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Do you use cloth napkins?

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  • lgss Feb 2, 2009 04:45 PM

I'm on the Green Team at work and have made 147 cloth napkins (from fabric I got from a freecycler!) for the cafe at work and 90+ so far (from fabric from 2 other freecyclers!) for the group homes our agency runs. My husband and I use cloth napkins, even taking them with our lunches to work. How many of you use cloth napkins on a daily basis? Why/why not? Would you use them if someone gave you ones you considered attractive?

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  1. I use cloth napkins, always have. Why? Grew up using them; find them aesthetically superior to anything else (not just in looks, also in feel); no reason to use something disposable when there is an alternative (and a superior one, see previous).

    27 Replies
    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

      I use them for partys. On a daily basis, Are you kidding? I work 50+ hours, have my own consulting and catering business, single mom, take care of my mom, have a son. do laundry when I can the last thing I need is cloth napkins. They are nice however I use them when I have a nice dinner. Party, special dinner, Valentines and many other occasions. But on a daily basis when having left over spaghetti or BBQ ribs. WHY?

      I think the alternative is great but cloth NO!! I want something I want to get rid of ... not something else to clean. I want to spend time with family and my son ... not have to worry about more laundry.

      1. re: kchurchill5

        Your response just seems weird to me. Do you also use paper towels instead of hand towels in the kitchen and bathroom? Napkins are much much less laundry than those.

        1. re: tmso

          I use hand towels in the kitchen and bathroom. I also use kleenex for some things and paper towels for others. I don't big up is the cat or dog puked with a towel I use a paper towel. I don't do laundry every day or every other day, I have enough clothes and towels. Probably 2x a week. My schedule doesnt not permit. I do have many nice cloth napkins and use them when appropriate ... not for tacos, fried chicken, ribs, burgers. Sorry, they get dirty and sometimed stained and then not usable for company. I use paper. I use green friendly sold at my market and have other good towels for most messes. But every day is yes paper towels and napkins.

          I like to spend the evening rock climbing with my son or going out with neighbors. With work sometimes I don't get home until late, so ... laundry may be on Sat. Less is better. Yes ... it only takes up some room but the less I can do means less time in the house and more time out of the house. It is not like when I lived up north, I was home much more. FL, we are outside all the time and I have become very active in a few volunteer groups so laundry gets done when I can. I sometimes have 6-9 people for dinner over during the week for a whim and cloth would add up especially when I do baby back ribs. So no for me there is no questions what so ever ... I would never consider it. Sorry, but dinner parties or special occasions, no question

          1. re: kchurchill5

            I wouldn't have spent so much time on a response. I would just have said foah. I use paper towels for dog puke and oil spills!

            1. re: kchurchill5

              I grew up with two sets of sheets, two bath towels, two hand towels and two cloth napkins; and it was my responsability to keep all of these things clean. And that's pretty much how things work in my house now, including when I have visiting nieces and nephews. If you're going to be eating with your hands, sure, I can see using paper; but otherwise, for ordinary use not using normal napkins seems like not using normal hand towels. Maybe it's the association that for me paper towels in the home are for spills, messes, things the cat throws up; not eating.

              1. re: kchurchill5

                I like your reply. I wish my mother had put her children first rather than the outward appearance of her home.
                You have enough on your hands. Single people without all your responsibilities can launder cloth napkins.

              2. re: tmso

                I use paper towels in our bathroom for people to wash their hands. My doc said it is more sanitary. As far as green goes - there is also an issue of extra water, detergents (phosphates) and electricity used with cloth. It is a world of trade-offs.

                I use paper when it makes sense (like lunch and breaky or if it is very staining/casual. Dinner, I generally use cloth. I like it. I also enjoy making my own napkins. I recently made some saffron colored ones and embroidered each of them with an Indian motif. Very satisfying- and great for curry meals laden with turmeric or spices.

              3. re: kchurchill5

                Interesting response.
                As a woman I've multi-tasked like a maniac all my life. I won't bore anyone with what I do/have done in my lifetime but I love cloth. I love the texture and I love the civility of it. My choice for cloth comes from a long lineage of strong women whose care of their homes was their pride....along with careers and raising productive and responsible adults. Using cloth napkins, laundering them, and spending time with family does not exclude one from the other.

                1. re: latindancer

                  You are a good inspiration. We have heirloom linens (from the frickin Mayflower if I listened to my MIL). but never use them. Gonna start.

                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                    Just don't use bleach to wash them - that "happened" to me, and put holes in a lot of old linens.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      I keep the Shout bottle at the ready. Sometimes I use table linens that match the food. if it spills I do not really give a rip.

                    2. re: Passadumkeg

                      Thanks, Passadumkeg. I'm glad you're inspired.
                      Your use of linens will be very rewarding, I'm sure. I love them and it gives my family and guests great pleasure to use them. It takes a bit of maintenance to keep them clean and pressed and stored properly but the payoff is worth it.
                      Good luck.

                    3. re: latindancer

                      I love texture too..the higher the quality of thread count..the better.
                      If I'm using a cloth napkin, all of a sudden my meal seems extra special...but being somewhat ocd, I worry about my lip gloss all over those things..

                      Do they make a 1,000 thread count napkins that gets the oil/grime out without using bleach?

                      1. re: Beach Chick

                        Bleach takes out color - not oil or grease-based stains.
                        Try using dish washing liquid in the laundry or spot cleaning with DW liquid if the stains are really nasty. It cleans disgusting pots and pans, so why not napkins and kitchen towels?
                        You can also try ammonia in the laundry to get out that sour smell of old grease. Calgon or borax (40-Mule Team) are great laundry boosters - not only for kitchen linens but for your kids' grimy clothes.

                        Bleach is pretty useless in addition to being terrible for the environment and destructive to the fibers in cloth. It will absolutely ruin fabrics.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          If you use dishwashing liquid in the washer, make sure it's dishwashing machine detergent, not hand dishwashing liquid, or you risk a Lucy moment with a laundry room overflowing with suds!

                        2. re: Beach Chick

                          Lip gloss won't hurt the textile. I have a variety of laundry soil-stain removers I use, depending on the soil, and I use a washing detergent I purchase from Germany that has an incredible anti graying agent in it. Depending on the severity of the stain I'll use a small amount of bleach along with it. Overuse of bleach breaks down the weave so it's good to be careful.
                          I'm with you on the cloth napkins....it makes the meal very special, as it should be.
                          I take very good care of my linens and other textiles I collect.

                        3. re: latindancer

                          Um, civility? Don't you mean 'pretense of civility'?

                          1. re: carbocat

                            definition: ": civilized conduct; especially : courtesy, politeness b : a polite act or expression

                            I understand what latindancer meant but perhaps to you it's a pretense. To each his own.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              fair enough :)

                            2. re: carbocat

                              No, I mean 'civility'.
                              If you believe sitting down to a meal with lovely linen napkins and nice conversation along with good food and wine is subject to what you're referring to as 'pretense of civility' then that's a different way of looking at it, I suppose.
                              I look at it as a way of relaxing and enjoying one of the many pleasures...a soft cloth and respect for the people I'm cooking for.
                              Civility...graciousness with no pretense.

                              1. re: latindancer

                                As a footnote...
                                I do the same thing with a taco and a cheap bottle of beer.

                                1. re: latindancer

                                  Hear, hear! That's the spirit!

                        4. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          I also always use cloth napkins. I do have some paper cocktail napkins, that I occasionally use instead of cloth ones. While I'm fortunate enough now to have someone who irons them for me, even if I didn't, I'd still use them and iron them myself. I prefer how they look and feel, and my husband has an aversion to paper napkins (same aversion to plastic utensils and paper plates). For everyday, I have a selection of colored ones, and we'll use the same ones for several days, unless they desparately need washing. For parties, I usually use white ones that can be bleached if needed.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            Yes, we definitely use the same ones for a few days when it's just the household.

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              We used cloth napkins, dinner size, every day. My parents did, my children do. We have napkin rings for each family member, sterling for Sundays and formal meals, and antique cloisonné for every day. They get laundered every few days. The everyday napkins do not need ironing but of course the linen ones do. If we have food that may be messy I have large homespun dish towels specifically for those meals. We simply like to use them rather than paper.....

                              1. re: Gio

                                This is the same thing my mom did. We used cloth napkins every day for dinner and used them for probably a week unless they were particularly dirty. Each person had their own napkin ring so no mix-ups. A few napkins once a week is NOT a lot of extra laundry in my opinion.

                                And my mom was a working mom back in the day when mom's didn't work! Even though my family is very casual (we were a jeans and sweatshirt crew when at home), my mom always used cloth napkins at dinner and always had candlelight. All while the news played on the B&W TV behind me - during dinner. A funny meld of casual and elegance! But, I loved that she made the effort to dress up dinner in that small way.

                                1. re: Scirocco

                                  Yes... I felt that we had to show the children what to expect at dinner... how to use the various place settings etc., and cloth napkins were part of that. There was never any anxieties and dinner.. in fact all the meals were pleasant and satisfying. We were generally casual and always came together at the dinner table to discuss the events of the day and enjoy the evening meal. I really don't know how that worked given their various after school activities, but we managed to set the example they continue to this day. Thank Goodness!

