Table Linens: Caring And Cleaning


Formal, starched napery has gone the way of formal dining, but many people still like to use a tablecloth, especially when there are guests, ot it is a special occasion, such as Christmas. For normal family meals, if you adhere to this quaint tradition, many people use plastic cloths, especially on the kitchen table.

Tablecloths. When calculating which size of tablecloth to buy, allow on overhang of up to 30 cm all round. Buy larger than you need, rather than smaller, to allow for shrinkage. Laundering table linen can make a lot more work, so be kind to yourself. For everyday use, look for easy-care cloths; the best choices are non-iron linen or cotton/synthetic blends.

Heavy linen or cotton table linen is still the first choice, but it will need ironing and possibly starching. If you like the look of a formal white tablecloth occasionally or have inherited an old damask cloth, use it. Many old linens are perfectly usable. Extraordinary high quality of really old linens means that nineteenth-century linens have survived right down to the present day.

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People often do not want to use them because they think they require a great deal of looking after. That may have been true in the days when the tablecloth was made. But modern washing machines and detergents have made this a thing of the past.

And remember, white table linen is easier to launder than coloured, because it can withstand higher washing temperatures and you don’t have to worry about loss of colour. It can even be bleached if necessary.

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Napkins. Napkins are always a good idea, because they protect clothes. Use cloth rather than paper napkins because they are better at soaking up spills. There are no standard sizes for napkins, and they seem to be getting smaller. When buying, look for easy-care or non-iron napkins, to reduce the amount of ironing. If you buy a synthetic-mix fabrics, make sure that there is a high proportion of natural fibre because it is more absorbent than synthetics.


Unless you want to launder napkins after each meal, supply every member of the family with a napkin ring and wash napkins as necessary. A silver napkin ring used to be a standard christening present and quite often these are inherited and then never used. If you have them, get them out and use them. Otherwise, napkin rings can be bought in any department store.

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How to clean table linen?

First attend to any stains. Tha main problems are likely to be grease and other food stains, candle wax, wine and coffee. Most stains will respond to a soak and a wash at 60°C, using oxygen bleach if necessary.

If the table linen is going to be used straight away, iron it if necessary. If it is tumble-dried, removed promptly from the drier and then folded, ironing is rarely necessary, even for cotton. In any case, just give it a quick once-over with the iron and fold. Do not iron in creases. Tablecloths and napkins that are used only occasionally can be left until needed.

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Folding a tablecloth and napkins

Fold in half, then lenghtways in half again and if necessary in half again. Then fold crossways once or twice to make a square. Or fold lenghtways loosely and roll up.

Fold a round tablecloth in half, wrong sides together, making a semicircle. Fold the curved edge up to the straight edge to make a rectangle with two curved edges. Fold the two curved ends into the middle, then fold in half again and, if it is large, again, to make a square.

Fold small napkins in quarters to form a square and, if you like, fold the square into a triangle. Fold large napkins in half, then in half lenghtways. Finally fold crossways.

One Response to Table Linens: Caring And Cleaning

  1. girls tutus says:

    I do like the way you have framed this specific concern and it really does supply us a lot of fodder for thought. All the same, thank you for this fantastic point.

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