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Kick your paper towel habit!

Updated on December 13, 2014
ecogranny profile image

An environmental enthusiast and activist her entire adult life, Kathryn shares her secrets to reducing waste and living greener.

No more paper towels!
No more paper towels! | Source

Would you throw $1000 in the trash? Maybe it's time to kick your paper towel habit

It's true. If you toss 1-1/2 to 2 rolls of paper towels into the trash bin a week as my family did, at $2.99 a pop for those super-absorbent jumbo rolls, you may be throwing $200--or more--into the trash can every year.

That adds up to a whopping $1000 in five years. Small change to some I know. Not to my family. Maybe not to yours.

It's easier than you might think to stop using paper towels. In fact, there are lots of quite attractive alternatives to paper towels in the kitchen and in the home.

On this page I'll share two more big reasons, besides the cost savings, for giving up your paper towel addiction. I'll also show you how we eliminated paper towels completely from our home.

More importantly, by the end of the page--in just minutes--you will have a complete plan, in four easy steps, to chuck your paper towels for good.

We thought this change would be tough on us. It wasn't. In fact, it was so easy, we wondered why we hadn't done it years ago.

Our much smaller trash can, about six months into our quest to become a zero waste household--still full of plastic, alas, but filling only about every two months rather than every week
Our much smaller trash can, about six months into our quest to become a zero waste household--still full of plastic, alas, but filling only about every two months rather than every week | Source

Two more important reasons we pitched our paper towels

Garbage and plastic

Not sexy by a long shot, but the desire to reduce our garbage, and especially plastic, springs from our core values: Walk ever more lightly on the planet; do no harm.

At the time we decided to give up paper towels, we were throwing out one to two BIG cans of trash a week. That's not light. It's heavy.

Chucking the paper towels was one of our first steps in reducing waste and moving closer to our goal, one day, of becoming a zero waste household.

Then we learned what is happening to much of the plastic we toss, including the plastic wrappers around paper towels, toilet paper, well, just about everything we buy these days.

We could not bear the thought of one of our plastic bags choking sea turtles and strangling wildlife. We made a decision to cut back on plastic, one step at a time, starting with the wrappers around tissue paper and paper towels.

We thought this change would be tough on us. It wasn't. In fact, it was so easy, we wondered why we hadn't done it years ago.

simplehuman 10 Liter / 2.3 Gallon Stainless Steel Small Semi-Round Bathroom Step Trash Can, Brushed Stainless Steel
simplehuman 10 Liter / 2.3 Gallon Stainless Steel Small Semi-Round Bathroom Step Trash Can, Brushed Stainless Steel

... to a small round can that holds just a teeny bit less than this cute little wall hugger


From a 9-gallon (40 liter) trash can every week - To a 2.3-gallon (10 liter) trash can every month--or less

That's how much we've reduced our kitchen waste in the past few years.That savings adds up for us as a family, but it also adds up in our community.

My city has to truck every bit of its waste to a distant landfill, or ship it overseas. That's a lot of fossil fuels burning to transport our garbage.

Giving up paper towels is one part of that savings, and it turns out to pay big dividends, not only to our family, but to our community.

When we reduce our contribution to the waste stream, we reduce the amount of carbon heating up our climate. Plus, we save taxpayer dollars that can be reallocated to ensure our safety through increased fire and police protection, who knows, maybe even better schools. Now that would be something.

So you can see that one family's contributions add a lot of drops falling into the giant bucket. My decision--and yours--is to decide which bucket we want to add to: The bucket that leaves a brighter future for our kids and grandkids, or the bucket that leaves them with a burnt-out husk of a planet and an intense struggle for survival.

Routine household trash collection bag, full of paper towels, before we pitched them for good
Routine household trash collection bag, full of paper towels, before we pitched them for good | Source

Can you kick your paper towel habit?

By the time you finish this page, you will have a plan

Whether you're just curious how a busy family can get by without paper towels, are thinking of giving it a try yourself, or have tried and failed in the past, by the end of this page, you will have a plan for pitching your own paper towels once and for all, if you choose to do so.

