I feel like a lot of people can’t imagine living without a roll of paper towels on the kitchen counter, or hanging on one of those racks mounted under a cabinet – but I haven’t used paper towels in nearly four years, and it’s honestly been pretty painless! I thought I’d share my tips and tricks, and let you see for yourself how easy it is to stop using paper towels.
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Why Would You Want To Stop Using Paper Towels?
First, why did I make the decision to stop using paper towels? A large part of it was because I became aware of the resources that using paper towels – even recycled ones – used in the manufacturing process. Plus, I knew how many paper towels I wasted – how often have you cleaned up a mess and just grabbed a handful? And you could either buy the cheap kind, and use more, or the more expensive kind, and let’s face it, still use a lot. There was a lot of money I was literally throwing away. Not to mention, I wanted to be a little more environmentally friendly.
How To Stop Using Paper Towels
You’re going to need a few things to make the switch from paper towels to reusable cloth towels or rags.
– A supply of reusable towels. I started by just buying a couple packs of cheap washcloths. Hint: back-to-school is a great time to get started, because washcloths are usually on sale for kids going to college! You can often find microfiber cloths on sale at this time too, but personally, I dislike microfiber – it snags on my skin too much. I like this pack from Amazon, or you can go a little prettier (because cleaning should be as pretty as possible!) and get this pack from Target. There are also people who advertise “reusable paper towels” – you can find lots of Etsy sellers who will make these. These are just rags that will snap together to form a roll. They’re usually pretty and fairly sturdy, but personally, I don’t want to have to snap them all back together every time I do the laundry.
– A “clean” container. I use what I believe was advertised as a “trash can” from IKEA. It’s mounted to the door under my kitchen sink. You could use a bucket, basket, or anything you want. You could even just skip it altogether and fold your rags into nice, neat piles. Personally? Ain’t nobody got time for that! But it’s a good way of giving my stepson a simple job to keep him busy if I need an easy chore for him to do.
– A “dirty” container. This is where there is one really important caveat; your dirty container must be breathable. I use a mesh basket (similar here) that hangs from the back of my back door, in my laundry room. You want something with sufficient airflow to allow wet rags to dry.
My usual routine is pretty simple:
– I grab a rag from under the sink as needed.
– If I’m cleaning up something messy, I try to rinse and wring the rag out afterwards. I don’t put soaking wet rags in the dirty container.
– I chuck the rag into the dirty container.
– When I start to run low, I grab the dirty container off the back of the door, tip the whole thing into my washer, and wash my rags in hot water, usually with some white vinegar.
– If rags are getting smelly despite being freshly washed, I’ll bleach the load. Hot water will actually neutralize bleach though, so I’ll do this as a separate load, not just a normal wash load.
But What About…?
I think the major objections to this are (a) isn’t there a smell, and (b) what about pet messes/vomit/the really disgusting stuff?
I’ve never had an issue with smell. Like I said – I rinse out any really gross rags. I don’t put sopping wet ones in my dirty container, and I have a container that allows for plenty of airflow. Washing with vinegar helps kill any lingering odors. I had one rag my husband used to clean up some cooking grease that was smelly enough despite having been washed, I threw it out – but I was also pregnant at the time, so that may have played some part in being sensitive to the smell.
As for disgusting stuff – I’ve got two cats, two dogs, and two rabbits. If it can come out of a body, it has in my house. I would much rather use a thicker rag (or even a couple) than a handful of thin paper towels. I’ll rinse these out too (and usually spray down the sink afterwards). Since you can use a rag to really scrub at something without it falling apart, I tend to like my rags better than any paper towels.
Overall, I’m happy with my routine. Even my husband has admitted that I’ve converted him to my “hippy ways” (and he totally used to be one of those “grab a handful” people). Personally, I just see it as returning to our roots – after all, paper towels are a relatively new invention.
What about you? Do you use paper towels or rags? If you use paper towels, would you consider switching?