Ultimate tablecloth guide right here setting out all the different types of tablecloths. It's a good idea to have a few tablecloths on hand because the color can help set the mood. While white always works, sometimes it's fun to get a little festive or get seasonal styles.
We entertain regularly. In our formal dining room we have a dining table with extendable leaves on both sides that can accommodate up to 10 people. When we host dinners, we usually use a white tablecloth. Using a tablecloth adds some class to the table setting but also eliminates the need for placemats and protects the table.
It’s a good idea to have a few tablecloths on hand because the color can help set the mood. While white always works, sometimes it’s fun to get a little festive or get seasonal styles. This extensive articles set outs the many types of tablecloths for your table.
Table of Contents
- Seasonal Tablecloths
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What materials are tablecloths made from?
- What are the typical tablecloth sizes/dimensions?
- Who invented the tablecloth?
- When were tablecloths invented and/or first used?
- How long should a tablecloth be for an 8-foot long table?
- Are plastic tablecloths recyclable?
- How are tablecloths measured?
- Are vinyl tablecloths waterproof?
- How can you keep tablecloths from blowing away?
- What are lace tablecloths?
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The space of your table will directly affect what shape tablecloth you buy to use but you do have a little leeway. While square tablecloths are the best option to use on square tables, they can also be used on circular tables as well. When you use a square tablecloth on a round table, then you will want to make sure that the tablecloth is large enough to either completely cover the table or is small enough to act as more of an accent in the center of the table.
These tablecloths are generally very long and only work well on rectangular tables. Unfortunately, if you use them on a square table, they will either hang down very long on two ends or will have to be folded to make them the appropriate length. They are great for longer tables where you would otherwise have to use two square tablecloths to cover the table.
Round tablecloths only look good on round tables. It’s important that when shopping for a round tablecloth, you choose one that will be long enough to hang down on the sides. If you are hosting a formal event, then you will want your tablecloth to come almost all the way to the ground to hide the legs of the table while less formal meals can have a shorter tablecloth and still look great. Make sure that the cloth isn’t so long that it pools uncomfortably in the laps of the people sitting around the table.
Oval tablecloths come in a number of sizes and can often be used on rectangular tables as well as oval ones. If you do opt to use an oval tablecloth on a rectangular table, then you will need to make sure that it is wide enough to easily cover the corners of the table or it will look out of place. Choose an oval tablecloth that hangs down nicely on all sides of the table, no matter if you opt for a rectangle or oval-shaped table.
These tablecloths are linen products that are made with polyester fibers. These synthetic fibers are incredibly durable and will stand up to stains and wrinkles, making them an excellent choice for tablecloths when you are worried about the appearance of the table and will be serving a large number of people. Any time that you are worried about spills, you will want to opt for a polyester tablecloth. While polyester tablecloths used to be scratchy and not nearly as comfortable as other options, newer polyester tablecloth options are very soft and are often mistaken for cotton due to the way that they feel.
These are some of the softest tablecloths that you can find and they tend to drape beautifully over the table. The problem with cotton tablecloths is that it is very common for them to wrinkle even during a meal or an event. Another main issue with cotton is how absorbent it is. Any spill on cotton will be quickly soaked up and may stain, depending on the color of the tablecloth and what was spilled. Depending on what kind of event you are having, cotton looks and feels great but it’s important to be careful about how it is used to keep it looking its best.
Burlap tablecloths look a lot more rustic than other kinds that you can buy and are perfect for everyday use or for a special occasion such as an outdoor wedding or other party. While they do tend to be a little scratchy, many people like the way that they look and they feel. Because they are a neutral color, you can easily decorate the table with any dishes, napkins, and flowers that you want without feeling as though you have to compete with the appearance and color of the tablecloth. It’s easy to spot clean burlap tablecloths and they are generally fairly forgiving even if you do accidentally spill on them.
Linen tablecloths have a number of pros that make it a very popular material for use on tables all around the world. They are beautifully textured and while they do tend to wrinkle, the wrinkles generally appear as charming instead of unkempt. This type of tablecloth gets softer the more that it is used and washed until it is just as soft as cotton. In addition, it’s one of the strongest types of fabrics that you can buy. It won’t ever pill the way that cotton will sometimes and does a great job standing up to bacteria and mildew, making it perfect for inside or outside use.
Blends are a great way to get the beauty and soft feel of a cotton tablecloth while enjoying a hardier tablecloth that will last for a longer time. While cotton tends to be very soft, a blend will not be quite as gentle to touch but it will last longer and can handle being thrown in the washing machine without being damaged. This makes a cotton blend tablecloth a great option for anyone who tends to have messy meals or wants to be able to enjoy soft tablecloths that can be easily washed.
