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Reducing or eliminating paper towels?

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 

This is a goal of mine and my husband is on board with at least trying for awhile, though I know he is skeptical about certain germy messes like raw meat.

 

I bought a bunch of washcloths at Target.  They have 12 packs in white, blue, or green for $1.48 on clearance.  They are super thin and scratchy and I wouldn't want to use them as washcloths but I think they would be good to stack on the counter in lieu of paper towels.  I got the white so I can bleach if I ever need to.  FYI they also have 4 packs of and towels and 2 packs of bath towels for the same price.

 

Thoughts? What do you use instead of paper towels?  Do you have rules about certain messes being paper vs. cloth? Do you still keep a roll around for those times?

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 33

We use some old prefold diapers that we didn't need as diapers any longer.  They are great for spills!  We just clean up anything that spills with them. No rules or anything.

 

We do have a roll of paper towels hidden under the sink. It's main use is to keep either set of grandparents from buying us paper towels when they come to visit.  If they don't see any they make sure to buy us some (it's crazy!)

post #3 of 33

I have a wire basket on the counter by the sink and it has a variety of cloths in it from wash cloths to knitted dishrags to what were supposed to be 'wipes' (9x9 flannel serged squares), etc.  We use them for everything in the kitchen and as napkins and just toss in the washing machine.  I do have a roll of paper towels in the pantry 'in case' we need them for something, but we don't use very often since it's been there almost a year and is mostly full.  We've used a few times for automotive type greasy messes that would probably render the reusable towels trash.


As far as 'germy' stuff, what does he do with his hands after touching raw meat? Wash them....in soapy water...same for the reusable stuff :)

post #4 of 33

I have a big basket of dishrags, worn out washcloths, and dishtowels on the counter.  I also hang onto old towels a long time, and cut up cotton clothes (especially tshirts) and use these for the uber nasty stuff- toilet cleaning, dog barf, etc.    As kitchen towels got holey they go the uber nasty bin, and as bath rags and hand towels get worn they go to the kitchen.  I maybe buy one roll of paper towels every 4 months, and only because I like them for packing up produce in bags (absorbs excess moisture and veggies last a lot longer).

 

The trick is to have a ton, so you can grab a fresh rag or towel every time you need it. As in, wipe up meat mess, throw it in the wash, grab a fresh rag and continue.   Buy em on sale, at the thrift store, at yard sales, whatever.  I'v had some dishrags for 12 years-no kidding, they still work.  My dirties go right into the washer, and I run a load every other day or so with cloth napkins, placemats, jeans, and bath towels.

 

Stuff with barf or dog poo or other biohazardous yuckness gets thrown out the backdoor to be hosed off before it hits the washer.

 

The biggie for me was fried foods LOL.  I have found that rather than draining on paper towels, using a crunched up paper grocery bag or a metal rack has resulted in much crispier crusts.

post #5 of 33
It's very easy to stop using paper towels. Just stop buying them. Really, that's it. If you think about it, paper towels don't really have a purpose all their own; they're always used as something else. In my house, we mostly used paper towels as plates, napkins, and cleaning rags. So instead of the paper towels, we just started using actual plates and cloth napkins and cleaning rags. Then instead of the trash can, the plate goes in the sink and the rags and napkins go in the dirty laundry. I keep a basket of napkins on the kitchen counter and a basket of rags under the sink and another rag basket in the upstairs linen closet. The only thing I specifically bought was the napkins. the rags were just that: old clothes cut into strips and chunks, old washcloths and hand towels too thin or rough for anything else, etc. There is one extra step in cleaning the cloth rags though: When they come out of the washer, pop them in the microwave for a few minutes before they go in the dryer. The steam from the damp cloth will kill most germs. I also put my dishtowels and my mop head in, as there are no metal parts.
post #6 of 33

I agree with other poster - if you don't have the paper towels around, he will be forced to use the cloth.

 

What we do

We have a drawer in kitchen full of rags - cut from discarded clothes, old washcloths, etc.  We use those for pretty much everything.  They get used once, then thrown in laundry.

We use cloth napkins.

I do keep a roll of paper towels but they are not on the counter - they are in the pantry.  I use them if I need to wash a really greasy pan or something - I wipe out with paper before washing.  A roll lasts a few months.

