Standard Placemat Size (Uses, Sizes & Etiquette)

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

When you have kids, you will learn that kids love to make a mess. At no time do they get messier than when they are eating. That’s why placemats are a thing, and why parents rely on them. While they’re usually meant to prevent spills from kids, these handy mats can also be a nice aesthetic touch. If you’re a mom who likes to decorate, it makes good sense to know how big placemats are supposed to be.

If you want to get a placemat that will work for your home, having the right size matters. There are three main placemat sizes that you can expect to see on the market. They are as follows:

  • Small: 12 inches diameter
  • Standard: 12 by 14 inches
  • Extra Large: 14 by 20 inches

Understanding how much your placemats will spread out will make a big difference for both you and your kids. Here’s what you need to know, all summed up in a guide.

Before You Begin: Do You Need Placemats?

In years past, having no tablecloth meant that you needed to have placemats. Even if you had a tablecloth, there was a good chance that you still needed a tablecloth. These days, it’s not always so simple. The truth is, placemats have (kind of) gone out of style, especially when it comes to eating casually at home.

If you don’t want to use a placemat, you don’t have to. No one will judge you, as eating on the “bare table” has become the new way to do things. However, there are still perks to placemats that you might want to consider if you’re on the fence…

  • They do add a nice touch of formality to your setup. Placemats carry an old-school charm that people like. It also makes it easier to delineate where everyone’s supposed to sit.
  • Placemats can make it easier to clean. Parents can vouch for this. It’s why so many kids’ furniture companies now offer plastic placemats.
  • In many cases, they also protect your furniture against scratching. Even if you don’t have wood, you might want to use placemats because of the protection that they offer a table. They can act as a buffer against extremely high temperatures, and can also help absorb any scratches from plates or silverware.

Are Placemats Out Of Style?

Honestly, they are. There is no other way to explain it. Once considered to be a major part of a table setting, people are just too tired to put together a full setting with placemats anymore. This means that going for “bare bones” dining involving utensils and dishes is usually going to be a better bet.

If you want to have a placemat-like object that’s a little more modern, you might want to consider a charger plate. This is a plate that goes underneath your dinner plate. It catches all the food that falls off the plate, is easy to clean, and also has a modern look. We’ll talk more about sizing these, too.

What Are The Typical Measurements Of Placemats?

Standard Placemat Sizes Chart

Small Placemat SizeStandard Placemat SizeLarge Placemat Size
Diameter: 12″


Length: 12″

Width: 10-12″

Diameter: 13-15″


Length: 12″

Width: 14″

Length: 14-16″

Width: 18″-22″


Length: 11-15″

Width: 15-17″

For the most part, placemats don’t have too much difference when it comes to their sizing. Some round ones are might vary, but they all tend to be around the same size. It’s only when you have large ones that you might see a real notable change in sizing.

Do Placemats Really Stay In Their Standard Sizing?

Unlike shower curtains, placemats don’t really stick to standard sizing. If you get placemats, you will probably see some deviation as far as sizing goes. Many companies tend to stick to the mid-tier size, but it’s safe to say that you can find a placemat that will be proportional to your table. When in doubt, go for a 14 inch by 16-inch placemat. This fits most tables comfortably.

If you have a small breakfast table or dining nook, it may be better to go with a smaller placemat. This is where 12 by 12-inch placemats can come into play.

What Size Placemat Should I Use?

This is a great question, primarily because it involves figuring out the spacing between each dinner guest’s place. It’s good to keep a couple of rules in mind when you size out your placemat:

  • Most diners will want a bare minimum of four inches of space between them. This means your placemats need to have at least four inches of space on all sides except for the side facing the diner. Even though this is a good minimum, most people will want more elbow room to eat.
  • Match round tables to round placemats, and square tables to rectangular ones. Having a sense of continuity is a good way to make your table pop. This includes keeping everything in sympatico when it comes to the shape of the table.
  • If you have messy kids, don’t worry about the formal rules of placemats. It might be nice to have a very aesthetic-looking table, but let’s be honest. Cleaning up after kids is a serious chore. Be kind to yourself, and get your kids a massive, kid-friendly placemat that can handle all the spills. Then, after your kid is done eating, wipe it down and be on your merry way.
  • Your placemat should not be smaller than your plates. This might seem like it’s an obvious thing to say, but it’s not. You should be able to see (and admire) the placemat even when your dishes are placed on it.
  • On a related note, charger plates should be at least two feet apart from each other. Charger plates aren’t quite placemats but they’re often used as a replacement for them. Since they are much smaller than placemats, they need a lot more space between them.
  • Keep your guests’ size into account. People who have bigger family members might need to modify the numbers to make sure that everyone isn’t shoulder-to-shoulder. Comfort counts!

