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4 Tips for Saving Money on Cloth Napkins

4 Tips for Saving Money on Cloth Napkins

Two years ago I took the plunge and switched to using cloth napkins 100% of the time in my house.  I love them and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to paper.  Cloth napkins are better for the environment and are cheaper than paper napkins over time.  However, dishing out the dough for a set or two of cloth napkins might seem silly when paper napkins are so cheap!

Here are 4 money saving tips for switching to cloth napkins:

1) Shop at Thrift Stores – Save up your money for 1 nice set of napkins you can use when company is over.  The rest of the time your family can use a mix-matched set from the thrift store.

2) Put Cloth Napkins on Your Wish List – If you get a set for your birthday or Christmas, then they’ll be free!

3) Recycle Old Fabric – Make your own napkins out of old t-shirts or fabric scraps.  This would also be a great use for old receiving blankets!  They might look a little silly, but does it really matter when your are just going to smear spaghetti sauce on them anyway???

Cloth Napkins

And finally my favorite money saving tip of all…

4) Make Smaller Napkins Out of Large Ones – Have you ever really looked at how huge some cloth napkins are???  My napkins are DII Everyday Basic Napkins and they measured 20″ by 20″.  That is a big napkin!  (Perfectly acceptable for a fancy dinner out, but a bit over kill for my mac ‘n cheese lunch.)

I asked my mom to cut each napkin into 4 and hem the unfinished sides for me.  Now they are the size of a regular folded paper napkin, which I rarely would unfold to use anyway.

I love my smaller napkins because…

  • they are a more manageable size.
  • I have 24 napkins now instead of just 6!
  • I don’t have to do laundry as often.
  • they were cheaper than buying 24 full size napkins.

Here is one last bonus tip for you: Don’t use fabric softener on your cloth napkins.  Like on bath towels, fabric softener actually makes your napkins less absorbent.

Do you use cloth napkins in your house?

30 Days to Save Some Green

This post is part of the 30 Days to Save Some Green series.  Every day this month we are sharing tips on saving money and going green.  Plus there are giveaways and link-ups happening throughout the month!  Be sure to check out all the 30 Days to Save Some Green posts.

This is also being linked to Your Green Resource.

This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting Simply Rebekah!


  1. I love cloth napkins! I too have bought most of mine from thrift stores–I also bought napkin rings and each person has a different napkin ring–they decide when they want a new napkin–that cuts down on the wash–since my son will use the same napkin all week long.

    Rather than using paper towels to clean–I use old diapers!!

    Love your ideas!

    Be Blessed.

    1. You are the first person I’ve heard of that uses a different napkin ring for each person! That is a smart idea. Many people use a different color or patterned napkin, but your idea is good if you already have a lot of napkins that are the same.

    2. I spent a month at a sustainable farm in Tuscany several years ago and they did the same thing. It was the first time I’d ever heard of that and I’ve thought about doing it at home too…my kids will toss napkins they didn’t even use into the laundry basket. Seems like a great way to save some wear and tear and energy on washing clean napkins.

  2. A couple of years ago, I was having a garage sale and had a large pile of cloth napkins for sale. I remembered reading about using cloth napkins instead of paper towels. I took back the napkins, piled them in a basket on the kitchen counter, and told my two sons to use one instead of a paper towel. Now I rarely buy paper towels.

    1. Paper towels is something I’ve had a hard time getting rid of in my house. My husband loves them. However, I think he might change his mind if I had a huge stash of napkins sitting there for him. Good idea!

  3. We have been using cloth napkins at our house for a long time. I used some leftover frabric that my mom had (from one of her many bins) and each of us have our own design. A simple serge around the edges and they are done.

    My parents started doing that when I was a teenager. I still have the same napkin to use that I did back then! They’ve added new ones for each new person that comes into the family and we each have our own pattern. Although my son like to use my husband’s napkin whenever he can.

  4. I’ve been using cloth napkins for years and love them! Ours our nothing fancy, a few hand me downs from my grandma and some that I picked up at a thrift store.

    I really like the bright colors of your napkins!

  5. Great tips! We love cloth napkins. We each use the same one until we decide it’s too dirty–folding it different ways puts a clean side out!–and just keep them on our placemats so we know whose is whose. When we have overnight guests, we give each person a different colored napkin so that, if we need to clear off the dining table (which is more likely when cooking for a larger group, because our kitchen doesn’t have much counter space), we can put the napkins back in place afterward.

    My son learned to use the sewing machine when he was 6, and one project he likes to do is making napkins out of any appropriate fabric in our scrap bin. Now we finally have enough napkins that we’re usually able to collect a full washload of napkins + kitchen towels + aprons, potholders, etc. I feel better about the sanitation that way than washing napkins with underwear and stuff–although I think that’s probably safe enough really.

