There are two reasons we all need to be switching to reusable napkins: the first is because it’s infinitely better for the environment to do so, and the second is because it’s considered much classier to have fabric napkins than a roll of kitchen towel plonked down in the middle of the dining table.
To contribute to your superior table setup, we've gathered a selection of fabric napkins in a range of colours and styles, with many made by small businesses or individuals.
We wanted to see that the napkins were well made – that the stitching was neat and the material was quality. We also wanted to ensure they were absorbent – we’ve all experienced trying to wipe hands, mouths and the occasional spillage with a fabric that positively repels liquid, and it’s not ideal.
We washed the napkins to ensure that they didn’t shrink or discolour, and to see if washing softened the fabrics, which is often welcome.
We were keen to see "everyday" napkins in muted tones as well as showstoppers for special meals or post-lockdown dinner parties.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Lottie Day grey feather napkins
These six napkins are just so pretty and feature beautiful, screen-printed illustrations by Norfolk-based artist Lottie Day, who takes inspiration from the natural world. The fabric is 100 per cent natural cotton, which makes for a soft and tactile napkin that is and easy to wash and dry.
But what we loved most was how intricately the feather is rendered, and that we hadn’t seen other similar products. They are really easy to style, not least because they arrive in neat rolls, but we experimented with folding too. The box packaging makes these a perfect gift.
Homescapes block check napkins
These are so cheerful and cheap that you have to look at the price twice – yes that is for a pack of four. And yet they’re still made from 100 per cent cotton and are 45x45cm, so hardly a mean or substandard offering. If orange isn’t part of your tablescape palette, these come in a variety of different colours, including a brilliant lime green. They may feel a little solid and inflexible when you first hold them, but you’re only a few washes away from a more relaxed texture.
Setting Pretty the wild child napkins
At 48x48cm, these four napkins are really big and, along with the animal print, they make a striking addition to any table without being too much. In fact, we see them working at a summer picnic just as easily as at a four-course dinner with a spread of cutlery and wine glasses. Made from 100 per cent cotton, these offer a smooth, sleek texture.
Sophie Allport bees napkins
Perfect for any and all fans of the #cottagecore aesthetic, we think these four napkins (41x41 cm) best suit a cosy country kitchen. Made from 100 per cent cotton, these have a slightly rough weave that makes them feel really substantial. The bees are beautifully illustrated and are actually much bigger than the pictures make them appear. They are also surprisingly inexpensive for such fine quality.
SZ blockprinted napkins
Our favourite thing about these four napkins, which are handprinted in Jaipur, is, of course, the authentic Indian blockprints in beautiful colourways. But a close second is how soft they become as they get older. The dyes don’t fade and we can guarantee you will be constantly asked where you got them from. Do note that SZ is a small-batch business and is currently unable to ship to the UK – however, it hopes that things will be back to normal by June. We think they're worth waiting for.
Thornback & Peel pink jelly & cake napkins
These are just brimming with ostentatious fun – we think if Marie Antoinette were alive today, she might opt for these four napkins (45x45 cm) alongside her cake. Made from 100 per cent cotton, these will get softer with wear and they wash beautifully (for the love of God and all things fresh, keep these separate from dark clothing – there is nothing more depressing than dishwater grey where there should be crisp white). We thought these would be best styled on a table bursting with colour and shape – a riot of flowers, glasses and candles.
La Redoute linen napkins
Muted and simple, these are ideal for rustic homes: we see the four of them alongside plates of hearty stews on an unfussy table decorated with wildflowers. If beige is too plain, there are seven other colours to choose from. The linen has been washed before and feels pliable without being limp.
Designers Guild delahaye peony linen napkins
We never knew we needed marble-effect napkins on our tables until we laid eyes on these. Not only are they a delicious visual feast (there’s a blue and green colourway if you aren’t thinking pink), they are super soft thanks to being made from 100 per cent linen. This feels amazing to use, but means that they will need some assertive prep after washing – a careful, precise iron is essential for these four. Call us practical to the point of being unglamorous, but we couldn’t help but think about how easily these patterns would hide rogue red wine or soy sauce splashes.
The White Company white napkins
There’s something so luxurious about a classic, crisp white napkin – it speaks of restaurant freshness. To replicate that in your own home, you just can’t go wrong with these four. Made from cotton, they have a slightly uneven look to the texture that is more akin to linen. We think they are suitable for any meal, but we’d be inclined to keep them for best.
The verdict: Reusable napkins
Lottie Day’s feather napkins are original, beautiful and versatile, as well as being excellent value. We also rated the attention to detail in the packaging. The gingham set from Homescapes is our other pick for managing to pack so much colourful joy into tablelaying for little more than a fiver.
Want to make your table stand out? Try the best cutlery sets that make any meal a special occasion
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.