The Best Cloth Napkins Are the Ones Domino Editors Use Night After Night
Even Tuesday takeout can feel like a special occasion.
Published Dec 28, 2021 1:00 AM
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Domino editors agree on this: Save paper napkins for potlucks and toothpick appetizers—a dinner isn’t complete without the best cloth napkins. Stylish, sustainable, and the perfect accompaniment to menus that are carefully curated or dreamed up on the fly, we love how they can effortlessly pull together mix-and-match dishware or simply distract the eye from a table that’s seen better days. If you’re looking for a new set to elevate a gathering of any kind, these are a few of our favorite picks, just in time for the holidays.
- The one for cocktail hour: Leif Frayed Linen Cocktail Napkins
- The one for mixing and matching: MoMA Upcylced Linen Napkins
- The one for everyday use: Auntie Otie Rustic Napkins
- The one for easy cleaning: Caldo Linen Dinner Napkins
- The one for pattern play: Simrane Cloth Napkins
- The one for vibrant vibes: Goldie Home Rose Marble Dinner Napkins
- The one for casually chic settings: Madre Signature Linen Napkins
- The one for festive gatherings: Bed Threads Linen Scalloped Napkins
- The one for holiday hosting: Heather Taylor Home Gingham Napkins
The One for Cocktail Hour: Leif Frayed Linen Cocktail Napkins
Dimensions: 12-by-12 inches | Material: Linen | Set or single: Sold separately
What we like:
- Machine washable
- Choose between cream, currant, and dusty rose
- $9 flat shipping fee
Why we chose it: Because romantic frayed edges pair best with coupes and stems.
Whether it’s a messy midweek meal or a low-key, impromptu get-together with friends, this is our commerce content director Sophie Miura’s go-to napkin set. “The Belgian weave is thick and weighted, and it doesn’t need to be ironed (because who has time for that?),” she shares. The sun-washed look and frayed edges signal relaxed vibes to guests; these are for casual gatherings, where the perfectly imperfect border is bound to match the worn hem of that favorite pair of jeans you’re sure to be wearing. They are the sort of napkins that Miura is packing for a seaside picnic on the weekend or setting out for a romantic cocktail hour at sunset.
The One for Mixing and Matching: MoMA Upcylced Linen Napkins
Dimensions: 14-by-16 inches | Material: Linen | Set or single: Set of six
What we like:
- Upcycled by Suay Sew Shop in Los Angeles
- Made with low-water reactive dyes
- 90-day satisfaction guarantee
- $7.95 flat shipping fee
Why we chose it: Sold as a set of six, the matching red border ties the eclectic color scheme together.
Shopping the MoMA Design Store is a foolproof path to stylish dinner parties. “I love the size and feel of these linen napkins,” says Naomi deManana, Domino’s style director, of this set designed by Lindsay Meadoff. “The mix of colors is fun and great for everyday with my family—my kids like to have their own signature look, different from one another,” she adds with a wink. Bonus: If you’re really looking to shake your setting up, deManana loves to layer, and her blue-and-burgundy stripes from La DoubleJ are the best at bringing a playful twist to the table. It makes for a modern yet rustic look—and is there a better color duo out there? We’ll wait.
The One for Everyday Use: Auntie Oti Rustic Napkins
Dimensions: 18-by-18 inches | Material: Cotton | Set or single: Set of six
What we like:
- Color assortment constantly changing
- On the smaller side
Why we chose it: Dependable and colorful, this simple set is handwoven in India and has staying power.
There are no napkins more reliable than Auntie Oti’s rustic set—Samantha Weiss-Hills, deputy commerce editor, swears by this maker she happened upon at Westwind Orchard nearly six years ago, and her napkins have survived her addiction to hosting everything from aperitivos to the large meals that follow ever since. “They are my everyday napkins because they are so soft, never show stains, and haven’t fallen apart after so many washes,” she says. Woven and yarn-dyed in India, no two sets are alike, so pick out a palette (or a few) you love the most (blue, purple, brown, or green) and wait for the surprise to arrive at your door.
The One for Easy Cleaning: Caldo Dinner Napkins
Dimensions: 20-by-20 inches | Material: Cotton and linen | Set or single: Set of four
What we like:
- Holds color
- Fabric blend made for durability
- May shrink if thrown in the dryer
Why we chose it: First, add charm to your table; then wipe up crumbs and spills without worry.
Megan West, Domino’s head of brand innovation and creative studio, depends on these dinner napkins to serve as both cute cutlery hosts and kitchen towel–like cleaners by a meal’s end. “These linen napkins are a dinnertime workhorse, thick enough for countertop spills, but they also look great next to a decorative tabletop,” explains West. “I love the range of colors and the quality of the linen.” And the price point isn’t bad either. The classic style offers a range of punchy colors, including coral and mustard.
