Stop Using Paper Towels: A System That Works!

by Kate on July 19, 2012

in DIY, Frugal Living, Green Living, Save Money, Simple Home, Simple Living

My current apartment attracts dirt like no other apartment I’ve lived in. Seriously, it’s like nature is desperately trying to reclaim it. So I tend to use paper towels, but I’m desperate to kick the habit for a few reasons:

  • Waste: It’s just silly! We/I don’t need them and yet in the US alone, we throw out 3000 tons of paper towel waste per day! Think off all those trees! All those ecosystems destroyed. It’s human-centric at best, and just plain cruel at worst.
  • Cost:I probably go through about 1 roll of paper towels per week. I consider that a lot, but some people use much more. That costs me about $52 per year (I estimated $1 per roll). It’s not a crazy figure, but it’s $50 I’d definitely rather be spending on a nice dinner, or a few trips to the movies.
  • Clutter: Getting rid of paper towels means one less way to make a mess around the house!

So why do we keep using paper towels?

“Using cloth towels is inconvenient…”

Why is it inconvenient? Let’s break down the steps to using paper towels. Rip one off the roll (that probably sits in a paper towel holder on your kitchen counter), wipe down the mess, toss it in the trash. That’s three simple steps. Usually using cloth towels is not so simple. We tend to stuff them in a cabinet somewhere, or only have one or two and dirty them up so fast we have to resort to paper towels. Plus when it comes time to wash them, usually we’ve left them sitting near the sink (in their filthy state) for a few days and it’s repulsive to have to touch them again. Inconvenient indeed! What’s the answer? Simplify the process of course! Why not try this:

  1. Create a place to keep your cloth towels:  You want it to be somewhere easily accessible–not in a cabinet. You could have a shelf, or you could hang a drawstring bag like the one below on a hook in your kitchen and toss all your cloths in there.
  2. Always have plenty of clean towels available: When buying your cloth towels, opt for quantity over quality. The main benefit of paper towels is you always have one after another available. Stuff at least 15 or so in your towel bag or shelf so you never run out. Plus this way, you’ll never feel like you need to do the laundry just to clean your towels (annoying!). You don’t even have to buy towels, you can cut up old cotton or knit clothing into rectangles and use those just as well!
  3. Have an easy system for disposing of dirty towels: Setting your dirty towels aside to be washed should be as simple as throwing away a paper towel. I suggest you use the same type of system you use to store your clean towels. In other words, if you use a drawstring bag to hold your clean towels, hang another bag elsewhere in the kitchen to toss your dirty towels into. I like the bag idea, because it’s cheap, and you can pick something with a cute pattern so it adds character and charm to your kitchen! Then when it’s time to do laundry, you just have to grab one bag of dirty towels instead of picking up several from around the kitchen or mixing them in with your dirty clothes for a whole week.

See that turns using cloth towels into an easy 3-4 step process! Grab towel from clean towels bag. Wipe down mess. Toss into dirty towels bag (or fold near sink or over oven handle if it can still be used more). Then, eventually, toss dirty towels into laundry to clean (from the dirty towels bag so you don’t even have to touch the dirty towels again). Repeat. It’s an easy way to live more simply, save money at home, and be more sustainable!

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*In the spirit of full disclosure, links to products in this post may be affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you decide to purchase any of the products I recommend. Know that I only recommend products that I have used and love myself.

*I am not a doctor, a nurse, or any kind of health practitioner. I’m just a gal with a pretty keen intuitive sense, great research abilities, and curiosity that is easily peaked. Please understand that my advice is really just another opinion and it’s for you (and your doctor) to decide the best course for your health and well-being.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

50shadesofgreen August 10, 2012 at 6:27 am

Love the post. I felt the same way and with little ones there was ALWAYS a mess to clean. I actually use cloth diapers (that were never used to diaper) to clean up messes. I keep them folded on my dryer (in the kitchen) and grab one whenever I have a mess. We also have paper towels (for super grimy things) but I put the holder in an inconvenient location so I wouldn’t be tempted to grab them whenever.
– Britt


lightcleansimple September 19, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I treat my paper towels the same way! Sort of like putting your alarm clock far away from your bed so it forces you to get up. :)


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