Wrinkle-free napkins?
January 8, 2014 9:29 AM   Subscribe

I would love to switch from paper napkins to cloth for my family of 2 adults + 3 messy kids. I don't mind doing laundry but I hate ironing. Help?

I hate the waste of paper napkins so am considering switching to cloth ones. Laundry is not an issue, but ironing is, and I hate the look of wrinkled napkins. Do you have any recommendations for wrinkle-free napkins?

I've seen recommendations to whip the napkins out of the dryer immediately - but I doubt I'll be able to do that consistently. Reviews seem to indicate that the polyester ones don't wrinkle, but they don't absorb, either, which does me no good. One review I saw mentioned that he prefers waffle-weave napkins, which sounds promising, but the very few I've found online had no reviews. Does anyone have any experience with these and where I can buy them?

Any suggestions welcome - thx so much.
posted by widdershins to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Skip the dryer. Hang them to dry, after straightening them out.
posted by Namlit at 9:31 AM on January 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

I love the waffle knit napkins. My mother in law has some (along with polyester ones; I avoid using those). I'm pretty sure she bought them at target.
The ones she has that are plain cotton don't really wrinkle too much. She also doesn't fold them. She folds them in thirds then rolls them up and puts them in a basket. Very few wrinkles.
posted by missriss89 at 9:38 AM on January 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have these from Pottery Barn, but they don't seem to sell them any longer. I treat them very badly and they come out of the dryer unstained and slightly wrinkled. I smooth them aggressively with my hands when folding them and they look OK. They could still stand to be ironed.

In addition to hanging to dry, if you have thinner napkins, a friend taught me a trick to avoid ironing handkerchiefs: stick them up on the window while still wet, smooth out, and they'll fall off smooth once dry. (This is not much of a time saver, honestly, but entertaining.)
posted by chocotaco at 9:38 AM on January 8, 2014

Wash them alone, without heavy towels, etc. Put them in the dryer without stuffing the load and when they are almost dry, stack them flat, on top of each other, smoothing them. You can later fold them, if you want. We keep our clean napkins, folded into a triangle, in a basket. We use 100% cotton napkins with wide, mitered hems, which do not curl like narrow hems. Another trick is to starch them VERY heavily and iron them flat--once. This presses them enough that they stay pretty well flat in future, even if you don't iron them. Don't buy hemstitched napkins as the hemstitching will make them prone to tearing. Napkin rings were designed to save napkins for re-use by the same person at the next meal--consider a different ring for each family member. And set aside a basket or spot for dirty napkins, if you don't have a convenient laundry chute.
posted by Jenna Brown at 9:39 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Poly-cotton blends might be OK. My napkin drawer is a minefield of newer 100% cotton napkins I bought (which are kind of a wrinkled mess) and some 100% polyester ones from my mom that I keep for their awesome 70s color palette (but they do not absorb).

However, I have a batch that is maybe 80/20 cotton and polyester that strike a good balance between being absorbent and not too wrinkly.
posted by pantarei70 at 9:52 AM on January 8, 2014

We use a variety of cloth napkins at our house, and we never need to iron any of the ones that are not 100% cotton, or on preview what @pantarei70 just said.
posted by hush at 9:54 AM on January 8, 2014

It never would have crossed my mind to iron my napkins, but maybe some napkins with strong patterns or a more rustic look would be effective for helping you see them as a more casual item? My favorites that we have right now are either these or darn close to it--they're cotton, they don't warp, and they hold enough water to wipe sticky post-pancake fingers. We also have ones with fringed ends (not these but the first example I could find), which helps to hold down the edges while also looking pretty casual.

My other recommendation is to buy a few of multiple styles, wash them, and then stock up on the ones that work for you. In our experience, the more expensive-looking napkins look like hell after a cycle or two and end up as rags.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:55 AM on January 8, 2014

I own a set of these cloth napkins from Crate as our everyday set. I've never ironed them, I wash them right along with the rest of my laundry. Then I fold them and put them in a basket. They are rumpled but not wrinkled, it's never bothered me at all. We love using them and will never go back to paper!
posted by bonheur at 10:05 AM on January 8, 2014

We go the "out of the washer, hang them on the line with a fan aimed at them" route.
posted by Lucinda at 10:10 AM on January 8, 2014

Even 100% cotton napkins that have a fair amount of body/thickness (think jeans) can look OK for everyday use if you just take them out of the dryer promptly. We have some like this and use them all the time. I do recommend natural or white so that, if staining happens, you can bleach them.