Plus, I share the resources that gave us the boost we needed to keep at it.

Each step of the way, I encourage you take advantage of the opportunities to engage and interact while you develop a plan that is right for you. It takes only minutes.

You can see that the trash bag in that image is plastic. At the time we made the decision to cut back on plastic, we had 100 plastic trash bags in our pantry.

It took years to use them all, but they are sitting in a landfill now, where they may break down slowly, over a hundred years or so, into smaller and smaller pieces.

The pieces will never truly go away. We buy only compostable bags now.

It's easy to get where you're going, if you know where you stand

Before laying a plan, it's good to know where you stand.

Have you tried giving up paper towels and failed? Are you thinking about it? Is this a radical concept for you?

This short questionnaire lays the groundwork for what comes next. Now is a good time to grab a pad of paper and a pencil so you can keep track of your answers.

Where are you on the paper towel continuum today?

See results

When you say you're going to throw something away--Where's 'away?' There is no away.

Julia Butterfly Hill

A clear objective sharpens your focus

Another preliminary step to laying a plan is getting clear on what you want.

This questionnaire brings your purpose into focus. After you vote, take advantage of the opportunity to tell us more about how you feel about giving up paper towels--or not giving them up!

Writing your thoughts down deepens and expands your sense of purpose.

What is your #1 reason for giving up paper towels?

See results
Piece of cake with fork
Piece of cake with fork | Source

Four easy steps to eliminating paper towels from your life

Or reducing how many use

I thought it would be difficult to give up paper towels, but it was a piece of cake.

We laid a plan, followed it, and I'm happy to report more than a year later, we haven't a paper towel in the house. I no longer remember when we last bought a roll.

Here are the four easy steps to the plan. Below, I'll take you through the steps, one at a time.

  1. Analyze how you use paper towels
  2. Brainstorm, evaluate and select alternative solutions
  3. Anticipate and prepare for stumbling blocks and obstacles
  4. Implement and refine the plan as you go

Broken eggs in carton
Broken eggs in carton | Source

Step 1: Analyze how you use paper towels

So you know how best to replace them

Take one minute to jot down the ways you use paper towels. When we took inventory of the ways we used them, it boiled down to three categories. Yours may differ, but these were ours.

  1. Clean up spills. Has this happened to you? An egg slips from your hand and drops, slow-motion, to the floor.

    Eggs on the floor are gooey, slimy messes. Paper towels make quick work of them.

    Spilled milk, juice, soup--all sop up quickly in a wad of paper towels. What's not to love about that?
  2. Clean icky messes we don't want to touch and want to pitch quick. Then there are those icky messes: The cat's hair balls; fur and hair that accumulate behind the toilet; food bits in the drain catcher (Not all of us have a garbage disposal!); and the worst, vomit.
  3. Use in place of napkins and plates. Paper towels are so doggone convenient! It's easy to grab a paper towel and plop a sandwich or a peach on it, rather than dirty a plate when I'm at my desk, focused on finishing my next Squidoo lens or blog post.

Coming up: How to replace those paper towels with something just as convenient, but first, a quick questionnaire to help you analyze how you use paper towels.

Questionnaire: How do you use paper towels?

This is where you take that first step, analyzing your paper towel usage. Take this poll, and you'll have completed Step 1 in kicking your paper towel habit!

Make it easy on yourself. Copy your selections into a notepad text file or your word processor, or make a list with good old pen and paper.

How do you use paper towels, or do you?

See results

We urge you to rethink your 'insignificance' and get on and make a change anyway. Once your friends and family see you making changes they might be inspired to join in. Before you know it you will be making a real difference.

The Green Family in All About My Zero Waste

Step 2: Brainstorm, evaluate and select alternative paper towel solutions

Go creative!