The One for Pattern Play: Simrane Cloth Napkins
Dimensions: 16.9-by-16.9 inches | Material: Cotton | Set or single: Sold separately
What we like:
- Adds a little French flair
- International shipping
Why we chose it: A block print our associate style editor couldn’t leave France without.
“On a recent trip to Paris, I bought Simrane’s block-printed napkins, one in each colorway; mixing and matching makes every table a little more fun,” notes Julia Stevens, associate style editor. Simrane is known for unique prints and natural vegetable dyes, and its signature motifs come in five lovely contrasting and complementary combinations, all featuring either floral or paisley prints that are sure to make your guests smile. Once you’re done with them, just be sure to wash them with a mild detergent in cold water only.
The One for Vibrant Vibes: Goldie Home Rose Marble Dinner Napkins
Dimensions: 18-by-18 inches | Material: Linen | Set or single: Sold separately
What we like:
- A modern glam look
- Made in the U.S.
- Have to pay for shipping (unless you spend $150-plus)
Why we chose it: If you’re bored of stripes and florals, try marbled for a twist on the traditional tablescape.
How fun is this watercolor-like set from Goldie Home (the place for scoring amazingly modern table linens)? The unique marbled look caught the eye of our deputy editor, Julie Vadnal, and she’s since discovered that they’re equally perfect at hiding all kinds of stains. “I love ice-dyed patterns,” she adds, “and that no two are alike.” The different combinations of plum, orange, and pink keep things interesting; but look to the dark piping as the connecting thread to your fun, eclectic dinner spread.
The One for a Luxurious Statement: Madre Signature Linen Napkins
Dimensions: 21-by-21 inches | Material: Linen | Set or single: Set of four
What we like:
- Naturally stain-resistant
- Woven in a mill that runs on green energy
- Steam or iron after drying for a crisp look
Why we chose it: Colors so pretty, they look good enough to eat.
Weiss-Hills also gave a shout-out to Madre Napkins (can you tell linen is a preferred material choice among our editors?) for being soft, weighty, and available in a lovely color range—hues so vivid that chief content officer Kate Berry could collect them all (with colorways named Tomato, Pomelo, and Avocado, who wouldn’t be tempted?). “I always love anything piped, and the material and edging color combos really make them sing,” shares Berry. “A quality linen napkin is truly the most luxurious part of a meal, and not only for the way it feels on your face.” But perhaps the best part is knowing the fabric is naturally antimicrobial and antifungal. “All that aside, these really make a statement on my everyday table without all the fuss usually associated with linen napkins,” adds Berry.
The One for Festive Gatherings: Bed Threads Linen Scalloped Napkins
Dimensions: 20-by-21 inches | Material: Linen | Set or single: Set of four
What we like:
- Matching scalloped placements
- Line-dry only
Why we chose it: This scalloped statement inspired by designer Jean Royère adds a hint of whimsy to any meal.
To give her weeknight meals that missing je ne sais quoi, Miura recently purchased these scalloped linens from Bed Threads. Already a fan of the small business’s best-selling flax linen sheets—that, she’ll tell you, get softer with every wash—she had to have the napkin-size equivalent of this beloved French fabric. “I love the playful mix-and-match palettes,” says Miura. “I’m planning to add the sage and olive design to my collection for the holidays!” In fact, there are so many cheerful color pairings to choose from—it’s easy to picture the clay and turmeric for summer soirees or the lavender and petrol for fall flings. If you love the look of these as much as Miura does and decide to ship them to your door, just be sure to wash them in cold water on a gentle cycle before first use.
The One for Simple Settings: Malaika Zig Zag Napkins
Dimensions: 18-by-18 inches | Material: Linen | Set or single: Set of two
What we like:
- Ships quickly
- Available in navy and mustard
- White is prone to stains
Why we chose it: Sometimes simplest is best.
When you’re looking for a classic dinner napkin with a small, special flourish, Weiss-Hills suggests this sophisticated set by Malaika—a company founded to promote Egypt’s crafts, from textiles to pottery. “I love a clean-lined, soft white napkin, and the detailing here adds a bit of character,” she notes. In a contrasting green, the hand-embroidered zigzag pattern is added by women from Threads of Hope, a tuition-free training center in Cairo. Opting for this set means not only helping to preserve a heritage craft but supporting marginalized communities such as underprivileged women and refugees.
The One for Holiday Hosting: Heather Taylor Home Gingham Napkins
Dimensions: 20-by-21 inches | Material: Cotton | Set or single: Set of four
What we like:
- Free shipping
- Exclusive to West Elm
- Can’t mix and match colorways
Why we chose it: A classic print that plays well with others.
