The History of Napkins: Origins

The History of Napkins: Origins

who invented napkins

who invented napkins


When we sit down to enjoy a meal, whether it be a casual lunch or a formal dinner, one ubiquitous item graces our table setting: the napkin. This simple piece of fabric or paper is essential for maintaining cleanliness while dining. But have you ever wondered about its origins? In this article, we'll unfold the history of napkins, their evolution, and how they became the dining staple they are today.

What Is a Napkin Made Of?

Napkins can be made from a variety of materials, each giving a different touch to the dining experience. Originally, napkins were made from warm, soft pieces of fabric like linen or cotton, which could be easily washed and reused. As we progressed into the modern era, the invention of paper napkins offered a disposable, convenient alternative. Today, whether you're dabbing your lips with a cloth napkin at a high-end restaurant or using a paper one at a fast-food joint, the essence of napkins remains the same – cleanliness and decorum at the table.

When Were Napkins Invented?

The exact origin of the napkin is not documented with pinpoint precision, but it is widely believed that the concept of using a piece of material to protect clothing while eating dates back to ancient times. The earliest recorded use of napkins comes from ancient Rome, where diners used a piece of cloth called a 'mappa' to guard their garments against spills. These mappa were also used to signal the end of a meal when diners would toss them onto the floor.

Why Is a Napkin Called a Napkin?

The term "napkin" comes from the French word 'nappe,' which translates to cloth or tablecloth, and the diminutive suffix '-kin,' which denotes a smaller version of something. Over time, the word 'napkin' came to be associated specifically with the smaller pieces of cloth used at dining tables.

Who Invented Napkins?

It's difficult to attribute the invention of the napkin to a single individual or civilization, as the practice of using a cloth to shield oneself from messes during meals likely developed independently across various cultures. However, it is clear that the use of napkins became more refined with the Romans and then saw a significant evolution during the Middle Ages in Europe.

Who Invented Paper Napkins?

The paper napkin as we know it today was popularized in the early 20th century. John Dickinson, an Englishman, is credited with creating the first paper napkins for his company's annual dinner in the 19th century. However, it wasn't until the invention of the paper-making machine and the subsequent rise of mass production that paper napkins became widely available and affordable for everyday use.

The Evolution of the Napkin

Napkins have come a long way since their inception. From the mappa of ancient Rome to the intricately folded cloth napkins of the Renaissance, the napkin has always been a symbol of civility and sophistication. In the Middle Ages, it was common for guests to bring their own napkins to a meal, as it was a reflection of personal hygiene and manners.

By the 16th and 17th centuries, napkins had become a status symbol among the elite. The size and elaborate folding of one's napkin indicated their wealth and social standing. It was during this time that napkin folding became an art form, with complex shapes and designs gracing the tables of the aristocracy.

Napkin Etiquette Through the Ages

Napkin etiquette has evolved significantly throughout history. In the past, it was acceptable to use the tablecloth to wipe one's mouth, but as dining customs became more refined, the use of individual napkins became the norm. Today, proper napkin etiquette involves placing the napkin on one's lap upon sitting down and using it gently to dab the lips when necessary. The way one places the napkin on the table can also signal to the waitstaff whether they are finished with their meal or stepping away temporarily.

The Impact of Napkins on Society

Napkins have had a surprising impact on society and culture. They've been a canvas for political statements and artistic expression, with printed napkins being used to commemorate events or spread messages. They've also played a role in etiquette education, teaching generations the importance of manners and cleanliness.

The Future of Napkins

With environmental concerns on the rise, the future of napkins is leaning towards sustainability. Cloth napkins are seeing a resurgence in popularity as they are reusable and reduce waste. Innovations in materials also mean that disposable napkins are becoming more eco-friendly, with options made from recycled paper or even plant fibers.


From their ancient beginnings to their modern-day variations, napkins have a rich history that's intertwined with the evolution of dining customs and societal norms. They've been a part of our culture for centuries, and while their form and function may continue to evolve, their presence at the dining table is a tradition that is likely to endure for many meals to come.

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Do napkins go on the left or right?

Do napkins go on the left or right?

Setting a table involves more than just placing dishes and cutlery.

One often overlooked detail is the placement of napkins.

Is it on the left or the right? Does it change based on the occasion or cultural context?

In this guide, we'll explore the nuances of napkin placement, providing clear answers and practical tips.

Understanding Napkin Placement Basics

Napkin placement is a key aspect of table setting. It's not just about aesthetics, but also about practicality and etiquette.

