27 Oct Guide: Cotton Vs Synthetic Table Linen
In this post I will do my best to answer this very common question. So let’s begin with a closer look at cotton.
Cotton Table Linen
Cotton is a natural fibre, and begins life as the humble cotton plant (pictured below). It has amazing absorbing properties and as such it is a very popular choice for tea towels. Cotton’s absorbent qualities also enable it to be coloured as it takes to dye very well. Of course, the dyeing process isn’t as simple as it may seem and for superior colour retention Vat Dyeing is recommended. For those interested, here is a link to further reading on vat dyeing. As a natural fibre cotton has unparalleled softness. However, new developments in synthetics have evened the playing field somewhat – and now with high quality synthetics most people could not tell the difference between cotton and synthetics.
Practical Considerations for Cotton table linen
Colour loss in washing
Although cotton is easy to colour and takes to dye well, a proportion of colour will always be extracted from cotton as it is washed. Hence uniformity of colour across items can be difficult to maintain. Particularly in a commercial setting where linen needs to be washed on an ongoing basis – and where items will be at different stages of their life cycle.
Beside colour there is an inevitable distortion of cotton in the wash processes, as cotton shrinks it becomes distorted and misshapen. For this reason many commercial laundries recommend synthetic linen as the results are more consistent and stable. There are several other factors to consider in the wash process, but I will spare you the technical details for now – maybe I’ll touch on it in my next blog 🙂
Synthetic Table Linen
Synthetic materials have made significant advances in recent years and in many cases now are indistinguishable from cotton in the way they feel. Feel free to get in touch with Superior linen Service for a sample. Synthetics are incredibly durable and resistant to stain and wrinkles.
Although lacking in the extremely soft feel of cotton, synthetic is a far more stable product as it is manufactured to retain colour and will hold that colour for a long time. This doesn’t mean they are totally immune to colour differences – This is particularly apparent in black as the washed products become less black over time. This is most obvious when serviettes, tablecloths and linen are different stages of life beside each other.
A word on StarchThere are as with anything other factors that will have effects on materials used in a restaurant and there are also some beliefs that are completely wrong – can you starch synthetic napkins? The answer is yes you can, larger laundries using CBW’s (continuous batch washers) will find it harder and the ability of the laundry personnel will be challenged hence there is some resistance to starch in the industry – but there is without a doubt the opportunity to starch synthetic as we do at Superior Linen Service.
There is no doubt there are some cheap and nasty synthetic products out there – but at Superior Linen Service we only use the best and most advanced fabrics. There are plenty of restaurants we service with synthetic linen that feels so similar to cotton that I would challenge anyone to tell the difference! Our synthetic linen feels incredibly similar to cotton but has all the advantages of synthetic, so it’s a win win for your venue. We have also sought suppliers with unique and different serviettes and table cloths to deliver to market.
There are a variety of reasons to employ either cotton or synthetic and both offer advantages. But the market place has become far more complex in the products it offers to the hospitality industry. Global economic and environmental factors have influenced the market, for example – cotton has become far more expensive due to several factors, including the amount of water required to take it from infancy to end.
Decisions will ultimately come down to the look and feeling you are required to deliver and where the restaurant or hotel would like to be seen in the market. At Superior Linen Service we have many different options but will always look at our customers premises and endeavor to offer something that will reflect their needs as at the end of the day service is the real vehicle of any linen provision and if your provider is not offering something that is relevant and beneficial they are no longer looking at your interests but more so their own.
Here is some of the information from this post laid out in bullet form for easy use!
Synthetic table linen advantages:
- Easier to care for
- Less expensive
- Look good with patterns and bright colours
- Minimal shrinkage
- Very durable – consistent colour after washing
- Quicker turnaround in laundry as quicker drying
Synthetic table linen disadvantages:
- Traditionally not as nice to touch (although this is changing)
- May not look as good in white
Cotton table linen advantages:
- Looks great in white
- Highly Absorbent
- Unparalleled softness – Nicer to the touch
- Lends itself to dyeing
Cotton table linen disadvantages:
- More expensive than synthetic fabrics
- More prone to fading and shrinkage
- Less durable than synthetic fabrics
Thanks for reading!