In the days of formal dinners, napkins were 22 inches to 24 inches square, and this large size is also useful when diners will be using their laps as tables. Ordinary dinner napkins are 16″ to 18″ square, or similarly sized rectangles.

Cocktail napkins are much smaller: perhaps 10″ to 12″ square. Paper cocktail napkins are usually in or below the smaller end of this range, often 9½ inches square.

Paper napkins

For the benefit of institutional users, the ASTM divides paper napkins into three classes:

Type Area Shortest dimension, unfolded
Cocktail 100 sq. inches or less 5 1116
Luncheon 100–183 sq. in.
Dinner over 183 sq. in. 11⅜

The weight of the paper in paper napkins is the weight in pounds of 500 sheets 24 inches by 36 inches. The ASTM specification sets the following weights:

Size weight
in pounds of
500 sheets
24″ by 36″
1 ply light weight 11.9 or less
standard 12.0–13.9
heavy at least 14.0
2 ply at least 19.0
3 ply at least 28.5

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