also bought a collection of napkin rings at thrift stores and that is how we store out napkins that are in use, on the table.

  8. JES says:

    Hurray for cloth napkins 🙂 We have been cloth only for the last 5 years. Great article! Thank you for sharing on the Art of Home-Making Mondays this week Angi!

  9. I did for years. They wore out and I didn’t replace them. I need to.

  10. KATHY HODGES says:

    I DO THIS AND I ALSO DO THE SAME FOR PAPER TOWEL USE. I KEEP A HUGE STACK OF CLEAN HAND TOWELS AND WHITE WASHCLOTHES IN MY KITCHEN. WE STILL HAVE PAPER TOWELS BUT I PREFER CLOTH AND WE USE VERY LITTLE. I PICK UP NAPKINS AT YARDSALES AND THRIFT STORES. I also keep a tub of cut up cloth from old clothing to use when there is something we clean and want to just throw the cloth away….saves on washing and scrubbing.

  11. Sherrie says:

    Thanks. I’ve been considering the change for some time now, but couldn’t get past the idea of all the extra water and electricity that would be used for laundering them. I realize now that my misconception was in thinking one napkin would be used by each person for each meal. Now that the idea of reusing the napkins for more than one meal is the key here, it makes complete sense. We already reuse bath towels, so why not napkins? My brain just wasn’t connecting the dots. Thanks for doing that for me. I’m going to start sewing up napkins asap and will give it a try.

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