 

It is possible to live without paper towels - I grew up without them so I consider them a luxury.

post #7 of 33

It's funny you should ask, since I recently reduced my own paper towel death count! We used to use paper towels for almost all aspects of cleaning and for napkins and plates. I switched to cloth napkins because I have sensitive skin and the rub of the paper towel irritates it. Now I'm using all my old, thinner dish towels to wipe of the kitchen counters and sink after I spray them with vinegar water. I change out my towel each morning. And I use washcloths to wipe up my kitchen table or my 2 year old, instead. There's no science to my paper towel use; I haven't given myself an allowance or anything. Next time we go to the store, I will definitely be picking up some cheap dish towels to stock up, since I don't have any old towels that I could repurpose. I'm not sure why I really made the change, apart from the thought I had last week when I realized paper towels were just wasteful substitutes for regular dish cloths. I'm not super eco-friendly, but it just seemed absurd to me. And somehow the change has made my kitchen a more intimate place to me.

post #8 of 33

I just stopped buying them.  I origingally cut down the amount that I used to none, but my husband would still use them for everything.  So I started hiding them under the sink.  I realized that it was pointless to buy just to hide them so I just stopped buying them.  My mother-in-law and her husband live in our finished basement so I buy all the household items (toilet paper, paper towels, soap and whatnot)  I found that while we only used a roll or 2 upstairs every couple months they were using the rest of the jumbo pack of paper towels in that time.  When I stopped buying them they just started buying their own. I think this has helped them reduce the amount that they are now using, which is good.

 

When I first switched over I bought this huge jumbo pack of terry cloth shop towels at home depot like 24 of them.  They are like washcloths but double the size.   The terry cloth is awesome for everything.  I do use old cut up t-shirts for cleaning windows though (no streaks).  I use baby washcloths for cleaning up the kids hands and wiping faces/noses, since they are smaller and softer (I don' buy tissues either)

 

I have a basket next to our trash were all the dish towels go and they all get washed together, since we use them for everything I usually have to wash a couple times a week.  I wash on hot and dry them on hot, or in the summer hang them to dry on the line.  I figure with the hot water/ dryer or sun combo they are getting hot enough that it's going to kill anything that would be on them anyways.

post #9 of 33

i love this idea...but we have so many glass tables.  how do the terry/micro towels work with windex on glass?  that really is their primary use. 

post #10 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by nanette0269 View Post

i love this idea...but we have so many glass tables.  how do the terry/micro towels work with windex on glass?  that really is their primary use. 



I use old cut up t-shirts for cleaning glass (windows, mirrors, front of the stove and the  front of the dishwasher)  The cotton t-shirts don't leave "lint" behind on the glass like the terry cloth does.  I didn't think the microfiber worked well either on those kinds of surfaces.  I use straight up vinegar as a spray to clean, it looks like it's going to streak really really bad, but always dries nice and clear winky.gif

post #11 of 33

For when a cloth just won't work, I save an out dated phone book and tear out the pages.  I know I've done this most for gross pet accidents that need picked up and thrown in the trash.  Sometimes I only need one page, sometimes it's so gross I tear out a thicker stack of pages.

post #12 of 33

 

I clean everything, including gross pet (and human) accidents, with cloths. The cabinet next to the kitchen sink is full of them. A good bleaching really does make them safe to use again. 

 

What grosses ME out is cleaning up stinky or greasy messes with paper towels and then throwing them in the trash can to sit around breeding bacteria! I feel the same way about paper diapers. Nasty nasty nasty...

post #13 of 33

Ok I have to admit I was a paper towel addictblush.gif  I seriously used to go thru a roll a day.  Out of financial necessity a few yrs ago I squashed it.  I still buy those 12 pks of towels but they literally last months.  I ended up using our then old prefold diapers as cleaning cloths and also purchased a bunch of washcloths and dish towels to dry hands and such.  I do still use paper towels for really nasty things because frankly it would just gross me out too much to put say a dog poop rag in my washer....but thats just me.  I discovered that the majority of my paper towel usage was for things like drying my hands after washing and cleaning the house after I replaced those the paper towel usuage dropped dramatically. 

post #14 of 33
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all your replies.  I have been using the washcloths for a couple of weeks and I am very happy so far.  I am not sure how well they will hold up in the wash because they are very cheaply made but if they wear out beyond usability I will stick with cloth but find a better alternative.  I put them on the counter in a little plastic tub and I have to admit that my perfectionist self likes that they are all matchy matchy.  I still have a collection of random old towels and rags in the laundry area for cleaning elsewhere in the house. 

 

We have significantly reduced our paper towel usage, and I like the washcloths so much better for cleaning up spills and wiping down the counter.  I'm still struggling with things like draining bacon and carrying my toast out on a paper towel when I grab breakfast to go on a busy morning.  But for my family, for now, I can live with occasionally using the roll of towels under the sink for stuff like that.

