Cloth napkins are available in several sizes, ranging from a small, informal luncheon cloth napkin to a larger, more formal dinner napkin. While sizes vary, cloth napkins are all a perfect square.
Though cloth napkins vary in size, they are commonly found in the following sizes: 16 inches by 16 inches, 18 inches by 18 inches, 20 inches by 20 inches and 21 inches by 21 inches.
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The larger napkins, such as the 20 inches by 20 inches and 21 inches by 21 inches, are typically for more formal occasions, including a higher-end restaurant service, banquet dining and a holiday dinner party in a formal dining room. The larger napkin allows for easier napkin folding presentations and laying across the entire lap while dining.
The larger cloth napkins facilitate folding more elaborate napkin designs. Cloth napkins are used for folding and enclosing silverware, and so the size of the napkin must accommodate the length of the silverware.
Cloth napkins are available in different sizes to accommodate the different sizes of tables they are laid upon. At a smaller table, a cloth napkin in the 16-inch or 18-inch size is sufficient to lay under the forks, knives and spoons, whereas a larger table provides ample space for a 20-inch, 21-inch or even a 22-inch napkin folded to encase silverware. At a dinner party or seated banquet, the larger napkins also may be decoratively folded and centered on the plate.
Cloth vs. Paper
Cloth napkins are typically larger than paper napkins. Cloth napkins are intended for more formal occasions or situations in which it is more economical to launder and reuse than to throw them away. Paper beverage napkins are 10 inches folded square, while a paper luncheon napkin is a 13-inch folded square. Paper napkins are typically smaller in size and more lightweight so they remain a low-cost, single-use option.