A Pretty Basket Full of Napkins

Guest post by Joanna Rodriguez at Plus Other Good Stuff

When we got married in 2006, we received twelve lovely green cloth napkins. We were living in married student housing and had a tiny table that only fit the two of us. I thought, when am I ever going to use these? We are certainly not having 10 people over for a fancy dinner anytime soon.

I was just starting to embrace healthy living and trying to waste less, so at some point it dawned on me that we could actually use them everyday. I also realized that this would save us money, which we had very little of. And so we began using cloth napkins every day. And we haven’t looked back!

Excuses for Not Using Cloth Napkins

Are you resistant to the idea of using cloth napkins? Maybe some of these thoughts are running through your mind…

Excuse #1: “Cloth napkins are expensive.”

Maybe some are, but there are plenty to be found in thrift stores for mere pennies, and if you’re crafty you can repurpose some fabric that you already have. And it will, of course, save you money in the long run since you won’t be buying disposable napkins anymore!

Excuse #2: “I don’t have time for any more laundry.”

I know, neither do I. Read on to find out how to make this work without adding to your mountain of laundry.

Excuse #3: “Won’t they get stained?”

Yes, they will. And that’s ok. Save special ones for company if you want, and don’t worry about stains on your everyday napkins.

Making it Practical

Over time I’ve streamlined our system so that using cloth napkins doesn’t take any more effort than buying and using paper ones. Here’s what I do:

At every meal, we each get a cloth napkin. If it’s dirty at the end of the meal, we throw it in this bag I have hanging on the doorknob to the basement stairs. (That’s also the home for dirty kitchen towels, dish rags, and washcloths used to wipe down the toddler after meals. We make sure to only put dry rags and towels in there, so they don’t get mildewy.)

If a napkin is not dirty enough to wash, it stays on the table to be used again at the next meal. (Since only my husband and I are using them, it’s easy to keep track of whose is whose. But if you have a larger family, try keeping not-so-dirty napkins on the chair of the person who used it.)

When we are running low on clean napkins, I take the contents of the bag down to the basement and throw it in the washer.The napkins are washed with dish rags and kitchen towels, so I’m not doing an extra load just for napkins. We have many more than 12 now (all gathered from thrift stores), so we can go about a week between washings.

Once they are clean and dry, I separate the load into napkins, dish rags, and kitchen towels. My two-year-old loves to help sort them! I have a plastic bin or basket for each that goes in a designated spot in the kitchen. Here’s my secret:

I don’t fold them.

I just shove them in. I used to fold them, and then I had a baby. Since we mostly use them for our own family, there is no point to keeping wrinkles out. And even when people come over, we are casual enough that I just fold the wrinkled napkins when I set the table. So now you know my other secret:

I don’t iron them. 

Hospitality and Cloth Napkins

When we invite people into our home, one thing I want them to know is that our family is not perfect. I want to invite them into a peaceful, tidy home, but I also want them to see that we are real people, with real wrinkles in our napkins. I hope that if they see that we are real people, they won’t be afraid to share their real selves with us. So be encouraged, you can use cloth napkins, even for company!

Another tip: if you use napkin rings, the wrinkles are a lot less offensive. ;)

Not convinced yet? 

Besides being frugal and sustainable, here are a few more fun reasons to use cloth napkins:

1. They are beautiful.

2. They are soft.

3. You get to pick your favorite colors!

4. They work a lot better than flimsy paper ones.

5. They make every meal special.

Just one step I take to keep our home green, simple, and frugal.

Do you use cloth napkins? Why or why not?

Joanna Rodriguez is the wife of a future pastor and the mother of two adorable kids, Caedmon and Esther.  She is passionate about Jesus, real food, natural childbirth, breastfeeding, non-toxic living, and the art of dance. As a mostly stay-at-home-mom, she currently spends her days covered in spit-up and surrounded by Tinkertoys. She writes about real food in a positive and welcoming way at Plus Other Good Stuff.

