As we've started to live with less, a funny thing has happened: I am getting hooked on less (at least when less is better).

Paper products have quickly become a target for reduction. The cost combined with the waste, has driven us to look for new ways to cut back.

However, I wasn't so sure about using cloth napkins on a regular basis. I have great friends and neighbors who have long been cloth napkin families. But neither using one a night, nor re-using for several nights, was sitting quite right with me or my husband.

Washing two (and eventually more) napkins per meal seemed like a similar quandary to the cloth diaper debate. By the time you use all that water and soap, are you really cutting costs and helping the environment?

Then comes the question about using a napkin more than once? It is hygienic? The idea of wiping last nights dinner across our faces the next night wasn't too appealing either.

Then I really thought hard about it. Would possibly a few crumbs or dried sauce from the night before really hurt us? There is plenty of surface area to use after all. And what about those nights where nothing drops, but a crunched up paper napkin still gets tossed? And so we decided to give the cloth napkins a shot -- after all, we had them sitting in our china cabinet.

Turns out that there is a certain refinement to using cloth napkins vs. paper ones. You feel like dinner is more civilized, less rushed, more special, or at least I do. All of a sudden these napkins that sat waiting for company or holidays, brought new polish and pleasure to our weeknight table.

When they are dirty, new ones come out, and with an average of a few days per napkin, I would be surprised if they added up to much more than a load or two of laundry for the year. Make that load cold and I am sure that we are coming out ahead in the financial and environmental departments.

I know you have them hidden away. Come on, let the napkins out to make your weeknights more special and save a tree. At least give it a try, you might be surprised what a little cloth napkin can do.


  1. The Reyes Report // October 16, 2008 at 8:03 PM  

    We are all about the (wedding gift) cloth napkins. I find it cuts down on the paper towel napkins too!

  2. Magnolia // March 11, 2010 at 12:34 PM  

    Hey Martha. Sharon's friend Maggie here (38 wks pregnant!). A cute post on cloth napkins you might enjoy: