Tablecloth Buying Guide

Tablecloths offer so much than just a protective covering for your table, although they are an excellent choice for decorating an old and worn table. Tablecloths also say a lot about the occasion as well as the décor of your dining room or kitchen. When purchasing a tablecloth, you'll take different factors into consideration such as functionality, color scheme, table size and the occasion. However, the two main factors are usually going to be the size & shape of your table and the occasion when you'll be using the tablecloth.

Shape and Size of the Table

Tables come in a variety of sizes. Although the basic shapes of tables are square, rectangular or oval, many have extenders or drop leaves, which are going to affect the size and shape of the tablecloth you purchase. You'll also need to take into consideration the number of guests you'll have sitting at the table. When you measure your table, make sure you mark down the measurements in centimeters as well as inches as many manufacturers use one or both of these measurements.

When shopping for tablecloths, you'll find that the come in four basic shapes, which coincides with the four basic shapes of tables: round, oval, square and rectangular (oblong). You may find a variety of sizes in tablecloths in stores that specialize in this sort of thing but the most standard size of tablecloths are:

Square - 52" X 52"
Oblong - 52" X 70" or 60" X 84"
Oval - 60" X 102", 60" X 120" or 60" X 144"
Round - 70" or 90"

Many stores offer customized tablecloths to fit tables that are irregular or unusual sizes. Tablecloths should not be the same size as the table; however, because a certain amount of drop should be included. Drop is the amount that the tablecloth hangs over the edge of the tablecloth. The minimum amount of drop should be eight inches (20 centimeters), although the type of table may make this vary.

For instance, banquet tables often have tablecloths with a drop of 15 inches (38 centimeters). The standard size for a lap level drop is 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 ½" centimeters). For individuals that like a floor-length drop, 29 to 30 inches (73 ½ to 76 centimeters) is traditional. Because some tablecloths have a very intricate design on the corner, a longer drop will provide you with an elegant look.

Figuring the Size Tablecloth You Need

Whether your tablecloth is going to be oval, oblong, round or square, you're going to have to figure exactly what size you need if you want a good fit with an appropriate drop. If you're figuring for the long dimension, and your table is oval, square or oblong, multiply the desired drop by two and add this to the length of your table. For the shorter dimension, multiply the drops times two and add it to the width of the table. If your table is round, multiply the drops times two and add it to the diameter.

Occasion for the Tablecloth

Occasion is the second factor to be considered when shopping for a tablecloth. Obviously, you're going to want to choose an appropriate tablecloth. You're not going to want light pastels for a Christmas tablecloth just as you won't want delicate lace and silk fabric for a children's birthday party.

Tablecloths are available in many seasonal designs and fabrics. The level of formality in which the tablecloth will be used will be considered when choosing your tablecloth fabric and color. Once you begin your shopping for tablecloths, whether you're purchasing them as is or customized for your table size, you'll be amazed and thrilled at the many varieties of styles and colors now available.

You will also want your tablecloth to coordinate with furnishings and accessories in the room or on the table. Some of the furnishings you'll want to consider include drapes, window treatments, wallpaper, paint and even floor coverings. Certain special occasions will also have decorations such as weddings, showers, and Thanksgiving, Christmas or birthday parties. If you're using special napkins, placemats, table runners or linens, you'll want your new tablecloth to coordinate well with these items. Your crystal, china or stemware will also play a part in your selection.

Fabric Patterns and Types

When you begin shopping for patterns and fabrics, you'll find a large variety to choose. The different fibers you'll find may include linens, cotton or a synthetic blend. Damask, lace, denim, moiré, gingham and satin are just a few of the many fabrics you'll find, depending on where you're shopping, of course. Vinyl tablecloths are a great selection for picnics and outdoor use as they are easy to wipe clean.

Summer time and the outdoors bring many things (children eating included) that can cause a tablecloth to become dirty and easily stained so you want something that is easy to maintain. Many people use a vinyl tablecloth underneath their tablecloth inside the home if they have a very expensive tablecloth. This prevents damage to the table if something gets spilled and leaks through the tablecloth to the table.

If your tablecloth is damask or lace, you'll probably see a pattern woven into the fabric while the other fabrics will allow you to choose prints and colors that not only match the occasion but will also coordinate excellently with the décor of your room. While lace tablecloths are beautiful, they also tear very easily so caution should be used when selecting a lace tablecloth. One thing you may want to keep in mind is that linens will shrink. In fact, you can allow for shrinkage of 2"-3" so you may want to order a larger size to account for this.

Care for your Tablecloth

Tablecloths that are cotton or cotton blend can usually be machine washed on a gentle cycle with mild detergent. Tumble dry on a low setting, making sure to remove promptly to avoid wrinkling. Linens that have embroidery should be hand washed to avoid breakage. Tablecloths that are 100% pure lines should be spot washed and not dry cleaned.