Cloth and Linen Napkins
Is it ostentatious to use a cloth napkin rather than a paper one at every meal? Maybe, but who cares? It’s a touch of luxury.
The fanciest napkins are those made from damask cloth. Damask, which takes its name from the city of Damascus, Syria, used to refer to a method of weaving cloth in which threads of one type of fabric – say, silk – would be woven with threads of another, such as flax.
This is still done, though the term damask also now applies to textiles with just the look of this type of weave; this is something that can now be achieved using a single type of thread such as cotton or linen. Brown when they come off the loom, but then bleached white, linen damask napkins are the crème de la crème of face-and-hand wipers. The best of these employ something called a double-damask weave, a heavier fabric that is especially responsive to making fancy folds.
» Cleaning Napkins
One objection to using cloth napkins that invariably arises is the problem of food or lipstick stains. Probably the best suggestion when it comes to tough food stains like barbeque sauce or wine is to avoid using your best white cloth napkins when you are serving foods or beverages that stain. Use paper those nights or some less fancy, expendable cloth napkins, preferably in a dark color.
But, if it’s too late and your best table linens are already stained and soiled, perhaps these tips will help:
- Starching napkins when you wash and iron them not only makes them easier to fold; it also helps repel stains the next time they’re used.
- Glycerin removes lipstick stains.
- For wine stains, wet them with water as soon as possible, then mound salt on both sides of the stain.
- Supposedly, white wine poured on a red wine stain will remove it.
- Wash all napkins as soon as possible after they are used.
- Treat the stains with a prewash stain remover, then wash promptly.
- Wash in warm or hot water using a powdered oxygen bleach and an enzyme-boosted detergent.
- It may help to soak the napkins overnight in a mix of just enough water to cover them, one cup of laundry detergent, and one cup of dishwasher detergent. Wash the next morning.
- After washing, dry the napkins on a clothes line to let the sun bleach away stains.
- When all else fails, soak white napkins in strong bleach solution.
At some point, something like a strong grease stain will fail to yield to any kind of attack. That’s the time to reflect upon the verity that the world and all therein is ephemeral, and every napkin has to meet its ultimate fate: getting tossed or becoming a cleaning rag. Life is like that.