by Angela Cummings and Sophia Ruan Gushée
I’ve always been nervous about covering our table for fear that one accidental yank will clear the table of its settings. Especially when young children are around. But special occasion and holiday dishes seem to be incomplete without the traditional fabric tablecloth.
During the few times a year that I dress up the kitchen table, I try to make the dining experience as perfect as I can. Each time I wash and iron the linens so that my guests won’t sneeze at the dust that has accumulated since the last use.
I also want my guests to be exposed to the least amount of chemicals as possible while they’re in my home. Lining the table with a nontoxic tablecloth is one of the several ways to do that.
It’s odd to think that a tablecloth would be made from chemicals, isn’t it? But they often are.
Standard tablecloths are made from synthetic materials, dyes, and finishes. Anytime you read the word “synthetic” it means that it’s made in a laboratory from chemicals (usually petrochemicals). (1) Examples of chemicals found in standard textiles, including tablecloths, include formaldehyde, tris flame retardants, and phthalates.
Phthalates are so widely used that it's worth getting to know. Here are a few fast facts as cited in A to Z of D-Toxing. (2)
What’s the secret to choosing a nontoxic table cloth?
When choosing nontoxic tablecloths, follow the three main guidelines below, which should be considered when choosing anything made of textiles (like clothing, bedding, carpets, or drapes). Consider the material that the table cloth is made of, the dyes used, and the finishes that may have been applied.
1. Material it’s made of. Check the label to see what the tablecloth is made from. Polyester, acrylic, nylon and rayon are popular synthetic materials made from petroleum byproducts, which you want to avoid. Cotton, hemp, bamboo, and linen are natural materials; confirm that there are no added toxic chemicals in the form of colors and resistance to various things, like bacteria, stains, water, etc.
Natural materials absorb natural dye better than synthetic fibers. which is important when considering the amount of dyes used. Opt for natural fabric materials over synthetic fabrics.
2. Dyes that are used. This is trickier to identify, but easier to look for when shopping online. Online retail sites allow companies to give consumers more detailed information about the materials' dyes and finishes. It also gives retailers an opportunity to showcase products that are certified by a 3rd-party organization, such as GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard).
GOTS certification criteria takes into account the chemicals used in processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, trading, and distribution.
3. Finishes added. Finishes are often added to textiles, including table cloths, to make them stain resistant, water proof, fire retardant and wrinkle resistant. Terms that signal finishes with potentially toxic chemicals include “wrinkle free tablecloth,” or “stain resistant table runner.”
Instead, look for products with the GOTS label, or companies that have a stated mission of creating tablecloths and other textiles that are made with natural products or fewer chemicals.
Our kitchen table sits bare most of the year, but when we break out the fancy dishes, our cotton tablecloth is not far behind. Choose a tablecloth that is made with natural fabrics, dyes and finishes. An easy way to do that is to look for the GOTS organic certification.
And since these types of tablecloths can wrinkle easier, after laundering the tablecloth remove it from the dryer immediately and lay it straight onto the kitchen table to minimize wrinkling (and hopefully avoid it all together!). You’ll have a freshly cleaned nontoxic tablecloth to wow your guests while considering their health!
In 2020, we're deconstructing our home, habits, and things to reconstruct a practical nontoxic and healing lifestyle. We're bringing consciousness to unconscious choices.