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

84 Responses to A Pretty Basket Full of Napkins

  1. Heather September 25, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    Hi, I also love your idea and have been using cloth napkins for over 25 years now. We have 2 different sets of napkins in our house. One for everyday use and one for holidays. If we have people over for a dinner that is not a holiday meal I just give them the better ones. I also won’t use them for things like ribs, I’m sorry to say we use paper towels for that. Plus, I’m a “little” OCD so they have to be folded, but I do that when I watch television. I like the fact as well that they help make a full load of kitchen linen for the laundry. I had another idea I wanted to share with everyone with regards to napkin rings. My mom used to sell Avon and acquired many rings along the way and we now use them as napkin rings. Everyone has their favourite and we’re reminded of my mom every time we use them.

  2. k hayes March 6, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    I know this is an old post but wanted to add this anyway. Our home is rustic cabin and we use bandanas for napkins. They are cheap, the colors and prints and great and kids love them.

  3. Kelly August 24, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Just noticed this post. I made cloth napkins a few years ago from a package of flour sack towels I found at Sam’s club. They are huge, so I cut them in fourths and hemmed. That way, I got 48 napkins for like $10.00! They are white and stain, but we don’t care.

    Love the idea of not folding them. Why did I never think of that? I have 3 small children and am expecting #4, I would love less work!

    • Joanna @ Plus Other Good Stuff September 6, 2012 at 4:36 am #

      Kelly, how economical! That’s a great idea for every day napkins. And if anyone had a reason to not fold them, it’s you! Be free!

  4. Karen August 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    Thanks to this post and everyone’s comments, I too now have a basket full of napkins on my dining table. I made some (cotton on one side and flannel on the other) from scrap fabric and old receiving blankets. I also bought some really inexpensive ones from Crate and Barrel (thanks to the poster who suggested this!) And I bought a cheap 12 pack from Tuesday Morning (an overstock discount store).

    • Joanna @ Plus Other Good Stuff September 6, 2012 at 4:37 am #

      Karen, that’s wonderful! I’m so glad this post and this community encouraged you to take the plunge. Isn’t it fun?

  5. amy August 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    we cloth napkin here.. family of 5.. my 5 yr old folds them.. wash weekly. some homemade, some from tablecloth sets.. only alternative at my house… baby wipes/toilet paper.. and most of the time my baby wipes are cloth.. lol

    • Joanna @ Plus Other Good Stuff September 6, 2012 at 4:38 am #

      That’s great that it’s your child’s job to fold them. And yes – we use cloth baby wipes too. They are great to have at a restaurant for wiping sticky hands and faces!

  6. Mallory R. August 14, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    We’ve used cloth napkins for a while now and I can’t imagine going back to paper! I make my own with terry cloth on one side and pretty cotton fabric on the other in 10X10 inch squares. This way they are extra absorbent for little messy eaters and can be used as washcloths too. We just fold ours in half and stick them in a drawer in the kitchen. Here’s a link to make easy ones: http://immeasurablegrace.blogspot.com/2012/06/easy-diy-cloth-paper-towels.html

    • Joanna @ Plus Other Good Stuff September 6, 2012 at 4:39 am #

      Mallory, those are SO cute!! I don’t have a working sewing machine at the moment, but I’m going to pin that for later!

  7. Barbara August 14, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    We’ve been using cloth napkins for several years now and we love it. However, I think that some of our dinner guests just don’t know what to think about it – we get strange looks; some don’t even pick up the napkin! I have a 3-tiered basket next to the table where folded, but not ironed, napkins are stacked in the bottom two tiers. There are only 4 of us, so we each fold our napkin a different way and they get placed in the top tier of the basket. We use them for a day (sometimes 2 or 3 if we’re not eating messy things!) before sending them to the special basket in the laundry room. We have about 40 napkins so I can honestly say it’s not more work. Here’s a hint: when you take the napkins off the line or out of the dryer, lay them flat. Maybe you could find a square basket where you could keep them that way and you won’t have to fold or disguise wrinkles :-)

    • Joanna @ Plus Other Good Stuff September 6, 2012 at 4:42 am #

      That is a good tip! Although some of mine come out of the dryer wrinkled. But I don’t mind!

