Ask The Audience: Tablecloths, Placemats, Or Both?

Ivy says:

Hey Home Eccers! Let’s talk about setting a pretty table. One of the things I like best in this world is to sit down to a table with a crisp tablecloth. Now, my mom always puts placemats on top of her tablecloth to keep it clean, but I find that to be overkill. I have another friend who hates anything on her table at all, so she doesn’t use either. What do you use?

Also, while we’re at it, let’s talk about what kind of tablecloths we like. Me, I vastly prefer a cloth tablecloth, although I’ve been known to buy a plastic tablecloth if it’s really cute or pretty. Finding plastic in 70 inch round, however, is an exercise in frustration. Come on, tablecloth manufacturers, 70 inch round is where it’s at! All the cool kids have a table that needs a 70 inch round tablecloth! Okay, maybe not, but oy.

So what kind of tablecloths are you digging for your tables?

Also: go enter the giveaway I’m hosting over at Love Shak, Baby for a gift pack of green cleaning products! Who doesn’t love more cleaning products?


  1. Sweetbearies on June 20, 2010 at 12:57 am

    I do not cover my table because I am single, and I like to eat and watch TV. This may sound horrible, but I suppose if I was into entertaining I would have a nice one on my table.

  2. william miceli on January 3, 2009 at 3:06 am

    I am looking for a clear plastic tablecloth for a 42 inch round kitchen table. all i can find are ones that hide the table top. this table is too nice looking to hide any suggestions?

    Thank you…

    • Kay on November 24, 2018 at 8:25 pm

      Go to a fabric store. They sell clear plastic in various thickness. Buy the length and thickness you need. You can trim it with a scissors to any shape

  3. Afsaneh on August 28, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Can I use a placemat over the table cloth?

  4. JayMonster on June 30, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    The only time I buy a plastic table cloth is for some sort of ocassion where spills are more than likely to happen (halloween party, kids birthday party, etc). Other than that, it is always cloth, and then placemats to protect the table cloth so I am not washing it constantly.

  5. Sandy on June 30, 2008 at 9:43 am

    No, no, no. No placemats on a tablecloth! LOL.

    At least for me. The more simple the better. Love to buy table cloths at GoodWill. Love how they protect my tables and always a fresh look!

    I think I’m a week late in getting in on this conversation! :))))

  6. Daniella on June 27, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    i have a bit of everything and i like to switch it up. i get bored and there is only one way to have furniture in my house! i can change with the seasons- brighten up for summer, browns and plaids for fall, etc…

  7. Suzanne on June 26, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    A microfiber tablecloth (with an old tablecloth underneath it) is what is saving my beautiful table until my 3 & 6 yr olds learn to stop spilling their drinks! I can’t wait to be able to see the beautiful table and maybe a runner down the middle for interest once I can have it like I want, instead of need to have it.

  8. Brenda on June 26, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    We use mostly tablecloths in our family. I have quite a collection of them: some old, some new…plain, fancy, snowy white, or 1940’s & 50’s colorful. Our mood, where we want to eat (kitchen, dining room, outside), & the type of meal served, all these are factors when I set a table. In hot weather, I especially like a tablecloth, because I like the way the dryness of the cloth feels (instead of sticking to the table). When the kids were little having a cloth on the table helped keep spills & breakage to a minimum, & if something did spill, at least it would stay on the table, & not run off onto the floor! We rotate kitchen tasks between the children, & it’s kind of fun to watch each of them decide what to put out when it’s their turn to set the table. Lastly, I think it’s a nice way to make even the humblest meal look a bit more special, & there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. :o)

  9. Bramble on June 26, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    pretty…table? my table is made out of some kind of composite resin stuff that’s easy to just wipe and clean. 3 boys = nothing that stains lol

  10. Rapunzel on June 26, 2008 at 11:07 am

    I have a glass table so I usually use placemats but for the holidays I pull out the nice cloth ones. Cloth napkins are a must, not just prettier but better for the environment. 🙂

  11. Heidi @ Carolina Dreamz on June 26, 2008 at 10:29 am

    We use a red table cloth, to bring the color to the room, more than function.