                          2. I use them, and they are not particularly attractive. About a year ago, I bought a load of white napkins, dish towels, and hand towels from Sam's Club. We use them as intended, plus as all-purpose rags. Every 10 days or so, I toss them all in the wash with hot water, detergent, and bleach. I've cut our use of paper napkins and paper towels to just about zero. It takes up a bit of my time, but I'm happy to cut down on the paper usage.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: pikawicca

                              I really need to work on weaning myself off paper towels - I use far too many of them ....

                            2. We don't own cloth napkins. And I don't buy paper ones either. Most of the time we can get through meals without napkins at all. Almost all our meals at home are eaten with knife and fork, so we don't need to wipe our hands, etc.

                              21 Replies
                              1. re: mojoeater

                                You never drop food on your lap? Never get sauce on your upper lip and/or chin? Wow, you're pretty tidy.

                                We use cloth. The only time I buy paper napkins is if we're having people over for an outdoor party. I also don't buy paper towels.

                                1. re: Glencora

                                  But isn't it just as bad to be using water and electricity/ gas to wash and dry them (Unless youre beating them on stones and line drying them....) versus tossing out a Vanity Fair napkin? Looks like they'd bio-degrade in a week or two. Especially here in the Bay Area where water rationing is a sure thing this dry season? I use cloth for company, but good (or bad...) ol' paper for everyday. As far as paper towels, I always buy the "select-a-size" which gives the option of tearing a 1/2 sheet and I try to limit my use of them, but dishtowels or cloths for drying your hands are so-o-o skanky and gross after just one or two uses. Do you dry off your chicken, fish etc. w/ a cloth towel? Ewww...gross! Then it contaminates your entire laundry hamper or washload. Adam
                                  Edit: just saw this post and www gross is NOT a website (tho it shd. be ;) )

                                  1. re: adamshoe

                                    You have a point about the paper towels. I just walked into the bathroom to get some toilet paper to use to grease a pan and I thought...hmmmm. As for tossing paper napkins versus washing cloth, I honestly don't know which is the "greener" choice.

                                    1. re: adamshoe

                                      There are many environmental checks on both categories. While it's true that laundering consumes resources, some scarce (as does textile production), the production of those Vanity Fair napkins releases dioxin into runoff, consumes trees and a large amount of water in their manufacture. I'm not condemning your choice, just noting that it's not a simple equation to solve.

                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                        I suppose unbleached would be better. I use unbleached coffee filters. I used to use a gold reusable basket but scraping the grounds into the compost and washing the thing started to get old.

                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                          - trees for Vanity Fair are farmed in stands that are replanted as they are harvested.
                                          - water is continuously recycled in the paper making process
                                          - there is no dioxin produced in the making of Vanity Fair

                                          1. re: luckybag91

                                            They are bleached white thus they use chlorine bleach thus they create dioxin.

                                        2. re: adamshoe

                                          A dried off chicken (nice, organic chicken) has to be at least as disgusting as what most people have growing on their sponges, and at least a contaminated washcloth or handtowel goes RIGHT into the wash. I don't keep any paper towels in the house, and I don't even use bleach in my laundry.

                                          Yep, I'm cloth napkin girl.

                                          1. re: Vetter

                                            IMO, raw chicken juice requires bleach and hot water, organic chicken or not.

                                            1. re: Vetter

                                              Off topic, but around here the kitchen sponge goes into the microwave after every meal. Bye bye, bacteria.

                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                I've read this before but can't remember, how long do you microwave it? Thanks.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  A couple of minutes does the trick.

                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                    Why has it never dawned on me to mike the sponge? My husband puts them in the dishwasher and that skeeves me.

                                                    So simple and obvious. Thank you Alan.

                                                  2. re: c oliver

                                                    and make sure it's wet .....2 minutes mine are in a ceramic bowl,every evening to th dishwasher,daily,sometime in the AM microwave 2 minutes
                                                    TOO EASY

                                                2. re: Vetter

                                                  I"m with you on that.
                                                  This is a very strange wakeup call for me.
                                                  I don't use sponges for my dishes...one hour of viewing a Dateline segment, years ago, on the subject of what grows in those things was enough for me.
                                                  I do have a large bag of them for my bathtub (the nonscratch kind) that I purchase at Target and a couple of uses and they're in the trash.
                                                  I'm a huge proponent of those bar towels, that I wet, for cleaning that can be purchased by the bag....they're simply laundered after cleanups and they're good for the next use whatever it is....whether it's something that's dropped or spilled on the floor or a quit cleanup somewhere in my home.
                                                  To me, paper towels are useless.

                                                3. re: adamshoe

                                                  Yes- I have quite a lot of cloth. And as to "contamination" that is what the detergent is for. Sterilization of the laundry is not necessary.

                                              2. re: mojoeater

                                                I strongly advise that you ask dining companions outside of your family whether or not you need napkins. I suspect that you will find they disagree with your assumption.

                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                  pikawicca your reply is just.......so sweetly, hysterically funny.

                                                  I can not imagine life without a napkin, but that's how I roll (or wipe) or... anyway. Cloth? Not usually, thought I do have many sets that I break out on holidays. My Mom started using cloth daily when she remarried, she accumulated quite a collection. She'd wash them when they got dirty, or every third day whichever came first.

                                                  It's been a 2009 goal to slowly rid my home of paper towel dependency. Husband will grab 3 at a time and dry off the back of a teaspoon. Drives me nuts. We have animals, and find that the paper towels are very important for any "oops" you may step on in the dark of morning...

                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                    How True!!

                                                  2. re: mojoeater

                                                    This response surprised me too. I don't use napkins primarily for wiping my hands but rather "patting" my lips. In other words, I "dribble" and maybe need to do a little tidying up around the mouth area :) If I'm doing a ribs meal, I've been known to put a roll of paper towels on the table if they're really messy. And, yes, white napkins and bleach are my friends.

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      It's just the two of us at home, and we don't need napkins most of the time. After work 5-6 days a week we have quick, short meals. The other 1-2 days are more relaxed.

                                                      If we're eating ribs or other finger foods, you can bet the paper towels will come out. And yes, I can go an entire meal without having to wipe my mouth or drop food in my lap.

                                                  3. WOW, do I feel out ranked. I guess buying paper towels and nakins is not the going thing. Sorry guys I just don't have the time or energy I had BBQ ribs the other night. I would hate to see what my nice little white napkin would look like and No napkins or towels during during HOW is that possible.. I guess just me. Paper towels are to clean, napkins are for eating, I'm just totally surprised.

                                                    1. I use cloth napkins every day. They don't take up much room in the laundry (I throw them in with anything except whites) , and they are really quick to fold.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                        Same here. We use our burgundy cotton napkins every day. They don't take any extra time as they just go in the regular laundry and for daily use, I certainly would never iron them. That would be a big waste of time.

                                                      2. My son's school insists on garbage free lunches. So I bought 2 dozen at a restaurant supply store -- all cotton white so I can bleach them when needed. It is a little thing but really quite easy when you get used to it.

                                                        On the same trip to restaurant supply, I bought a dozen forks and spoons for lunches. Took them home and painted the the handles with leftover nail polish. In 2 years, I've only lost about 3 of each.

                                                        We use cloth at home on the weekends too.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: pengcast

                                                          cool school!

                                                          1. re: pengcast

                                                            I'm 50 and WOW, I would never even dream of it. Never want to do it and would never think of it. But if it makes you happy I guess why NOT.

                                                          2. I've used linen table cloths and napkins since I got my first good paying job. Back then it wasn't about being green, it was about setting a proper table.

                                                            As a side note, I have never used paper towels, I buy bar mop towels by the dozen for cleaning the kitchen and dining room.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Demented

                                                              I cannot bring myself to mop up raw animal blood or pet "accidents" with a cloth towel -- for those, I reserve paper towels.

                                                            2. So the cloth vs. disposable debate extends beyond toddlerhood! I used disposable diapers--tried a diaper service, but with all the processing they used, it was not any easier on the planet. Napkins don't take up nearly as much room in my washing machine as dipes, and since I airdry anything that fits on the drying rack, drying them adds humidity to our parched winter apt.
                                                              We use cloth napkins. I just learned that some folk use paper towels to dry dishes--sounds willfully wasteful. I make sure that our 'dish cloths' are different colors from our 'floor cloths' and that hand towels are distinguished from dishtowels. It's not any more difficult than sorting socks and underwear--different uses, different items.
                                                              I'm interested in responses to your closing question about if people would use unattractive cloth napkins if they got them as a gift. As best I can read the reactions of visitors to our home, most people seem to think of cloth napkins as "fancy". I would expect that most folks (with the exception of the poster who, like me, is a single mother and works close to 60 hr per week) would find them almost too nice to use.
                                                              There does, however, seem to be a problem with BBQ ribs. I'm a vegetarian, but perhaps folks who like ribs might want to keep something other than fine linen on hand for that job.

