Saving Money with Cloth Napkins

posted by Andrea | 09/15/2011

Today’s posts IS NOT a life-altering idea… however it IS a really simple way to save money, simplify your dinnertime routine, and be a little more eco-friendly at the same time!

Recently, I blogged about our weekly menu plan and how we serve dinner but I thought I would also mention that we almost always use cloth napkins as just one more way to simplify our lives.

Dave and I have been using cloth napkins for the past several years after I decided I was sick of paying money for flimsy store-bought napkins and that I actually wanted to use some of the great cloth napkins we recieved as wedding gifts.

Our “System”

Basically we all have our own napkin, and that napkin sits on our chair any time it’s not in use {we always sit in the same spot}. Then every time we eat a meal at the table, that napkin is the one we use.

After a couple of days {depending on how dirty they get} I’ll throw all the napkins in the laundry room and set out new napkins on each chair — I keep the napkins in a basket right next to our table.

Often we will go 3 or 4 days using the same napkin, but I know other people who change them every day, and still others who use the same one for an entire week.

I also know families who use different colors for each person and then keep them in a basket on top of the table.


Benefits of Cloth Napkins:

1. Save Paper:

We don’t waste paper napkins or nearly as many paper towels as we used to. The ONLY time we ever use paper napkins now is when we’re having lots of people over for pizza or something else that’s kind of messy and I don’t have enough cloth to go around.

2. Save Money:

Yes, it’s a little bit of an investment if you have to buy cloth napkins up front — but I already had a bunch of cloth napkins from our wedding so it didn’t cost me a thing! Plus, now I never have to buy paper napkins and I purchase paper towels much less often.

3. It’s Fun:

I love using cloth napkins because I feel like we’re having a fancy meal — even though it might just be a casserole or pasta!

4. You’re Always Ready for Company:

I know many families who only bring out the cloth napkins when company comes over — but then the napkins are wrinkly, dusty… or nowhere to be found. If you’re using the cloth napkins every day, they’ll be freshly washed and ready for your company!


Oh, and if you’re wondering if they get stained over time, the picture above is of the light cream napkins we’ve been using over and over again for the past few years. I NEVER spot treat them —  just throw them in the load of whites with a little bleach or Oxiclean and they come out perfectly clean time and time again.

Of course, you could always use a darker color napkin and you wouldn’t have to worry about stains at all!

Do you use cloth napkins?

Do you have any other, simple tips that help you save a few extra bucks? 

Filed under: LifeDaily LifeFrugal Living

Leave a comment


  1. Rita Tye


    I make my own napkins, but where do you get the Rectangler basket, so they won’t take up so much room??


    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I get all my baskets from various garage sales or thrift stores 🙂


  2. Using Cloth Napkins Save Money – Save money, Make money


    […] Saving Money with Cloth Napkins – … – Dawn 09/15/2011. We have been using cloth napkins for a long time now, our whole family of four. I purchased a bunch of cloth napkins on ebay and often … […]

  3. Garment Makers


    Wow! its really good I love this.


  4. chickadeeworkshop


    I know I’m late to your comments, but YES! I made the switch to cloth napkins a couple of years ago and never looked back. I sew alot, so had fabric around that matched my kitchen and I just cut to the size I want and used my serger to edge them. So FAST! If you don’t have a serger, you can make small hems and use a regular sewing machine. I’ve been using the same dark prints for 3 years and they are not stained, just faded. I add to my stash occasionally with yard sale finds and I have special napkins for holidays and such, but our regular ones are still going strong and we use them only once and throw them in the regular laundry.

    I also switched to cloth instead of paper towels. I use white birdseye fabric and cut to the size I wanted and serged them. I have a basket of clean ones and a basket for dirty ones on my counter beneath where the paper towel holder is. (We still use paper, but it’s rare.) I throw my dirty ones in with the one hot water load of laundry I do each week, with my white towels. I dry outside in the sun when weather permits, so they get bleached and disinfected, and in winter, I do use bleach about once a month or so.

    Some people think it takes “green” a little too far, but I also small, cut up pieces of old t-shirts and flannel baby blankets for wiping in the bathroom. (Only for “wet” not nasty wiping.) I’m the only female here and therefore use the most t.paper, so this system is for me only. I did the same thing…cut up the size I wanted and serged them, though you really don’t HAVE to serge t-shirt fabric if you don’t mind the curling edges. I do it because I put two layers together. Again, I have a basket for clean and a mesh bag for dirty and I throw these in with the other white clothes that get washed once a week in hot water. I feel so good about these changes and encourage others to do as much as they are comfortable with.