Lace tablecloths are very pretty, tend to be more delicate than other material, and will instantly update the appearance of your table. One great way to use lace tablecloths is over a solid color tablecloth as it will make a very attractive centerpiece for the table. They can be used on their own but are only a great option if the wood of the table is attractive and you don’t mind it showing through the lace. These tablecloths usually have to be professionally cleaned and dried so that they are not damaged.
While not a popular choice for indoor tablecloths, plastic tablecloths are ideal for outside dining because they wipe clean so easily and will withstand any amount of falling debris from the sky or trees. Some families with young children do opt for using plastic tablecloths in their homes because they are so very easy to clean but others prefer to take their chances with a tablecloth that looks and feels softer.
Source: Home Depot
If you want to be able to throw your tablecloth into your washing machine without worrying about any special care, then you will want to find one that is machine washable. Sometimes these tablecloths will be specially made so that they won’t stain but usually they are just designed to be able to stand up to being tossed in the washing machine with the rest of the laundry. This eliminates the hassle and cost of having to take them to the cleaners to have them cleaned if you accidentally spill on them.
These tablecloths may be a little more fragile than others that you can buy so it’s important that you can clean them if you accidentally drop something on the tablecloth. Being able to gently clean the visible stain or spot by hand means that you won’t have to take the tablecloth to the cleaners or worry about it being damaged in the washing machine. They should not be washed on a regular basis as they will begin to fall apart or be damaged so it’s important to keep them as clean as possible.
Dry Clean Only
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These tablecloths will need to be professionally cleaned only. If thrown in the washing machine with the rest of the laundry, it is common for the colors to run or fade, any beading to be damaged, or the delicate fabric of the tablecloth to catch and tear in the machine. Because of this level of care needed, many people only want to use dry clean only tablecloths for special occasions as it can be expensive to have to take them to be professionally cleaned on a regular basis.
Source: Home Depot
These tablecloths are a little more fragile or delicate than the ones that you can put in your washing machine but don’t need the same high-level care that dry clean only ones do. These tablecloths have to be washed by hand in cold water, generally in a sink or bathtub. Make sure that you don’t use bleach or other harsh chemicals on the tablecloth as they will quickly damage or ruin the fabric.
Source: Home Depot
These tablecloths will either be coated with a material that will help the fabric resist stains or made out of a material that will automatically resist them. Either way, they are great at standing up to spills without showing any of the damage on the tablecloth. Instead of having to immediately get the tablecloth soaped and washed to avoid a permanent stain, you can simply wipe up the spill. While spills that are left for a long time or spills on older stain-resistant tablecloths will be harder to get out and may leave a permanent mark, it’s much more difficult to stain this type of tablecloth.
Not all tablecloths should be used outside but if you like to dine in the fresh air, you may want a tablecloth to protect your dining surface and improve its appearance. Instead of using an indoor tablecloth and risking damaging it, opt for one that is designed specifically for outdoor use. This ensures that you won’t have any major damage done to the tablecloth.
Source: Home Depot
Spills happen and most tablecloths will quickly soak up any liquid that is spilled on the table. From water to wine, grape juice to milk, choosing a water-resistant tablecloth will help to protect the table from getting damp and ensure that you can easily clean up the spilled liquid. This will also prevent you from having to immediately strip the table to dry off the tablecloth as the tablecloth will be coated with a substance that will repel water. This means that any spills will bead up and will be very easy to wipe clean.
Source: Home Depot
While tablecloths can really improve the appearance of a table, if the tablecloth is wrinkly, then it will not look as welcoming or nice as one that has been recently ironed. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the time or ambition to iron their tablecloths. You can avoid having to perform this extra step before setting the table by choosing a tablecloth that is anti-wrinkle. These will look fresh right out of the dryer and don’t require any extra steps to prepare the table.
Embroidered tablecloths are going to appear a little nicer and classier than your typical tablecloth and will instantly improve the appearance of your table. These, of course, will require gentle care as simply putting them in the washing machine can easily damage the embroidery. While they aren’t often used for everyday meals, embroidered tablecloths look great for special occasions such as holidays or large family dinners.
