Dining Table Sheet vs. Linen Tablecloth: Know Your Covers

Dining table sheets are traditionally made of vinyl or plastic, whereas linen tablecloths are made of a fine fabric that is considered more luxurious in terms of appearance and feel. Linen tablecloths are also more expensive than dining table sheets because of their value and quality. 

Dining table sheets can serve a useful purpose for many dining facilities, and they are also more appropriate than linen tablecloths in certain circumstances. Thus, both dining table sheets and linen tablecloths have advantages and disadvantages that warrant consideration. 

Advantages & Disadvantages of Dining Table Sheets

Dining table sheets have numerous advantages that make them a suitable option for many eateries:

  • Durability: Dining table sheets made from vinyl or plastic are durable. They can withstand spills, stains and other forms of damage to a greater degree than linen tablecloths. 

  • Wash ability: The slick surfaces of dining table sheets make them easy to wipe down

  • Price: Dining table sheets are generally more affordable than linen tablecloths. 

  • Splash and stain resistance: Plastic or vinyl dining table sheets, for the most part, do not absorb food or liquid content, so there is no need to worry about stains or damage in this regard. 

Although dining table sheets have many advantages, they also have some disadvantages:

  • Appearance: Dining table sheets will impart a diner feel and aesthetic. This may be ideal for some restaurants, but it would not be appropriate for elegant or high-end restaurants. 

  • Resistance to heat: Plastic and vinyl, although resistant to liquids, are not designed to withstand contact with heat, so hot objects can cause permanent damage to dining table sheets. 

  • Environmental sustainability: The manufacturing and disposal of plastic and vinyl are more detrimental to the environment than the processes associated with linen tablecloths. 

Advantages & Disadvantages of Linen Tablecloths

As with dining table sheets, there are pros and cons to using linen tablecloths. The main advantages of linen tablecloths compared to dining table sheets include the following:

  • Appearance: In general, linen tablecloths present a more sophisticated appearance and feel, making them appropriate for fine dining establishments.

  • Durability: Although not as capable of resisting damage caused by food and liquid spills, line tablecloths are durable if they are well cared for. 

  • Resistance to heat: Linen tablecloths are better able to withstand heat than dining table sheets. 

  • Environmental impact: The manufacturing and disposal of linen tablecloths are both more environmentally friendly than those associated with plastic or vinyl dining table sheets. 

Linen tablecloths come with some disadvantages that warrant consideration:

  • Cost: The upfront cost of linen tablecloths is generally higher than that of dining table sheets. 

  • Maintenance: In addition to their higher upfront cost, linen tablecloths require more maintenance than dining table sheets; stains and spills are not easily removable because of the absorptive nature of the material in these tablecloths. 

  • Resistance to stains and spills: As mentioned above, linen tablecloths will absorb food and liquid spills. This warrants that they be washed frequently, and it often works best to have a professional cleaning service that specializes in industrial tablecloths manage this process. 

Based on these advantages and disadvantages, the most appropriate table cover for your business will depend on a wide range of factors, such as the style of facility and the aesthetic that is desired, the available budget, the clientele and personal preferences. 

Tips & Recommendations for Table Covers

When selecting a set of table covers, there are factors that warrant consideration:

  • Style of facility: If your establishment is intended to offer a fine dining experience, linen tablecloths would provide a more appropriate aesthetic. If your establishment is more casual and familial in nature, there is nothing wrong with dining table sheets, especially if young children will be frequenting the business. 

  • Cost: In general, linen tablecloths are more expensive to purchase than dining table sheets, and they can also be more expensive to maintain. However, if you have a professional linen cleaning service, you can save money in the long run, particularly if you are frequently replacing vinyl or plastic dining sheets. 

Dining table sheets are easily washable and highly resistant to spills and stains, so they are ideal for establishments that are busy and have a high likelihood of food-related mishaps. 

  • Environmental impact: Some customers will choose to frequent establishments that are environmentally friendly and use products that have a low carbon footprint. Linen tablecloths would be preferable here because they have a lower environmental impact than the production of plastic or vinyl dining table sheets. 

  • Maintenance: If you are seeking a low-maintenance option, dining table sheets would be ideal. But if you outsource your linen maintenance needs to a company like Alsco, much of the headache of cleaning and replacing your tablecloths will be taken care of.

Reach out to Alsco today to learn more about how we can handle all of your establishment’s food and beverage linen needs. With our linen rental services, your tablecloths, placemats and napkins will always be clean, fresh and free of rips and stains.


The Impact of Tablecloth on Consumers´ Food Perception in Real-Life Eating Situation. (January 2019). Food Quality and Preference. 

The Laundering of Table Linen: A Bag for Blue. (June 1960). Journal of the Department of Agriculture, Western Australia.

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