Traditionally, the napkin is placed on the left side of the plate. However, depending on the occasion, it can also be placed in the center of the dinner plate, under the forks, or even in a glass.

The Traditional Table Setting: Napkins on the Left

do napkins go on the left or rightthe overall decor and sets the tone for the meal.

do napkins go on the left or right

In a traditional table setting, the napkin is placed on the left side of the plate. This placement is a sign of attention to detail and respect for dining etiquette.

However, the size and fold of the napkin can affect its placement. For instance, larger napkins may be folded and placed under the forks, also on the left.

Alternative Napkin Placement: When to Place on the Right

While the traditional placement of napkins is on the left, there are instances where they may be placed on the right. This is typically next to the knife and spoon.

However, this is less common and may be seen as a creative deviation from the norm, rather than a standard practice.

Formal vs. Informal Settings: Adapting Napkin Placement

Informal Settings

Informal Settings

In formal settings, napkin placement can vary. It may be placed in the center of the dinner plate or in a glass, showcasing attention to detail and elegance.

For informal or casual settings, such as a buffet, napkins might be placed in a basket or tray for guests to take. This allows for flexibility and ease of access.

Fork and Knife Placement on Napkin

Fork and Knife Placement on Napkin

Fork and Knife Placement on Napkin

The placement of the fork and knife on the napkin can also vary. For specific courses or meal types, utensils may be neatly arranged on the napkin.

The top corner of the napkin may be folded over to the bottom corner. This holds the utensils in place, ensuring a tidy table setting.

Napkin Placement Etiquette Across Cultures

The etiquette of napkin placement can vary by culture and country. In some cultures, unique traditions dictate the placement and usage of napkins.

For instance, in some fine dining situations, the server may place the napkin on the guest's lap. This is a sign of high-end service and attention to detail.

napkin on the guest's lap

napkin on the guest's lap

Conclusion: The Importance of Correct Napkin Placement

Understanding napkin placement is part of broader table manners and etiquette education. It's a sign of attention to detail and respect for your guests.

Whether for a formal event or a casual dinner, correct napkin placement enhances the dining experience. It contributes to the overall decor and sets the tone for the meal.

Essential Guide to Napkin Measurements

Essential Guide to Napkin Measurements

Selecting the right napkin size can be surprisingly important when planning an event or stocking your restaurant. Paper napkins come in various sizes, each suitable for different occasions and purposes. Understanding napkin measurements can help you make a more informed decision that will not only save you money but also enhance your guests' dining experience. In this guide, we'll break down the common napkin sizes and their ideal uses.

Understanding Napkin Measurements

Before diving into the specifics, it's crucial to understand how napkin measurements work. Typically, the size of a napkin is referred to by its full, unfolded dimensions. Most paper napkins come pre-folded, so the measurements you see on a package will represent the total size when the napkin is completely open.

Cocktail Napkins

The smallest in the lineup, cocktail napkins usually measure around 5 inches by 5 inches when folded and 10 inches by 10 inches when unfolded. These napkins are perfect for drinks, appetizers, or any event where guests will be standing and mingling, like a cocktail party or a casual get-together.

Luncheon Napkins

Luncheon napkins are a step up in size and typically measure 6.5 inches by 6.5 inches folded and 13 inches by 13 inches unfolded. They are a versatile choice that works well for less formal lunches, birthday parties, or corporate events.

Dinner Napkins

Dinner napkins are larger and offer more coverage for guests. They usually measure 8 inches by 8 inches folded and 16 inches by 16 inches when unfolded. Dinner napkins are suitable for sit-down meals and can add a touch of elegance to your dinner table setting.

Buffet Napkins

Buffet napkins are similar in size to dinner napkins but are often slightly larger to accommodate the variety of foods typically found at a buffet. Measuring around 8.5 inches by 8.5 inches folded and 17 inches by 17 inches unfolded, these napkins provide ample space for guests to use throughout their meal.

Choosing the Right Size

napkin measurements

napkin measurements

by Brooke Lark (

When selecting the appropriate napkin size, consider the nature of your event and the types of food being served. Cocktail napkins are great for light snacks and drinks, while luncheon napkins are well-suited for midday meals. For formal dinners or buffets with a wider range of dishes, opt for dinner or buffet napkins.

Customization and Branding

In addition to selecting the right size, customizing your napkins with a logo or event-specific design can enhance your brand or add a personal touch to your celebration. Custom napkins can leave a lasting impression and contribute to the overall aesthetic of your event.

Napkin Folding Techniques

The way you fold your napkins can also impact their presentation and functionality. There are numerous folding techniques ranging from simple and classic to intricate and decorative. Choosing the right fold can complement your event's theme and add an extra layer of sophistication to your table setting.

