A few months ago, I was shopping at Costco for our large monthly grocery haul. Paper towels were on the list, and as I stared at the mega box our family would blow through, I thought, “Do I really want to spend $20 on paper towels?” The answer was no. Instead, I bought a dozen white dish towels for $10. Without giving it much preemptive thought, operation ditch paper towels had begun.
When I got home, my husband was skeptical. I mean, we used paper towels for everything: wiping up spills and messes, cleaning, draining bacon, and using them as dinner napkins. But when you stop and think about it, buying disposable paper towels when a reusable product is just as good if not better, is just – well – stupidity.
So we gave the cloth towels a shot. At the time, I honestly didn’t know how it would turn out. But, after a few months of not using (and not buying) rolls of paper towels, I can happily say we have ditched paper towels for good!
I feel much better knowing we are using a reusable product, and the costs savings mean our grocery bill is lower each month. Sound impossible or not worth the extra work? Stick with me. It’s totally doable.
Here’s how we said goodbye to paper towels (and how you can too).
How to give up Paper Towels
First, put the paper towels away. Save them for camping, or perhaps for a really nasty clean up job (but put them out of sight).
Then, gather up old rags or towels, and/or purchase inexpensive bar rags or washcloths (restaurant supply stores often have great deals, as do wholesale or dollar stores).
Next, put the rags in a handy spot in the kitchen and bathrooms. We have a small drawer right by the sink and stove.
Lastly, keep a bag in the kitchen for dirty towels. At the end of the day, I bring the whole bag up to our laundry room (with two young boys, we can go through quite a few in a day.)
In addition to ditching paper towels, we’ve also reduced using disposable cleaning wipes. Instead, we purchase multi-purpose cleaner and use the rags + cleaner to wipe down surfaces.
We’ve also switched to cloth napkins instead of paper napkins or paper towels. We received a couple dozen cloth napkins from our wedding registry and never really used them. Now, we use them every day instead of paper napkins. It’s nice to know they are going to good use!
What about cleaning? Pick up a couple of micro-fiber cloths for cleaning mirrors and windows (they are also great for dusting).
How do you clean the rags?
I clean the rags just as I do other towels and cloth diapers – with hot soapy water, and on the sanitize cycle if they are really dirty or soiled. I usually wash them separately. For drying, you could easily hang dry them or toss them in the dryer. It may seem like a lot more laundry, but for us it is not. With two kids and cloth diapering, we are doing laundry every day anyway.
What about bacon grease?
Strangely enough, this was the biggest question I had about not using paper towels. Sometimes I use a spare restaurant paper napkin (cheating, I know!). But, most often, I drain the bacon on a plate or towel. For the bacon grease on the pan, I let it solidify and then scrape it off (usually into a container to use in cooking. Yum!).
What about Pet and Kid Potty Messes?
With a toddler almost ready to potty train and an aging dog, the occasional pee, poop, and throw up messes are not unheard of. For these messes, we simply use a cloth rag with cleaner – just as we would a paper towel. Then, I wash the rag with the cloth diapers or make sure I launder it on a sanitize cycle. And if this makes you a little queasy, just keep a roll hidden away for those really messy times.
What if my guests ask for a paper towel?
Hand them a cloth towel or napkin, instead! They probably won’t think too much about it – and perhaps they’ll be inspired to ditch the paper towels, as well.