How To Ditch Your 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!
Do you ever use cloth napkins?
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