GUIDE: How to Stop Using Paper Towels Forever

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How Difficult is this Goal?

This goal’s challenge level depends on how paper towel dependent you are. Some people use paper towels for everything. If this is you, this challenge, no doubt, will be tough at first. Personally, giving up paper towels was a semi-easy challenge for my household, but not without hiccups. I was raised with cloth napkins so I had experience with cloth vs. disposables, but paper towels were present in my household growing up and once I lived on my own, I auto-pilot bought them, just like everyone else I knew. I used them for a lot of stuff, cleaning especially. By the time my son was born I had started seriously upping my green living game, and paper towel use started to seem like a huge problem. I cut back on paper towels or would buy recycled paper towels but I didn’t really give them up right away. This in mind, I can say that giving up paper towels isn’t the easiest green goal I ever achieved, but it wasn’t as traumatic as I thought it would be.

ban paper towels, cloth towels, go green, green choices, Green Cleaning, paper industry, paper towel use, paper towels, recycled paper, recycled paper towels, save money
Photo by Shutterstock

How to Deal with Missing Paper Towels

At first, when I decided to quit using paper towels, I was slowly trying to wean off them, but that wasn’t working for me. If you have paper towels in your home, it’s simply too easy to grab one when you need one. I suggest you go cold turkey. One day I woke up and said to myself, “You know, what would happen if the store was out of paper towels today?” and that worked for me. I never bought another roll. However, not buying paper towels is one thing, missing them is another. You have to retrain your brain because if you’re always reaching for a paper towel, it’s kind of nerve wracking when they’re not around. I had many moments where something would spill or my son wanted a snack and my brain (and hand) would reach for a paper towel, only to realize, “Hey, I quit buying them.” At times like that, I’d remind myself of all my other options (see the next page) and finally it started to sink in. The most important thing is: don’t cave in and buy paper towels. There comes a day where you won’t even think about them, but that will never happen if you’re still keeping some paper towels on hand for ‘emergencies.’

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Photo: SKOY reusable towels

Supplies You Need to Accomplish this Goal

If you’re giving up paper towels, you’re going to need an arsenal of other solutions to take their place. If you have nothing to substitute for paper towels, and a mess happens, you’ll get frustrated and you’ll be running to the store for paper. Before you quit buying paper towels, make a list of EVERYTHING you use paper towels for and then stock up on alternative options such as:

  • A huge stack of basic cleaning cloths for cleaning up spills and everyday cleaning. Get at least 20-40 cleaning towels and keep some in the kitchen, plus store them somewhere where you don’t have to fold them (folding is a pain) like in a reusable grocery bag or basket. SKOY cloths are a great reusable towel choice by the way.
  • Cloth hand towels for the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Some little dishes for snacks if you tend to use paper towels when you grab a handful of nuts or crackers.
  • Cloth napkins for meals.
  • Lids or plates to cover microwave foods with.
  • Some lint-free linens for drying produce or a salad spinner.
  • Some other lint-free linens for sopping up grease if you make food like bacon or eggrolls that need to be sopped.
  • Some throw-away cloths, for extreme messes. Once in a great while with kids or pets, you’ll run into a mess that is just too icky to wash up, so you’ll want a few really old cloths on hand that you can toss vs. wash.

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3 Responses to “GUIDE: How to Stop Using Paper Towels Forever”

  1. Inhabiuser says:

    Thank you Jennifer for this article – inspiring!

  2. startist says:

    This seems like a honorable option but the only positive to the environment it brings is that it decreases the impacts to our FORESTS. And using reusable towels only increases the usage of WATER and the use of electricity as they need to he washed OVER and over again. Also with an increase in electricity means that more pollution will be emitted into our atmosphere because electric plants are the largest culprits of pollution. There has to be another alternative.

  3. naturegirl21539 says:

    I think a few extra clothes in the laundry I already do will not change my usage. I already wash bath towels and my dish clothes, a couple fabric napkins will not really change my loads since I am not too picky about running them with whatever load I am washing every other day or so. But I agree, we waste a lot of water startist! But I think there are other ways that will make bigger differences in cutting my water bill than a couple dish clothes.

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