This step begins with letting your creative mind go wild. On either a virtual or in-hand notepad, jot down every idea that comes to you--no matter how nonsensical--for alternatives to paper towels.

Resist the urge to censor or edit. Everything goes. Funky spellings, crazy ideas, weird words. Jot them all down. Give your brain free reign to point the way to the best possible solutions.

When you feel you've exhausted all possibilities, scan the list and pay attention to what pops out. What makes your head spin? Where do you say, "Whoa!" or "Yeah, right!"? Do you say it sarcastically or with enthusiasm? Either way, you're on to something. Your brain is giving you clues about hidden agendas, hidden solutions, and hidden areas of resistance.

Select a few alternative solutions and imagine how they might work for you. Keep the ones you feel are genuine possibilities. Set the rest aside, for now. Later, you may find yourself returning to them. If they keep popping up, you will know you need to pay attention.

Don't spend more than a few minutes with this exercise. It's paper towels, not world peace!

Here's what my brainstorm list looked like - I liked the maid idea!

Screen shot of our brainstorming list
Screen shot of our brainstorming list | Source

See what I mean about not censoring or editing? Lay everything out as it comes to you.

With this exercise, I actually anticipated most of the stumbling blocks we would encounter in the implementation of our plan, such as where to store the wet rags until they dried and could be laundered.

List of viable solutions after evaluating and revising - The maid is gone, alas

Screen shot of our viable alternatives list
Screen shot of our viable alternatives list | Source

When you're making a significant household change, it helps to get buy-in from the fam. During revision, I added a few To-Dos and other suggestions to discuss with my family.

My sweetie later came up with the idea of re-purposing an old shredder basket that had been taking up space in a closet since the shredder ground to a halt. The shredder basket became our kitchen linen "hamper."

How did it go?

What amusing whacky solutions came up? What did you decide might work for you?

Did you brainstorm a list of ways to reduce your paper towel consumption?

See results
Low-hanging grapes
Low-hanging grapes | Source

Step 3: Plan how you'll handle inevitable stumbling blocks

Pick low-hanging fruit first

One of the best tools for achieving success in any endeavor is to visualize potential stumbling blocks and plan, in advance, to overcome them.

You don't have to wrack your brain for every possible pitfall, but do plan for the ones that come easily to mind.

For us, the biggest stumbling blocks were our habits. Change isn't easy, sometimes, least of all when you think the change might make life more difficult.

Knowing how stubborn entrenched habits can be, we opted to pick the juiciest, lowest-hanging fruit first. After we had built some successes, we would tackle the more difficult changes. For us, that meant taking the problems one at a time.

Remember the ways we used paper towels? In this step, we revisited those and decided to reduce our consumption in three phases, starting with the easiest.

  • Phase I: Change the way we clean up spills.
  • Phase II: Retrain ourselves to use cloth napkins and washable plates every time we eat.
  • Phase III: Change the way we clean up the icky messes.

This way, we built success into our plan, so that each step seemed easier than the last.

Next: Take the easy questionnaire below to help you plan for obstacles that may get in your way.

Questionnaire: What stands in your way? - And how can you turn it to dust?

What might keep you from achieving your goal of kicking your paper towel habit once and for all?

After the poll, you'll have space to tell the rest of us how you plan to overcome those stumbling blocks.

Who knows? Your solution may be a no-brainer to you, but might be a slap-on-the-head, why-didn't-I-think-of-that for someone else. Besides, sharing is good.

What stumbling blocks stand in the way of pitching your paper towels for good?

See results

Step 4: Implement your plan

Refine as you uncover new information

You've identified some solutions and planned how to handle potential stumbling blocks. Now it's time to implement your plan.

In our case, to overcome our chief stumbling block--resistance to changing long-standing habits--whatever changes we made had to be as quick, as easy and as convenient as using paper towels.

Finding alternatives was the easy part. Making them easy and convenient, well, that was surprisingly easy too.

After all, when it came down to it, there weren't all that many uses for paper towels that a washable plate and napkin, dishcloth or floor rag couldn't handle just as nicely.