    Its perfect with my new love of Chinet as my special dishes for company or holidays! *smirk*

    I love dishes, but living in a small house lends its own limitations.

    Our table, today, is not functional. Its small and round and should probably be on my patio. Our “dining room” is a walk way, in, from the garage and back.. and the house is too small for a table there.. so we finally gave into the need and put it up, for now.

    When we gather to eat, we usually put up my portable sewing table (the plastic folding one from Sam’s) so a cloth is needed to pretend its something else. 🙂

  12. Angie @ Many Little Blessings on June 25, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    I have the table that my Mom bought almost 40 years ago. It’s a lovely wood table with a veneer finish, so we don’t use table clothes or place mats. My Mom never did when she had the table, and so I had 19 years living at home being used to nothing on it.

  13. Carol on June 25, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    I bring out the tablecloths for the guests, but for everyday we use placemats or nothing at all. I prefer fabric to plastic, but I do have a round plastic one that works great when the kids use the table for something other then eating.

    I am with you Ivy, I need a nice 70 inch round tablecloth. And forget about trying to find an oval to fit one leaf! I can’t fine anything in that size.

  14. Debbie on June 25, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    I have collected a nice assortment of fabric tablecloths, many vintage, some just old and meaningful, some that I’ve sewn myself. I love how they look. I enjoy chosing which one I’ll use; I even enjoy the ritual of gathering them up by the corners and taking them outside to shake out….something I remember doing as a child. I also have an assortment of placemats that take their turns on the table. I recently hosted a garden party in my backyard and covered all the tables with vintage cloths. Nothing matched, but it was such a cheerful and pretty sight.

  15. Trixie on June 25, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    I like both! Placemats and tableclothes sure make a table look pretty. But I don’t use either regularly as my husband and I sit at our table to do things other than eating. Having placemats and a tableclothe drive us nuts when we are trying to do something besides eating.

    Take Care


  16. Judy Hamby on June 25, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    I love table runners and have quite a collection. I have Polish lace, Venetian lace, Russian lace, handmade lace from Italy, quilted, woven, you name it. A few I have made but most are bought. I love the look of my bare wood table and just hate to cover it up. Also it is easy cleanup as I have never had anyone drop anything on the runner itself.

  17. Tina on June 25, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    I loved the look of a table cloth over our banged up table when we were newly married. But with 2 boys (and a nicer table top), the table cloths don’t get brought out often–like Beth and Tammy said, it becomes too much of a temtation for the kids to pull. And they’re both under 5, so we’re placemat-less as well. I’d rather wipe off the table then have the plactic place mats that’d be easier to clean, nor do I wish to add to my laundry duties with cloth ones!

  18. Tammy on June 25, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    I’m with Beth, I love the “look” of the tablecloth but with 3 boys, it never ever stays put. {Sigh} So, it’s usually placemats (fabric) for us.

  19. Beth on June 25, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    I don’t use either one. It drives me insane to have a table cloth being pulled this way and that whenever anyone walks past or touches the table! The only time I use table cloths is for holidays. Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter.

  20. Mom of three on June 25, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Currrently my good OAK table is in the garage getting refinished. Been there a while. Meanwhile we are using the pool table as our table. It is basically two card tables put together with a center hinge. It’s as ugly as can been in beige plastic. So at Christmas I bought all the Crimson colored table clothes I could find on clearance. That matches my red in my kitchen and we keep it covered. Ironically, it has more room, and I am leaning towards just keeping it. The oak thing is pretty, but it’s also huge and doesn’t sit more than 5 people comfortably. This new one sits 6-8 easily. Once it’s covered, with nice candle sticks and the new square dishes on it, it looks as elegant as any fine dining establishment. Of course, nine night out of ten, it’s covered in white paper plates and remnants for the previous meal that I can’t convince the kids would look nicer in the pantry than on the table (like chip bags).