 

Next I am on to cloth napkins.  Any suggestions on a good source for white cotton napkins that will stand up to regular washing but don't cost too much?  I saw some on etsy made of birdseye that I find intriguing.

post #15 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by thencamehenry View Post

Thanks for all your replies.  I have been using the washcloths for a couple of weeks and I am very happy so far.  I am not sure how well they will hold up in the wash because they are very cheaply made but if they wear out beyond usability I will stick with cloth but find a better alternative.  I put them on the counter in a little plastic tub and I have to admit that my perfectionist self likes that they are all matchy matchy.  I still have a collection of random old towels and rags in the laundry area for cleaning elsewhere in the house. 

 

We have significantly reduced our paper towel usage, and I like the washcloths so much better for cleaning up spills and wiping down the counter.  I'm still struggling with things like draining bacon and carrying my toast out on a paper towel when I grab breakfast to go on a busy morning.  But for my family, for now, I can live with occasionally using the roll of towels under the sink for stuff like that.

 

Next I am on to cloth napkins.  Any suggestions on a good source for white cotton napkins that will stand up to regular washing but don't cost too much?  I saw some on etsy made of birdseye that I find intriguing.


you can drain bacon on a piece of bread.  you could then toast it if you want.  or throw it out for the birds.  at least it's not ending up in a land fill :)

post #16 of 33

I have paper towels in my kitchen, but use very little & a roll last me a long long time.  We use cloth napkins, sponges & I cut up old towels to use as rags for cleaning.  If it's really messy I do use a paper towel & most of them are used by my hubby for really dirty garage type cleanups.

post #17 of 33

 

Any suggestions on a good source for white cotton napkins that will stand up to regular washing but don't cost too much?  I saw some on etsy made of birdseye that I find intriguing.

 

I just bought a couple dozen white cotton napkins at Target.  We use them for every meal, wash them afterwards, and bleach (with bluing) as needed--which is rarely, since I use good detergent.

 

For the kitchen, I have several kinds of kitchen towels. I have

 

  • terry cloth towels to soak up watery messes,
  • several thin white cotton one from IKEA for general tidying, drying glass, that sort of thing (also called flour sack towels)
  • a couple pieces of cheesecloth for straining foods, or drying crystal, 
  • a couple of heavier duty towels for food messes
  • some el-cheapo poly-cotton terry cloth washclothes for scrubbing
  • some pieces of old towels for truly nasty jobs
  • several seer-sucker woven ones for draining dishes on

 

Note that these are all stained, etc.  They're not for show, and they don't match, coordinate, or contribute aesthetically in any way.

 

I do keep a roll of paper towels around, because you're not supposed to sop up grease with kitchen towels, as it will accumulate in your washer, and do Bad Things.  That is to say, when your three-year-old spills the olive oil, or your husband is deep frying, or making bacon, etc.  I'd say a roll of paper towels will last us anywhere from a couple of months to 6 months.

post #18 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by ja mama View Post

For when a cloth just won't work, I save an out dated phone book and tear out the pages.  I know I've done this most for gross pet accidents that need picked up and thrown in the trash.  Sometimes I only need one page, sometimes it's so gross I tear out a thicker stack of pages.


 

I LOVE this idea. I have a dog and she has poop accidents on the floor, so when this happeneds I sacrifice a rag to the trash can then get annoyed with myself for not having an emergency roll on hand. Whoop!! Thanks Ja Mama!!

I bought a HUGE stack of microfiber towels at Home Depot for 10 bucks. They clean everything. Glass, windows, greesy messes, sink, bath, floor, etc! I also like the paper sack for draining fried foods on. Cool. 

post #19 of 33

We haven't bought paper towels in over 15 years.  We do much like everyone else, with perhaps one variation.  We foster kittens and there are always yucky messes.  I have a large collection of cloths that I divide into two categories - clean messes and dirty messes. Those that are used for dirty messes, including poop, vomit, or greasy/oily ones, simply get thrown out after use.  They had already lived a life as a diaper, towel, or t-shirt, then were repurposed as a clean cloth, and once old, or really stained, they then became dirty cloths.  Pretty good life span!  I believe in making a system easy enough to use and not be an additional hassle.  Cleaning really yucky rags grossed me out and made me consider disposable towels.  Since I came to terms with it being ok to throw out a cloth it has been much easier, and therefore something I can stick with.  If my cloth supply gets low I hit the thrift store on a day when its fill-a-bag-for-x-dollars day and stock up on towels and t-shirts to cut up.  

post #20 of 33

Kind of an aside, here, but what detergent do you use Courtnry, and what is/ where would I find bluing?

tks

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