Greenies Like Us: No Mo’ Paper Towels

We decided a while ago to stop thinking about how to go green and start doing green things. And just this year (early 2011) I switched all of us from using paper towels to cloth towels. It wasn’t hard at all, and we don’t even miss using paper towels! But first, I had to learn a few things about how we live.

For instance – we use way more napkins than I realized, mainly because we eat just about all of our meals at home. And concerning food, I needed a separate (not so fancy) set of napkins for things like: covering a basket of hot rolls, absorbing the grease from bacon or other fatty foods, etc. Every family is different and so how you live will determine what you buy. It’s all very personal. Tip: Buy DARK napkins and you won’t worry so much about greasy spots. Pre-soak greasy napkins (see below) before doing the laundry and you’re good to go. Use the white linen for guests only!

I needed three kinds of cleaning towels; one for cleaning dishes, one for general cleaning + spills in the kitchen and one for cleaning the rest of the house. You should keep these separate since it’s kinda nasty to use bathroom cloths in your kitchen, or kitchen cloths on your windows, etc… know what I mean?

Though it took me about 3 months into it, I finally figured out that soaking the really dirty ones in 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 bucket of warm water before doing laundry took out the bad smells. Whew! Tip: Keep an old tote under the kitchen sink to easily carry laundry to and fro. Also, your baking soda will do double-duty if you soak the laundry in your bathroom or kitchen sink; it will freshen the drain as it goes down.

Next, I bought two kinds of drying towels: one for hands and dishes and one for mirrors and windows. I suppose there may be other needs for dry towels but this is all I need for now. (You think I should iron the towels? What would Martha do?) Tip: The absolute best towels for drying are good old-fashioned flour sack towels. They are FAB for drying without leaving little bits of lint behind. The striped restaurant towels ain’t bad either…

Once I was able to collect all I needed, the savings began. Just a few months later and I’ve already saved us a ton of money. Yes, an advertisement for a case of Brawny at $16.99 sounds terrific. But you know what? That’s money I won’t ever spend again! I have no idea how many paper towels we went through in the past but it must have been a lot because we use the cloth replacements all the time. Seriously. In looking back I am ashamed of the wastefulness. Half of what we used could not be recycled so in the garbage can it went. Not even worth it. So save a tree and make the switch! You can find the cheapest cloth towels and napkins online at restaurant supply stores or


Update, 10/12:

Since leaving the above house and moving to our new property, we’ve had to stay in the RV since the new house is such a mess. And sad to say, I went back to using paper towels for the last couple of months. It started with me finding a roll stored in the RV cabinet, the fact that the nearest laundromat is 3 miles outside of our little town, and the list of excuses I told myself (it’s such a small space, I really need to cut down on all this laundry…).

We have since painted and carpeted the office in the house and moved some stuff in. But the real exhale is in the fact that I can store and use all the laundry I need to, only having to go to the laundromat once a week now. Whew! Please forgive me and accept my apology for being weak and taking such a huge step backwards. We all feel a lot better now!