The Best Fabric for Tablecloths

Though tablecloths are primarily a functional means of protecting tables from damage, they are also an opportunity to add color and style to a kitchen or outdoor living area. Tablecloths are manufactured in a variety of materials including cotton, polyester, linen and vinyl; specialty tablecloths for weddings and events may be made out of silk or organza. The purpose of the tablecloth determines which material will best suit your needs, but each material offers benefits and drawbacks in terms of functionality or style.

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Tablecloths are made from cotton, polyester, vinyl or specialty materials like silk.

Cotton

Cotton balls
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Cotton tablecloths are easy to produce and process which keeps the price low on most options

For every day use in an eat-in kitchen or informal dining room, cotton tablecloths are an excellent option. Cotton is easy to produce and process, which keeps the price low on most cotton options. Most cotton tablecloths are machine washable, though some tablecloths with multicolored patterns may show some color bleeding after washing. Cotton tablecloths can also be spot cleaned with a damp rag or sponge. In terms of durability, few fabrics compare to long-lasting cotton. Cotton tablecloths are available in a wide range of colors, patterns and sizes which also contribute to their popularity. Though cotton tablecloths can be used outdoors, they can mold or deteriorate after long periods of exposure to extreme weather or moisture.

Polyester

Fabric Color Samples
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Polyester fabric has a slightly silkier and shinier appearance than cotton

For semi-formal indoor dining or outdoor parties, polyester table cloths offer similar benefits of cotton as well as some additional perks. Polyester is a synthesized material that is used to make fabric and can be combined with other fabrics like cotton to create a polyester blend. Like cotton, polyester is durable, machine-washable, relatively inexpensive and available in many colors and patterns. Unlike cotton, polyester will not shrink if it is placed on a long cycle in a dryer. Polyester has a slightly silkier and shinier appearance than cotton which makes it better suited for more formal affairs like weddings or birthday parties. Some people have sensitivities to polyester because it is made from chemicals.

Vinyl

Textured green vinyl
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Textured green vinyl fabric which offers weather resistance and easy clean up

For informal outdoor dining or picnics, vinyl tablecloths offer weather resistance and easy clean up. Vinyl resists damage from stains, light, water or air exposure. Vinyl tablecloths are commonly associated with informal and outdoor dining, so they may not be ideal for formal weddings or events. Vinyl tablecloths are available in several colors and patterns to match any color scheme or theme. Vinyl is also one of the cheapest fabric options for tablecloths.

Specialty Fabrics

White silk
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White silk tablecloth which offers a more luxurious appearance

For formal events like weddings, tablecloths are available in numerous specialty fabrics like silk or organza. Silk and organza are more expensive tablecloth options, but they offer a more luxurious appearance and a number of formal style options including embroidery. Specialty fabrics require more delicate washing and care but most specialty tablecloths are only used on occasion. Consider renting specialty linens to avoid the cost of purchasing them in large quantities.