  8. Erika August 13, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    We love our cloth napkins! Crate and Barrel occasionally has them on sale for .99 so we’ve been picking some up here and there to add to our collection. One of son’s “jobs” is to get the napkins out before dinner and when guests come, he helps selects a special one for each person.

    • Joanna @ Plus Other Good Stuff September 6, 2012 at 4:35 am #

      That is so sweet. How old is your son? Mine is almost three and I’ve been wanting to start finding little jobs to give him. He’s a great little helper!

  9. Sara August 13, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    I use them and love them! I always keep a small square laundry basket on top of my washer to throw in dish towels, cleaning rags, etc, so we just throw the napkins in with those. I usually ask for new ones around Christmas time and it’s fun to see prints and colors that family members pick out. I like an eclectic collection :)

    • Joanna @ Plus Other Good Stuff September 6, 2012 at 4:34 am #

      I like an eclectic collection, too! My favorites are some simple off-white ones that came from the house my grandmother grew up in. I’m glad I could put them to good use!

  10. Nancy August 12, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    I started use cloth napkins 30 years ago because those huge packages of paper napkins took up too much space. I make my own usually with a simple hem on my sewing machine. You can do a mitred hem with directions from Martha Stewart! I also use micro fiber wash clothes for messy meals. They come in fun colors in bulk in the auto department at Walmart. They don’t seem to stain as easily.

  11. Rachel August 12, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    I grew up using cloth napkins and now use them with my family too. We have several different napkin rings that are all unique, no two that look exactly the same, each family member has their own napkin ring so you always know who’s is who’s. As a child I LOVED having something like this that was mine, and I know my kids will like it when they are older too. It also helps you know where you are supposed to sit at the table after it’s set!

    • Joanna @ Plus Other Good Stuff September 6, 2012 at 4:32 am #

      Rachel, I love the different napkin rings idea. Great idea for making meals special for kids, too!

  12. sarah August 12, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    i line dry our cloth napkins. this helps get the stains out (the sun is way more effective than chemicals for this purpose!) and gives them a nice crisp and non-wrinkled look without ironing (i rarely iron anything, and certainly never napkins!)

    • Joanna @ Plus Other Good Stuff September 6, 2012 at 4:30 am #

      Sarah, great idea – we live in a townhouse with no good place to line dry. But someday, I hope to line dry most of our laundry. Good tip!

  13. Erin August 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    We’ve used cloth napkins for close to 7 years now and my husband is so spoiled by them that we can’t even go on vacation without bringing some along! Our stash is getting pretty nasty, though, after 7 years of use, so I’m now getting ready to sew some “company” ones with material from an old dress of my mother’s. Keeping my eyes peeled at thrift stores, too.

    Love the idea of a bag on the doorknob for kitchen dirties! Why did I never think of that?! Brilliant. :] Much better than a pile of dirty linens on the counter top.

    And I am totally going to discontinue folding my napkins. Time waster! You have liberated me, Joanna. :] And I gave up on pressing them about a month after we started using them. I do still press the napkins for company, though, and just keep them set aside to pull out when needed.

  14. Jodie August 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    We’ve always used cloth napkins. In our home growing up, my mother would use terry cloth washrags. I was the youngest of 6 children, so we saved a lot of money never using paper. Since we always ate at the same place at the table, they didn’t get mixed up until they were washed. With my own family we’ve started doing what my mom did: clipping each with a wooden clothespin with our name on it. That way if they get mixed up while wiping off the table, we still know whose is whose. Our family tradition has become that if anyone spends the night with us, they get a clothespin with their name on it. We keep them in a box and have fun looking at who all have been guests in our home.