Source: Home Depot
While not always necessary in a home, heavy-duty tablecloths are perfect for those who run catering companies and need to be able to launder their tablecloths multiple times without worrying about them fraying, fading, or coming undone. These tablecloths have been made to stand up to a lot of use without any problems and will continue to look amazing, no matter how many times they’re washed. They are often made of a thicker fabric that will allow them to withstand multiple back-to-back washings and are generally in neutral colors and designs so that they will appeal to a larger number of people that the caterer might be working with.
Source: Home Depot
Many tablecloths will unfortunately slip and move around on the table once they are put on it. Until there is enough weight in the form of dishes and glasses to hold the tablecloth in place, this large piece of fabric can be quite slippery. Tablecloths with a non-slip backing will stay in place even if there isn’t anything on them to weigh them down. This is ideal if you are worried about the tablecloth blowing away in the wind, don’t want it getting knocked off on accident, or simply want your table to be dressed up with a tablecloth all of the time.
When you buy a reversible tablecloth, you will get two patterns or styles for the price and storage of one. This is great for anyone who doesn’t have a lot of room in his or her home to store their tablecloths or who wants to have a lot of options when it comes to setting the table. While heavy stains or spots will show through to both sides, very light stains won’t, which means that you can easily flip over the tablecloth to hide the stain before a meal.
Perfect in an updated home that is light, bright, and full of neutral colors with accent pieces, a contemporary tablecloth will fit right into the décor. You can choose from one that is neutral in color and design so that you can update your space with bright dishes and flowers or choose something that has pops of color to make the space a little brighter and more interesting.
Perfect for a space where you want to fill your home with interesting objects and art, eclectic tablecloths stand out and give you and your guests something to talk about. Make sure that you choose one that has a print that is large and interesting enough to make a statement so that everyone who enters your home will see the tablecloth. Smaller prints will fade into the background while graphics and bold print will stand out
If you are interested in having a very modern appearance through your home, then you know that the details of your art, fabrics, and furniture all matter. Instead of using a plain tablecloth, when you opt for a modern one, you will want to make sure that you enjoy the lines, pattern, and colors in the design. This will ensure that your tablecloth fits in with the rest of the décor in your modern home.
Traditional tablecloths can be very gorgeous, especially when they fit with the appearance and décor of the rest of your home. These tablecloths are generally floral, although they can have other designs as well. Many lace tablecloths are more traditional in design and will create a very distinctive look in your home. Look for lighter colors combined with fine details such as embroidery or beading.
If you live on the beach or simply want to have the appearance and laid-back style that comes with beach living, tablecloths can really lighten up your space and make it feel more beachy. Whether you choose a tablecloth that has ocean designs on it or want one that simply embodies the feel of the beach due to the color scheme and lightweight fabric, it’s easy to feel as if you are on vacation no matter where you live. Look for light colors and a fabric that will flap in the wind if you are going to be dining outside.
These tablecloths can go one of two ways. They are generally either a heavier and coarser fabric, almost similar to a heavy linen, or have bold colors and lines that will make the tablecloth pop. No matter which one you choose, you can ensure that your home has a Craftsman feel from top to bottom. These tablecloths will look great on any kind of dining room table but are best on furniture that is in the Craftsman style to complete a whole-house look that appears well thought out and designed.
Rustic tablecloths are a great choice if you are interested in making your home feel as if it is a cabin retreat. While they are perfect for a cabin in the woods, you can easily make your home resemble a vacation home with a rustic tablecloth. Look for either worn burlap, which will bring a feel of nature into your home, or choose a tablecloth that is checkered. While neutral tablecloths are a great choice for this feel in your home, bright checkered tablecloths are also very rustic in appearance and will instantly lift the mood of anyone who comes to eat with you.
Prepare to feel as if you are on the vacation of your dreams every time you have a meal in your home when you choose a tropical tablecloth. They are bright with vibrant flowers, animals, and designs and will instantly lighten up your room and improve your mood. Make sure that the colors are really bright and colorful so that you will get the true feeling of being in the tropics. Muted colors, while they are pretty, won’t last as long when the tablecloth is washed over and over and won’t give you the vacation feeling that you want.
If you love the clean look and lines of Scandinavian fabric or clothing, then you can get that feeling with your tablecloth as well. Look for one that has neutral, complementary colors and straight lines that are so indicative of this kind of style.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you can read our answers to common tablecloth questions.
What materials are tablecloths made from?
Linen tablecloths are usually used for formal and special occasions. Linen is made from flax and is more durable and stain-resistant than cotton.