    1. Becca, my sister’s family does the same thing. They each have their own color and keep it until it needs washed. We switch out napkins a lot more often because we use our smaller ones, but I don’t wash a load of them very often since I have so many. It is probably 6 of one, half dozen of another. 🙂

  6. We’ve used cloth napkins “forever”. In addition to each of us having our own customized napkin for everyday use, we use terrycloth fingertip towels — a practice my Grandmother started in the 40’s and we’ve all done it ever since. I bought a lovely set of waffle-weave “bar towels” — white with blue stripes, that are for casual dining when we have folks over (they look so amazing with my cobalt blue glass dishes). The best ones of all are the waffle weave dish towels that we use for truly messy meals like fried chicken, ribs or spaghetti. They can be tied around the neck as a bib, or just have the extra room to absorb bigger messes.

  7. I started using cloth napkins this year – Dave still isn’t sure he likes them bc we reuse them from meal to meal. I told him he could get a clean one everytime and besides he used a cloth hankie and doesn’t put it in the wash after every time he blows his nose 🙂

  8. I, too, have been using cloth napkins for years. Always remember to get 100% cotton. Bandanas make great napkins and come in lots of colors.

  9. I love these ideas for getting started with cloth napkins. I’ve considered trying this napkin option recently but knew the upfront investment would be significant. I plan on adding a set to my birthday wish list this year!

  10. We leverage all those baby washcloths for my toddler, and sometimes the older people too. We rinse it out after the meal and then hang to dry. I haven’t totally made that jump, though, to cloth but I really should..

    1. Go for it, Michelle! I just spent a week using paper napkins on vacation and I truly missed my cloth ones. Once you make the jump you might love it as much as I do.

  11. I haven’t really given cloth napkins a thought. I’m a lipstick girl and would be concerned about stains. What’s your experience with that?
    Also we did cut way back on paper towel consumption by putting the papertowel holder under the sink. Out of site out of mind. We mainly use just for cleaning. We use our dish towels for drying hands, dishes and easy spills. Also great for greasy casual meals with family only. We use those for napkins too. But I think I may try to have to try cloth napkins. Especially since now all I have in paper is birthday, thanksgiving and Christmas. Lol.

    1. I wear lipstick, but it isn’t super bright. I don’t think it would matter too much though. Just keep a set for every day use that you don’t mind getting a little stained. Keep a nice set for company.

      Also, it would help if you avoided white napkins.

  12. We have been using washcloths as cloth napkins for years. I buy the “hotel” pack at Sams and we keep those in a big bowl on our kitchen island. These are a different color and style than our bath washcloths. We just now this year have had to replace them because they were falling apart. I know we’ve used them for at least 6 or 7 years. The old ones are now repurposed as cleaning rags. I can’t even remember the last time we’ve used paper towels. I like the idea of using old cloth diapers for our dirtier jobs. I’m going to have to go dig them out. LOL.

    1. I would LOVE to move away from using paper towels, but my husband loves them. Since I love my husband more than using cloth, I’ve decided to let go of that battle. 🙂

  13. I was converted to cloth napkins by my husband when we got married. His mom cuts dish towels in half & then hems the raw edge. They work so well & I will never go back to paper 🙂

    1. They really do work better than paper, don’t they? I just used paper on vacation and I really did miss the cloth napkins from home!

  14. I’ve ended up a with quite a nice pile of napkins through various gifts from my recent wedding. But now, I’m not sure how to “implement” using them. I have a tiny cute paper napkin holder on the table, and a big vase of flowers. I’d hate to crowd it with a big pile of napkins. And I always try to use paper for messy things like spaghetti! How do you get stains out? Do you have to spray them after each meal? Any tips or advice on these two things? By the way, great idea to cut them smaller – however I like the origami factor of a bigger one!

    1. Regina, excellent questions!

      My napkins are bright colored, but they are pretty plain and basic. I don’t worry at all about stains because they are just for my family and I have nicer ones for company. I don’t spray them after each meal and they usually sit in my dirty laundry for at least a week before they are washed. Surprisingly, they don’t stain!

      As for crowding your table, maybe you won’t always have the big vase on the table in different seasons? Or maybe you could put your napkins on a side table or in a drawer in the kitchen? If the napkin holder is cute, then maybe it doesn’t matter if both things are on your table.

  15. I cut old T-shirts into napkins. I get about 8 from an adult size shirt. I really feel they’re a better size and I don’t feel guilty for tossing it in the laundry after I use it! Love love love me napkins! BTW, soft, stretchy ribbed undershirts make THE BEST hankies!

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