In conclusion, choosing the correct napkin size is more than just a practical decision; it's an opportunity to elevate your guests' dining experience. Keep these tips in mind when planning your next event to ensure your napkins are not only functional but also a memorable part of the occasion.

The Benefits of Using Xpressnap

The Benefits of Using Xpressnap

In the bustling world of food service and hospitality, efficiency and presentation go hand-in-hand. This is where Xpressnap systems come into the spotlight. As an innovative solution by Tork, Xpressnap napkin dispensers are designed not just to hold napkins, but to elevate the customer experience while providing practical benefits to businesses. Let's explore the advantages of incorporating Xpressnap into your establishment.


Enhanced Hygiene

One of the standout features of Xpressnap is its attention to hygiene. In a time when cleanliness is paramount, Xpressnap dispensers ensure that customers touch only the napkins they use. This one-at-a-time dispensing significantly reduces the risk of cross-contamination compared to traditional napkin holders where multiple napkins can be touched by different individuals.

Single-Use Napkins

With Tork Xpressnap napkins, there's an added layer of assurance for your patrons. These single-use napkins are not only hygienic but also made from sustainable sources, aligning with the growing consumer demand for environmentally responsible products.

Space Efficiency

Space is a premium commodity, particularly in dining areas. Xpressnap's sleek design occupies less table space while still providing ample napkins for guests. This allows for a tidier tabletop, giving customers more room to enjoy their meal and enhancing their overall dining experience.

Tork Xpressnap Fit

The latest addition to the Xpressnap family is the Tork Xpressnap Fit system, which takes space-saving to the next level. This compact solution is perfect for smaller establishments or food service areas with limited counter space, without compromising on capacity or functionality.

Cost-Effective Operation

Tork Xpressnap napkins are not only beneficial for guests but are also cost-effective for businesses. The controlled dispensing system ensures that each customer only takes what they need, reducing napkin usage by up to 25% when compared to traditional napkin dispensing methods. This translates to less waste and more savings.

Operational Efficiency

With less time spent refilling dispensers and cleaning up unused, discarded napkins, staff can focus on providing better service. Xpressnap's high-capacity dispensers also require fewer refills, further reducing labor costs and improving operational efficiency.

Customization and Branding

Another significant benefit of Xpressnap dispensers is the ability to customize them for branding purposes. The AD-a-Glance feature allows businesses to display promotional messages or branding elements, turning the napkin dispenser into a marketing tool. This unique opportunity for on-table advertising can help in promoting specials, events, or brand messaging right where customers are most engaged.

Environmental Impact

Tork Xpressnap napkins are not just a smart choice for businesses and consumers; they are also kinder to the environment. Made from 100% recycled fiber, these napkins support sustainability efforts. Furthermore, the reduction in overall napkin usage means less waste ends up in landfills.


In conclusion, Tork Xpressnap systems provide a multitude of benefits that can enhance customer satisfaction, reduce costs, and support environmental sustainability. Whether you're a small cafe or a large restaurant, Xpressnap can fit seamlessly into your operation, offering a clean, efficient, and smart solution for napkin dispensing.

The tissues used for the XP tissue holder can be purchased from major brand retailers. If you need to buy in bulk, you can also purchase directly from Chinese factories. Anmay Paper offers replacement tissues suitable for this type of tissue holder. If you want to promote your company's brand through tissues, you can have your logo printed directly on XP napkins. If interested, please contact Anmay's sales staff.(

The History of Paper Guest Towels

The History of Paper Guest Towels

The paper guest towels are common sights in bathrooms and dining settings, particularly during the festive season. While they are often associated with modern convenience and hygiene, their history is a rich tapestry that weaves through centuries and cultures. From the early days of paper production to the disposable luxury items we often see during Christmas and other holidays, paper guest towels have a story worth telling.

paper guest towels

The Origins of Paper

Paper, as we know it, originated in China around 105 A.D. It was invented by a Chinese court official named Cai Lun. This revolutionary material soon became a staple for writing and documentation. However, its use as a towel or napkin would come much later.

The Journey from China to the World

The art of papermaking spread slowly from China to other parts of the world, including the Middle East and then Europe by the 11th century. By the time paper reached Europe, it began to find its place not only in literature and communication but also in personal hygiene.

The Emergence of Paper Towels

In the late 19th century, paper towels were introduced. Initially, they were used in medical facilities to prevent the spread of bacteria. It wasn't until the early 20th century that paper towels found their way into the kitchens and bathrooms of the general public.