                                                              1. In my house, we use cloth napkins 90+% of the time. They get washed once a week or so (more often if necessary), and put in rings on the table between meals.

                                                                When it comes to especially messy meals, though (ribs and Buffalo chicken wings come immediately to mind), either paper towels or wet-naps are definitely called for.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                  Ditto for the Maine Green Team. For a shore dinner, however, the whole roll gets set on the table w/ a bowl for shells.

                                                                2. I use the high quality paper napkins (like Vanity Fair or similar). I have a whole stack of used ones, though, and routinely use them a second, third, even more times. I only do this for myself and my husband; at meals with guests, of course, we all get fresh ones! (But I'm not above adding even the guests' napkins to the reuse stack if they are left generally clean.) I probably have close to 50 on my reuse stack now, and won't need to use fresh ones for ages. I try generally to be "green," but I don't think cloth napkins work as well, and they take other resources, including valuable time, to maintain. I feel a lot better about using paper ones because I reuse them multiple times. On the other hand, I never use any other disposables: no paper or plastic plates or cups.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: queenscook

                                                                    I wish they made napkins in the "select-a-size" version, so you could tear one in half... Maybe I should just use the PTs and wean myself off the Vanity Fairs...all is Vanity ;)
                                                                    Adam

                                                                    1. re: queenscook

                                                                      Hello, my name is c oliver and I re-use paper napkins also. Yep, there are at least two of us. I also re-use paper plates. I do this totally for the environment, figuring re-using paper perhaps uses less water and does less pollution than washing cloth napkins. But I always use cloth for guests. A balancing act, I guess. Also not sure I'm right but it's what I'm thinking.

                                                                    2. Cloth napkins. I have never liked paper. They shred. Either there is too much paper for a meal, or not enough. The paper napkins that don't just fall apart are expensive.

                                                                      I have heirloom napkins for special occasions, and these are a pain to clean. But they are so beautiful, and I love seeing the initials of people who are no longer with us.

                                                                      Everyday, we use cotton napkins and when they are dirty, they get thrown into the laundry [along with the dishtowels.] Later, when we are washing clothes and/or sheets, we throw them in. Each member of the family has a special ring so we don't mix them up. We have extra rings for overnight guests. I also use tablecloths and placemats. Keeping the napkins clean doesn't feel any harder than keeping my shirts clean. Obviously, we have enough napkins for at least two full turnovers.

                                                                      I don't do this to be green. It just makes me happy.

                                                                      1. My only comment ... TOTALLY AMAZED AND SHOCKED! I can't understand the cloth napkins but hey, that is just me. I don't spend time doing laundry, and folding silly napkins, I spend it with family and enjoying life. Sorry guys.

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                        1. re: kchurchill5

                                                                          I can't say I use them either. I don't have my own washing machine, so that's probably a big factor. I'd need to buy enough to last the two to three weeks I go between towel loads and it's just not worth it. I don't think the machines I have to use are paragons of energy efficiency, so I am not sure using paper towels is any less green than napkins. I do tend to reuse the paper towels if it's just for myself.

                                                                          1. re: kchurchill5

                                                                            Why do you assume that I don't enjoy my family and my life based on the fact that I use cloth napkins? I enjoy both completely. Folding 12 cloth napkins takes about 2 minutes. [I love clean sheets too and still have time to raise a child and make family dinners nightly in addition to a full time job.]

                                                                            1. re: kchurchill5

                                                                              I can understand (and empathize), but in the last six years I have totally switched to cloth napkins.
                                                                              When I was raising my son, by myself, I used paper napkins. Cloth was for special occasions. Back then, at my GF's house, we used cloth a lot, but not always. Now, I really like the feel, and feeling special.
                                                                              I don't fuss with the napkins. I/we use them for one to three times (SO is much neater than I), and then they go in with the usual laundry. I don't fold them half the time and I sure as hell don't iron them! I have to wash dish cloths anyway, so why not some napkins?
                                                                              When I use paper towels I buy the ones that can tear as half-sheets. Even then, if the cleanup-throw-away project is small, I will tear off a smaller portion. Habits of growing up poor, or just being sensible?

                                                                              1. re: kchurchill5

                                                                                As others have mentioned, with just two of us in the house there are not a lot of napkins and they just go in the same laundry load as sheets and towels, adding exactly zero to the laundry workload, and maybe two seconds afterward to fold them. I presume you (or someone in your house) washes sheets & towels from time to time? You don't need to use cloth napkins but there's no need to accuse those who do of having no life. Sheesh...

                                                                                1. re: kchurchill5

                                                                                  I use cloth napkins always have and I am very lazy about house work and laundry never found them to be more of a burden just doing sheets and underwear.

                                                                                  1. re: kchurchill5

                                                                                    Weekly stack of napkins and kitchen towels isn't even 1/4 of whatever load.Where's the work?? Or to paraphrase Jim Beard about napkins, can't take five minutes for YOUR
                                                                                    friends at your table??
                                                                                    He had some Beardisms,eating with chop sticks made as much sense as eating while wearing boxing gloves

                                                                                  2. I live mostly in the Florida gulf, the rest in Mexico, and my two favorite restaurants here, Berns Steakhouse in Tampa , and the Columbia (since 1905) in Ybor City and Sarasota, give me mountains of their logo'd napkins. I don't even have to ask anymore. On my way out, I get a stack. Works for me.
                                                                                    I have place settings of the Homer Laughlin China from the Columbia, but that is a sordid story for another day.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                                                      Oh you tease!!! Let's hear the place setting story soon. Pretty please?? Adam

                                                                                      1. re: adamshoe

                                                                                        I would love to keep it short, but there were a lot of moving parts. I solo'd for lunch at the Columbia at St Armands immediately after I bought a home here, 4 years ago. I enjoyed the lovely 1905 salad, with garlic shrimp, prepared tableside. I liked the oval, cobalt- on- white signature 1905 plate, and asked my server if I could buy a few. Sure, she said, in our adjacent gift shop. Not truthful. Growl.
                                                                                        After my meal, I stroll to the gift shop and ask about the 1905 plate. They looked at me like I'm from Mars, and said have a nice life. Growl. I'm annoyed, and my wheels are spinning. They didn't know that I do have a nice life, every day, with or without their cooperation.
                                                                                        Several weeks later, I had houseguests and we went to the Columbia. I asked of them if I could choose a sidewalk table, no problem, and then asked if I could order for all of us, no problem. I brought with me a beach bag and plastic bags.
                                                                                        End of story: we all had the 1905 salad, prepared tableside with garlic shrimp, which we all enjoyed. I paid for the meal with cash. But I took all 4 of the signature 1905 plates, wiped them off, and put them in my beach bag. Separate from the meal check and tip, I left a letter I wrote the day before about how I must own things that are not for sale. It is among my top 10 human faults. I left a personal check payable to The Columbia equal to the cost of the plates, that included my name and address.
                                                                                        I had been very careful about our initial seating in order to expedite our hasty retreat, which none of my guests were aware of or party to. My buddy and his wife from Pennsylvania were convinced I would be arrested for theft ,what with all the accurate personal information I provided on the check.
                                                                                        Two days later, I showed my friend on -line that the check was cashed. He laughed for an hour.
                                                                                        I remain a diligent customer of the Columbia at St. Armands. And I have a lot of napkins!

                                                                                    2. We have 4 kids and use cloth napkins approx. 90% of the time. We both work full-time and I dislike laundry immensely, but a few cloth napkins added to our loads is a TINY job in our family. We also have napkin rings for each family member. We actually were spurred to do it by our youngest who (like another poster's child) also went to a school that really taught "green" practices. Really not as complicated or fancy as it seems...

                                                                                      1. My personal objection to cloth napkins only extends to those horrible things made out of synthetic fabric that one often finds at restaurants - it's like wiping with a piece of upholstery. And they certainly don't absorb worth squat. Paper at our house for everyday - which means we average about 1 napkin a day per person, what with eating out and tidiness. I use terrycloth towels, guest-towel size, for Thanksgiving, that match my tablecloth and dishes. And I have real linen and cotton for company meals, found at a yard sale, that must be from the 1930's or earlier, they're so big and heavy. Love 'em, but just not something I want to wash and bleach and iron every week.

                                                                                        1. We have a set of 12 cloth napkins we use for everyday use. I got them at Crate and Barrel and they are some sort of washable silk blend. With only two of us, I have to wash these about every 2-3 weeks as we do reuse them if they don't get really dirty(a meal like ribs this saturday night though sends them straight to teh laundry basket). Out of the wash and onto the line(Who needs to use a dryer when you live in Arizona?). I don't bother ironing and they use come off the line and get folded but if they do look a bit rumpled I will toss them in the washer and run through the steam function.

                                                                                          No time involved really. It's faster to fold the napkins than the rest of the laundry so no big deal. I've bought two package of paper napkins in the past three years and still have about 80% of the second package on hand.

                                                                                          The "company" napkins do get ironed but those don't get used often. Family friends who visit us frequently get the everyday napkins. No one has every complained about wrinkles and I"ve had a few people tell me they've also switched to cloth after visiting us a few times.

