The first set of cloth napkins I can remember owning were a cream-colored pair given to me as a gift. They were lovely out of the box, but didn't stay lovely long. It only took a couple saucy dinners and a few lazy loads of laundry to relegate them to the back of my linen closet. Dingy, stained white napkins are just too sad.
After this I was off cloth napkins for a few years, convinced they were too fussy for regular use. But then one day six years ago, while browsing Sur La Table and feeling peckish, I bought a pair of colorful, patterned cloth napkins. What had I done? It turns out I'd discovered the secret to using cloth napkins at home.
Dark or colorful cloth napkins are — dare I say it? — low maintenance.
Really. It's true.
Even straight-up cotton and linen napkins, not the special stain-release versions, are fairly easy to take care of. I've found that any residual stains that don't come out in the wash are masked by the dark color or pattern, and barely discernible. This scenario is, for obvious reasons, vastly preferable to me shrieking "Out, damned spot!" over and over again while dumping OxiClean into a soaking bucket.
Why Cloth Napkins Are Wonderful
Once I discovered how easy cloth napkins could be, I developed a whole new appreciation for them. Cloth napkins are one of home life's little luxuries, like fresh flowers, and the more I use them, the more I feel like I'm getting the better end of the deal. In exchange for a (now) painless load of laundry (especially if I fold the napkins right out of the dryer), I get something beautiful on my table with every meal, no matter how small or Sad Desk Lunch-y that meal may be.
At this point, you might be thinking that using cloth napkins every day means I must do laundry all the time. Not really! Because most meals in my house aren't messy, finger-lickin' barbecue meals, when I set out a napkin for myself, I can usually use that napkin for a day or two before it goes in the hamper. I just have to keep track of which napkin is mine and which is my husband's, and we're good.
Do you use cloth napkins regularly? Do you avoid white napkins (cringe) and rely on dark napkins (yay!), or have you found a way to love and live with both?