Below, see how we implemented ours, in three phases.

Reusable dishcloths in basket where the paper-towels used to stand on their vertical roller
Reusable dishcloths in basket where the paper-towels used to stand on their vertical roller | Source

Phase I: Change the way we clean up spills

This was super easy

Rather than tearing off a paper towel, we would grab a clean dishcloth instead.

In the brainstorming and evaluation step (Step 2 above), I had already identified a few problems and their solutions. We encountered a few more along the way. Below are each of the problems and how we solved them. Maybe some of these will work for you.

  1. Not enough clean dish cloths for the counter top messes between laundering.
    Solution: Buy extras so there would always be enough.
  2. Tucked away in a drawer, those cloths weren't handy. We couldn't just grab and wipe, like we could with paper towels.
    Solution: Store a bundle on the counter top where the paper towel holder used to stand. The footprint of our basket is nearly twice as large, but the tradeoff is worth it. We don't miss those few inches.
  3. Insufficient supply of absorbent rags for the floor messes.
    Solution: Cut a couple of worn out bath towels into rectangles in two sizes--One small for those tiny messes, one larger for big spills.
  4. As with the dish cloths, no convenient to-hand supply of floor wipes.
    Solution: Fill an attractive basket with neatly folded floor flags on a nearby kitchen shelf, low enough so it's not a focal point, handy enough to reach when the grandbaby tips over her juice.
  5. No place to hang wet floor rags out of sight to dry.
    Solution: Install hanging bar in mud room just off kitchen.
  6. Laundry hamper too far away for quick disposal of dirty rags.
    Solution: Install a hamper/basket for floor rags in mud room; Tuck a second basket in out-of-sight kitchen corner for dirty kitchen linens.
  7. Paper towels too handy; we keep using them instead.
    Solution: Store the roll on top of the refrigerator where we can get to it if we have to, but so it's out of sight and out of the way otherwise.

Once we identified and solved each of these problems, retraining ourselves to reach for a dishcloth or floor rag was easy.

In fact, it was so easy, that when we used the last paper towel from the roll on top of the refrigerator, we put off buying more. To this date, we haven't felt a need.

Tip: Save your worn out cotton t-shirts!

Worn out cotton t-shirts, bath towels and other absorbent materials make excellent rags. Get in the habit of saving them in a rag bag or bin.

Switching to cloth is cost effective, even when you buy organic cotton

Paper towels vs reusable dish cloths
Paper towels vs reusable dish cloths | Source

We bought a variety of eco-friendly reusable cloths, including organic cotton dish cloths. They averaged $2.99 apiece, which was exactly the price we were paying per jumbo roll of paper towels.

Only difference is, we will reuse each of these cloths for years to come. Savings score!

Recently I discovered Tookies hand knit dish cloths - Made of 100 percent organic cotton

These little gems have terrific scrubbing power. They feel good in the hand. Best of all, when you buy them, you help women in Calcutta earn their living with dignity and without sacrificing their health and well-being.

Toockies 100-Percent Organic Cotton Scrub Cloths, Hand Knit, Set of 3 (SC10001)
Toockies 100-Percent Organic Cotton Scrub Cloths, Hand Knit, Set of 3 (SC10001)

Best dishcloth I've ever used. Absorbent, strong, durable and just plain good scrubbers. At first I thought I wouldn't care for the size and heft, but they turned out to be just right.

Cloth napkins in napkin rings - Copyright L Kathryn Grace, all rights reserved
Cloth napkins in napkin rings - Copyright L Kathryn Grace, all rights reserved

Phase II: Retrain ourselves to use cloth napkins and washable plates

Every time we eat

This turned out not to be nearly as difficult as we expected.

We already used cloth napkins for breakfast and dinner, and always have plenty on hand. Each member of our household has a distinctive napkin ring, so we can reuse our napkins until they become soiled.

The main problem was retraining ourselves when we grabbed breakfast or lunch on the run.