  5. Jennifer


    Just bought a slew of cloth napkins at an excellent price at a store that sells good for the home. I am a paper napkin addict, always need one in my hand, wrapped around my glass, to wipe the counters, etc. Looking forward to the savings of not having to buy paper towels/paper napkins every week.


    Andrea Reply:

    Wow — looks like you’ll really be cutting back on your paper napkins — good for you! I’m sure you’ll find the the cloth napkins are so much more absorbent too!


  6. oneshabbychick


    Hi Andrea, We use cloth napkins too, and follow the same system – on the chair, until dirty, etc. It works great! especially since two of “us” are still kids and can’t be bothered with keeping a napkin folded/on the table anyway! I love your red/flax napkins – they’re beautiful. Can you tell me where they came from? Thanks! ~ osc


    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I LOVE those napkins too!! We use the white ones every day, but those red ones are perfect for anything “fall”, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines, etc.! They are from William Sonoma and we’ve had them for a while.

    I’m sure you could find similar ones though 🙂


  7. Carrie


    We use cloth napkins all the time. I have some regular cloth napkins but most of the time we use those little baby washcloths. They’re soft, wash up great, don’t stain easily and are the perfect size.


  8. sarah wade


    Thank you so much! I’m totally inspired to make that transition to cloth napkins. I have the cloth napkins sitting in the napkin basket but I wasn’t sure how to make it work. I like the idea of making a specific napkin last for a day or two for each person. It kills me to purchase paper ones, we have been paper napkin happy for too long. We start tonight, I’m thinking I’ll stash the paper ones for the time being as we make the transition… my guys don’t do change too well so it might take a bit to get us there 100% So baby steps 🙂


  9. 90milemissy


    I have used cloth napkins all my life. I never realized it was a strange thing till last week. I had picked up some woven cotton table runners at the thrift store. I was at quilting on Sunday and I cut them up, hemmed and fringed them. EVERY lady there asked me what I was doing and why I would use cloth napkins. Found that I was the only person who actually used cloth. Strange.


  10. KimH


    We use cloth as well. I got ours in the automotive section of one of the warehouse clubs. They’ve super absorbent. We use them as dish towels too and they’re great. We’ve been using them for about 4 or 5 years now and we like them much better than paper towels or napkins.


    Andrea Reply:

    wow, I would have never thought to look in the automotive section — thanks for the tip!


  11. Katie


    We actually just switched to using cloth napkins and kitchen towels as well! Our reasoning was how wasteful paper towels are! We do keep a few paper towels around just for messes that we wouldn’t want staining cloth napkins, like grease. Otherwise we are really getting used to just using cloth napkins.


  12. Dawn


    We have been using cloth napkins for a long time now, our whole family of four. I purchased a bunch of cloth napkins on ebay and often find new ones at thrift stores and sales. I don’t care if they match and we use a clean one at every meal. I send them in my kids lunch bags too. I just wash them with the towels and then I use them as cleaning rags if they become too stained. As a family with young children, we are always informal and rarely have company over. If we do, it’s usually just family and they don’t care about our mismatched napkins. It works out well for us and really doesn’t add to the laundry much.


    Julie Reply:

    I could have written your comment, with the exception of a family of 6. We use them every meal and I will change them when they get dirty. I also don’t have all napkins that match, but they all do match with my decor. I also will buy a large table cloth at the thrift store for a few buck or less and make napkins out of them. Its super cheap and easy to do.
    We don’t buy paper napkins and now we hardly ever buy paper towels. We use rags for everything. l think my husband is the most diffcult to break from using paper towels.


    Ashli Reply:

    I’ll join in, only with a family of 5! We have been working on changing over to cloth and it is going well, we also have a drawer full of washcloths that are used for everything from hands and faces, to the counters, to the floors. (Fear not, they only hit the floor on the way to the laundry room!) I rarely buy paper towels anymore and really only use them for things like cleaning up really nasty messes. I may have to start throwing cloth napkins in the kids’ school lunches as well, great idea!


  13. Tricia


    We use washcloths as napkins. After the meal I can wet them for dirty hands and mouths as well as the table. I bought them in the dishtowel section, 18 per package for $4. They are a tan color so they not only hide stains but can be washed in either the dark or white load of laundry.