The Scott Paper Company and the First Paper Towels

The Scott Paper Company, founded in 1879, played a pivotal role in the development of paper towels. They introduced the Sani-Towel in 1907 for use in public restrooms. By 1931, Scott introduced the first paper towels for the kitchen, marking the beginning of paper towels as a household staple.

The Evolution of Paper Guest Towels

Paper guest towels evolved from the practical and hygienic paper towel designed for kitchen use. They became a symbol of hospitality, especially when hosting guests.

From Practicality to Elegance

As the use of paper towels became widespread, manufacturers began to see the potential for more elegant and decorative versions. The idea was to create a towel that was not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing.

Christmas and Festive Designs

The holiday season, and Christmas in particular, became an opportunity for paper towel manufacturers to introduce festive designs. Christmas paper guest towels feature seasonal motifs such as holly, reindeer, and snowflakes, transforming a utilitarian item into a decorative accent that complements the holiday decor.

Personalization and Luxury

Over time, paper guest towels became available in a variety of designs, allowing hosts to offer a touch of luxury and thoughtfulness to their guests. Monograms, intricate patterns, and quality materials elevated the simple paper towel to an item of elegance and personal expression.

The Cultural Significance of Guest Towels

In many cultures, offering a guest a clean towel is a sign of hospitality and respect. This custom extended to paper guest towels, which offer a hygienic and convenient option for guests.

A Reflection of Societal Values

The use of paper guest towels reflects societal values around cleanliness and the importance of caring for guests. They also speak to the modern desire for ease and disposability, especially during large gatherings where laundering dozens of cloth towels would be impractical.

Environmental Considerations

With the rise of environmental awareness, the paper guest towel has faced scrutiny. The balance between convenience and sustainability is a modern challenge, encouraging both manufacturers and consumers to consider recycled materials and other eco-friendly practices.

The Manufacturing Process

The process of creating paper guest towels involves several steps, from pulping to printing decorative designs. The quality of the paper, its absorbency, and its softness are key factors in producing a luxury item.

Advances in Production Technology

Modern manufacturing processes have allowed for greater efficiency and the ability to produce more intricate and colorful designs on paper guest towels. This has made them more appealing for special occasions like Christmas.

Paper Guest Towels Today

Today, paper guest towels are a ubiquitous part of the hospitality experience, especially during the holidays. They can be found in homes, hotels, and restaurants, serving both a practical and decorative purpose.

A Staple in Modern Entertaining

Paper guest towels have become a staple in modern entertaining. They are an easy way to add a touch of class and cleanliness to any gathering without the added laundry after the event.

The Balance of Tradition and Convenience

While some may argue that cloth towels are more traditional and eco-friendly, the convenience of paper guest towels cannot be denied, especially when hosting a large number of guests.

The Future of Paper Guest Towels

As we look to the future, the paper guest towel industry will likely continue to evolve. Biodegradable and recycled options are becoming more prevalent, appealing to the environmentally conscious consumer without sacrificing the convenience that paper towels offer.

Innovations and Trends

Innovations in the industry may include towels made from alternative fibers or those that incorporate technology for added hygiene benefits. Trends in design will continue to reflect current aesthetics and seasonal themes, ensuring that paper guest towels remain a festive and functional element of hospitality.

The Continued Debate: Paper vs. Cloth

The debate between the use of paper and cloth towels will likely persist. The choice often comes down to personal preference, the scale of the event, and environmental considerations.


Paper guest towels have a rich history that mirrors the evolution of paper itself. From their origins in ancient China to their place in modern bathrooms and dining tables, these towels have become a symbol of cleanliness and hospitality. As we continue to navigate the balance between convenience and sustainability, paper guest towels will likely remain a fixture in our lives, especially during festive seasons like Christmas.

Whether adorned with Christmas trees or embossed with elegant monograms, paper guest towels tell a story of cultural values, technological progress, and the enduring importance of taking care of our guests. As we look forward to future innovations, the legacy of the paper guest towel as a hallmark of hospitality is sure to continue.

Patterned Paper Napkins Add a Pop of Style to Your Table

Patterned Paper Napkins Add a Pop of Style to Your Table

Whether you're setting the table for a special occasion or just looking to spruce up your daily dining experience, incorporating patterned paper napkins can add a much-needed pop of style and personality to your tablescape. With an array of designs to choose from, patterned napkins offer an easy and affordable way to elevate your table setting. In this article, we'll explore the charm of decorative napkins and how to select and use them to their fullest potential.

patterned paper napkins

Why Choose Patterned Paper Napkins?