    • Joanna @ Plus Other Good Stuff September 6, 2012 at 4:29 am #

      Jodie, I love that tradition! So sweet! I’ll keep that in mind for when we have more to keep track of. :)

  15. Emmie August 10, 2012 at 3:56 am #

    This is such an encouraging post. I have, in the past, gotten a lot of negative response about using cloth as we use more than just cloth napkins. Right now I still use a mix of both, but hope to grow my cloth napkin supply so I only use paper napkins on rare occasion. Thank you for this!

    • Joanna @ Plus Other Good Stuff September 6, 2012 at 4:28 am #

      Glad it was an encouragement to you, Emmie! We still use paper napkins once in awhile, too. Usually when guests come over and I don’t have enough clean ones to go around! :)

  16. Cherry August 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    We used to use cloth napkins until I realized my children were throwing them away! I would love to go back to it, but I really don’t want another thing to have to police at meal time. Digging through kitchen trash isn’t very appealing. :)

    • Joanna @ Plus Other Good Stuff September 6, 2012 at 4:43 am #

      Cherry, Agh, that would have been a pain! Digging through trash is never fun! Maybe one of your children could be in charge of making sure the napkins get in the right place?

  17. TrinaHolden August 9, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    I love this line “I used to fold them, and then I had a baby” LOL that is the truth, isn’t it? And your confession helps us all to rejoice in what’s really important in this season.

    I just love this. I’m totally pulling out the cloth napkins again.

  18. leesa August 9, 2012 at 7:12 am #

    We use cloth napkins. We found black ones at Target. No worries about stains :) .

  19. Alison August 9, 2012 at 6:51 am #

    We use cloth napkins as well – and I found some really cute ones online. Check out the post I did on them:

    http://attheendofthedrive.blogspot.com/2012/05/cloth-napkins.html

    Have a great day!
    Alison

  20. Elizabeth Eng August 9, 2012 at 5:23 am #

    We use cloth napkins, also. I switched because I was tired of being wasteful. Plus, they are a lot prettier.

    I fold mine, because I am a spaz, and I like things folded. If I was single and never had a guest, they would still be folded. It’s for me, and my sense of peace. I fully support others who have a folding aversion, though. ; )

    Mine are 18 inches square. I have a house filled with messy boys. We use every bit of those 18 inches. I requested the napkins as my Christmas gift from my best friend, who is a quilter. (I highly recommend getting one of those – a friend who quilts) She dug through her scrap pile and made the napkins from a variety of cotton wovens that match my kitchen colors. She has a serger, so she cut the fabric to 18 inches square, then serged the sides. They could be hemmed, though. Even by hand. I have had to mend a few by hand, and it works.

    The napkins are in a fun bowl on the table, serving as the center piece.

    No one has balked at using them. Perhaps because they already boast so many stains. Perhaps I’m odd, but there is a small comfort that comes from faintly stained napkins. As I’m typing, though, I realize that my stains don’t jump out as badly because my napkins all have patterns on them. No solid colors for us. Patterned material adds artistry and blends the stains.

  21. Anita Chamblee August 9, 2012 at 3:59 am #

    We’ve used cloth napkins for years! I just wanted to tell you that I have a Caedmon, too!! My Caedmon is the youngest of 7 and will be 4 in October. He is Caedmon Alexander which together means brave warrior defending men. And he loves music (dh and I both have masters’ degrees in music, all of his older siblings play piano and/or violin and one of his biggest sisters is a Suzuki violin instructor). Do you have the book Caedmon’s Song written by Ruth Ashby? I found it at Greenleaf Press just before my Caaedmon was born. It tells the story of the first Caedmon!

    • Joanna @ plus other good stuff August 9, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

      Anita, too cool! you don’t meet too many other Caedmons. I’ll have to check out that book! Such a great name. :)

  22. Mikaela August 8, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    This seems like it should be an obvious idea, but it is rocking my world! Never considered cloth napkins in everyday life, and I’m loving the thought! Thanks for the practical tips.

