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Two months ago, my family made the switch from paper napkins to cloth.  If you’ve ever thought about making the switch, here’s everything you need to know.

Switching from paper napkins to cloth

The benefits of using cloth napkins

  • Better for the environment – fewer trees cut down to make paper napkins and less trash filling up our landfills.
  • Better quality – one cloth napkin will suffice for messy meals that usually require 2-3 paper napkins.
  • Save money – cloth napkins are a one-time upfront investment.  No expenses after that.

Deciding which cloth napkins to buy

I purchased 17″ polyester napkins from  They were rated 4.1 out of 5 stars and had over 150 reviews.

Since they’re made out of polyester, they’re very easy to clean.  (More info about how I wash them below.)

They’re durable, nicely made, and look great.  Since they’re made out of polyester, they don’t wrinkle and don’t require ironing.  (Yay!)  I have no problem using them with friends and family who eat at our house.

Three dozen cloth napkins has been plenty for our family of four.  We have never been close to running out.  It’s nice to have a lot though, because I don’t have to stress about washing them every single day.

How to use cloth napkins

Before this switch, we only used cloth napkins on holidays and special occasions.  I always felt a little bit nervous to make a mess on the napkins.

I haven’t felt that way at all using cloth napkins on a regular basis.  Seriously.  I’ve even blotted pizza grease with them.

I know that our cloth napkins are meant for cleaning our hands and messes at the table, so I don’t worry about stains.  However, I have to say that I love that our cloth napkins are dark and don’t have any stains at all yet!

My 2 year old and 3 year old adjusted seamlessly.  They didn’t even notice anything was different.

After we use our cloth napkins, we place them in a small trash can in our kitchen.  We have the trash can placed near the top of our basement stairs because our laundry is in the basement.  (Storing the trash can under the kitchen sink would also work great.)

Switching from paper napkins to cloth from @kellymcnelis

Cleaning cloth napkins

If you read my weekly cleaning schedule, you know that I try to do at least one load of laundry a day.  I wash our dirty cloth napkins right along with the rest of our dirty laundry.  The cloth napkins are small and can be split over several loads of laundry throughout the week, so I never feel like I’m doing any extra.

Some people might feel weird about washing their towels or clothes with cloth napkins, but it doesn’t bother me at all.  It’s not like our napkins are covered with wing sauce at every meal.  Most of the time you can barely tell that they’ve been used at all.  (Of course you can wash your napkins separately too.  I just prefer to run my laundry machine when it’s full, and that would require a whole heck of a lot of cloth napkins!)

If we eat something especially greasy or messy, I run the cloth napkins through a cold water rinse cycle in the washing machine first and then add the rest of the laundry and wash like normal.

(If I had linen or cotton napkins, I would probably need to soak them in water or wash ASAP after use to avoid stains.)

I wash our cloth napkins with the same laundry detergent that I use on the rest of our clothes.

Since the napkins are made out of polyester, they’re mostly dry when the come out of the washing machine. I either let them air-dry or throw them into the dryer for 30 minutes.  (I let the other laundry continue to dry beyond the 30 minutes.)

Final thoughts

I wish I would have made the switch sooner!

Using cloth napkins hasn’t totally cut out the need for paper in our kitchen.  I still buy paper towels, but I’m more conscious of using them and try to use them less often.  Maybe making the switch to re-usable paper towels will be my next challenge?

Do you use cloth napkins?  Are you considering the switch?  Please share in a comment below!


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