Cotton is really nice since it absorbs well -- better than synthetics. It also wrinkles a little less than linen.
posted by amtho at 10:24 AM on January 8, 2014

These hotel napkins from Williams-Sonoma are our everyday napkins. Wrinkling is not an issue with them. They're pricey, but hold up. (They do stain; I'm not precious about that.) I too suck at taking stuff out of the dryer promptly.
posted by purpleclover at 10:46 AM on January 8, 2014

I bought some napkins at Target this summer with beautiful colors but they wrinkle like crazy. We eat outside a lot and I thought they would be better than paper because of the breezy weather we have. For Christmas dinner, I bought 100% cotton bandanas at Walmart in red with a snowflake pattern because they were cheap and I needed a lot. I figured I could deal with ironing once a year! They came out of the washer and dryer wrinkle free. I don't know if it is because they are thin or what, but they worked out great. I don't like the ones with polyester either. So now I plan to get some for every day use - bandanas come in lots of varieties these days.
posted by maxg94 at 10:51 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've seen recommendations to whip the napkins out of the dryer immediately - but I doubt I'll be able to do that consistently.

If you fail to remove them right away, you could just wet a hand towel under the faucet and then throw it in the dryer with them. It'll steam all the wrinkles out.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:05 AM on January 8, 2014

Seconding getting ones with wider edges. The ones from Target with the narrow hems are crap.
posted by sperose at 11:19 AM on January 8, 2014

Iron napkins? Maybe for Thanksgiving....

We use navy blue 100% cotton "banquet" napkins I bought from Home Goods in packs of 12 (we have 24 total). I wash them in with whatever, and dry them and they sit in the dryer for ages. Or in the laundry basket. Eventually I pull them out of the basket and fold them into quarters and stack them and stick them in a drawer. When its mealtime, I pull out three, grab the center into a point, and pull them through napkin rings to put on the table. After the meal, they go back into the rings and get put on the sideboard until the next meal ... repeat until they get dirty enough to be replaced. Sometimes the hems turn up a little, but otherwise being wrinkled isn't really an issue.
posted by anastasiav at 11:27 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

DIY flannel napkins.
posted by tilde at 11:30 AM on January 8, 2014

A wrinkled dinner napkin isn't the end of the world, also. They're fine after being folded in a stack for a while.
posted by amtho at 11:56 AM on January 8, 2014

I've used cotton napkins and currently (thrift store) linen. Folded relatively soon after they come out of the drier seems to be fine. You could also hang them to dry. My standards for the wrinkliness level of everyday, just-family napkins is fairly relaxed, though, ymmv.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 11:57 AM on January 8, 2014

Seeing your note about not being able to consistently take them out of the drier "immediately," I'll say that I currently have a loose pile that's been sitting in a laundry basket for a couple of days and they're not wrinkled. Just don't leave them in the drier with a lot of much heavier items (towels?) that could squish them.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 12:01 PM on January 8, 2014

I have normal cotton napkins, and it's never once occurred to me to iron them, and they're not offensively wrinkly.

When they come out of the laundry, they're a little wrinkly and mangled. I snap them open, fold them into quarters, and stack them in this square basket we have. While they sit there and wait to be used, they relax into an acceptable shape.

Don't overthink it! I've been using cloth napkins for a decade now and have lost any understanding of why anyone would use paper. So much more convenient and simple, so much less mess, cost, waste.
posted by Miko at 12:23 PM on January 8, 2014

Just get a laundry rack and dry them on there. Look at it this way: You're cutting back by not using paper, AND by not using the gas\electricity to dry them via machine.
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:54 PM on January 8, 2014

I don't iron any of my napkins, or treat them better than I treat any other laundry, and they don't look wrinkled. I make them out of 100% cotton fat quarters I get at quilting stores.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:40 PM on January 8, 2014

How fancy do you need to be? If "not at all fancy" then nothing works better than cheap, thin white washcloths.
posted by evilmomlady at 7:49 PM on January 8, 2014

The real linen napkins I have don't seem to wrinkle. Unfortunately the cotton ones I just bought for Christmas are horribly wrinkly. What has worked for me in the past with wrinkly cotton sheets is to iron the heck out of them a few times, after which they seem to "set" into not wrinkly. I'm hoping that will do the trick with these dumb napkins.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:00 PM on January 8, 2014

Thank you everyone! I'm going to try a few different kinds - blends, waffle weave and wide edges to start. I'll report back if I find something fantastic...
posted by widdershins at 4:30 AM on January 9, 2014

I have a large supply of "unpaper towels" I purchased from this Etsy shop several years ago. We use them for both paper towels and napkins. When they come out of the dryer, they are maybe a little wrinkled, but I store them flat (I have a decorative box they fit in), and I keep a bunch in a "towel house" (this one, but unfortunately the shop has closed) for easy access. Wrinkling isn't really a concern, considering I'm going to be using them to dry something or wipe something.
posted by LolaGeek at 7:33 AM on January 9, 2014

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