  23. Kory August 8, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    Cloth napkins rock! We use them very much like you do, no folding, no ironing. Lots of stains. It does weird people out sometimes, like they don’t want to get them dirty (I think we’ve been trained that cloth napkins are something fancy), but we don’t have any paper for them to use (cloth towels, cloth rags, cloth tissues, etc) so the people who come over often enough get used to it ;)

  24. Megan August 8, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    I loved this post because I love cloth napkins, and need the occasional reminder to keep using the ones we have!

    We have a pretty cute napkin ring system already in place–everyone has their own napkin ring, each one being unique, from a garage sale or clearance sale, etc. It saves on laundry since we also reuse our napkins if they’re not that dirty. And everyone knows which one is theirs.

    But the best tips I’m gleaning from this post are:
    -not having to fold them
    -keeping them in a basket for easy grabbing (brilliant!)
    -making them slightly smaller than typical size

    Thank you so much!

    • Kory August 8, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

      I think Amanda Soule (soulemama) does the different napkin rings for each person too. Suck a cute idea!

  25. Kim August 8, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

    I’ve exclusively used cloth napkins for at least a decade. A friend’ s mom kept hers in a beautiful pottery bowl, so I do the same. I don’t use paper towels either – I have cloths specifically for wiping up messes. They are gross looking, so keep them in a cupboard. I just throw it all in with my towel run once a week or the dirty kids clothes. I was doing it when I met my husband, so my family doesn’t resist, neither do friends. They all know it is how I keep our home, and most friends end up with their own bowl of napkins in their kitchens. ;) Of course, I live in a progressively green city, so that helps.

  26. Katie M August 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    We switched to cloth napkins a few months ago, and we will never go back. I actually like that they’re so big, because if one section gets dirty, I just re-fold it to put the dirty side on the inside, and have a new, clean section to use. And I wash them with towels. Whenever we have friends over and they ask for a napkin, they are wierded out when we hand them a cloth napkin, but most of them have gotten used to it now. But cloth is so much cheaper in the long run. I hate buying things whose sole purpose is to be used once and thrown away. I feel like I may as well be using dollar bills than paper napkins, paper towels, etc. I’d rather do the laundry than throw away my dollar bills :)

  27. Susan August 8, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    My mother has used cloth napkins for years. You have give me inspiration to make some for my family of 6 and for my mother for Christmas. Thanks!!

  28. Karen August 8, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    I would also like to make my own but don’t know what material is best. I use washcloths for the kids at mealtimes, but I’d like to use something a little nicer for us. Thanks for posting this! The thought crossed my mind a while ago but I forgot about it. Paper napkins are such a waste. I started buying the ones at the dollar store to save money, but they are thin and small.

    • Joanna @ plus other good stuff August 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

      It’s true that the paper ones are flimsy! Cloth does a way better job at cleaning your hands, that’s for sure. As for material I’d say cotton is best – I’ve ever heard of people cutting up old sheets for napkins!

  29. Allegra August 8, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    Yay! We use cloth napkins too!! It didn’t seem right to use the larger ones… they barely get dirty (when an adult uses them) and I couldn’t keep track of them when we tried to re-use them. So I bought baby towels online! So we use the little baby towels for napkins!! I LOVE them! Perfect size.

    Thanks for this post! It’s important to try to conserve where we can.

  30. SusanSusan August 8, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    We only use cloth!! I had some old drapes that I cut up and sewed into napkins that are perfect! We do have some nicer ones for guests, but they know we’re normal (not perfect) and live us just the same!!

  31. Jenni August 8, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    We use cloth napkins with our family of 5 and we love it! They work much better at cleaning up messy hands for our little ones and we can all pick the color we want.

  32. Megan August 8, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    I have tried cloth napkins, and we use them occasionally. I do the same thing, just throw them in with my kitchen towels to wash them. I haven’t found them to be a hassel at all, and would rather do that then throw away expensive paper products! But I have found, like Ami, that it makes company uncomfortable. They will ignore the cloth napkins, get up, and grab a paper towel instead :( Oh well!

