The Proper Way to Fold a Napkin


Folding a cloth napkin properly doesn't have to be the mystery of the century. Fancy birds, fans and exotic flowers aren't necessary when a simple, crisp fold will suffice. Proper, formal napkin folding isn't about complicated designs but about a neat, orderly presentation. Practice folding the napkin on a flat surface and when you've achieved the fold you're satisfied with, iron the napkin to produce a sharp fold and professional appearance. Square napkins benefit the most from this simple fold technique.

Things You'll Need

  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Square cloth napkin
  • Table
  • Ruler (optional)
  • Spread the napkin flat on an ironing board and iron the napkin on an appropriate setting for the napkin's fabric so that it is wrinkle-free. Cotton and linen are among the easiest napkins to fold but will always need to be ironed.

  • Spread the napkin flat on a table with the wrong side of the napkin's fabric facing you. Fold the left napkin edge vertically, ¼ of the napkin's width, toward the napkin's center. If you're concerned with precise, consistent measurements, use a ruler to measure the napkin to determine the exact place to make your folds on the napkin. Usually you can eyeball the napkin for a satisfactory fold.

  • Fold the right napkin edge vertically, 1/3 of the napkin's width, toward the napkin's center.

  • Fold the new left edge of the napkin (the fold) over toward the right, toward the center of the napkin, ¼ of the new napkin width.

  • Fold the napkin in half horizontally and align the bottom of the napkin edges, forming a rectangle.

  • Iron the folded napkin. Press gently and pay careful attention to the folds to achieve a crisp appearance.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some people like to spritz the folded napkin with water in a mister or spray bottle. Others prefer starch to retain the crisp, ironed folds that are still obvious when the napkin has been shaken out and placed in the lap of the guest. If you aren't sure if your guests have allergies of any sort, it may be best to avoid starches when ironing the napkins. Instead, if you must use something, use plain water or steam from the iron.
  • Use caution when operating irons, as they are hot and can lead to burns and injuries.

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  • Photo Credit White plate on linen cloth with cutlery and colourful napkin image by Sophia Winters from Silverwear and napkin image by Paul Hill from blackberries in a white bowl on a purple napkin image by David Smith from
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