                                                                                          1. Most of the time we just use dish towels as napkins. They live by our "places" at the table for a few days, and then get washed. We have a few real cloth napkins for when a parental unit or other guest is staying with us. Oddly when we have a party the paper napkins come out. Paper towels last 1-2 months a roll, and are usually for greasy things, or anything exceptionally gross.

                                                                                            1. I use cloth napkins at home. They were actually sold as dish towels. However I am starting to wonder if they are not less green than paper. Each use of the napkin requires washing. That's hot water, detergent, machine drying, sometimes ironing. Yes, I wash them after each use. I can't imagine reusing a napkin from one meal to the next. Besides being disgusting, it's a germ harbor. Anyway, washing creates a lot of carbon footprint. How does it compare with using paper napkins? I'm not sure it's an advantage.

                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: taos

                                                                                                I use paper, dish towels when needed. I just don't have time to keep washing and then they get dirty. And I don't reuse. Sorry, too busy to worry about no napkins cuz I didn't have time for laundry. My family comes first and a walk on the beach or having some fun comes before that load of laundry and napkins. Paper maybe a waste but the hot water, electric and soap ... not worth it for me.

                                                                                                1. re: kchurchill5

                                                                                                  For us - and we're just two - the dish towels and napkins just get thrown in with the regular loads of laundry, so we're not doing more loads of laundry.

                                                                                                  1. re: kchurchill5

                                                                                                    We do one load of laundry a week, for the three of us, napkins included, cold water only, no ironing. Folding takes two minutes, a bit less than sock-sorting. It's a small house, so all time is family time. Kid is reading on sofa, laundry is sorted on floor, cats are jumping in the piles...

                                                                                                    1. re: Glencora

                                                                                                      And hubby is sitting in his easy chair, smoking a pipe? Seriously, it sounds very special.

                                                                                                      1. re: Scargod

                                                                                                        Very funny. I was just saying life isn't always a walk on the beach. Just as well, since I have a hell of time budging my son off of the sofa and out of the house.

                                                                                                2. For everyday use we use bandanas. They fit in w/ our regular laundry, so they don't add any loads of laundry as I have to laundry regularly regardless. thet have the added bonuses of being cheap(if you buy them by the dozen), patterned(washed in stains don't show), and they look better a bit wrinkled, no specila folding or ironing needed.
                                                                                                  I cooked in restaurants for 15 years so it would never dawn on me to use a paper towel for anything but draining bacon or drying chicken. Happily kitchen towels also fit in w/ the regular laundry.

                                                                                                  1. We prefer cloth napkins, and use kitchen towels which are tossed into the laundry.

                                                                                                    I'm not a big fan of paper towels, but do keep paper napkins on hand for disgusting clean ups (they're in a holder, partially hidden somewhere).

                                                                                                    My husband grew up with paper towels, as napkins, as well as cloth. At my grandparents' house, there were both. As well as neat things laminated as placemats (old books and fashion magazines; there was a laminator at my gp's house).

                                                                                                    Patterned cloth napkins are preferable, as they hide stains. My husband insisted that we get placemats and cloth napkins with some of our wedding booty, so I caved in. The ancient white/off white linens don't work well for tomato-based or other brightly-coloured food dining.

                                                                                                    Old napkins, as with old woven shirts and sheets and pocket squares, feel so much better against one's skin than paper. But I have dry and sensitive skin, so I'd rather use an old clean shirt (or sock) that's past it's prime than something which simply dries out my skin more. I blame my husband these days, as he spent half of his life in Santa Cruz and SF, although we both know that's really not the case. :)

                                                                                                    1. I don't see what "time" has to do with it. We use nothing but cloth. They are not fancy and we don't iron them or anything, we just store them in a bag in the pantry and just grab 2 when we eat. Our paper towel bill and paper napkin bill is now zero per year. As a busy mom with 2 adults who both work 2 jobs, I find it hard to believe someone really could argue "time" as the problem with using cloth, especially given the cost. If you spend even $300 a year on these products, that's $300 less than I have to spend on other things like bills or food.

                                                                                                      As to water, it's not like we have to do 2 separate loads just to deal with the cloth napkins, that's a silly argument. We don't do any additional laundry because of cloth napkins. And NOTHING biodegrades in a landfill, even if it's biodegradable, because of all the stuff it's surrounded by.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                        I'm with you completely. We use plain old dishtowels for everyday use, and nicer napkins when company comes. The dishtowels get reused a couple times until they are dirtied, then tossed into the laundry. When it comes time to wash, I don't think I even notice they're in there! And ironing? Come on...only for the Big Holidays.

                                                                                                        And continuing on the subject of the "time", I'd say that if you've got kids, let them do some laundry. When they're young, they can play in the laundry room as you spend your 3 minutes folding. Start teaching your kids that taking a little extra time to use cloth napkins or cook your own dinner (or, expanding, grow your own vegetables or make your own bread) can be more than just a chore, but a positive thing that might make your life and the planet a little heathier.

                                                                                                        Oh - and here's a good review of the eco-friendly-ness of various options, in case you're still trying to convince yourself that plain old paper napkins are just as enviro-friendly as the cloth ones:
                                                                                                        http://www.care2.com/greenliving/pape...

                                                                                                      2. Cloth 98% of the time, paper for really messy stuff like ribs where one napkin isn't going to be enough.

                                                                                                        1. This thread has given me food for thought. My "company" cloth napkins DO get ironed so I hadn't actually considered that I could use cloth ones that are just wrinkled messes! But what I like better is the idea of using dish/hand towels --- but not new ones because new ones took energy to manufacture. (I read that about the best way to go green with one's car is to not buy a new one. Made sense.) It will be easy for me to snag some from the kitchen or bath and use them for us. I think that's a really good idea. Thanks to all. You've converted at least one person.

                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                            Yayyy!

                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                              If you use cloth blend napkins and pull them out of the dryer right away they aren't a wrinkly mess

                                                                                                              1. re: PurpleTeeth

                                                                                                                I pretty seriously don't like "blends" when that means part polyester. Not in napkins, sheets, anything. But I do like the idea of either buying second hand or using dish towels. I have scads of cloth napkins for guests that I DO iron. Just hadn't considered a middle ground until this thread. Having a late lunch right now with a dish towel right beside me :)

                                                                                                            2. Cloth napkins everyday. We usually use the same one for a week and they go in the laundry with everything else. We have several sets. They’re not fancy, but the nicest ones are out for guests.

                                                                                                              I also rely heavily on cloth towels for wiping up spills, drying dishes, etc. I never could justify buying pack after pack of paper napkins to be wasted or thrown away after one use. Cloth always seemed more practical to me.

                                                                                                              However, I do use paper napkins and towels for draining bacon and fried foods, and drying produce and meat.

                                                                                                              1. Cloth always, except for informal parties where we drag out the disposable-but-reusable plastic plates & cutlery, then we'll get those nice thick paper ones. At the in-laws' house we observe the French style, and have a cloth napkin-holder with each person's name embroidered on it; unless the meal has been messy and greasy these napkins get washed just two or three times a year. At home we have nice linen ones for dinner parties and then some old white - or they used to be white! - heavy cotton ones for every day use. After fifteen or twenty years they're pretty ugly, but we're used to that, and nobody but our nearest and dearest ever sees them.

                                                                                                                I grew up with cheap paper napkins, and now I can barely tolerate them at hot dog stands.

                                                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                                                  Cloth napkins that "get washed just two or three times a year" would put most folks off the idea of cloth napkins forever. Sorry, Will (love most of your posts), but this is simply disgusting.

                                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                    I'm not understanding the logic behind not washing cloth napkins after every use. Think about how a napkin is used and what's on it. It's used to wipe food from the hands and mouth. The thought of not washing after each use is kind of disgusting.

                                                                                                                    1. re: taos

                                                                                                                      Often the napkins sit in our laps for the whole meal and are not used, at least in our home.

                                                                                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                        is that because you are super neat and never get a milligram of food on your hands or face or because they just don't get used despite the need? And is that the case for every single meal? Never, ever used?

                                                                                                                        1. re: taos

                                                                                                                          I am not super neat, but for some meals I do manage to eat without getting food on my face - since I always use silverware, I don't have occasion to get my hands dirty. When I need to remove food from my face, I do use a napkin. As I said above, "often" the napkins are not used, but that is certainly not the case for every meal. If a napkin looks soiled, I put it in the hamper and get out a fresh one. If it doesn't look soiled, it usually stays. Regardless of soiling, they get washed at least once a week, but I'd say it's more likely that we go through two napkins each a week.

                                                                                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                            Ditto, here. I use a corner, then move to the next corner; then repeat with other side. Up to eight meals, max! Kidding a little.....

                                                                                                                            1. re: Scargod

                                                                                                                              I was just tidying up the dining room table and was thinking that maybe I should photograph the napkins after each meal until they go into the wash, and then post back here with the photos!