We were in the habit of tucking a sandwich or cheese and fruit into a paper towel. At snack time, I tended to snag a paper towel to hold my cookie or pear at my desk.

Solution: Consciously build a habit of grabbing a reusable container and small cloth napkin for on-the-go meals and a plate for lunch or snacks at my desk.

Coming up: If you don't already have a supply of eco-friendly napkins and napkin rings, I've included a selection of lovelies sure to please.

Afterward, we hit the third and final phase of implementing your plan to reduce, perhaps even eliminate, paper towels from your life.

One quick, easy place to start--Colorful, reusable cloth napkins for the kids

Teaching children to respect the planet and her resources is easy. It's the little things we do every day that instill a deep respect--or not--for the planet and its resources.

Using organic cotton reusable napkins is one way to introduce age-appropriate discussions at dinner time, when families most frequently gather.

These child-centered, organic cotton sets come with several motifs and colors.

Children love the bright colors and cheerful designs on Fabkins organic cloth napkins.

Let them pick a new napkin ring each week to save their napkin from lunch to dinner.

Organic cotton napkins double as place mats

When the grandchildren grab a glass of milk and a couple of cookies, I whisk a napkin under their plate and cup to catch any crumbs or spills.Then toss them in the laundry for easy cleanup.

Tuck them in your bag with a sandwich and piece of fruit or in the children's lunch box.

These 10"x10" organic cotton napkins are the perfect size for lunchboxes and bags. Their cheerful colors will brighten the gloomiest winter day.

Save laundry

Let each member of the family pick a napkin ring so they can reuse their napkins until they are soiled.

For years, we have tucked our everyday, unsoiled cloth napkins into distinctive napkin rings and reused them.

Kids especially like these whimsical napkin hugs. Recycled black rubber dolls--two girls and two boys--hug your child's napkin with interlocking arms.

I'm waiting for the day they come out in bright colors, but these would be fun in a sophisticated chrome and black leather dining room, too, don't you think?

Phase III: What about those icky messes we don't want to touch?

That turned out to be one of the easiest solutions of all. In fact, it turned out to be a win-win, kill-two-birds-with-one-stone solution.

You see, as part of our quest to eliminate plastic from our lives, we had already searched for and found this soft, recycled toilet paper, which is available in bulk with no plastic wrappers.

It wasn't an easy feat. We're fussy about the tissue that touches our tushes.

But what to do with the paper wrappers? Turns out, they're mighty handy for those extra messy jobs, like the other day, when I dropped an egg yolk on the floor. Talk about a greasy mess!

The wrappers are not as absorbent as paper towels, but enough so that I can easily follow them with a damp rag and, if necessary, a spray bottle of all purpose cleaner.

Why is it so important to eliminate those plastic wrappers?

Every day, plastic of every kind, awash in our oceans, chokes, strangles, maims and starves sea turtles and other wildlife.

We are responsible for our part in that.

To cut back, first we eliminated plastic shopping bags--we got in the habit of carrying reusable, cloth shopping bags.

Next, we eliminated the plastic wrappers around toilet paper, and now around paper towels.

Do you have a viable plan?

At the beginning, you had an opportunity to participate in a poll indicating where you stand regarding paper towel usage.

What has changed for you as you've answered the questions on this page?

Have you changed your mind about paper towel use? What new idea did you discover or learn?

Did you make a plan? How do you feel it will work for you?

What, if anything, has changed for you after reading this page?

See results
Squidoo Lens of the Day Trophy
Squidoo Lens of the Day Trophy

A second to brag

In its former incarnation this hub received an award that knocked my socks off

This hub originally appeared on the now defunct Squidoo web site, where on December 31, 2011, it received their highest honor, Lens of the Day. (As HubPages calls our articles hubs, Squidoo called them lenses.)

I know. Bragging. But it was an honor that made me proud and encouraged me to continue writing. May we all, writers sweating graphite, continue to be encouraged in ways that help us become better and better writers.

