The Five Uses of Dinner Napkins

Napkins are used as signals as wells as tools during a meal.  If you've ever assumed you didn't need one, perhaps knowing the five uses of a napkin might help you reconsider.

1.  The Napkin Begins a Meal

Your napkin signals the start of a meal.  If you are hosting, you should lead the way by first placing your napkin in your lap so that your guests will follow suit.

Napkin is on the left side of the place settingYour napkin is placed to the left of the forks, or decoratively on the place setting
Picking up your napkinPick up the napkin at the bottom right edge with your left hand
Unfolding your napkinLift your napkin off the table as it unfolds
Place your napkin in your lapPlace the napkin, folded in half, on your lap with open edges toward your waist

2.  Catches Crumbs

We don't often stop to think about the true purpose of placing a napkin in our laps.  Until we spill or drop something. 

How wonderful when there is an extra piece of fabric in our lap to catch those little mishaps!

3.  Wipes Mouth Edges

Gently wipe the sides of your mouth as needed to remove crumbs or sauces. 

If you hold your napkin so the inside of the top layer is used to wipe, you can avoid having a visibly stained napkin in your lap and keep the stain from jumping onto you or the tablecloth.

Wiping your mouth with a napkin

4.  Contains Coughs and Sneezes

Napkins come in handy when you need to cough or sneeze at the table.  Cover your mouth and nose with your napkin to help keep germs contained. 

However, if you can't stop coughing, or if that sneeze was a bit much, quickly excuse yourself and leave the table to take care of the issue.

Catch a sneeze in your napkin

5.  Napkins End the Meal

When the meal is done, loosely fold your napkin and place it on the left side of your place setting. 

This signals to fellow diners and the wait staff that it is time for you to leave.

Napkin signals the end of a meal

What Not to Do with a Napkin

Napkin tucked in shirtPlace it anywhere on your body other than your lap
Napkin on a plateLay it on the plate at any time
Napkin thrown on tablePlace it anywhere on the table other than to the left of your place setting
Blow your nose into your napkinBlow your nose or wipe your face
Dropped napkin on floorPick it up off the floor if you drop it when you are at a restaurant. (At a restaurant, you would kick it under the table.) Simply ask your waiter or host for a new one
Napkin thrown on a plateJust toss it anywhere on the table as you leave

In a variety of ways, proper use of napkins keeps your meals flowing in an efficient manner.  Used as a signal, or a functional tool, your napkin is a most welcome helper.

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