                                                                                                                2. Cloth 100 %..We have probably 60-70 cotton dinner napkins collected over the years and another 30 cloth cocktail napkins that we use daily and wash after every use ( in with everything else). The only time I iron is for company ( there are only the 2 of us) . We had dinner parties this summer with 25 guests 2 nights in a row and it was a pain but I really liked the way the tables looked ( the napkins are intentionally all jewel shades of blues and greens ). A great part of my dinner enjoyment is setting the table. We use kitchen towels for non gross clean up and drying pots etc . We use too many paper towels...and will try to be better. I had a friend who collected antique dinner napkins ( all white) and had a gorgeous collection. TIP OF THE DAY : she soaked them in denture cleaner to whiten them ...

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: capeanne

                                                                                                                    Great tip....thanks.
                                                                                                                    I'm a huge collector of textiles.. All my linen vintage tableclothes and napkins are prized posessions and although they require tremendous maintenance it's always nice to hear about new 'tips' to use in order to keep them well maintained.

                                                                                                                  2. We always use cloth napkins. For just us we use them for a day or few, and replace as needed. You can find dozens of never used napkins that are machine washable at thrift stores for a song. I have a basket full of cotton napkins in a variety of colors and patterns which mix and match well. They get thrown in with regular laundry and folded immediately like the rest of the laundry. You could iron if you wanted, but slightly rumpled for everyday use doesn't bother me in the slightest. The go with us in brown bagging it to work, car trips and picnics. I have a package of pretty cocktail paper napkins I received as a hostess gift 10 years ago...they get used once in a blue moon for finger food at parties if I am short on dishes.

                                                                                                                    Old dish towels take the place of paper towels for everything except raw meat clean ups, grease draining and cat hair ball clean ups. For cleanup of grease dregs from frying I do use my shredded paper first, then finish the wipe with paper towels. One roll of the "chose your size sheet" lasts us (2 adults) probably 4 - 5 months... I use newspaper covered with a paper towel for draining bacon or fried foods.

                                                                                                                    I've spent many years in restaurants - you just get used to a nice big stack of bar towels at the ready in a kitchen. I do the same at home. If you only have "nice" towels, you just won't really use them hard. Same with most of the household cleaning - use and abuse then wash with hot water and bleach when there is enough for a full load.

                                                                                                                    1. It amazes me the extent to which people have become paranoid about germs. A cloth napkin usually sits in your lap, periodically touches your hands, and occasionally brushes against your face. The notion that it's unsanitary to use a napkin for more than one meal really boggles the mind. And the notion that it's "greener" to throw away several pounds of paper products a year rather than to wash a load of napkins every day is a false dichotomy - the green thing to do is use cloth napkins and wash them when they get dirty.

                                                                                                                      The sole original purpose of the napkin ring was to identify an individual's napkin from meal to meal. They have been in use for at least 200 years, and although they were originally a bourgeois phenomenon, even royalty were using them by the 20th century (the noted silversmith Georg Jensen designed and created a personalized napkin ring in 1940 as a christening gift for the present Queen Magrethe II of Denmark).

                                                                                                                      Nobody is performing surgery with used napkins, and last I checked it was not good manners to stick your napkin in your mouth or use it to blow your nose. Most people use silverware at most meals, and most diners that I've seen outside of rib joints don't end up with copious quantities of food smeared on their face or hands.

                                                                                                                      So where's the problem? You're concerned about touching a piece of cloth that may have a few molecules of food on it? Do you autoclave your underwear, too? Sheesh.

                                                                                                                      15 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                        Not only are you insanely smart and learned but funny as hell also. Thanks for helping my coffee start me on a nice day.

                                                                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                          "Do you autoclave your underwear, too?"

                                                                                                                          With your permission, my new line of the day. HA!

                                                                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                            mr. rockandroller unfortunately uses his to blow his nose - only at home of course. He has a vagus nerve thing and gets very runny nose when he eats, so we do put them in the laundry basket after every use, but it's not like we have to do a separate load just for napkins.

                                                                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                              Did anyone see the SNL fake commercial skit where they are selling edible baby diapers? It would be "super green" to use an edible napkin! Various dessert flavors...
                                                                                                                              Could be made to look like a crepe, for instance.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Scargod

                                                                                                                                Think Ethiopian! The injera is tablecloth, utensil, and napkin all rolled into one. Don't know how it would work as a baby diaper, though...

                                                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                  U D Man! Fantastic idea! I'm getting some of the grain so I can experiment with injera. My dog will eat the "diaper"!!

                                                                                                                              2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                HAHA! I'm with you alanbarnes. I see so many germaphobic people - I know someone who scrubs and puts on latex gloves to unload her dishwasher. Sometimes I wonder how these people managed to conceive their children. I have several mental images in mind that involve quite a lot of plastic wrap , but I've never been able to bring myself to ask.

                                                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                  You need a reality check, Alan. Try using a white napkin and then tell me that you think Will's approach to laundering napkins "2 or 3 times a year" is at all rational.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                    Huh. Given that he said of his own cloth napkins, "They get washed once a week or so (more often if necessary), and put in rings on the table between meals," I assumed Alan was responding to the posters who said they thought it was disgusting or unsanitary to use a napkin more than once, not to Will's post about his in-laws.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                      And there's a huge difference between "stains" and unsanitary/unhealthy/etc. And don't we know that air drying kills lots of "germs"?

                                                                                                                                    2. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                      My reality check is sitting on the table right in front of my seat. It's a white napkin. It's been used for a couple of days. And it's plenty clean, thank you very much.

                                                                                                                                      When it's dirty, I'll toss it in a basket with other napkins, kitchen towels, etc. that need to be washed, and they'll get added to a load of sheets or towels. Will is apparently much neater at the table than me; I do well to get a week out of a napkin, less if we have finger foods.

                                                                                                                                      But the notion that a piece of cloth becomes unhygienic because it sat on your lap for half an hour is just silly. Seriously, how much food do you smear on your face and hands during the course of a meal? And if you aren't mopping up food with the napkin, the only thing that makes it "unclean" is that it briefly touched your hands and face.

                                                                                                                                      Do you use hand towels more than once before washing them? Do you change your bed sheets every morning? You spend the whole night with your face on the pillow; how is a napkin inherently dirtier?

                                                                                                                                      If the napkin's clean, keep using it. If it's dirty, toss it in the laundry and get a fresh one. What could possibly be more rational than that?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                        Uh, I never said "that a piece of cloth becomes unhygienic because it sat in your lap for half an hour." I look over my (white) napkins and consign them to the laundry based on when they look grotty (usually 24 hours or so). It's not so much a matter of hygiene, as of aesthetics.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                          I said that "the green thing to do is use cloth napkins and wash them when they get dirty." You said that I "need a reality check."

                                                                                                                                          Now you say that the you use cloth napkins and "consign them to the laundry based on when they look grotty." Which sounds an awful lot to me like washing them when they get dirty.

                                                                                                                                          Given that we appear to be in complete agreement, why did you go on the attack in the first place?

                                                                                                                                          Peace,

                                                                                                                                          Alan

                                                                                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                            Sorry, Alan.

                                                                                                                                            This thread has collapsed more than I can cope with. I do not believe that napkins must be washed after every use. I do (strongly) believe that they must be washed more than 2 or 3 times a year. In my experience, they should be washed after a day or so.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                              My Rx: a glass of wine and a peaceful evening, or what remains of it wherever you are.

                                                                                                                                              All the best.

                                                                                                                                  2. Yes

                                                                                                                                    1. Cloth 99% of the time,tossed into the laundry 3 or 4 times a week.Was raised with cloth and find it's an easy habit to just wash napkins in what ever load.
                                                                                                                                      If it's really messy I offer paper towel or a damp towel.When ribs,mussels or crabs are the menu even the table maybe papered.
                                                                                                                                      Lunch boxes have silverware (metal) and a cloth napkin or shop towel.

                                                                                                                                      1. One thing that is surprising to me is how often people are doing laundry. 3 or 4 times a week? Really? How is that environmentally responsible?

                                                                                                                                        32 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: mojoeater

                                                                                                                                          Kinda depends on how many people are in your household. For the four of us, 3 or 4 loads a week seems low. I'll use my napkin all week long, but a fresh pair of socks every day doesn't seem like too much to ask.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                            We've got two people and do laundry less than once a week. We make sure to have enough socks and undies to last two weeks or more!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: mojoeater

                                                                                                                                              But isn't there a difference between how often one does laundry a week, and how many loads one does when one does do laundry. We have a tiny machine (NYC apt, and I'm ever so grateful), and need to do about four loads on laundry day to get clothes, sheets and towels done (plus of course, all those napkins! - jk). To me, it's not an issue of having things to last two weeks, but to wash, in a full load, the dirty things when they pile up.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                We have larger machines and do 2-3 loads on laundry day. And I prefer not to have food in the machine when I wash my clothes. If more than a drip of food is spilled, I use paper towels. If it's just water or I have to spray the counter, dish towel. If an entire batch of tomato sauce goes down my front, I'm hand washing that shirt rather than adding food to my laundry.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: mojoeater

                                                                                                                                                  That just strikes me as strange...do you wash undies separately? In the same machine??? Why is food so bad to have in the wash if a thorough wash is done?