© 2009 Kathryn Grace

Have you given up paper towels? Do you think you might?

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    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      So cool to hear that. Thank you!

      I wash all but the floor rags with my towels, but we get so much street soot from all the diesel buses and trucks going by our windows that my towels would all turn monochrome gray if I washed my floor rags with them. I have to vacuum and mop every day to keep the soot at bay. I do miss lawns and dirt-filtering trees for that reason, not to mention the esthetics.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      Being frugal with our water supply is important, too, I agree. Thank you for mentioning it.

      I don't have the stats at my fingertips, but ages ago, when I researched this concept, I learned that the amount of water and energy used in washing and drying resuable cloths was far lower than that used in manufacturing one-use paper towels.

      As for rinsing the cloths, I find a quick rinse is all I need, nothing lengthy. Then I hang the dirty cloth to dry on a rod in the utility room. When it's dry, I toss it into the hamper I keep there just for that purpose. When the hamper is full, I wash and dry a full load of dirty rags, minimizing water and energy waste. It's all so routine, I don't even think about it anymore!

      My grandmother kept a bucket partly filled with water on the back porch for such jobs, dropping dirty rags into it to soak or rinsing them out as needed and changing the dirty water only as necessary. She was extremely water frugal, having come up in the 1880s and early 20th century, when they still had to pump their water from a well and carry it to wherever they needed it.

      Before she had an automatic washer and dryer, she reused the wash and rinse water on laundry day, as did my mom when I was a child.

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 

      4 years ago from France

      How I do agree with you! It drives me wild when people come into my kitchen and wipe things up with kitchen paper. I have a variety of wiping cloths for various surfaces. Wipe and rinse (but then what about all that water I'm using?).

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

      4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      We aren't paper towel users - can't remember the last time we bought those; don't miss them either :) - use clothes for the most part and it's not really extra laundry as we just add them to the towel load

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      @james25882: Thanks for your visit, and so glad you have never used paper towels!

    • james25882 profile image


      4 years ago

      I have never really used paper towels to be fair, I always thought they were of an issue than it's worth but I still use plastic bags though.... perhaps we all have something to learn from this Lens.. Absolutely fantastic well done!

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      @Lee Hansen: You and I seem to share a lot of similar history and values, Pastiche. Thank you for taking the time to visit and comment here.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 

      4 years ago from Vermont

      Most of my adult life I've not used paper towels or napkins. I didn't use paper diapers, either, when my children were babies. My daughter knits me very nice dish cloths and I use my kitchen towels until they fall apart, then they become fodder for the compost bin or I use them under mulch in the flower garden.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      @WriterJanis2: Thank you. Anything fun show up on yours?

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      5 years ago

      You have some very good alternatives here and I love your lists!

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      @Adventuretravels: I suspect your grandmother may have been a child of the Great Depression, like my mom, and knew how to conserve, as did my grandmother and those who came before her. Fortunately, you and I--and many others--remember those Earth-friendly ways and can choose to adopt them again. Thank you so much for sharing your memories and your thoughts.

    • Adventuretravels profile image


      5 years ago from UK

      I remember the days when these paper towels didn't exist. My mum used cloths - and had some for each job. She just rinsed then as she went along - no biggy really. My grandma didn't buy cloths, she made her own. She was so cool because she instinctively knew how to recycle, save time and money, look after everyone's health and save the environment - where did all that know-how go?? :( Why don't we just stop buying these things -as for plastic bags agh - don't start me off. Our planet really doesn't stand a chance at the moment!

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      @TerriCarr: The interesting thing about sanitizing surfaces with products that "kill 99% of the germs" is that the germs that don't die become resistant to those antibacterial products and reproduce more like themselves. We are better off keeping things clean with regular soap and water, in my view.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated.