Today, most tablecloths are cotton, poly-cotton blend, or PVC-coated material that can be wiped clean,
Cotton tablecloths offer a wider range of colors and patterns than other materials. They are inexpensive, easy to maintain, and usually used for casual dining. If a spill occurs, they can often be spot cleaned. Laminated cotton tablecloths are shinier and almost stain-proof, but they are not as soft.
Polyester tablecloths are soft, durable, wrinkle-resistant, don’t absorb liquid, don’t shrink, don’t fade, and hold their shape after multiple washings. They have a silky appearance that lends itself to formal occasions.
Poly-cotton blended tablecloths provide durability, softness, and wrinkle-resistance.
More elegant tablecloths can be made from organza or satin.
Organza is a specialty fabric that is light and see-through. Organza tablecloths are generally used as overlays. They add layers, hues, and textures to the table decor. Tablecloths made of organza may require hand washing and air drying
Satin tablecloths can be reversible and offer a shiny side and a matte side. These tablecloths are usually used for formal events. Satin can be made from polyester or silk. Polyester satin is more durable, machine washable, and less expensive.
A search for tablecloths that were waterproof and could be wiped clean started in the 1950s. Oilcloth was the first solution. It is painted canvas that was bonded to a cotton mesh. It was waterproof, stain-resistant, and fade-resistant.
Plastic tablecloths are the least expensive tablecloths but offer the most color choices. They are intended for a single use and can be found with party supplies.
Vinyl tablecloths are inexpensive, thicker, water-resistant, and more durable than plastic tablecloths. They are suitable for daily or outdoor use and can be wiped clean.
What are the typical tablecloth sizes/dimensions?
Tablecloths can be round or rectangular. Round tablecloths are usually sold as either 70″ or 90″ in diameter. Rectangular tablecloths are offered in the standard sizes of 52″ x 70″, 60″ x 84″, and 60″ x 104″ although variations are available.
Who invented the tablecloth?
The earliest mention of tablecloths was in the writings of Roman poet, Martial, in the first century AD. Prior to that time, Roman tables were ornately carved and would not have been covered by a cloth. The first tablecloths were plain and meant for practical use.
When were tablecloths invented and/or first used?
By the 15th century, the use of tablecloths was widespread, although the tablecloth material depended on financial status. The wealthy had linen tablecloths. The less wealthy used cheaper cloth, hemp, or bare tables. At that time, having really white tablecloths was even more of a sign of financial status because flax had to be bleached and workers had to be dedicated to keep the tablecloths white and unwrinkled. Some tablecloths had stripes, borders, and fringes. Other tablecloths were made for specific tables. Multiple tablecloths had to be used on tables wider than the available looms. Perugian tablecloths, which were white with blue stripes or blue patterns, appeared at this time. These tablecloths are associated with church linens.
Tablecloth styles changed over time. During the Victorian era, tablecloths were made in dark colors and touched the floor. The Art Deco period featured lighter colors, and in the 1950s, geometric designs were popular.
How long should a tablecloth be for an 8-foot long table?
Unless it is a floor-length tablecloth, the edge of the tablecloth usually extends 6″ to 15″ over the edge of the table. So for an 8-foot table, you would want a tablecloth that is 108″ to 126″ long. A tablecloth for a more formal occasion has a greater drop.
Are plastic tablecloths recyclable?
Do not recycle plastic tablecloths. They are so thin that they get caught in recycling machines. Do not recycle plastic or vinyl tablecloths with a code of 3 because they contain harmful chemicals. Some vinyl tablecloths are eco-friendly and can be recycled. However, if they have been treated to be water-resistant, they cannot be recycled.
How are tablecloths measured?
Round tablecloths are measured across the diameter. Rectangular tablecloths are measured from selvage to selvage and hem to hem. To be sure that you have a large enough tablecloth, measure your table from edge to edge, decide how much of a drop you want, double the drop measurement, and add it to your table dimensions.
Are vinyl tablecloths waterproof?
Vinyl tablecloths are water-resistant, not waterproof. This means that they can absorb some water.
How can you keep tablecloths from blowing away?
It is especially important to keep plastic tablecloths from blowing away because they are an environmental hazard, especially to birds and fish. You can by clips to secure tablecloths or use tablecloths with elastic edges. You also can use décor plain or decorative rocks to secure a tablecloth.
What are lace tablecloths?
Lace tablecloths are delicate, openwork tablecloths usually made from cotton thread or yarn although finer threads such as linen, silk, gold, or silver can be used. They can be crocheted, knitted, tatted, macramé, cutwork, bobbin lace, or machine-made. Since they can be delicate, they may require hand washing and air drying especially if they are made from specialty threads.