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: capeanne

                                                                                                                                                    If I had a child (which I don't) and something was in the undies, they would never go in my machine.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: capeanne

                                                                                                                                                      This is where a good ol' fashioned solar powered clothes line come in handy. A natural disinfectant. Blows my mind that some upscale communiies hve banned the good ol' clothes line. I hang up last night wash before going to work in the morning. Cool seein' frozen stiff blue jeans. But they dry and Dow Chemicals cannot reproduce that fresh smell.
                                                                                                                                                      Mr Natural

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                        re: "ol'fashioned solar powered clothes line." I call mine a "Solar/Wecs" dryer. Sounds so greeeen, so sophisticated, but is just practical to me.

                                                                                                                                                        I actually did some research on this topic a few years ago and found out that clothes dryers account for about 6 to 7.5% of residential energy usage in the U.S. And I too was astounded at the number of "upscale communties" that prohibit clotheslines, especially in California, which seems kind of ironic. Gary Trudeau even did a weeks worth of Doonesbury cartoons spoofing this. Most Home-Owners' Associations ban them. The silly reasoning is that they think they might decrease real estate value. But I think that the real problem is that they are just using boiler-plate homeowners' agreements when they incorporate, and so are not really thinking it through...

                                                                                                                                                        I am most definately in the cloth napkin and dish-towel camp. I call it "my life without paper towels." We have a couple of dozen of each (heck, sometimes the Solar/Wecs dryer is out of service, especially in January). I don't care if they are wrinkled, (no ironing in this house,) stained, or fraying at the edges. It's usually just us! And, making napkins yourself is a great way to teach a kid to sew.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: clamscasino

                                                                                                                                                          We also have lines down the cellar and a rack for infront of the wood stoves.
                                                                                                                                                          What kid of pooch?
                                                                                                                                                          All our kids have silver napkin rings w/ their name and date of birth engraved; a Norwegian custom.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                            Got a rack in the spare bedroom. Napkins and towels are already half-folded when dry. :)

                                                                                                                                                            Pooch is a boxer/lab. I call him my second kid. He's good at cleaning the floor, but not doing the dishes. (My dishwasher, BTW has two arms and two legs.)

                                                                                                                                                            Our napkin rings (which we don't bother with) are some wood-carved ducks. Got silver, engraved baby mugs though.

                                                                                                                                                            My only complaint about dish-towels is that good ones are so hard to find.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: clamscasino

                                                                                                                                                              We have a freebee choc lab that I brought home from school. We live 150 yds from the ocean and she swims in the winter and loves to roll in the snow. Do you live on Block I. We lived on Isslands here in Maine (North Haven & MDI) nd in Norway and had a summer cabin on an island 1/2 hr from Helsinki. Funny, my wife sometimes wants a paper napkin to wipe her hands before using the cloth one. Clams casino was the first "gourmet" food I ever learned to cook. My dad taught me in 8th grade. I go clamming for "hen" clams (large quohogs) on spring tides and make clams casino & chowder.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                                A'yup, we live on the Block. This clam isn't too good with a rake though. The day I finally stopped lurking and finally chose a screen name was the day a visitor from Maine gave me a bag of clams...felt like I had hit it big at the casino...

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: clamscasino

                                                                                                                                                                I haunt thrift store for good cotton and LINEN.Simply will not pay the market price at Williams Sonoma etc.It seems most are donated even
                                                                                                                                                                without regifting because so many recipients are puzzled by the gift.Latest find was 3 dozen Damascus Cloth 23" linen napkins from Spain NEW,
                                                                                                                                                                $0.50 each;HALF OFF seniors day = $9.54.

                                                                                                                                                              3. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                                <"All our kids have silver napkin rings w/ their name and date of birth engraved; a Norwegian custom.">

                                                                                                                                                                We do too.... It's an Italian custom too, apparently.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                  Gio, I wonder if the silver napkin ring for kid's birth is European wide? I so miss the quality of life there. I made my qurarterly trip to Wally World yesterday. What an ugly place. My son's girlfriend in Thailand is an Ecuadorian named Gio.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: mojoeater

                                                                                                                                                          And you can get a batch of tomato sauce out of a shirt by hand washing? I can understand perhaps not wanting to throw chicken bones :) or something into your washer but "more than a drip of food"? What's the rationale? I'm sure you have a perfectly good one but I can't fathom it? Please enlighten me.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                            I don't want chunks of stuff in my machine. It's not like a dishwasher with a garbage disposal attached!

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mojoeater

                                                                                                                                                              Chunks of food (or baby poop) don't go in washing machines that I'm aware of. And actually I believe that the plumbing for a dishwasher and washing machine are pretty much the same. If there are dishwashers with garbage disposals attached, it's certainly not anything I've ever heard of. There's a pipe that carries the "stuff" (water, detergent, other things) out of the machine and eventually to your sewer line and/or septic tank. Dishwashers run with hot water in order to make the contents clean enough to eat off. Since we don't eat off our clothes, most can be washed in cold water.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                I also don't put any kind of chunks in my machine. If there are chunks of food I scrape and/or rinse them off before the washing machine just like I take the lip balm and nickels out of the pockets of the pants.
                                                                                                                                                                Maybe we need a thread about how we do laundry. Is it me?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: lucygoosey

                                                                                                                                                                  No argument with you at all. And I look for golf tees also :) But there's a big difference between "chunks" and anything more than a "drip." I'd rarely wash anything if a "drip" were the cutoff point.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                  Many "American style" dishwashers do have disposals built in.At all three of our homes are Euro types,scrape/wipe before loading or empty the trap.
                                                                                                                                                                  Septic systems have some special needs about household plumbing

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                    My dishwasher does have a part of the pump that is for grinding up chunks; essentially a disposal.
                                                                                                                                                                    If I have large chunks on my clothing (but why would I?), I would let my dog lick them off, just like she does the pre-wash of our dishes.
                                                                                                                                                                    I also wash my cups, plates and clothes together. Like beating your clothes on rocks.. Saves on water.
                                                                                                                                                                    Can we have that thread about how to do laundry??

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Scargod

                                                                                                                                                                      We had 5 (five) dishwashers, but they all went off to college.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                                        We only had four,did the same as yours.Then they graduated and became their own debts.From age 12 or so 75% or more of the laundry,
                                                                                                                                                                        100% of the the table top and dishes,their ironing,some yard and garden.
                                                                                                                                                                        Plus side is that the three with children are repeating the chores,good grades etc process.don't tell the government

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: lcool

                                                                                                                                                                          And now we leech off them. I love it when we visit our daughter in Austin. She was more trouble than all 4 boys added together. Now we sleep in her bed, drink her booze and stay out late at night and worry her! Got tickets to Korea in June to visit #1 son (Weslyan, bailed on a state dept. posting to Morocco 3 days before he graduated. I still want to kill him.) and a side trip to Thailand to visit #2 son (Cornell trained chef and rest. mgr. Bailed last year, got a Ma in Span and ESL, bumming around the world by teaching, just like his papa.) They all learned to do their own laundry early on, to dine every night by candle light and w/ cloth napkins. All cook well and only the girl calls to say "Poppy, how do you cook....? Peace at last.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                                            I can relate,girls cost at least 3 times as much as boys $,time,Valium oh and bathroom.Girl,then twin boys 14 months later.Next real insanity,11 years on,LET'S have another.GIRL,spent half her time in the formative years angling for pampered.Her siblings bought into none of that,thank ??
                                                                                                                                                                            for small favors.First daughter,married,in Switzerland,boy and twin girls.
                                                                                                                                                                            Twin boys,1 married in Italy 2 boys,2 girls,1 Married in BVI's 2 girls.Last the
                                                                                                                                                                            youngest,(27) in Chile,gave up the manicure for farming.I was certain she
                                                                                                                                                                            was lost to the age of electronics,climate control and salons.You just never know.
                                                                                                                                                                            Visit us they do table top and dishes.We visit them,they still do table top and dishes. seems fair to me
                                                                                                                                                                            Got to the edit in time,how could I forget the years of "could you get ,send ,find ? I forgot,"so did we.Worked in exchange for tabletop etc not done in a timely manner.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: lcool

                                                                                                                                                                              Youngest is just 19 and is a bio major , he is a gentle giant sweetie pie, ant at age 10 declared I'm becoming a herring gormet.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                      There was a separate thread on this recently, but in fact most modern dishwashers do have a built-in garbage disposal. I know mine does.

                                                                                                                                                                      As for stains (not chunks) in the clothes washer - I don't know what you're using but our high-efficiency Asko washer has cycles that will clean just about any stain out of anything, using only two to three tablespoons of detergent per load. For really bad ones we pre-treat with Shout.

