I have always wanted to stop using paper towels in our kitchen. I remember building a wedding registry back in 2012 and looking for other options. But there really weren’t any. Now, there are many gorgeous options available that snap together, so you can enjoy a beautiful roll of
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BUT, one day I stumbled across someone using microfiber cloths in place of paper towels. They had a ton of cloths and just threw them in the washing machine to clean them. Suddenly I felt like
What you need to stop using paper towels:
- Reusable towels – I recommend these affordable microfiber towels but you could just as easily use old rags or cut up
- A hanging basket for your cabinet
- A hamper for your clean towels, fresh out of the dryer
- A bucket/garbage can for the dirty towels that you can clean and sanitize (I use a bucket from Young Living)
- Once you get all your towels, run all of them through the washing machine once to remove any extra fibers that can make an extra mess.
- Add your hanging basket inside the kitchen cabinet of choice (mine is under our sink, somewhere we continuously need a paper towel).
- Fill your hanging basket with towels. Pro tip: place them in the basket one at a time instead of stuffing them all in there. This makes it easier to grab one when you need it, without 3 other towels falling out.
- Throw the rest of your towels (they won’t all fit in the hanging basket) into your hamper and place your hamper somewhere easy to reach. I keep ours in our laundry room, the same place I kept our spare paper towels.
- Once you’re finished using a towel, just toss it into your bucket. I recommend using a metal bucket because the towels can be quite germy (since my towels see everything from chicken juices to spit up). I just rinse out the bucket with soap and water whenever it’s empty or run it through the dishwasher when able. I keep our bucket in front of our garbage can so that dealing with messes is almost identical to using real paper towels. And sometimes I have to clean off a towel in the trash (like with food pieces), so this location also makes that really easy.
- Our dogs will occasionally take interest in a towel that smells yummy, but it’s only happened maybe twice this year. As Lachlan gets older and more curious, I may move the bucket onto a kitchen counter, so he isn’t getting into gross towels. (UPDATE: It’s now kept on the counter next to the garbage can. It’s out of Lachlan’s reach and still easily accessible.)
- When the bucket gets full, I toss all of the towels in the washing machine (typically with a small load of clothes) and wash everything together. Be sure to dry them in a dryer or with sunshine! This is the part that really knocks out bacteria. When they’re clean, I throw them into the hamper and have an entire hamper full of towels ready to be used. I’ve never bothered folding them, I would never keep up with this if I had to fold them! #sorrynotsorry
- I run a load of just bleach or vinegar in my washing machine about once a month in order to clean out any bacteria. Bacteria is everywhere 🤷🏼♀️ I just do what I can to keep it to a minimum and don’t stress over it too much.
- Whenever my hanging basket runs out of towels, I just go and get an armful (probably 10-15) and throw them into the basket, ready to go whenever we need them! It gets filled probably twice a week. (Update: Now that we have children, we go through 10-15/day and refill the hanging basket every night… but it still is an insanely easy process!)
What about REAL messes when you stop using paper towels?
When I stopped using paper towels, I really started thinking about my cleaning supplies. I rely a lot on Young Living cleaning supplies and just use a microfiber cloth and a little spray (or water) to wipe down anything that needs to be cleaned!
Sometimes a real mess occurs and we can’t stand the thought of holding onto that towel. Dog vomit? Ughhh – no thank you. So, I throw out any towels that get really disgusting. I figure every year or two I may need to purchase another set of towels. No matter what, this process is better than going through 10 or more paper towels a day. Just making small changes can make a significant impact, so we’re taking baby steps here. GRACE, people.
Also – I’m pretty lax about what these towels look like. I use these towels precisely like I use paper towels. So if I’m using watercolors, I grab a towel and wipe my brush off with it. Sure it leaves some paint color on the towel, but it doesn’t affect how the towel works, so I don’t stress it. Make it work for you! The point of this project is to stop using paper towels, not make your life harder. No shame.
I’ve had some push back about this solution not actually being “green” since I’m using more water when I wash
Other frequently asked questions:
- These do not replace our dish towels.
- Sometimes I’ll use a towel just once… other times it’ll sit out all day and I’ll use it 10 times. It really depends on the messes.
- I don’t have separate towels for separate uses. All towels wash and wipe down anything… it all gets sanitized so it’s really fine. But since these do come in different colors, you could easily use orange for food, yellow for baby hands, blue for counters, etc.
- If dealing with raw meat, I typically minimize the amount of “juice” that touches the towels. I wash my hands frequently and then use my Young Living cleaning spray on counters to wipe everything down.
- I don’t use these as napkins typically. I have a set of cute fabric napkins I use for eating. I throw those into the same bucket though, after we’ve used them, and wash everything together.
- I had several people ask “what about bacon grease?” Great question!! I typically bake my bacon on a cooling rack set on a pan (because it’s life-changing). Typically I don’t need any towels after this! But I have set bacon on a microfiber towel to “dab” the oil off and it worked great! The grease came out of the towel easily in the washing machine. (This is what the dogs found though)!
- For the first 6 months, we still had a few rolls of paper towels lying around. This definitely helped ease the transition. We used them especially when we had guests over. #comfortzone Now I don’t worry about it – guests adapt as long as they know what they are “allowed” to use! Aka – it’s okay to use a towel for a red wine spill on the counter!
- Is it hard to get your significant other on board?
HonestlyI had zero pushback here. But, if your SO is hesitant, (and hates the environment 😉) I would keep some paper towels around for a while as they get used to the new process.
What’s stopping you?
For less than $45, you can stop using paper towels and have a new system that’s easy to stay on top of. While it’s a little more up front, we haven’t purchased paper towels in 14 months. FOURTEEN MONTHS! So I’m comfortable saying we’ve already made our money back. And if I can manage it (Mrs. Procrastination), so can you. I’d love to hear if you’ve stopped using paper towels too and what tips you have! Leave a comment below or head over to my Instagram to comment on my post!