Two years ago my family quit using paper towels.
In an effort to reduce our waste and save some money we used that last roll and went cold turkey. No more paper towels at all!
There was a bit of grumbling from my husband, but for the most part we adjusted pretty fast.
That lasted for a year until we moved from Oregon to Texas and lived with our daughter for a few months. All of a sudden paper towels were readily available and we got right back into the habit of reaching for them. As much as I hate to admit it when we moved to our own place – the paper towel habit followed and it became an item on the grocery list again.
A few months ago, as I was looking ways to cut excess spending from the grocery budget, I decided to quit buying them again. My family has gone right back in step using the system I’ve set up.
You may think that it is impossible to go without paper towels, especially if you have kids, but I’m here to tell you it’s completely doable. In generations past when there weren’t any paper towels, our grandmothers used rags. They were masters at at it and nothing was wasted.
Set up the replacement system
Here’s what you’ll need: rags, old napkins and old hand towels. Several tubs, baskets or buckets for placing clean and dirty rags around the house.
I was fortunate to be able to purchase 100 cloth napkins for $5 at the cleaners. Check with your local dry cleaner and see if they have a hotel or restaurant customer that is getting rid of old napkins. I didn’t care if they were stained. The great thing about these is, of course, the price. It will take us a long time to go through 100 napkins. I set some aside for dinner and use some for scrubbing or wiping up messes. I also send one with hubby’s lunch each day, it gets him used to using them! These napkins went into two easy to access drawers in my kitchen and laundry room.
Next round up all the old, stained washcloths and hand towels that you have at home and put them into a basket under the sink in the kitchen and bathroom, for easy access. You might want to create a bin for microfiber cloths too. Now you will have a grab and go rag for every use. In the beginning it might be easier for the family to have these easily accessible on the countertop.
But it’s not sanitary!
I use a new cloth towel for each messy cleaning job and the system is working well. Of course I’m not going to use these cloth towels for days on end and I’m not going to wipe the cutting board I’ve just used to de-bone chicken and then wipe down the counters.
That wouldn’t be sanitary! So you need to be mindful about how you are using them.
I have some trusty natural cleaning products that I make and keep on hand to help with the whole cleaning process. Once a towel is dirty, I throw it in a special bucket in my laundry room. Then when I’m doing laundry I grab enough towels to round out the load.
Another bucket under your sink would work just as well. Just grab and go the next wash day.
What about bacon?
That’s the question I get most often when people know we don’t use paper towels anymore. It’s all about recycling really. In this system there will always be rags that are just “past their prime” and are ready to be removed from the rag bin. I keep these in a special bucket in the laundry room. These are for the really messy spills and for bacon grease.
Next time we have bacon for breakfast I will choose one of those rags, and not feel bad about sending it to the trash afterward. They have served a good, useful life mopping up spills every day, and will not be missed. There are always more to use.
How much can you save?
That depends on how dependent your family is on paper towels. Some families can go through a roll in a few days. A 12 pack of two ply paper towels are going for $24.29 at Costco today. That’s $2 a roll. You do the math for your family and see if the cost of a few extra laundry items makes up for the expense of paper towels. For my family, I figure that we save at least $100 per year using our rag system.
With just a bit of effort you can set up a new system of rags, towels, sponges and cleaning products and replace paper towels in your house. You’ll save a bunch of money and be glad you did.