                                                                                                                                                        3. re: mojoeater

                                                                                                                                                          The napkins get tossed in the laundry 3 or 4 times a week.Use at dinner,wipe a dogs face,in the basket.Nothing gets second use after guests or "the grand kids",mine or friends.We do a full load when we have one.Average 3 per week doesn't seem a big deal with 3 dogs,3cats and a constant parade of people.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: mojoeater

                                                                                                                                                            The laundry gets washed as needed. Some people do all of their laundry on one day, others wash a load as needed through the week. I wash whites one day, dark colors another, bright colors when I have enough. The napkins get washed with the corresponding load. Do you only wash one load of clothes a week, everything together?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mojoeater

                                                                                                                                                              I do laundry every day....at least two loads a day. I really don't think about how 'envirornmentally responsible' it is.
                                                                                                                                                              I like clean sheets twice a week and clean towels every day.
                                                                                                                                                              I use linen napkins and no paper towels and my dish clothes/towels are washed in the machine continuously.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                You don't *think* about environmental responsibility or you don't *care* about it? If it's *think*, maybe this thread will encourage you to think about it.

                                                                                                                                                            2. I use cloth napkins everynight except for large gatherings and BBQs. I've found that using them saves $$ on buying paper, saves trees from being chopped down, cuts down on trash, and (honestly) you can always fit 4 more 12"x12" pieces of cloth into the washing machine each week.

                                                                                                                                                              It also think that using cloth napkins make the meal fell more like you're eating at home then grabbing food to-go. That could just be b/c I was raised on cloth napkins every night growing up.

                                                                                                                                                              1. I use cloth 99% of the time. Basically I just think they look nicer. I can imagine though if I didn’t have a washer dryer I would be less inclined to do so. I also like how linens can add to the feel of a meal, casual, formal, festive whatever. They are also, depending on where you go, a relatively inexpensive way to change the look of a table, certainly less than getting a new set of china etc.
                                                                                                                                                                Regarding papertowel use, I use WAY too many for cleaning up. My SOs mom, has a huge array of rags under each sink, ripped up old t shirts etc etc that are used for cleaning, then laundered and returned to under the sink. I think that this is a great way to do things, and would like to move to doing that. It is funny that the "old fashioned" way of doing things ( cloth rags) is much more eco friendly than the modern way of doing things (paper towels).
                                                                                                                                                                Napkins certainly dont cause me to do more laundry, they are small and can always fit in a load.

                                                                                                                                                                12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cassoulady

                                                                                                                                                                  I found an unopened package of Brooks Brothers cotton undershorts in a chest of drawers I bought at a yard sale. They are lovely cotton and huge (42 inch waist.) It's a bit weird, but they make great rags.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Glencora

                                                                                                                                                                    I was at a friends parents not long ago and a bottle of wine was knocked over and the mother ran off and came back with an old pair of ladies panties that she was wiping up the spill with. I thought it was hystertical, some of the other guests were horrified. She is from the waste not want not school of thought for sure. Hey it worked!

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cassoulady

                                                                                                                                                                      That's hysterical! One of my dogs, left unchaperoned, likes to carry my panties around. Maybe she could start attending my dinner parties - just in case :)

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                        That's not just a dog thing. One of my cats - nicknamed (doh!) Laundry Cat - spends half his life sleeping in the laundry basket and sometimes likes to grab a dirty sock or unmentionable and carry it around the house.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                          My cat has a fondness to undergarments, she likes to carry them out to the dog bed then lie with the two dogs while sitting on undies.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: cassoulady

                                                                                                                                                                      Old t-shirts that have been washed often are lint free and wonderful clean up rags. I will only polish silver with these rags. I was raised by a depression baby, and throwing out all cotton underwear was simply not an option.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                                                                        Totally agree. I have more rags than I can shake a stick at. Same family reason as yours. At least *I* don't try to scrape the burned part off of burned toast!

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                          Do you use a rubber spatula to get the last 1/8 tsp of mayonnaise out of the jar?

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                                                                            Of course. Doesn't everyone??? :)

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                              YES ,and or the cat paw,busy for an hour at least

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                Empty ketchup bottles never get thrown out (recycled) without rinsing out with a little water and adding ketchup water to stew or soup. I also use up the last bit of Grey Poupon by making a batch of vinaigrette in the jar. I'm a cloth napkin user, can't you guess.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                              I don't scrape off the burnt part of the toast either. Grandma taught us that 'it'll make you sweet(er)!'

                                                                                                                                                                        2. I am an extremely messy eater. What can I say? At the burrito place I go through a giant pile of flimsy paper napkins. At home my one cloth napkin lasts me a few meals (or until the dog decides to grab it off the table and carry it off). I own 8 of them, wash them when they're dirty, fold them when they're clean and throw them in a bowl I keep on the table, and never run out (there are 2 of us). I am morally opposed to ironing anything, including napkins.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. Hmmm... I've always used paper napkins (as well as far too many paper towels) because I have 2 children and lots of pet cleanups. The cost and extra waste bothers me, but cloth for everyday use always seemed like something I couldn't afford. The argument for cloth makes a lot of sense to me; I think I might switch over!

                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: scoutmom1973

                                                                                                                                                                              Yay! I just did.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. White linen starched and ironed.
                                                                                                                                                                              I've never bought a paper napkin in my life.
                                                                                                                                                                              I've never used paper towels either.

                                                                                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                We use cloth 99% of the time. I try to limit my paper towel use, I use mostly cloth dish towels as well. Paper towels get used for cat cleanups or if one of the kids spills milk or something. I made the mistake once of using a cloth towel to clean up a large milk spill in the summer and after one day in the laundry basket I went crazy trying to find out what that STENCH was. With two kids we end up doing a load of laundry 2-3 times a week. Its really nothing to throw in the cloth napkins in the loads. We wash mostly everything in cold water and I do line dry when weather is appropriate. I love that I've had one bag of Vanity Fair napkins in my closet for about a year. They get used only when we have a crowd, ie kids b-day parties etc. I got most of the napkins at salvation army and target. At Target II browse the linen section and wait till things go on clearance. I've got quite a colorful bunch but I like what they add to the table. I also have about two dozen and we never run out before more get laundered. We reuse the napkins through out the day and sometimes my DH and I can go a day or two with the same napkins but not the kids. I also use cloth diapers for wiping the babies face after eating, these get changed daily and add a bit to the laundry but I think it beats using several paper towels for every meal. I also like the Viva paper towels, they are very sturdy and when I do find the need to use one, I get alot out of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: trishaluna

                                                                                                                                                                                  Ah, the horrible smell of old spilled milk. I think you're allowed paper towels for that one. Our last car never completely got rid of the stench. (And *why* did my SO let the kid drink milk in his car seat? But that's another thread.) And, yes, I remember cloth diapers being pretty useful, too.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Glencora

                                                                                                                                                                                    Both. I use cloth for dinner often, but not all the time. Not for breakfast or the occasional sandwich or whatever. It's too hard with kids and pets, but I have tried to be more conscious of my paper consumption. I use rags, too, outgrown kids undershirts and old maid socks are great for cleaning. but they end up waste anyway eventually. I have been appalled at other people's usage of paper towels. I know people that use them in the bathroom.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                                                                                                                                      what they use paper towels for in the bathroom is unclear in your post, but perhaps we don't want to know anyway.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: saacnmama

                                                                                                                                                                                        It's not that gruesome. For hand drying. Instead of hand towels. In their house.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. Thankfully and happily, in Toronto, we toss used paper napkins and paper towels into our green bin, which gets picked up every week, which then goes into a giant municipal composting program, and then comes back every April as free compost for residents on Environment Day. So we use paper every day. Cloth for special dinners.
                                                                                                                                                                                http://www.toronto.ca/greenbin/

                                                                                                                                                                                13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: JamieK

                                                                                                                                                                                  Thank you thank you ... I do recycle most of my paper too and it gets reused ...

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: JamieK

                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm so jealous. We did a house exchange in SF a few months ago and they have that program. It was SO great. A daughter and SIL in Seattle have it also.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: JamieK

                                                                                                                                                                                      You're still contributing to the cutting down of trees. Nothing environmental about that.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                                                                                        Don't come to Maine and say that. They'll make you use plastic toilet paper! Logging is a major source of income in many states and Maine is shutting down mill due to the importation of rainforest products. Wipe w/ Made in the USA paper!

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                                                                                          It's not the cutting down of trees that is the real damage to the environment, it's all the energy, water and chemicals that goes into the process of turning the tree to paper.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                                                                            Agreed with KT. Both aspects of producing paper products are bad.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: JamieK

                                                                                                                                                                                          Composting does not absolve your sins even if it makes you feel good.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Think about how many vehicles that paper has ridden on from the time it was a green tree growing in a forest.
                                                                                                                                                                                          Ground up into pulp by mechanical means and converted into paper using chemicals and a lot of water, heat and energy, even if they skip chlorine, made into products that were carried through the wholesale distribution system to a store near you - far from that original forest. All of those intermediate stops - mills and factories - were heated and cooled, using vehicles powered by energy.
                                                                                                                                                                                          The products were packaged with either a corn- or petroleum-based covering, maybe printed with soy-based ink. Think of how those products came to the party and how much energy was used producing those coverings before they wrapped those paper products that you are spending hundreds of dollars a year on.
                                                                                                                                                                                          Most people use energy to get the products to their homes from lighted, heated and air-conditioned stores.
                                                                                                                                                                                          The Green Bins are emptied by trucks that use energy to carry them to valuable land where they have to be turned by vehicle that use more energy to produce compost that is finally carried by more vehicles to your community. Recycling has an environmental cost.
                                                                                                                                                                                          All so people can feel good on Environment Day looking at a pile of compost?

