I’ve talked about this before when it comes to clothing, but the textile industry is seriously unregulated. If you check the tag of a product made of fabric, you’ll see the primary fiber(s) it’s made out of—like cotton or polyester—but that’s it. It will say nothing about the hundreds of chemicals that could have been used throughout the production process.
Those chemicals are used throughout the various stages of the manufacturing process. They may be used to turn a raw material into a usable fiber, they could be used to add a “performance” feature to a fabric (like making it stain-resistant), or they could be added right before shipping (like to prevent mildew growth as they’re shipped overseas).
Not all of the chemicals used to make textiles are toxic of course, but many of them are. They include things like PFAS, heavy metals, formaldehyde, phthalates, and others.
Just like with clothing, fabric home goods like tablecloths and napkins can contain these chemicals, too. That’s one reason why more folks are looking to invest in organic cotton table runners, tablecloths, placemats, tea towels, and other linens for the kitchen and dining room table.
So in this guide, I’m going to give you a rundown of the best places to get high-quality, eco-friendly, and non-toxic tablecloths, table runners, placemats, and reusable napkins for your dining table (as well as other kitchen linens like aprons, towels, and oven mitts!).
Table of Contents
- How to Look for in Safer & More Sustainable Table Linens
- Skip the PVC and Choose Organic Cotton or Linen Instead
- Avoid “Performance” Features…
- …Or At Least Look for Safer Coatings
- Consider Patterns Instead of Solid Colors
- Does washing your table linens before use get rid of the chemicals?
- My Brand Picks for Organic Cotton Tablecloths, Natural Placemats & Table Runners, and Other Kitchen Linens for 2023
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Featured Image Credit: Magic Linen
How to Look for in Safer & More Sustainable Table Linens
Skip the PVC and Choose Organic Cotton or Linen Instead
A lot the of tablecloths on the market are made with PVC, which is one of the most toxic kinds of plastic. This is especially true of the single-use, disposable tablecloths, but even many of the reusable table linens contain a layer of PVC on either side of the fabric (or both), usually to make it wipeable and more resistant to water and stains.
Most of the best non-toxic tablecloths, placemats, and other linens on the market are made with organic cotton and/or linen. Both of these materials are grown and harvested without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, and
Depending on what’s added to these fabrics (dyes, finishes, etc.), they may also be biodegradable at the end of their life, making them a more eco-friendly choice as well.
Hemp is another good option, although it’s not used nearly as often.
Conventional cotton is also a pretty good choice. Yes, it’s often grown and harvested using toxic synthetic pesticides, which is not ideal. But it’s still a natural, plastic-free fiber, and it tends to be more affordable than organic.
Avoid “Performance” Features…
Whenever you see some sort of “performance” feature on a textile, such as “stain-resistant” or “wrinkle-resistant,” your red flag should go up.
Many times, these types of features indicate that a fabric has been treated with some kind of chemical. For example, toxic PFAS are used to make fabrics stain- and water-repellent. Carcinogenic formaldehyde is used to make things wrinkle-resistant.
There are currently no laws on the books that require companies to disclose whether or not these chemicals are being added to their products, and which ones. So, unfortunately, there is virtually no way of knowing for sure whether or not they’re being used (unless they explicitly say so voluntarily). That’s why consumers are forced to look for “hints” like these performance claims.
Although it’s certainly not guaranteed that an organic table runner or tablecloth is free from toxic chemicals (PFAS, for example, can be added to any number of materials, including organic cotton!), it’s certainly more likely that your table linens are going to be safe and non-toxic if you buy them from a brand that prioritizes things like organic materials and eco-conscious manufacturing processes.
…Or At Least Look for Safer Coatings
You might be thinking: “But Abbie! I need my table linens to be wipeable, water-resistant, and stain-repellent! I have kids! We are messy!”
I hear you!
First, let me point out that most of the table linens I’ve recommended below are machine-washable. (Most brands are meant to wash and dry on gentle.)
But if you definitely want a non-toxic wipeable tablecloth, there are safer options out there that are PVC-free and PFAS-free.