    • Melinda August 15, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

      We finally put the paper towels up on a high shelf put of sight. It was so effective at preventing guests (and ourselves) from using them that we now go through less than one roll of paper towels per year!

      I took regular size napkins we were gifted for our wedding and cut/sewed them in fourths. We got four times as many napkins and they are a much better size (9×9″) and small enough to stack, without folding.

      We throw our dirty napkins straight in the washer and wash them with whatever else will be laundered that day (except diapers).

  33. rachel g August 8, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    We only use cloth! You can find them super cheap in clearance at many stores. We do the same thing—-reuse if they aren’t too dirty. My tip: just buy a lot of them. That way you don’t ever run low. Granted, we wash at least one load of laundry a day, so there’s always room to throw in a few napkins. GREAT JOB on this blog post, girl!

  34. Kristy August 8, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    I do use cloth napkins, all the time! In fact, my kids think paper ones are fancy!

    I use smaller ones for everyday, and the standard cloth napkin size for Sundays and company. Yes, on Sunday, even when it is just us, especially when it is just us I put a table cloth on the table and use fancy napkins and tea candles. It makes the day more special…and I even iron the Sunday napkins.

    • Joanna @ plus other good stuff August 9, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

      Kristy, I love the idea of making Sunday special. Too often I’m just in a hurry to get food on the table and forget to really value the time we spend together at the table.

  35. Becki August 8, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    We use cloth napkins as well. When started making the move towards healthier and lower-waste living, I already had them from my wedding. Now I have also picked some up at the thrift store, and people know that we use them, so they pass them on to us too. I’m sharing this post on Twitter because I think it’s really great! Thanks!

  36. Amanda Welborn August 8, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    Such a great idea. Seems so simple, yet I have never thought of it. I will keep my eye out for some. Thanks for posting:-)

  37. Lo August 8, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    I may just try them now! Your post push me over the ledge. Thanks!

  38. Kate August 8, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    I have toyed with this idea so often, especially as of late, my two year old is very “weird” about napkins, she’ll use it once and throw it on the floor saying she needs another one, we go through napkins like nobody’s business because of this. I think you’ve given me the push I needed though to go ahead and switch over!!!

  39. ElleBee August 8, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    When I was little, we used cloth napkins. I remember thinking they were the most beautiful things in the world. My mom had calico in various colors, and each family member had a different color. Worked really well!

  40. Lisa August 8, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    We recently started using cloth napkins when I found a 12-pack on sale at Target for $1.99! In hindsight, I wish I would’ve picked up several more! I love the idea of using washclothes too!

  41. Denee August 8, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    I cut ours into quarters and hemmed them up, so they’re much smaller. They fit in our napkin holder (for disposable napkins) and don’t warrant any folding at all, since they’re smaller. We found the size of regular cloth napkins was overkill for us.

  42. Anna August 8, 2012 at 6:26 am #

    I gathered them and then removed paper napkins from our kitchen. My husband resisted so much I had to put the paper ones back. :( I still have them and hope I can give them another try sometime. He is usually so supportive of all of my efforts so his resistance threw me. I will say that I found some soft washclothes on clearance and those are my favorite of all of the napkins. They are square with a design for so they don’t look as much like washclothes and look like deluxe napkins.

  43. Morgan August 8, 2012 at 6:11 am #

    I’ve always used cloth napkins, and one day a friend came over and was amazed because she’d only ever seen the ones you use at a wedding or restaurant and couldn’t understand how they would work. I also don’t understand those, the polyester/shiny/nothing sticks to them napkins. I guess they wash up well since they don’t really get dirty. But letting them get stained and using good sturdy cotton are my secrets too.

  44. Rachel August 8, 2012 at 5:53 am #

    I keep my kitchen laundry under my sink in an extra kitchen garbage can… I am short on space under there and I like the cute bag on the door handle idea…. I may have to try that!

