Friday, July 13, 2012

How to Use, Clean & Store Cloth Napkins

As I've said before, one of my favorite ways to go green is by trading out disposable products with reusable ones. And of all the swaps I've made, the most effective one to me has been trading out paper towels with reusable cloth napkins. Now I've already blogged about this before in the post about how I said, "Goodbye to Paper Towels," but today I'm going to show you how I use them and the system I've created for storing and cleaning them.



Making green swaps like this one may take a little extra thought and money in the beginning, but in the long run, it can be easier on your wallet and the planet. Case in point...my cloth napkins.


I knew that when switching to cloth napkins that I needed a system similar to the one I used for paper towels otherwise it wasn't going to work. So I created a place to keep them that was close and easy, a place to put them when they were dirty, and a routine of how I was going to get them clean and ready to use again. Let's see how I made it work...


Our Cloth Napkin System


1. Store napkins in the towel house/drawer

2. Use the napkins
3. Throw under the sink when dirty.
4. Add to a load of laundry when bucket under the sink gets full.

5. Return to drawer or dispenser when clean and start
the system over again. 
Love this dispenser...just lift off the top
and drop them in!

Pretty simple right?  The key is being simple. So if that doesn't work for you, create a system that does. The "Kitchen Unpaper Towel Dispenser" ($49) is not mandatory. My parents (cloth napkin converts) keep their cloth napkins in a drawer by the sink and it works just fine. Half the time, I forget to keep refill my napkin holder, so I end up getting them out of the drawer anyways and it works easily for me.

Another step that you could cut out is the bucket under the sink. Maybe your laundry room is close by and it's easier to just go drop it in the washer so it's ready when you start the next load. Now although my laundry room is close to my kitchen, I don't have time to walk over every single time I need to put a dirty napkin away, so I use the under the sink bucket.

Don't forget to change me!


One thing to beware of about the under-sink-bucket is remembering it! I've forgotten it several times before and the napkins have started to smell and grow mold, so try to remember it! Another thing you could do is to only put "dry" napkins down there, to prevent this from happening. A strategy I use is if the napkin is soaking wet, I'll set lay it to hang-dry on the sink faucet over night and when I wake up in the morning it's dry and ready to go in the under-the-sink bucket.

Now that we've got the system down let's talk about the actual napkins themselves. I get my cloth napkins on Etsy. I searched store after store to try and find cloth napkins that you could just go out and get today if you wanted, but I didn't have much luck. I went to Target, Wal-Mart, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and more and all I found was dish towels, dish rags, and linen cloths. These could work for you, but the cloth napkins I've found on Etsy work so much better and are just as versatile as paper towels are.  So, although it may be a pain or more expensive to buy them on Etsy, it's so worth it. On top of that, I love Etsy because I'm able to support individuals and work with them directly as opposed to one big corporation. With that said, there are dozens and dozens of sellers on Etsy that now offer cloth napkins or "unPaper Towels" as their sometimes called, so feel free to search around and find one that fits your style and price point.

Here's my favorite cloth napkins:
(Read more in this post about "5 Easy Ways to Go Green")
  • Made in the Red Barn: I love their hand-dyed napkins that use a "Birdseye" fabric like these cranberry ones I feature in the video. You can get 12 napkins for $22. There's all kinds of other colors and even some that aren't dyed...though I'm a bit more of a dyed fan because they don't lose their color over time like the white ones did.
The "Made in the Red Barn" Etsy shop
is where I got this napkin dispenser and
cloth napkins.

Looking for a link to those napkins with the fun fabrics?  Unfortunately that seller is no longer open on Etsy. I did come across this seller (Kathy Howe's Creations) who has this listing for: "6 Reusable Flannel Napkins, Select Your Own Designs". In this listing you get 6 flannel napkins for only $6 and there are over 80 fabric selections to choose from.

If you're feeling really crafty, you could try making your own cloth napkins. Here's a cool tutorial I found over at My Merry, Messy Life: "How We Ditched Paper Napkins and Went to Only Cloth with No Sewing". So go get your craft on and your green on! ( :
Now I showed this in the video, but if you were pressed for time and wanted to know all the many ways you could use cloth napkins, here's my list:
 1. In place of Klennex to wipe or blow your nose.
2. To clean the floor.
3. As a baby bib.
4. For dinner napkins.
6. In place of cotton balls for removing make up or applying facial toner.
7. As a wash cloth in the bath tub.

Well that's how I use, clean, and store my cloth napkins. They sure have made a tremendous difference on my journey to go green and it's been so nice not having to buy those mega-packages of paper towels at the store anymore. I'm pretty sure I could never go back to using paper towels in my house ever again.

Have you ever tried using cloth napkins? How did it go? What kind of napkins did you use? Did it work fabulously and you're still going strong with it? Or did it fail miserably? Share below!

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