Gingham isn’t just for covering up outdoor picnic tables—it’s the perfect print for special occasions (especially those involving beautifully baked desserts). Just ask designer Heather Taylor. Her products are an ode to checks, plaids, and stripes, and her most recent holiday release with West Elm includes these Mayfair tartan napkins—plus matching tablecloths, runners, placements, and coasters—that can’t be beat when it comes to creating a cute Christmas spread. (Though this writer personally loves the versatility of the original multicolored pattern.)
- Merci Paris linen napkins are Vadnal’s everyday napkins, and they are surprisingly inexpensive (and oh so French). Just know that shipping to the States can be pricey.
- Green may be one of the more cliché colors of the holidays, but it doesn’t have to be expected—just check out Odissi’s linen napkins, new from the Citizenry, which we’re currently ogling.
- Speaking of color, West just can’t get enough of purple these days, and the Bloom napkins from Marigold Bazaar are the perfect addition to her collection; have you seen the complimentary pop of red in the floral motifs? Bliss.
How We Chose These Products
We asked Domino’s commerce and style editors: What are the best cloth napkins? These are at-the-moment favorites for daily dinner repertoires and special occasions. (Because let’s be real: It isn’t a party until the cloth napkins have arrived.) Products were chosen for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, color, ease of maintenance, price, and—perhaps most important—durability. Many of these picks have made it through kids’ meals, wine spills, and red tomato sauces and are still just as vibrant and soft many, many washes later.
Our Shopping Checklist
Napkins aren’t all the same shape or size, and you might use different ones depending on the type of gathering you’re attending (or hosting). For example, a napkin more or less gets bigger depending on whether it’s lunch (typically 14 to 16 inches) or dinner (18 to 21 inches). Dimensions-wise, most will unfold into a square, but you might notice when dining at a restaurant that your napkin looks more rectangular when draped across your lap. Here’s the thing: We doubt family and friends will be offended if you don’t follow what etiquette dictates, so don’t feel like you’re glued to this rule—we’re here to tell you it’s fun to break out your cloth napkins, no matter the size, at any time of day.
Domino editors prefer linen and cotton when it comes to cloth napkins, but they aren’t the only fiber sources for this tabletop accessory. There are plenty of polyester options on the market, though deManana’s advice is to stay away. “They aren’t as absorbent and don’t feel as nice to the touch,” she notes. But you don’t have to say no outright to a blend. Of course, 100 percent cotton or linen is the cream of the crop for this category, but they will require a bit more upkeep; just a hair of polyester added in can mean the difference of not having to iron with every use. Color, pattern, or texture-wise—have fun! Just keep a few things in mind: how your napkin choice works with your tablecloth (or bare table), and how everything will pair with your chosen glasses and flatware.
Most picks on this list can be tossed in a washing machine without worry (just stick to cold water and delicate cycles). If yours has trim or you’re looking for napkins to lay flat, Joanna Buchanan, creative director of her own home and lifestyle brand, offers a trick: Grab your set while it’s still damp and iron on reverse. “You can also use a spray starch when ironing if you want that stiff, crisp look,” she shares.
Q: There’s a stubborn stain on one of my napkins that just won’t go away—any advice on how to get rid of it?
First things first: What caused the stain? “If it’s an oil stain, put baking soda on it right away, then apply Dawn dishwashing liquid,” suggests deManana. “For sauces, wines, or berry juice, soak and then work at the stain by scrubbing fibers over a mesh sponge or with a brush.” She stresses to act fast—don’t wait for your laundry to pile up to clean your napkins. By then, a stain has likely already set. After messy dinners, the best thing you can do, adds deManana, is let them all soak.
Q: It’s so hard to get my cloth napkins to look just right! How should I style them?
A trifold rectangle is deManana’s go-to, but sometimes getting that crisp crease can be challenging. If your napkins are refusing to lay neat, try a different method. For special occasions, she will do a simple knot, and Buchanan loves to reach for a napkin ring for no-fuss styling. “They always add a touch of elegance and sparkle,” she shares. “For the holidays, I also like to tie an ornament around the napkin and include a cute tag as a place setting.” But if you’re determined to keep things simple, don’t overthink it. “When it comes to folding, you won’t find origami swans or rosettes from this hostess,” adds Buchanan. “I definitely favor a simple fold or fluff.”
Q: Why are cloth napkins more sustainable than paper alternatives?
Cloth napkins can be used time and time again, and nearly all of the choices on our list have been sustainably produced with natural fabrics, some even boasting low-impact manufacturing and dye practices. Even stained napkins can still be put to good use, says deManana—she’ll dye her overused pieces a darker color to make marks less noticeable so they’re table-ready once again.
The Last Word
When you’ve spent the day braising beef for ragu tagliatelle or rolling crust for apple hand pies (even if you’ve just thrown together your go-to chili), why take away from the final presentation of all your hard work? The best cloth napkins—Domino editors are suckers for punchy palettes and piping—will complete your table for years to come. Just prioritize a durable, natural material like cotton or linen, and take extra care when washing and laying them out to dry.