    The oak monster, once it is refinished, will be also covered in these Crimson clothes. I bought them for it. With it’s claw feet, it will be beautiful as the day we bought it. It was our first major investment, and had I known we’d feel too guilty to yard sale it 20 year later because of what we spent on it (about 3 weeks salary in those days), I would never have bought it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s sturdy, pretty, functional, but I am so sick of it. I would love one of those long white farmhouse type tables that were so popular several years ago.

    Now what else is on my table is the real question. Currently Ketchup (I think it grows out of the plastic), a bag of donuts, 2 candles, various dirty glasses and my daughter’s lunch (we are eating).

  21. Layla on June 25, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Ooh! Never, ever both a table cloth and placemats (Mrs. Post says so)!

    For me, it depends on the table. For the cruddy little Goodwill table I had in college, definitely a cloth (so we could pretend the table was nicer than it was). Now that I have a nice dining room set that is pretty wood, I use placemats. I actually like the look of placemats better than just a bare table, not to mention the fact that they protect the table from scratches from plates and silverware.

  22. Karen on June 25, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    I like the look of a bare table but since mine is glass, I find it too noisy. So I (reluctantly) use placemats.

  23. Angela on June 25, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    When I lived in a house that would fit a table we had a cloth table cloth and placemats, that is because I was just married and got them as a gift. I love wood tables and do not like them coved so after a while it was just the plan old table with nothing on it. That was much easier to clean:) Now we live in a house that does not have room for a table so all my nice table cloths and placemats are tucked away.

  24. Kendra on June 25, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    We have eight children, none of whom have learned to be neat eaters… yet. One day while washing down placemats as one of the kids was also wiping down the table, it occurred to me that we were creating more work for ourselves. If we ditched the placemats, all we would have to do is wipe down the table and be done. We haven’t used placemats for our daily meals since.

    I’ve never been a big tablecloth lover except when I set the tables on the patio. Breezy tablecloths outside are lovely, but for a beautiful table set indoors, I tend to use placemats for our guests.

  25. Emmilee on June 25, 2008 at 11:54 am

    I keep a tablecloth on per hubby’s request. I buy the water resistant ones (water spills bead up instead of soaking in, making them easier to wipe up) at Linens N Things or Bed Bath & Beyond. I almost always find them on clearance and they’re fabulous.

    But I want clear plastic on top of it, because my kitchen table is also my only kitchen work surface. And we’re messy eaters.

  26. hsgbdmama on June 25, 2008 at 11:31 am

    I use both … I have chunks of fabric that I get from Wal-Mart’s $1 rack in seasonal/holiday/themed patterns and sew them up, and then I use educational placemats, which are laminated and wipe clean easily.

  27. Jasi on June 25, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Place mats are high maintenance. I’ve got a huge black/brown parsons table from Ikea. I’m not sure the wood is treated, so when I have guests I use a table cloth. I pick them up from the big, evil W when they’re on super sale (like less than $4 for the 108″ ones). I have maybe 4 and I don’t think I need more. I also have two huge $0.29 chicken table cloths scored from Ikea As-Is Dept. That’s for crafts, kids parties and campy crowds.

  28. chocolatechic on June 25, 2008 at 10:45 am

    My table is made of very soft pine, so I have to have something covering it. We hadn’t had it 2 days when I ruined the top by setting a hot pot on it…only I didn’t think the pot was that hot.

    Aaanyway, I got a table pad that is elastic around the edges so it form fits the table top, and I found a plastic table cloth with elastic as well. That is on the table daily.

    If I want to make it nice, I purchase flat twin sheets at the dollar store. These fit almost any size table and they wash up so much better.

    Place mats……shudder.

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