I’ve always considered myself a fairly eco-conscious person. I line dried, hand washed, repurposed, and tried to minimize the use of disposables. With one exception: plastic tablecloths for the Shabbat table.
I sort of felt I gamed the system when I spread out that transparent rustling sheet of plastic over my table. I didn’t need to worry about spills. Cleanup was a breeze. And I could still see my pretty cloth tablecloth through the plastic.
No, I didn’t feel too good about myself when it was time to shove that giant wad of plastic into the trash can. But I told myself, “You do enough laundry. You have tiny kids. You’re just surviving.” It was that word, “surviving”, which I used to justify a lot of lack of effort in many areas.
I could, of course, put on reusable waxed tablecloths, but there are limitations to cleaning on the Shabbat. For example, you can’t clean with a cloth and then wring it.
Then, one day, we switched to buying a long plastic roll rather than individual pre-cut pieces to save money. The problem is, you need to cut your plastic cover before the Shabbat, and if you forget to do that, too bad.
One such time, I nearly threw a fit when I realized that I’ll need to use cloth tablecloths and wash them. We lived in an area where we’d regularly get stuck without electricity or running water for days. But I still couldn’t help noticing how much nicer it was to eat without touching plastic with our hands and elbows.
I still wasn’t ready to give up on plastic table covers because of the aforementioned patchy utilities. There were many times when I delayed washing the dishes and was stuck with a full sink for three days. But when we moved, I no longer had to obsess about getting every load of laundry or stack of dishes done as soon as possible.
Then I started ghostwriting for one eco blog, which really got me more aware of how harmful plastic actually is and how important it is to minimize its use. I decided to lay my Shabbat cloth with no cover.
All in all, I needed three cloths for the three Shabbat meals. They took about half a load in the washer. And there was not a single stain, despite multiple spills of oil, wine, and tomato sauce.
For over a year now, I haven’t looked back. I just took my three favorite tablecloths off the line. They are perfectly clean and smell delicious – and they are ready to go on the table tomorrow night.
3 thoughts on “How I got over my plastic tablecloth addiction”
What a lovely read! I have to admit I have never ever understood the use of plastic on Shabbat table. I mean I understand why it is done, but I can’t get over the fact that it immediately takes away the joyous, festive, one-of-a-kind meal of the week thrill for me. I was most of my working years in restaurants and catering (went to a restaurant school) and it may explain some of my enthusiasm for beautiful table settings, but still. Plastics may have it’s rightful place in some cases, but everyday life goes quite well without plastic, just like 100 years ago in my opinion.
Today I completely agree! Using cloth is not even more work. And my trash can doesn’t overflow so soon.