Our family hasn't bought any paper towels since last summer. In fact, with the exception of toilet paper, (which we aren't giving up. ever. ) we've bought very few disposable products at all.
Not only does it free up some space in our grocery budget, save trees, create less trash and decrease the pollution involved in the production, packaging and distribution of disposable paper products, all while teaching our children about the value of caring for our good green earth...
...it is also totally do-able. Like, I don't even miss paper towels.
Here's what you will want to have around the house in order to go paper towel-free (psss... you likely already have most of these things)
- Rags for cleaning things. We have three types or rags in our house: blue rags for the kitchen, yellow rags for the bathroom, and miscellaneous rags made from old clothing and whatnot for everything else.
- Microfiber cloths for cleaning mirrors and windows. I have two of them in my bin-o-cleaning supplies and that works just fine for me.
- Cloth serviettes/napkins for wiping ketchup off your face. They are also way classier and look super nice folded at the table for a dinner party. We bought most of ours second hand or on clearance and slowly built a mismatched yet still sorta kinda coordinated stash of them.
- Old towels for big spills. (affectionately called "pee towels" in our home. we have a three year old boy who is at that potty-trained-but-still-easily-distracted stage of life. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about how they got their name....)
- Bar mop towels for everyday spills and messes. These are what primarily replaced paper towels in our home. I keep a stack in a drawer at kid level and taught my kids to make use of them if they spill their juice or track mud through the house.
Here are some more tips for paper-free success:
Soak the grease off fried or fatty foods by placing them on a used paper bag. Whenever I get groceries in a paper bag, I save the bag to be repurposed later. I've heard of people using newspaper for this but I've seen how much ink comes off on my fingers, I don't want that on my chicken parmigiana.
Get perfectly cooked, not greasy bacon every time by cooking your bacon in the oven. No paper towel draining necessary.
Use your oldest, rattiest rags for the super messy jobs, then they can get thrown out if need be after a long and useful life.
Make it easy on yourself by keeping rags, cloths and towels in convenient places. I keep bathroom cleaning rags in the bathroom, bar mop towels in the kitchen, serviettes near the table. In fact, now that I have the right tools for the job in each room of the house, using cloth is way more convenient than always running to the kitchen for the paper towels ever was.
If you are up to it, why not make some of these un-paper towels? They are super cute and can sit on a paper towel holder on your counter. Fun fun fun!
But isn't it a lot of laundry? I recognize that living paper towel-free doesn't work for everyone, but if you own a washing machine and have a family, you are probably already doing multiple loads a week. A few small cloths and rags won't change that.
What about germs? Let's face it, if you have kids or pets there is probably on occasion some pretty gross things in your washing machine. You don't throw your kid's bedsheets out because they peed their bed, you just wash them with soap and hot water and trust that they are clean, right? I just keep kitchen rags separate from bathroom rags and wash icky things in hot when possible. Simple as that.
Won't guests think I'm weird if they ask for paper towel and I don't have any? Maybe. But you'll hand them a towel or a serviette instead and I'm sure they'll be just fine.
See. You can totally do this.
In the interest of full disclosure.... Last week we were at a birthday party and as we were pulling out of the driveway it became apparent that the combination of bouncy castle and hotdogs did not agree with my son's stomach. My friend, armed with a roll of paper towels, came to the rescue. And I was very thankful for that.