The use of patterned paper napkins goes beyond their practical function of keeping diners clean. They serve as a key element in table decor, adding color, texture, and theme to your dining experience.

Versatility in Design

One of the main benefits of patterned napkins is the vast array of designs available. From floral prints and geometric shapes to seasonal motifs and artistic illustrations, there's a pattern for every occasion and taste. This versatility allows you to complement your existing tableware or create a completely new look with just a simple addition.

Eco-Friendly and Convenient

With a growing focus on sustainability, many manufacturers now offer eco-friendly options made from recycled materials or sourced from responsibly managed forests. Additionally, paper napkins provide the convenience of easy cleanup – a perfect solution for busy hosts who want to minimize post-party chores.


Decorative paper napkins are a cost-effective way to add elegance to your table without breaking the bank. They offer the opportunity to experiment with different styles and themes without committing to expensive cloth napkins that require regular laundering.

Selecting the Right Patterned Napkins

Choosing the perfect patterned napkins involves considering the occasion, the rest of your tableware, and the overall atmosphere you want to create.

Consider the Occasion

The nature of the event should guide your choice of napkin patterns. For formal dinners, you might opt for subtle patterns that exude sophistication. Casual gatherings, on the other hand, can handle bolder, more colorful designs. Seasonal and holiday-themed napkins are perfect for adding a festive touch to your table.

Complementing Your Tableware

To achieve a cohesive look, select napkins that complement your existing tableware. If your dishes and tablecloth are patterned, choose napkins with a simpler design to avoid overwhelming the senses. Conversely, if your table setting is more understated, patterned napkins can be the star of the show.

Setting the Atmosphere

The patterns you choose can also set the mood for your meal. Light and airy designs can create a relaxed, breezy atmosphere, while more intricate patterns may lend a sense of formality and grandeur.

Creative Ways to Use Patterned Paper Napkins

Beyond simply placing them next to the plate, there are numerous ways to showcase your decorative napkins.

Napkin Folding Techniques

Get creative with napkin folding to add an extra touch of elegance. Even the simplest fold can make a big impact, especially when the napkin features a striking pattern.

As a Centerpiece

Fold or arrange several napkins in a basket or tray to create an eye-catching centerpiece that doubles as a convenient dispenser for guests.

DIY Decor

Use patterned paper napkins for DIY projects like decoupage on candle holders or creating bunting for a party. Their versatility extends far beyond the dining table.

Incorporating Napkins into Themed Tablescapes

Patterned paper napkins can be integral in bringing a themed tablescape together. Whether you're aiming for a rustic vibe, an elegant soirée, or a whimsical tea party, the right napkins can tie all elements of your table setting together.

Seasonal and Holiday Themes

Use napkins with seasonal patterns or holiday motifs to celebrate the time of year. Pumpkins and leaves for autumn, snowflakes and holly for winter – the possibilities are endless.

Color-Themed Parties

For color-themed parties, select napkins that match or complement your chosen palette. This ensures a consistent and harmonious look throughout your decor.

Special Occasions

Mark special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, or showers with napkins that reflect the significance of the event. Patterns with numbers, congratulatory messages, or baby-related designs can make the event even more memorable.

Patterned Paper Napkins Etiquette

While paper napkins are less formal than their cloth counterparts, there is still etiquette to consider when using them.


Napkins are traditionally placed to the left of the fork or on the center of the dinner plate. However, you can get creative with placement, especially if you're folding them into unique shapes or using them as part of the decor.


Encourage guests to use their napkins by gently unfolding them at the start of the meal. This sets a relaxed tone and makes it clear that the napkins are not just for show.


Provide a clear spot for guests to place used napkins at the end of the meal. A small basket or a designated area on the table can be helpful.

Caring for and Storing Patterned Paper Napkins

To keep your patterned paper napkins looking their best, proper storage is key.

Avoid Moisture and Sunlight

Store your patterned paper napkins in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent fading and moisture damage.

Keep Them Flat

Avoid creasing or crushing paper napkins by storing them flat. Use a napkin holder or a dedicated drawer to keep them in pristine condition.

Rotate Your Collection

If you have a large collection of napkins, rotate their use to prevent any from yellowing or becoming outdated before they are used.


Patterned paper napkins are a simple yet effective way to add style and personality to any table setting. With the right selection and a bit of creativity, you can transform your dining experience and impress your guests. Remember to consider the occasion, complement your tableware, and use napkins to enhance your chosen theme. With these tips in mind, you're ready to elevate your tablescape with the perfect pop of patterned style.