Paper Towels are disposable sheets of soft, absorbent paper that are great for cleaning up wet messes at home, most often in the kitchen. They are super convenient and can be recycled or composted depending on the type of mess they were used to clean. Americans lead the way in paper towel usage, followed by Europeans, but Asians and Africans barely use them at all! So are paper towels really necessary? How hard it is to get by in a Western kitchen without them?
- Better for the Earth – paper making is super polluting to the environment. No paper towels = less air and water pollution.
- Better for the Earth (part 2) – - while they could be recycled, or composted, most paper towels just end up in the landfill with the other household trash
- Saves money – a nice stack of microfiber towels cost about the same amount as a large multi-pack of high quality paper towels, but can be reused over and over
- Easy – if you can get the paper towels out of your house, making the switch is pretty painless
- Must get everyone in the house on board: paper towels are so convenient that it’s almost impossible to stop using them if they are still handy.
“We should stop using paper towels. We would save a lot of money”, I said to my husband. His response was something like this: “Impossible.” ”No.” ”Where do you come up with these silly ideas?” (He’s not as far along on his green journey as I am). Then he went away on a business trip for a month. And I put the paper towels way up in a cabinet where I couldn’t reach them.
Not using paper towels was a little tricky for the first couple of days while I was getting used to them not being around. But I quickly adjusted. I have a drawer handy in my kitchen with a random mix of standard dish towels, matching wash cloths, and microfiber clothes that were great for cleaning up messes. I could quickly grab one whenever needed, and use wet or dry as necessary. My washing machine is also in my kitchen, making it easy to put the dirty towels in their place.
Here’s a list of tips and tricks I learned that might help as YOU transition away from paper towels:
- Real towels and washcloths are easy to rinse out and reuse – you really don’t need more than one or two a day.
- Having an assortment of towels makes it easy to always have the right size and absorbency for the job.
- Always rinse out the towels before tossing in the wash for an easier to clean load, especially if you are not planning to run the load right away.
- Leave the damp cloths out overnight to dry before tossing in the wash so they don’t get moldy or stinky.
- If your washer is not close, you can keep a mesh or cloth bag on the back of a doorknob to collect the dirty towels until wash day.
- Paper bags from the grocery store are great at absorbing bacon grease, popcorn oil, or to use as draining paper for any other type of fried food. Just cut into the size necessary, or dump your food in the bag for a couple minutes.
- You can use towels to absorb any grease as well, and it will wash out in a hot water load with standard detergent.
- Fingers work great too! For little messes like a blob of yogurt on the floor, or drip of sauce on the counter, just wipe it away with your fingers and wash your hands. Super simple!
I found that a small washer load each week was all I needed to keep up with the towels I was using. I typically washed them hot with the super dirty kid things – bibs, snot rags, muddy socks and the like.
When my husband returned home, I proudly announced that I had not used a single paper towel for the whole month he had been gone. He kind of rolled his eyes. Then he asked how he was supposed to wipe up the next kitchen mess. I demonstrated with a wet cloth from the handy drawer. The next day, while I was at work, he found the paper towels and placed a roll back on the counter.
You know what? Can you believe it? I started using those paper towels again! After a month of not even missing them, I found it was just way too easy in the middle of a messy moment to reach for a paper towel and toss it out. Even with the guilt burning in my chest, my mind helped me make excuses: “I’m tired. I’m pregnant. Our washing machine is on the fritz. We might as well use up the paper towels we have. I’ll start back with the regular towels tomorrow.” It’s amazing how insidious the grip of convenience can be!
Overall, it was pretty easy to ditch the paper towels when they weren’t there. Regular towels worked just as well, or better in all situations. BUT, when paper towels were within reach, it is very, very difficult to not use them. My advice is to make sure everyone in the house is on board, and then banish them from your home!
And if you need them, here are some great microfiber cloths that are great for small and big, and dried stuck on messes (affiliate link).
Have you ever given up paper towels, or tried to? Do you have any advice for getting the whole household on board?
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