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.
kaye steeper says
my favourite gripe , we use one roll a month just to clean up cat sick and drain fat of the endless onion bhajis this lot consume , everything else is rag powered . My dad always put his rags in the sink each night with a squirt of bleach and we never ailed for anything . My other bug bear is antibacterial sprays …why …just why?
if you use cotton rags for bacon fat or cat barf, the whole mess of it can be composted yes, you can compost fat and meat, dairy, citrus; anything organic. cotton or wool clothes, linens, tampons, qtips. be weird, compost everything, but plastic. it’s time for weird, folks.
there is a book on composting all things like that….I don’t remember the name
Jen D says
This was a while ago, but the name of the book is “Compost Everything” I met the author, he lives not far from me.
I haven’t bought paper towels in almost 10 years. I haven’t bought toilet paper in almost 9. You really can use cloth and save money (and the environment).
NO toilet paper……..not sure if I could do that !!!
Sheila Kelly says
The Eaton’s catalogue used to be good enough.
Ally | The Speckled Goat says
I take old or stained bath towels, cut them up, and use those as rags. We have a lot of old ratty towels- we live near a lake and people are always forgetting them. Wash ’em, bleach ’em, and afterreally yucky jobs, toss or burn them. Easy, and very, very cheap.
We ditched our paper towels five years ago, but made the switch to a quality cleaning product instead. The company is Norwex, and it is an amazing line of green cleaning products. No chemicals, no diy cleaning products, you’re can clean most of your home with WATER and one cloth!! The key is silver woven right into the microfiber cloth that kills 99% of bacteria right in the cloth! I wipe up bacon grease and rinse the cloth, then use it on my kids faces! For more info, go to http://www.norwex.biz and search for a consultant in your area! You won’t regret it!!!
We use paper towels for under food that s all. Every day we have a clean dish cloth to wash dishes , clean tea towel and hand towel. Its not rocket science..
Old stained tea towels make good dusters and are easy to wash to use again.One thing that really annoys is the use of wipes that clogg up pipe systems and are full of chemicals .What s wrong with hot soapy water?
you can drain bacon on a rack on a sheet pan.
I use paper towels for bacon . (Period!) that way, I use a whole roll in about two years. My favorite switch away from paper is toilet paper! We use small cloth pads for pee and paper for poo. Put the used pad in a lidded jar with water in it and wash in the laundry. We’ve cut the tp use by way more than half.
to replace TP try considering water bidet. it should save you even more and is alot cleaner and safer. 🙂
Jean Miller says
You can use grocery brown paper bags for bacon. Works perfectly.
I love all the thoughtful, conscious people here. I have spent over a year trying to get roommates to recycle; I do all the separating and hauling, but to no avail. Every morning I find aluminum cans in the garbage. Piles of paper towels in the garbage. Plastic soda bottles and small cardboard boxes not broken down. These people are self-centered beyond comprehension and it makes me so sad. I can’t even convince them on the premise that keeping these things out of the garbage can makes more room for real garbage, stretching the life of the garbage bags. They even have a fire pit outside, that would do just fine for the soda can boxes. I can’t be there 24 hours to police everything and the frustration is unbelievable. I do what I can. I was so proud of finding ways to reduce my use of paper towels, till I met a mentally disturbed individual with Obsessive-Compulsive issues that is preoccupied with the bacteria in a cloth towel. She just has to use paper towels 40 times a day.
I don’t agree with putting the used rags in a wash load to round it out. I believe I would was with hot water and bleach and wash in their own load.