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Paper napkins vs linens: What should I use for dinner parties?

Table set up with linen napkins.

Short answer: If I have guests, I much prefer linen napkins.  It’s a no-brainer.

There are many decisions that everyone makes on a daily basis. Our decisions range from what to make the children for breakfast to what to prepare for dinner, and everything in between.

I live an average life doing average activities, and I do not bother to try and keep up with relatives and friends. My choices for decorating the home are all mine, and whether we go North, South, East, or West on vacations is partly mine also. 

Paper vs linen napkins

Close-up of linen napkin next to a spoon.

When it comes to choosing the napkins I prefer for a dinner party, I emphatically choose linen napkins. I use paper napkins for everyday and casual meals, but when I want to feel special or make things impressive, I dress my table with linen tablecloth and napkins.

“Using cloth napkins instead of paper ones at dinner…is not only an easy way to elevate an in-home dining experience-something most of us may be looking to do right now but also a simple step toward living more sustainably. Not to mention, cloth napkins almost always look more sophisticated than paper ones, no matter how intricate their design may be.”

I think that this quote helps justify my position. Although I did not give much thought to the sustainability aspect before, I am environmentally conscious, so using cloth napkins instead of paper does help preserve our natural resources, and protect the planet. That means I am doing my part for the environment.

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Cloth napkins are a lot less expensive than most people think. Unlike paper napkins, cloth ones are not purchased every time there is a special occasion or event. I bought some beautiful linen napkins years ago, and they are just as lovely as they were at the time of purchase. 

I’ve only used them a few times, but I launder and iron them after each use, fold them, and put them away in the drawer. I wash them with my regular laundry, so I do not use excess water or detergent. 

Using paper napkins is fine for family barbecues, but when having a dinner party, cloth napkins are more elegant. They make the guests feel that they are enjoying an eloquent evening with friends or family. Everyone deserves this every now and then. 

With paper napkins, there is the chore of going from store to store to find the ones that will be just right for the party, or whether to use white or over the long color. If so, which color to use?  This could be quite expensive even for everyday dinner meals.

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Thinking in terms of the environment, paper napkins are not all biodegradable and do not add to sustainability.  So, if the question is which is cheaper, which is more environmentally friendly, and which is more hygienic, the answer is definitely cloth napkins.  “…the winner is reusable cloth napkins.  All around, it saves you money, especially over time. 

Research indicates that, so long as you wash your napkins regularly, there is no difference in which is healthier to use.  As for the environment, anytime you can reuse resources over the long run, you’re helping the planet.” These are my sentiments exactly. No truer words have ever been said.

Finding linen, cotton, or other fabric cloth napkins is very easy, and it does not take an all-day trip to the mall to find the ones that are just right for the table. I found some beautiful napkins while shopping online. The online website has a wide range of colors to suit various tastes.

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When looking at the myriad of designs and patterns of napkins, I realized that I could create a different ambiance in my dining room with a variety of colored napkins by choosing a different colored tablecloth and napkin for the table setting each time I had a dinner party. My preference for cloth linen napkins is those that remind me of my grandmother’s table setting. It never had to be a special occasion for her. 

Whenever she had family over, it was always a special event and a time for her best table linens. That’s when I fell in love with linen napkins, and that is probably my reason to say that a dinner party is a time to bring out the linen, not the paper. It is also very chic to have the table set in bold matching prints and patterns.

I am in favor of cloth napkins, but actually, the choice of napkins depends on the type of dinner party being held. If you are pulling out all the stops, the best china and crystal, and polishing the silver, then linen is the best option. If the dinner party is casual, paper napkins would be perfectly acceptable.

This thought-provoking insight went on to state, “Do spend a little extra and buy high quality, heavier-weight napkins. That nice thing about paper napkins is that you can have fun with colors and/or patterns that will help set the theme for your party.” 

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I am not totally against using paper napkins at a dinner party because they can be eco-friendly and easily disposed of. The issue for me is that, with paper napkins, you are constantly running out to buy more, and if you forget to buy them it could happen as the party is getting started. 

Sometimes, everything is bought for the party, and the budget has been exhausted, then the napkins could possibly be a donation by a guest. This could be an embarrassing moment.

Having cloth napkins means that everything is well prepared, and nothing is left to chance. Linen napkins bring back a fond memory for me, and they will forever be my choice to use at dinner parties, especially if I want the event to have a formal flair.