The main thing you’ll want to look for is a PU or TPU coating over a natural fabric such as organic cotton. PU and TPUare still types of plastic, which are not entirely natural or non-toxic. But they are both definitely better than PVC and PFAS. As far as I know, they are currently the safest options available for making something waterproof and wipeable. (I talked about this more in-depth in my guide to waterproof mattress protectors.)
Consider Patterns Instead of Solid Colors
Another little tip I have for you when it comes to stains is to choose a patterned design instead of a solid color. That way, any food spills that do happen will be more easily hidden inside the shapes and colors. If you take this approach, you won’t have to worry so much about getting a tablecloth that has a stain-resistant treatment added to it.
P.S. On a related note, you might find this guide helpful when it comes to removing stains!
Keep your clothes and carpets clean in 2023! Learn about what ingredients to look out for and which brands are best for natural and non-toxic stain removal.
Does washing your table linens before use get rid of the chemicals?
Can any of these chemicals that are added to table linens be washed out?
Yes and no.
As you can imagine, some of the chemicals are meant to stay attached to the fabric, even through washing. PFAS, for example, are supposed to stay on the textile for a long(ish) period of time so that the product remains water- and stain-resistant even after it goes through the washing machine.
The problem, however, is that we know that doesn’t happen… Even though you can’t wash PFAS out of products, these toxicants don’t stay in products either. Rather, they slowly leach out over time, especially as the textiles age and start to break down.
That sad, I personally still wash all of my clothing, bedding, and other textiles before I wear or use them. That’s because if there are any excesses in chemicals present (such as dyes), or if there were any extra chemicals that were added at the end (such as antifungals meant for preservation during shipping), then some of those will likely wash out.
My Brand Picks for Organic Cotton Tablecloths, Natural Placemats & Table Runners, and Other Kitchen Linens for 2023
Alright, now that you know what to look for, here are my favorite brands for non-toxic tablecloths, table runners, and more. Not only do these brands utilize safer and more organic materials, but they also prioritize things like fair wages for workers, transparent supply chains, and other sustainable and ethical initiatives.
Carries: Tablecloths, table runners, placemats, napkins, aprons, tea towels, oven mitts, pot holders, bread bags
Price Range: $9 (linen tea towel, on sale) – $118 (tablecloth)
Machine-Washable? Yes (except the raffia ones)
One of the reasons I personally love Magic Linen is the size of their collection… You can basically get everything you need for your dining room table in one place!
I love the colors and patterns they offer, from neutral and bold soild colors, to gingham, striped, botanical print, and even pom-pom lined—ugh, so cute!
As their name indicates, most of these kitchen linens are made from… you guessed, it—linen! Their eco-friendly tablecloths and other accessories are made out of Made from 100% European flax, which is stone washed for maximum softness (btw, linen actually gets softer as you use and wash it!). Plus, they’re OEKO-TEX certified, which means they’ve been verified to be free from a list of toxic chemicals.
But in addition to their linen goods, they also use a couple of other eco-friendly materials, like raffia for these placematsand this table runner! Combining a linen tablecloth with the raffia placemats and runner is a great way to mix up the textures at your table setting.
Magic Linen also has various other sustainability initiatives as well, incuding a zero waste collection, for which they find ways to make even more beautiful, practical goods out of fabric waste.
Carries: Tablecloths, kitchen towels, table napkins, aprons, bowl covers
Price Range: $34 (set of 4 napkins) – $168 (tablecloth)
Coyuchi is one of my favorite brands for organic bedding, bath towels, and other home textiles. Part of the reason I love this brand so much is that their pieces are always high-quality, and the designs are relatively timeless—so they can still look good in one’s home years later.
Coyuchi carries most of the practical fabric goods you need for the kitchen—from tablecloths and napkins, to cooking aprons and bowl covers for storing leftovers. They unfortunately do not have placemats or table runners at this time, however.
Everything is made out of 100% GOTS certified organic cotton, which is grown and woven ethically in India. Most of their prducts are also OEKO-TEX certified and are made in a factory that recycles 98% of its wastewater.