                                                                                                                                                                                          Some of us have vintage linens that have been thrown in with larger loads of laundry for decades. Manufactured once. Going on to a second life as cleaning rags when they get too shabby to use at the table.
                                                                                                                                                                                          Hmm?

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                                                                                            You're completely correct but I sure don't want to discourage anyone from doing even the teensy bit of conservation. I have some 60-70 year old towels that my grandmother had. There are still a few little squares left for polishing silver. Paper I shred is kept for packing material. NowI'm working on breaking my dependency on paper towels. This is about day 5 of using a kitchen towel in stead of a paper napkin. It's feeling natural and *good*. I think some people just need to have their consciousness raised and others don't give a damn (I know a few of the latter unfortunately). Baby steps. Baby steps.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                                                                                              We don't look at the pile of compost. We shovel it into wheelbarrows and tubs and take it home to throw into our gardens.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: JamieK

                                                                                                                                                                                                Here in Berkeley we can pick up free compost once a month. I compost at home and only put diseased, thorny, or gone-to-seed plants in the bin, yet somehow they make great compost out of it all. We can throw milk cartons into the bin, too, which is nice. We don't use paper towels or napkins, but we do go through a lot of milk.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: JamieK

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I wasn't assuming that you and your neighbors pulled up lawn chairs and drank toasts to the compost.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  The point is that ANY single use disposable products, including packaging materials, burden the environment well beyond the simple "paper or plastic" question.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  There is an enormous amount of energy expended in converting and conveying the product from raw materials through the processing system to the consumer and on through a recycling process.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  It includes the energy used for transportation, plus that used in the facilities where the products are processed, warehoused and sold, that are heated and cooled and otherwise serviced by bathrooms, telephones, roads, and services for employees.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  That is true even in recycling facilities because they use energy.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  You could carry it further to amortizing the equipment necessary for all of that, and the environmental costs of manufacturing that equipment....
                                                                                                                                                                                                  It doesn't matter if you are making bio-degradable disposables or bleached paper napkins. There is a cost for single use items that is beyond the dollar amount that we pay.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  The goal should be less packaging and fewer disposables, not more compost.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Love the idea of drinking toasts to the compost! Will incorporate that into our next environment day or neighourhood clean-up day or plant-a-tree day or street-garage-day-sale to help re-use whatever or neighbourhood shade audit or earth-day-turn-off-lights event, etc . Oh, wait a minute, I forgot about weed-picking days, you know, ever since we banned pesticides in T.O., it's been crazy around here. (although mind you I haven't used pesticides since 1985). Thanks!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: JamieK

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Try a little white vinegar on the weeds - right on the roots. It works as well as most weed killers - which BTW are herbicides.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Unless you find that some are edible.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Yes, we use them in our home for dining, and paper cocktail napkins.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I am a big fan of the cloth napkin...my husband, not so much. We use them with most meals. They are soft and absorbent, easy to care for, and always ready to go! I think that the more you use them, the more you like them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Almost always use cloth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Cloth 95% of the time. They are little to no work. Having a job/toddler/graduate school reduced the percentage that get ironed but I am okay with that. Paper would mean something in my life was terribly wrong. I hate them. The "time argument" doesn't hold. They require minimal upkeep and go in with the weekly laundry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    My family had a lot of double standards growing up. Holiday we had whipped cream and during the week there was cool whip. The same was true for napkins and butter/margarine. Only one of the options was any good and we are firmly a butter/whipped cream/real napkin household.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: JudiAU

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Ha! Turns out that my niece will email them for minimal payment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. We switched to cloth napkins years ago at home. Haven't purchased paper napkins in more than a dozen years. My wife made our first ones out of scraps of cloth, then we began buying them; she likes to vary the "look" of our table. Old ones become Extremely Casual Napkins -- such as ordering in pizza or wings for "movie night" at our house or eating really messy foods.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'd give up paper towels if I could; I do think we use them much less frequently than we used to.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. I do child care for three kids along with my own family during dinner time and we all use cloth napkins at the table. I like to set a pretty table and I see using the dining experience as part of their training for table manners and by extension, for adulthood. And cloth napkins are just a nice way to catch dribbles, etc. We use clean ones every evening, but I'm going to look for my old napkin rings after reading this thread and being reminded about them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        We don't use many paper towels at all, but I have put them in the bathrooms since we started the child care routine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Oh, and cloth napkins aren't a bother for us, and I have to say that starching and ironing is really good 'therapy' for me and I like it (although I don't iron the napkins every time they come out of the wash)! Too busy!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. As a grad student on a tight budget, I use cloth napkins as well as cloth dishrags to wipe up my kitchen counters. I've had them for about five years now. They're all white cotton and go in the wash with my towels and sheets. They hardly add anything in terms of bulk or time to the laundry. A napkin usually lasts me about two days. I also keep a bucket of rags (cut-up old t-shirts) on hand for messier spills (i.e., dropped egg or tomato sauce on the floor). I also have a very cute set of vintage cloth cocktail napkins that I trot out occasionally.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I just couldn't bear to spend what little money I have on something I'd use once and then toss in the garbage
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Less money on paper products = more money to spend on food and wine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. One funny thing this made me think of-- using cloth napkins (which we've done for years) means we have to use the unscented laundry detergent. I absolutely hate wiping my mouth with a napkin that is "breezy fresh" or whatever. Fabric softener? Forget about it. Even dryer sheets are a no go. Can't stand the residue and scent while I'm eating.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Procrastibaker

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Or on my towels and wash cloths! YUCKI! lol

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Although we own cloth, we end up using paper mostly. Whenever I set the table with cloth, my DH (or guests) say that that's too fancy and would I mind getting out the paper. I think, in the case of my DH, it's a family thing. He is one of ten children, and in his mother's mind, paper plates, paper napkins and paper towels were luxuries. After all, clean up after dinner became a breeze (especially since she never had a dishwasher, unless you count her kids !)

                                                                                                                                                                                                              For Christmas this year, I bought a set of red napkins from World Market. Great color, table looked great, but boy do they need ironing after laundering. No matter if I air dried them or put them in the dryer, nothing but wrinkles. And I hate ironing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: t75atc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                We stopped buying paper napkins a few years ago. I have some in the house, but I expect they're going to last a very long time, I just always use cloth. We use them for more than one meal, then toss them down to the laundry, have a big stack of them. Inexpensive jacquard ones are soft and don't need ironing, and I've learned to live with the less than crisp looking other ones, too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I hate to cut down a tree to wipe a mouth, it's such an unnecessary waste.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: t75atc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It's the type of cotton weave that makes them wrinkle so badly. Try this: sprinkle them with a little cool water and let them rest for ten minutes or so, then try ironing them. The wrinkles will release and they'll iron much easier. I use cloth napkins to meals and paper towels to pick up "messes". It's really a judgment call. My mother uses only cloth for everything. She also refuses to use plastics to store leftovers (she distributed her Tupperware to all us kids several years back and she refuses to get more). I admire her "back-to-nature" ideas, but it makes putting away the Thanksgiving/Christmas leftovers very interesting...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: beesrcool

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Tell your guests, you believe in supporting the environment & in natural products.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Make them think it is more "natural" to use good safe cotton that is wrinkled than polyester material made from oil products.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Its all a question of marketing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. I grew up using fabric napkins and it never occurred to me to change that when I moved out on my own. With my family of four, I never found that the napkins added anything significant to the laundry at all. They just get thrown in with a load of clothes that are being done and that's that. And when the girls were first learning to fold clothes, the napkins were great for them to use for practice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My napkin drawer overfloweth. I have vintage napkins as well as newer ones, both white linen and many different coloured cotton ones. The table is normally set with a tablecloth (many of those are vintage, also) in addition to napkins. We use napkin rings, as well, and napkins get washed when dirty. Most of the time they last a week or so. For BBQ's and other messy meals, the napkins are bandanas.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I agree that using fabric napkins imparts a sense of civility that we prefer at our meals. And that is not being pretentious. We just like the way they look and feel. Also concur that using fabric napkins in no way prevents our family from spending time together enjoying ourselves. It's just not an issue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Although I don't buy paper napkins, I do purchase paper towels. The holder is on the inside of the cabinet door under the sink. As they are slightly less accessible, it makes people think before using them. Sometimes I just feel that they are better for cleanups than dish towels.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Yes and we have a tablecloth on the table for everyday dining too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I just prefer the feel of fabric and I feel better about the environment too. I'm going to be doing laundry anyway so throwing a few extra pieces in doesn't seem any particular trouble.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I don't iron the everyday stuff. I just take them out while they're slightly damp. I put the cloth back on the table and the wrinkles relax. I stretch the napkins out vaguely if I'm in the mood. Otherwise I just fold them and put them back in the napkin holder that always sits on the table.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. I do not.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I don't own a car. I eat meat sparingly. I recycle. I don't feel too bad about using paper napkins.