Should I Keep Placemats On The Table When I’m Not Eating?

Believe it or not, the answer is a hard no. Keeping placemats on the table can actually trap moisture under the placemat. At times, it can also cause certain fumes to seep into the wood. This can damage the surface of your table and you might be unable to fix this without a lot of work. Besides, a nice wood surface should be enjoyed while you’re not eating, don’t you think?

What Size Placemat Works For A Younger Child?

If your child has gone past the age where they spill and smear stuff around, then you can start shrinking the placemat significantly. There are several schools of thought when it comes to children’s placemats…

  • Many families just upgrade the placemat to the standard adult size once kids get over their “spill phase.” This is a great way to make your kids feel grown-up. It also has the added perk of giving your dining room table a nice sense of continuity. Fans of keeping things aesthetic will appreciate this.
  • Some choose to give their kids a smaller placemat. A common size for children’s placemats is around 9 by 14 inches. It can be larger or smaller, depending on the size of your kid’s plate. This is a good choice for parents who are worried about portion control.
  • Others still let the child decide. While most kids have no problem letting parents take the lead, some are pretty independent thinkers. If you want to give them the choice, you absolutely can. Some kids like to keep using their favorite placemat for a while. That’s okay.

How Big Is A Charger Plate Supposed To Be?

Charger plates are the more modern alternative to placemats, and at times, are even called “solid placemats” because of their similar build. Most charger plates will be between 11 to 14 inches in diameter. If they are oval or rectangular, they will typically be 14 inches long by 11 inches wide. The plate’s outer edges (usually decorated) should peek out for a couple of inches underneath the actual plate.

Can You Eat Off A Charger Plate?

Though they are plates, you shouldn’t try to eat off a charger plate. They are meant for decorative purposes only, and only work to protect the table from stains and/or burns. If you want to eat off a charger, you technically can…at least with most of them. Some charger plates are treated with coats of paint that make them dangerous for diners.

Do You Need A Charger Plate Over A Placemat?

While this used to be the standard way to dress a table without a tablecloth, the truth is that it’s no longer necessary. Most professional table setters suggest skipping the placemat if you have a charger plate, and vice versa. If you are having a more formal event, you should use a tablecloth and a charger plate.

What Are The Best Materials For A Placemat?

Size is only one of the big factors that come to buying (or making) some placemats. The materials used in your placemat matter, and it can even have some impact on the sizes you’ll find. If you want to make sure that you get good placemats, consider one of these materials below:

  • Plastic. Plastic and vinyl are the go-to materials for placemats made for kids. These are simple to wash and are meant to be grippy. They tend to be larger in size to accommodate spills and messes from little hands.
  • Cork. Cork is pretty grippy, has a trendy look, and also can be easy enough to clean. They tend to range from standard to larger sizes. They work well for casual, barside dining.
  • Cloth. Cloth is a hit-or-miss type of material. It’s thin, so it doesn’t always absorb heat as well as you’d hope. However, it catches food and can be found in a wide range of different patterns. Cleaning cloth placemats can be a hassle at times, and the propensity for staining can be difficult to mitigate. Bleach doesn’t always work, ya know!
  • Straw. Straw placemats are oh, so popular among people who want to have a tropical or coastal look. They tend to be difficult to clean, but are not made to last forever. They also tend to be fairly cheap. If you are an avid DIYer, you might also be able to weave your own.

Related Questions

Are dinner plates getting bigger?

If your antique dinner plates look a little disproportional to your placemats, it’s not just your imagination. Chances are, they are much smaller than your modern plates are. The size of dinner plates increased greatly over the past 50 years. During the 1960s, dinner plates were between seven to nine inches in diameter.Modern plats are between nine to 11 inches in diameter. Some are even larger. Due to the shift in plate size, what would have been considered a dinner plate is now labeled as a “luncheon plate.”

What are the best placemats to protect wood?

Many people believe that the best placemats for protective purposes are plastic, but that’s not true. Sensitive wooden tables don’t always do well with plastic placemats. This is because these placemats can stain or melt onto the wood. Some also release fumes that damage the finish of particularly sensitive foods over a long period of time.That’s why the best possible materials for a tablecloth or placemat are cloth and vinyl. These are resistant to heat, can protect your wood from scratching, and also look chic.

What can I use instead of a placemat?

The most common option is to use a charge plate, but that isn’t the only thing you can do to add a little flair to your place setting. You can also switch out for tablecloths, or even a table runner to get the look that you want for your dinner table. Of course, you never have to use a placemat if you don’t want to.  Having a bare table is always in vogue, at least when it comes to daily dining.

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

More by Ossiana Tepfenhart