Replacing paper towels

24 February 2015

For several years, I’ve wanted to cut down on our paper towel use and introduce cloth dish towels to our kitchen. I wanted to do this for environmental reasons (my understanding is that cloth is better than paper!) as well as for financial – we were going through a lot of paper towels! We probably used about one roll every week and a half. At about $2 per roll, that’s almost $200 per year.

However, my husband, the chef in our family and the main paper towel consumer, was not on board. Since he does the majority of cooking, I wanted to respect his preference. Earlier this year, however, it occurred to me that even if he wasn’t interested in using cloth towels, that didn’t mean that I couldn’t. (Don’t ask me why it took me so long to figure this out.) I spent $25 at Target for 20 dish cloths and a little plastic bin. The dish cloths got folded and stacked on a cake plate next to our paper towel roll, and the bin went next door for the dirties (so we didn’t have to trek to the laundry room after every use).


Friends, this system is working better than I ever dreamed! I’m glad that we still have paper towels available, because cloth isn’t perfect for everything (I prefer to clean up cat vomit with something disposable!). But just the presence of the cloth towels has cut down both of our paper towel consumption to almost nothing – in the two months we’ve had cloth available, we’ve probably used about a roll of paper towels.


A few other items:

— We’re not doing any additional laundry – we just throw the dish towels in with our once a week sheets-and-towels load. We were already doing this with cleaning rags, and they’re so small they don’t make much difference!
— We started with 20 bar cloths/dish towels. As we became more used to having the cloths available, we started to go through them faster, so we just added five more to the collection a few days ago. I think adding five more (to get us to 30) will be the perfect amount to get us through a week.

This situation was a great reminder of the old adage – the only person you can change is yourself. Or my personal favorite, Be the change you wish to see in the house. We spent so long at a standstill, with him stubbornly on the paper towel side and me stubbornly on the cloth side. In the end, we ended up gladly on the same side because no one was being forced to change. I know I’ll be reminding myself of this lesson in the future :)

Have you tried to reduce paper towels in your house?

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February 24, 2015 7:33 am

Thanks for sharing, Emily! I’ve wanted to ditch the paper towels for a while, too, but my boyfriend, who does all of the cooking and is pretty liberal with the paper towel usage, isn’t on board yet. I think I’ll follow your lead and just go for it and see what happens! Thanks!

February 24, 2015 1:05 pm

We were able to do the same thing at my house. I still keep paper towels on hand for the things that you definitely want to dispose of, but putting them in a less accessible location and having the hand towels in a better location we’ve gotten to where we finish a roll every 1.5-2 months instead of in weeks. It’s a great feeling!

February 24, 2015 2:30 pm

I would be intimidated by not having any paper towels (like you said, some jobs require it!) but what a genius idea to have both readily available!

February 24, 2015 9:33 pm

Hooray for cloth! You know we love it too! I haven’t missed paper towels since, but I don’t have a cat. That might make me keep a roll around : )

February 24, 2015 10:36 pm

Ever since I found out about the blog Zero Waste Home I have made a lot of dramatic changes to cut waste. I don’t use paper towels at all anymore (except when seasoning old cast iron pans) or the occasional EWWW! but use microfiber cloths for cleaning, etc. and dish cloths. Check out ecloths. They are awesome and if Real Simple and Martha Stewart mags are raving about them, then I know they are good! Got rid of the rest of my cleaning supplies as well. Now with just baking soda, white vinegar, and sometimes essential oils or an occasional Mr. Clean magic eraser I clean pretty much everything. I don’t have any traditional cleaning products left in my house. My friends think I’m crazy but I also have stopped getting colds or really sick at all, soo….. Check it out!

February 25, 2015 9:09 am

That’s it. I’m totally doing this! I’ve found myself at a standstill with it because Will, like John, is not on board. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start using them, and I’m sure when he sees how much $ we save, he’ll be a happy camper!

February 25, 2015 9:17 am

Great post! I bought some dishrags to use as well, but sometimes we use the paper towels. We were using way too many!

February 25, 2015 6:32 pm

I try to use cloth towels as well. I found some great options at Ikea!