I’m pretty sure I was way too harsh with my grandmother when she sweetly suggested using paper napkins for Thanksgiving this year instead of cloth. She was just looking out for me; I was almost 9 months pregnant, confined to a wheelchair due to a broken foot, and we were expecting eleven people to be there. But no. I wouldn’t budge. Cloth napkins were a must. (Sorry again, Mammaw. Love you.)
Here are eight reasons I love using cloth napkins and I think you might want to consider using them too:
1. They are soft.
They feel wonderful on my face and, I'd imagine, the faces of my guests. If you have to wipe off an embarrassing smudge of food, you may as well be comfortable.
2. They are extremely cost effective.
The only time I've spent money on paper napkins in three years was when we moved and my cloth napkins weren't accessible. With a couple user-error exceptions, all my napkins (of which many are hand-me-downs) are in excellent shape. Maybe I'll have to refresh my batch in ten years, but that's not bad at all.
3. They're efficient for sopping up spills, messes, or condensation.
Paper napkins just dissolve and the guilty party ends up making a scene and being embarrassed. Cloth napkins help make mess-cleaning subtle.
4. They look classy and show that mealtimes are important and taken seriously.
I only fold my napkins into a rectangle and they're basic cotton---no fancy embellishments---but when we sit at the table, even just for breakfast, I really think the table looks set. This communicates to my family and guests a) I'm glad you're here and you're worth my best, b) Mealtimes are important, and c) There is a clear beginning and ending to mealtimes and we all share the meal together.
5. Cloth napkins are better for the environment.
No paper waste!
6. They don't take a lot more work.
Cloth diapers, I'll admit, take a lot more work. I use disposables far more often than I’d like to because they're much easier. But cloth napkins are so low-maintenance that it's not even a question whether they're "worth it" to me or not, since I just add them to the dirty load of laundry and do a little extra folding. Each napkin takes three folds and about three seconds, by the way. If you add up a week’s worth of cloth napkins it takes about five minutes of extra labor. And it’s not even laborious.
7. They're great starter chores.
Folding napkins was one of my first chores. Setting the napkins on the table was another. I think it's a great, non-breakable way for little ones to learn responsibility and contribute to the family.
8. They're timeless.
Cloth napkins are wonderfully counter-cultural in our wasteful society. I wish to give Piper’s kids the cloth napkins my mom gave me so I can tell them, “These were used by your great-grandmother…”
All my napkins are hand-me-downs, gifts, or homemade, but if you're starting from scratch I would recommend that you pay about $1/each and get 15-20. You want basic cotton napkins that would still look good mix-and-matched.
What would you consider to be the benefits of cloth napkins? What’s keeping you from converting to cloth napkin usage?
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude and raising three little people ages 1-5. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today