    • Erin August 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

      Oh, Rachel, this is a great idea too! I had never thought of the bag on the door for dirties, either, but I actually think I might like your idea more. :]

  45. Rachel August 8, 2012 at 5:27 am #

    I’m convinced! Now to get me some cloth napkins… :)

  46. Ellen August 8, 2012 at 4:29 am #

    We use cloth napkins for our family of four. The easiest way I have found to keep still-clean ones straight between meals is to have a different napkin ring for each person. I keep our napkins in a drawer in our pantry (it is my four year old’s job to fold them!) and if they are still clean after a meal they go back in the drawer in their ring. That ensures the right person gets it the next meal, but doesn’t leave them lying around the kitchen (they wouldn’t stay in the right place anyway, with toddlers about!).

    I found plain wooden rings on Etsy and painted them different colors to go with our kitchen. Each family member has a color.

    • Rachel August 8, 2012 at 5:20 am #

      That’s a great idea! We also use cloth napkins and since I hang our laundry to dry they come off pretty wrinkle free and it’s easy to fold them with everything else. I also just put them in whatever load I’m doing, whether clothes OR towels, so they get cleaned quickly and a few napkins in a load doesn’t change it’s size noticeably!

    • Joanna @ plus other good stuff August 8, 2012 at 7:57 am #

      I love the color coded napkin ring idea!

    • Julia August 8, 2012 at 10:09 am #

      My husband and I use the color coded rings too. We keep them in a basket near the table which also contains a trivet and the salt & pepper.

    • Megan August 8, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

      That’s exactly what we do–everyone has their own napkin ring, even the littlest eaters. They seem to get a kick out of it, and it helps them set the table too!

      Our napkin ring collection is made up of fun garage sale and clearance sale finds, so none of them match in color, shape or design. And it makes a surprisingly cute table!

  47. Ami August 8, 2012 at 4:04 am #

    We fold our napkins because they are the easiest things for 2 & 3 year olds to fold. But you don’t have to fold them – they’re just great for easing kids into laundry folding!

    Since our laundry room is adjacent to the kitchen and we do laundry daily, we just go ahead and wash napkins with every load of appropriate color that we do. We have 5 napkin users and less than 15 everyday napkins.

    When guests come to our house they don’t know what to do about the cloth napkins. They don’t get the concept of leaving napkins and cups at the place setting for later (dessert) use. They also think we are going to extra trouble for them, not realizing how practical cloth napkins really are. For these reasons, my husband prefers using paper napkins for guests. Isn’t that weird?

    • Erin August 10, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

      We’ve also noticed that guests find it very uncomfortable to use cloth napkins (for whatever reason). And I don’t think your husband is weird at all! My husband determined that we would have paper available for guests (only), but leave the cloth napkins out, too. We ALWAYS go for the cloth ourselves. :] We actually bought one of those restaurant paper napkin dispensers that allows you to place an advertisement in a side slot. When guests are on their way we slip a personalized love message into the slot just for them. It’s become a fun little unexpected treat for visiting friends and family! And we save the messages to use the next time those same guests come around. Even more reducing and reusing! :]

  48. Gina August 8, 2012 at 3:12 am #

    I also use them to fold my husbands sanwiches for work. Saves on plastic and keeps them from being mushy. We are a family of 9 so you can imagine the # of cloth napkins we keep around:) We have found many creative uses for them.

    • Kristen in NH August 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

      I would like to make a few sets of cloth napkins.
      What is the recommended material type? Suggested “perfect” size?
      Many thanks!

      • Julie Gogel August 8, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

        I recently just purchased mine of of etsy. You can type in reusable napkins or reusable paper towels. There are many different types and prices to match your needs. I also got an “unpaper” towels house to stuff mine into instead of using basket. Hope that helps!

      • Joanna @ plus other good stuff August 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

        Kristen I would suggest a good sturdy cotton, and others have commented that patterns help to hide stains. My favorite ones are about 12″ squares.