    • TerriCarr profile image


      5 years ago

      I haven't completely given them up. I just don't buy them for home. But I use them at work. For spills at home, I often use a second sponge or a soft cloth and rinse it out. It is really just habit. If paper towels were no longer available, most people would adjust pretty quickly. Part of the problem is that many of us are overly concerned about germs so that we want to sanitize every surface.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      @VioletteRose LM: Thank you for reading and for considering the notion.

    • VioletteRose LM profile image

      VioletteRose LM 

      5 years ago

      This is something I need to pay more attention, thank you for sharing :)

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      @paperfacets: Thank you paperfacets. What a lovely comment to wake up to this morning. Please do let me know how it goes, and contact me if you have questions or need support as you transition from paper to cloth. Does your friend have an ETSY account?

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      5 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Grace, I am so excited about this. Starting with napkins is a good fit in our house. Baskets for the cloth napkins and a cute basket to toss the used ones would work in the kitchen. I know an artist that would make each napkin an art work with her original stamps she uses on fabric. She needs work so badly too. All she has is SS.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      @TanoCalvenoa: That's wonderful to hear. I'd love to hear any secrets you have for getting by without them.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      @Pam Irie: It makes all the difference in my household--having the alternatives as handy as the roll of paper towels used to be. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, and good luck cutting back on your paper towel use.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I don't buy them, but sometimes people give them to us. So we use them in that case otherwise we try to get along without them.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      Coming back to read this lens again. I recently bought a group of cloth napkins and truly plan to cut back this year on our usage. I have LOTS of cleaning cloths that could be used instead of the toweling, but had never thought of putting them out in a basket of some sort for convenience. That would definitely help!

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      @MariannesWhims: It's only 8:00 am here, and you've totally made my day with your wonderful comment. I wish you well in reducing your reliance on them.

    • MariannesWhims profile image

      Marianne Gardner 

      5 years ago from Pacific NW, USA

      Great ideas for paper towel alternatives. I'll work on implementing some. Probably not go cold turkey though, yet! Have to get us on board. I'd been thinking I'd like to quit reaching for a paper towel so often. Then came upon your lens. Great motivation.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      @Felicitas: I agree with you on all points. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I deeply appreciate it.

    • Felicitas profile image


      5 years ago

      I find dish rags just as easy, maybe easier, as paper towels. Rinsing them out and tossing them in with the rest of the wash is pretty simple too. I think I'll try those tookies though. You also have some great ideas for keeping them in handy reach though, and making it look nice. I use seventh generation but they do come in plastic everywhere I've seen them. It would be nice if they started offering them without the plastic wrap at the grocery store.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      @smine27: Excellent idea! Old t-shirts make the best rags.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 

      5 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      It's quite embarrassing to admit this but I had never thought about the consequences of using paper towels. Although I use them very rarely, I do use them now and then. After reading this I think I may be able to stop buying them altogether. Besides I have a lot of old tshirts I could use!

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      @OhMe: Yes it does. Thank you for visiting this page.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I haven't given up paper towels but I will start thinking twice before using them. Our community does do a great job on recycling so that makes a difference, too.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      @JennAshton: When it comes to colds and flu, I hear you! I've tried doing just hankies, but that's a lot of laundry when a bad cold hits. I do find that regular use of a neti pot has reduced both my allergy symptoms and frequency of colds. Don't know if that would help your family, but I surely appreciate the relief.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Another fantastic post. We gave up paper towels about 3 years ago now and I don't miss them at all. We are however having a hard time quitting the kleenex habit! Especially because we are cold/flu and allergy central! lol

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      @lesliesinclair: So cool! I crochet a lot of mine, because somehow I never could get into knitting, but the knitted ones are so much prettier.

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      5 years ago

      Pretty much, and I knit my own tookies.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      @Mamabyrd: You are most welcome. My mother did similarly. She never owned so much as a disposable sponge!

    • Mamabyrd profile image


      6 years ago from West Texas

      We have really been trying to cut back on using paper towels. It's tough with three small children. It's funny how we can start to rely on something that our parents never dreamed of using. I remember my mother always using a washcloth to clean us up and a dish rag with a spray bottle of bleach water to clean the counters. Thank you for the tips.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      @SusanRDavis: Thank you for the blessing, and let me know how it goes. I'm happy to support anyone trying to reduce their paper towel consumption.

