I am ashamed to admit this but I use paper towels for pretty much all household cleaning tasks. I know that I should just be using a sponge or a dishcloth but I have this weird aversion. It just seems gross to leave a rag sitting on the kitchen sink breeding all sort of nasties and then use that rag to clean. I know this is an absolutely ridiculous aversion and I feel horrible about all of the waste I am generating. For everything else I am really good about watching the amount of trash my family generates.
I've tried just giving myself no other option than to use a sponge or dishcloth but it just doesn't work. So my plan is to make myself a nice big stack of thin cloths that I can use in place of my paper towels. My plan is to start out using them just like paper towels. As soon as it gets dirty I'll throw it in the bin and grab a clean one. Then I'll wash them all up once I have a full load of laundry. I realize that this still isn't ideal from an environmental standpoint, what's wrong with rinse and reuse right, but I figure its better than the current plan and hopefully over time I'll be able to start reusing them more and more before I wash.
Here is where I need your help. I can't figure out what material to use for the cloths. Cost really isn't an issue as long as it stays in the realm of sanity, for example, no cashmere. I'm spending enough on paper towels that I'm almost guaranteed to save money on this little project. For my plan, each individual cloth doesn't need to be very thick. In fact, since storage space is an issue the thinner the better. It just needs to be able to stand up to washing. I was thinking about flannel but I don't know if that would hold up. Any suggestions?
Well, I love chinese prefolds as cleaning rags. The infant or premie size are not expensive, and they shine stuff *so* nicely, they are so soft, and they don't leave little fibers everywhere. I toss them in the laundry after I am done, I agree it's gross to leave a rag lying around and then use it again. yech!
Oooh, I love my prefolds for cleaning (especially spills). For smaller jobs I just use cheapie wash cloths and then wash them with towels or something. We haven't bought paper towels in I don't know how long.
I have paper towels in the house. I hide the roll from myself so that I can avoid using them. I only buy receyled ones from Trader Joes or Whole Foods. They are pretty crappy in comparison to Bounty or Brawny. I like that, because then I'm not in a hurry to use them.
Ok, I have lots of waste problems, but luckily, I have been PTF ( paper towel free) for about 5 years. No paper napkins, disposable dipes, paper towels....
We have a huge stack of cloth napkins in a decorative basket on the table. The kids and dh and I ( and guests) always use them, and then use them to clean up the table/counters/whatever after. I wash them and yes they are a bit worn, but they are black and heavy striped so the stains don't show and they are thick cotton ( Pier 1).
You can do it!
I went to Bed Bath and Beyond, and bought a bunch of terrycloth squares called Bartender's Cloth, or something like that. I use these in the kitchen instead of paper towels - wiping up spills on the countertop, wiping my hands while cooking, etc. They are great.
I also bought plain white cloth napkins. We haven't bought paper napkins since.
These two things I throw in one little basket (kept in the laundry room) together, along with dishtowels, whenever they get dirty. When almost every dish towel and cloth napkin is dirty, I wash the load (it's only one load's worth).
For cleaning rags, I have a collection of several things: I bought some of those microfiber cleaning cloths, which are great for dusting or anything that might leave streaks (windows, mirrors, tv, etc.). I also have a bunch of those cheapo rags that you can buy at Target or Costco, often in the automotive section. They are meant to be thrown away, but I end up washing and reusing most of them. I also cut up towels when they just become too stained to actually be used in the bathroom anymore, or old stained t-shirts.
I throw dirty cleaning rags in a separate little basket, which has a cloth liner (got it at Target). That way I can throw the cloth liner in with the cleaning rags, and all the nastiness is washed away together.
I can't tell you how much all this has cut down on our paper towel and paper napkin consumption. And it's maybe an extra load of laundry per week. It takes a whole lot of cleaning rags to constitute a full load of laundry.
And plus, all these cloth items do a much better job than the paper towels do. I still keep a roll of paper towels in the kitchen, but honestly, a roll can last a month or more, whereas before we would go through several in a week. I can't tell you how much nicer it is to use paper napkins!
About a year ago, i told myself no more paper towels! I cut up some of my old favorite shirts that i couldn't just dump and everytime i use them i think of the memories (i know silly, but hey, whatever makes my day seem more interesting!
). I dump this into a special container under my sink and when i am all out, i throw them in the laundry and wash. I have also old towels i use for really big messes and spills. I keep these all in a little cupboard in a basket so i can just grab that basket and run around the house and clean up. I also got some flour cloths (i think that is what they are called) and use those to dry my dishes.
I bought some cheap washclothes at the dollar store about a year ago as dipe wipes, they are still holding up. We use cloth napkins to eat with...and this is my first month using the Keeper, so i am feeling pretty good about being 'paper-free' though we still use tp here!
I think it is fun to challenge yourself to be better on the planet and think of new ideas...i can't wait till i can compost. Right now, my dogs are kinda compost bins!
more often than not though, when things need to be cleaned up, we just grab a dish rag.
when we're done, we rinse, ring it out, toss it over the side of the bathtub to dry, then wash it with the rest of the towels / washcloths.
for scrubbing, we have sponges ~ i actually have two sets: one for dishes, and several just for cleaning / scrubbing things like counters, sinks, etc. that way i know i can sanitize the one i use for the dishes and keep it really clean and nice. i don't really care about the cleaning sponges as much because i always wipe down the counters w/ a clean rag after i'm done scrubbing them clean. we also have some hard-bristled brushes for cleaning too.
when we need to buy paper towels (i sometimes fry things, and fried things need to drain on paper towels ~ rags just get them all fuzzy...
) i try to always buy the made-from-paper kind... they're like, Green Earth or something. i think Seventh Generation also makes some. you can get coupons for Seventh Generation products on their website (or at least, you used to be able to, not sure if you still can).
I went to Bed Bath and Beyond and bought 48 washcloths. I think they were 12 for $3.99. We've been using them for almost everything. The one exception was when I made bacon in the microwave. That took 3 paper towels and they were of course soaked in grease when we were done.
So far things are going great. My DH has gotten behind the plan and we are just figuring out where to keep the towels to use, where to throw the dirties, etc. Our house is small so these things require a lot of thought.
We have decided to load the washcloths into those cloth tubes that are normally used to store plastic grocery sacks. We can even hang the tube from our old paper towel dispenser bar!
We want to get some kind of bag to put the dirty cloths into. Since the washcloths are sometimes wet I think we need something with some degree of water-resistence so the bag doesn't drip. I'd like something that is washable though. Any ideas?
I think we are going to buy another 36-48 washcloths so that we have a full load of laundry plus some extras to use while the bulk are being washed and dried.
I went to the drug store (which is the place to shop for various household sundries in our neighborhood) and I didn't have to buy any paper towels. I was so proud and it was much easier to carry home my purchases (we mostly walk) since my bags were not bulky from paper towels.
I'm so happy this is working. Thanks so much for all your ideas and support.