Napkin Care and Cleaning
Care and cleaning of napkins is vital when trying to give a good impression at an elegant function or meal. Stained napkins are a faux pas but a grungy napkin is a blunder. Quality napkins are an investment, especially in a restaurant or for a catering service. Linen napkins and tablecloths require a degree of careful handling. Most quality napkins will be made from natural fibers, flax, cotton, or cotton/nylon blends. If the labels come with special instructions follow them closely.
If cleaning instructions are not provided, it is best to use cool water to wash napkins. Woolite, or some kind of quilt soap is recommended. Use the gentlest means practicable. If there are just a few items, hand washing may be appropriate. However, this will be time prohibitive when there are hundreds of napkins involved. Most wash machines come with a gentle cycle and these should be sufficient for most napkins. If hand washing do NOT ring out napkins, especially linen napkins as this can separate the fibers.
The best way to dry quality linens is by hanging on a line out of doors. Again, this is not always a viable alternative. Second best is to tumble dry with as little heat as possible. Refrain from over-drying as this can make fibers brittle. Just before ironing, give each napkin a brief shot from a spray bottle to make it slightly damp and place them all in a plastic bag. Do not leave the damp napkins in the bag for long periods, as this will just invite mold and mildew.
Probably the most important part of napkin care is ironing. This is time-consuming, but it will pay dividends. Place the napkin on the ironing board and spray on starch, further dampening the linen. Begin on the bottom side of the napkin with the iron on a hot, dry setting. No need to add steam, there should already be sufficient moisture in the napkin.
Fold the napkins as appropriate. Linens should be stored in a cool, dry place. The average linen closet should be sufficient. Do not store linens in plastic bags, as some air circulation is beneficial. The instructions above should also serve for table clothes and other linens. Special care should be taken with monograms or cross-stitching.
Some nylon and polyester blends do not require ironing or elaborate care. However, these too are subject to stains, mildew in storage, and rough useage. If there is a large stock of napkins available, try to cycle through them in a way in which they all receive equal wear. Perfectly good washed and beautiful napkins can look awkwardly used when placed next to one which has never been used.