How to Wash a Tablecloth to Make It Last Longer

table with honey bread food stains how to wash a table cloth

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Tablecloths are a great way to add subtle color or decor to your table while also helping protect it from the wear and tear of daily interactions. Learning how to wash a tablecloth will help you keep your tablecloths looking fresh and allow you to enjoy them for years.

​How to Spot Clean Your Table Cloth

​Before you toss it into the washing machine, you will want to look over your table cloth and spot clean it. Food and beverage stains are sure to be spotted on an active table cloth no matter how neat of an eater you are.

These are a few of the most common table cloth stains. Let's go over the top rated cleaning supplies you can use and the best way ​you can pre-treat​ them.

table with honey bread food stains how to wash a table cloth

​Butter or Oils

​Oil based stains can be a little difficult to get out of your table cloths. You will want to pre-treat the spots with a stain remover or a liquid laundry detergent. The main trick is that after it will need to be washed with the hottest water possible.

This is to blast away the grease, since hot water will make it liquid, where cold water makes it solidify. If you have a tablecloth that needs to be washed in cool water, then you can try using dish detergent as a spot cleaner. Let it sit for fifteen minutes before putting it in the wash on the cool/warm cycle.

Related: Hacks to Keep Your Carpet Clean

​Candle Wax

​When you have lighted candles on your table then there is a chance the ​wax can drip​ onto the tablecloth. It is pretty easy to remove, even if it dries. Start by using a butter knife or another dull knife to gently scrape the wax off of the tablecloth.

Next you will need an iron, put it on the lowest setting and place an absorbent paper towel on both sides. Press the stain with a warm iron for a couple of seconds and then lift. Replace the paper towels and repeat until the wax is absorbed. You can do the same ​when washing silk fabrics.

​Red Wine

​Red wine is notorious for staining but super easy to clean. Use a cool damp sponge or cloth to soak the stain. This will help wash out a fresh stain or rehydrate an older one.

Then you ​want to pre-treat it with a stain remover like the ​Wine Away Red Wine Stain Remover or by simply using a liquid laundry detergent. Let it sit for a few minutes to finish breaking down the red wine stain before you toss it in the washer.

When it comes to a stain on the tablecloth, it is best to get the stain out as soon as it happens to reduce leaving a mark. Also fresh stains come up much easier that ones that have set in.

Related: ​Removing Aged Stains From Your Carpet

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​How to Wash a Table Cloth

Pull out your tablecloth as soon as the wash is finished, this way it won’t mildew.​When it comes to learning how to wash your tablecloths, you will want to keep the load small. ​Overloading your washer​ will cause the tablecloths to not get a full cleaning and you will have to go back and wash them again to get rid of any smells or stains.

You also will want to avoid using any bleach on your tablecloth fabrics, even if they are white. Using a detergent that has a mild color safe bleach is okay for most all fabrics. If you have any questions, you can always read the label or check the tablecloth’s original packaging.

You can also test a spot with the color safe bleach detergent if you want to make sure it won’t fade or harm the tablecloth fibers. You can also opt to make use of a natural home cleaning detergent to make sure it isn't harmful Choose an inside area close to the seam that can be hidden.

When you are ready to wash your tablecloths, follow these easy steps:

  • 1
    ​Open the wash and select the cool water option.
  • 2
    ​Add the measured amount of detergent.
  • 3
    ​Place the tablecloth in the washer and then close the door.
  • 4
    ​Allow the full cycle to run.
  • 5
    ​Pull out your tablecloth as soon as the wash is finished, this way it won’t mildew.

Check your tablecloth out of the washer to make sure all the stains were lifted and no food smell was left on the fabric. If anything is amiss then you will want to repeat the pre-treating steps and rewash it, make sure again that you are not overfilling the washer.

hanging linens fabrics to dry how to wash a table cloth

​Drying Your Table Cloth

Some fabrics like cotton can be put in the dryer. If you do place your table cloth in the dryer then make sure it is on low heat. Don't do this when washing sensitive materials like wool.

You can also hang your table cloth up to dry naturally. If you do not have a drying rack you can hang your table cloths outside on a cloth line, over deck railing or over your open shower pole.

Since drying a tablecloth inside can take a long time, it is best to wash it in the evening and leave it hanging in a well vented area overnight.

After drying, you can iron your table cloth. From there, fold and put away your tablecloths so that they are ready for the next use. It’s good to have a few tablecloths if you keep them on the table, that way you have one to use while the other is being washed.


Now that you know how to wash a tablecloth you can enjoy the day to day use without worrying about the cleanup.

About the Author Lauren Moldvay

Lauren Moldvay is a freelance writer from Virginia and the mother of one (not always) sweet little girl. She specializes in trying to help others find easier ways to clean, manage the home and save money with DIY projects.