Buying Guide to Tablecloths

 
 

Whether it's an elegant damask cloth for your dinner party, a simple solid to coordinate with your everyday dinnerware, or a fun woven print or a vinyl check for an outdoor barbecue, the right tablecloth will make an impact-and set the scene for the meal you're serving.

This guide gives you what you need to know to choose the right tablecloth for you, and your event.

Tablecloth with multiple colors

How do I decide what size to get?

Most tablecloths are made to suit a range of table sizes; measure your table and look on the back of the packages. Here are the standard sizes:

Table shape Tablecloth Size Options Fits Table Size Seating for
Square
square tablecloth
  • 52" x 52"
  • 70" x 70"
28" x 28" to 40" x 40"

46" x 46" to 58" x 58"
2 to 4
4
Oblong/Rectangular
oblong tablecloth
  • 52" x 70"
  • 60" x 84"
  • 60" x 102" / 60" x 104"
  • 60" x 120"
  • 60" x 140" / 60" x 144"
28" x 46" to 40" by 54"

36" x 60" to 48" x 72"

36" x 74" to 48" x 90"

36" x 94" to 48" x 104"

36" x 118" to 48" x 130"
4 to 6
6 to 8
8 to 10
10 to 12
12 to 14
Select patterns are available in wider widths. Example: 70" x 84"
Oval
oval tablecloth
  • 60" x 84" Oval Cut
  • 60" x 102" Oval Cut
36" x 60" to 48" by 72"

36" x 74" to 48" by 90"
6 to 8
8-10
Select patterns are available in "oval" cut sizes shown above.
You can use any oblong/rectangular cut tablecloth to cover an oval table.
Round
round tablecloth
  • 60" Round
  • 70" Round
  • 90" Round
38" to 44" Diameter

46" to 58" Diamete

60" to 78" Diameter
4
4 to 6
6 to 8

(Also: Banquet size tables are extra wide, and will use an oversized cloth that is 70" in width.)

You can use the chart above, or do the math behind the info:
Your goal is a tablecloth that covers the table with material that cascades over the side (the part that hangs over is called the drop). It's a personal preference, but generally, a table should have a 6" to 10" drop-and the longer the drop, the more formal the table will feel.

Generally that equates to: To select the right cloth, add approximately 12 to 20 inches to the actual length and width of your table. If you're in doubt, err on the side of the longer drop.

Don't forget to account for leaves or table extensions for tablecloths used for entertaining.

What if I don't know my table's measurements?

It's less than ideal, but you can use the chart on the back of the package to get a pretty accurate idea. Just look under the shape, and consider how many people can be seated around the table. Then get the cloth that matches both.

What mood are you going for?

Your tablecloth can set the scene for any kind of party you choose: From a super-casual barbecue in the back yard (think laminated fabric) or a worry-free kids' party (go vinyl) to the whole range of dinner parties, formal or relaxed (microfiber, polyester, cotton blend). Choose a style that matches your party's style.

If you're unsure of the right look, here are some rules-of-thumb:

  • Simple works forever: A white or off-white will never go out of style
  • Some rich colors that enhance appetite, specifically rich tones of chocolate, reds, green, or yellow
  • Patterns can distract diners from their meals, so if you're asking yourself "is it too much?" , it probably is.

How much time are you willing to invest in prepping a tablecloth?

Ironing a tablecloth before a big dinner doesn't sound like a big job-and it's not. But if you're the type to wrap up the prep-work when guests are pulling in the driveway, why add stress? And if you know someone will spill-and that you'll be very sad about it-why not choose a tablecloth that won't stain (or cover it so drips don't matter)?

What do you want your tablecloth to do?

Material Using it: Care*
Microfiber Spill resistant, and comes in a range of styles and colors. Machine wash, tumble dry. No ironing
Polyester Comes in a wide variety of looks, but you'll have to spot clean to prevent stains from sticking. Machine wash, tumble dry. Rarely needs ironing.
Cotton Blend Elegant and durable, but will require spot cleaning and spot ironing from time to time. Machine wash, tumble dry. Will need touch-ups with the iron.
Laminated Fabric Casual and wipe-clean, you can never iron a laminated fabric (but is that a bad thing??). Spritz water on it the night before and put the cloth on the table-gravity will work out any wrinkles. Wipe with a damp cloth; no washing or drying.
Vinyl This is a very casual vibe-though it can be used indoors or out-vinyl won't stain, and you only need a sponge to clean it. Wipe with a damp cloth; no washing or drying.

* Care directions are general guidelines. As always, follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Distinctions between tablecloths are pretty straightforward. First, there are a range of standard shapes and sizes.

Table shape Tablecloth Size Options Fits Table Size Seating for
Square
square tablecloth
  • 52" x 52"
  • 70" x 70"
28" x 28" to 40" x 40"

46" x 46" to 58" x 58"
2 to 4
4
Oblong/Rectangular
oblong tablecloth
  • 52" x 70"
  • 60" x 84"
  • 60" x 102" / 60" x 104"
  • 60" x 120"
  • 60" x 140" / 60" x 144"
28" x 46" to 40" by 54"

36" x 60" to 48" x 72"

36" x 74" to 48" x 90"

36" x 94" to 48" x 104"

36" x 118" to 48" x 130"
4 to 6
6 to 8
8 to 10
10 to 12
12 to 14
Select patterns are available in wider widths. Example: 70" x 84"
Oval
oval tablecloth
  • 60" x 84" Oval Cut
  • 60" x 102" Oval Cut
36" x 60" to 48" by 72"

36" x 74" to 48" by 90"
6 to 8
8-10
Select patterns are available in "oval" cut sizes shown above.
You can use any oblong/rectangular cut tablecloth to cover an oval table.
Round
round tablecloth
  • 60" Round
  • 70" Round
  • 90" Round
38" to 44" Diameter

46" to 58" Diamete

60" to 78" Diameter
4
4 to 6
6 to 8

Fabric

The next difference between tablecloths is the material that they're made with. This will impact both general style and how they are cared for. Most tablecloths are made of one of these fabrics:

Fabric Care*
Microfiber Machine wash, tumble dry. No ironing.
Polyester Machine wash, tumble dry. Rarely needs ironing.
Cotton Blend Machine wash, tumble dry. Will need touch-ups with the iron.
Laminated Fabric Wipe with a damp cloth; no washing or drying.
Vinyl Wipe with a damp cloth; no washing or drying.

* Care directions are general guidelines. As always, follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Once you have decided on your tablecloth, you may want to consider a tablecloth protector, matching napkins or some placemats.

Tablecloth Protector If you want the look of a cotton tablecloth, but want clean-up to be a breeze, clear protectors are a great solution. They keep your tablecloth looking new, while offering you the option to wipe-clean after dinner.
Napkins As a great decorative accent, napkins can be mixed and matched to coordinate with the tablecloth and your dinnerware. They can also be folded into creative shapes to make for an ultimate dining aesthetic. Don't forget a few extra napkins in case of staining; they can also be used in bread baskets.
Placemats Available in an array of patterns and fabrics, placemats can be used alone or with a tablecloth. Feel free to mix and match styles and fabrics for an eclectic look.
Table Pad Protector A table pad helps keep tablecloths in place while protecting the table from moderate heat, stains, or potential scratches. Table pads have a vinyl surface with a felt back in order to stay securely on the table.