Carries: Tablecloths, placemats, table runners, napkins, coasters, oven mitts, pot holders, aprons, and other kitchen accessories
Price Range: $14 (napkin) – $170 (tablecloth)
Machine-Washable? Yes, most are, but be sure to check the directions for each individual brand. Some materials (such as raffia) are not machine washable.
As an eco & ethical online retailer, Made Trade is a really great place to find a collection of sustainable table linens from various eco-conscious brands.
Whether you’re looking for a timeless and practical solid-colored organic cotton tablecloth, or loud, rainbow-colored placemats that the kids will love, Made Trade has a really wide variety of designs, patterns, and colors.
They make it really easy to filter according to what you’re looking for. On the side bar, you can sort by material (organic cotton, raffia, linen, etc.), by value (Fair Trade, women-owned, BIPOC-owned, etc.), by brand, by price range, and more.
Good luck choosing a favorite set from this collection! 😉
Carries: Tablecloths, placemats, tea towels, napkins
Price Range: $11 (tea towel, on sale) – $120 (tablecloth)
Under the Canopy is a great organic bed & bath brand that also carries some kitchen necessities for your dining table. Their natural tablecloths, placemats, napkins, and kitchen towels come in a few solid colors, as well as an undyed stripe option.
Like Magic Linen’s collection, they’re made out of 100% European linen, which is also OEKO-TEX Standard 100 Certified.
Carries: Tablecloths, placemants, table runners, oven mitts, pot holders, coasters, aprons, tea towels
Price Range: $12 (tea towel, on sale) – $89 (tablecloth)
Personally, I really love Anchal’s aesthetic—it’s not really a look you’ll find anywhere else, with their block prints, thick stiches, and bold, contrasting colors.
Pretty much all of their products are made out of 100% GOTS certified organic cotton, although some of them use upcycled vintage cotton saris instead(!).
Not only that, but they’re all Fair Trade, too, made by artisans in Ajmer, India. In fact, Anchal is actually a non-profit, with the goal of not only creating beautiful, high-quality textiles for your home, but also partnering with women around the world to create a more ethical global trade. For a truly unique touch, each product features a hand-stitched signature of the maker.
You can also find many of Anchal’s products at Made Trade.
Carries: Tablecloths, table runners, placemats, napkins, aprons, towels, and more
Price Range: $40 (set of organic napkins); $70-$180 (tablecloths)
If you want to be able to look at your table linens in person before you buy them, then Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma have some good options.
These are good stores to look for holiday-themed linens too, as they have designs with fall vibes, Christmas colors, and more.
Although not all of their table linens are made with natural materials, they do have plenty of options that utlize GOTS certified organic cotton (as well as conventional), natural linen, and rattan. Many of their textiles are OEKO-TEX certified as well.
At Pottery Barn, you can also use the filter features on the side bar to search for products that are “organic,” “Fair Trade,” “sustainably sourced,” and more.
Splash Fabrics (Non-Toxic Wipeable Tablecloths)
Carries: Tablecloths, aprons, baby bibs, fabric
Price Range: Tablecloths start at $65+
If you’re looking for a non-toxic wipeable tablecloth for your dining table, Splash Fabrics is one of the few places you can find one!
These tablecloths are made out of 100% cotton and then laminated with a water-based urethane, which is what makes them wipable and durable against stains. (They’re also OEKO-TEX certifed and are tested for food safety in accordance with FDA standards.)
They have an awesome selection, too. They have squares, rectangles, and circles that come in standard sizes, but you can also order a custom size! Or, if you’d rather make your own, you can order just the fabric. They have lots of sewing resources available to help you out. (They have fabric swatches available, too.)
Plus, they have ton of colors and designs available as well. All of their products are made in Seattle, Washington, USA.
These tablecloths act like “real” fabric, not the plastic-y stuff. So even though they’re wipeable, they still drape over your table well and have a high-quality look and feel to them.
I hope you have found this guide to organic and non-toxic table linens helpful! If you want to stay updated on new content (and get a bunch of other tips, tricks, and more delivered to your inbox once a week, subscribe to Filtered Fridays!