    • SusanRDavis profile image

      Susan R. Davis 

      6 years ago from Vancouver

      Headed to doing it now. *blessed*

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      @SheilaMilne: Good idea. Go for it!

    • SheilaMilne profile image


      6 years ago from Kent, UK

      I'm all for reducing the amount of paper we use but I think we should campaign for paper towels to come wrapped in paper.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      @ClaudiaWest: Your solutions are similar to ours, and I thank you for sharing them.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have not given them up entirely but I'm using less and less. What I do is have a place for clean towels, hooks in the kitchen for towels that are being used right that moment, and a basket (a small trash can) for towels that are ready to go to the laundry.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      @CherylsArt: I've been through that cycle myself in the past, especially when I was working fourteen-eighteen hour days outside the home. Sometimes we do what we gotta do!

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 

      6 years ago from West Virginia

      We used cloth napkins for a while, then went back to paper towels. We do recycle whatever we can, including the cardboard rolls inside the towel and toilet paper rolls.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      @BarbaraAnn13: So true! It's a start, yes?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      It is amazing the impact something like paper towels have on our lives and paper towels are just the flotsam around the tip of the iceberg!

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      @anonymous: Casey, thank you so much for letting me how you feel. It takes courage to leave negative criticism, and I appreciate your willingness to take that risk.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This was the most tedious article I've ever read

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      @GrowthSpark: Thank you for your kindly comments. Made my morning!

    • GrowthSpark profile image


      6 years ago

      Loved this lens, really well thought out and lots of great information to help people find new ways to do things, great ideas all round!

    • pinkrenegade lm profile image

      pinkrenegade lm 

      6 years ago

      Great lens. I hope this lens inspired others to stop using paper towels.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      @MarcStorm LM: Thanks for all your kindly comments on this page, Marc. Always a delight to find another "green-minded" Squid!

    • MarcStorm LM profile image

      MarcStorm LM 

      6 years ago

      I rarely ever use paper towels. I use towels in general. Another helpful invention is microfiber towels to clean up something that won't budge as good. Very clean worthy are they! Great article for someone who needs to see the big picture and to stop using paper towels. Let the trees live in peace and keep cleaning up our air that we soil regularly with pollutants. Save your money and use a fabric towel people!

    • GeekGirl1 profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens. You actually have a good point and you're inspiring other people to also get rid of the habit of using paper towel.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      8 months and counting with no paper towels, paper napkins, or paper plates in our house. I call our kitchen a "paperless kitchen". We use a lot of bar mops for counter and table clean up, a few microfiber towels that I use with my swiffer wet jet (which I just refill with vinegar water now that I've used all of the chemical cleaner that came with it), and home made cloth napkins galore. My mother in law is a partner in a quilt shop and when they get to the end of a bolt of cotton fabric, she cuts a 12"-16" square and makes a napkin for us. We have all sorts of, dinosaurs, fairies, princesses, trucks, race cars....

      We have a small bin behind our pull out trash can that the dirty napkins and towels go in. My 4 year old son gets paid a penny for each item from bin that he puts into the washer machine. My 3 year old daughter get paid a penny for each napkin she folds and 2 cents for each towel she folds and puts away.

      By the way, we also make our own laundry detergent...we'll never go back to store bought again. :)

    • danielmccarthy lm profile image

      danielmccarthy lm 

      7 years ago

      I do quite a bit to reduce my carbon footprint but I don't think I'll be giving up paper towels just yet. Really funny lens though, thanks!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you for a positive and needed lens! Change the less paper towel at a time!

    • Tracie-Fisher profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you, Graceonline, for a really wonderful lens. You convinced me! I'm going to follow your lead and will begin with paper towels.

    • orange3 lm profile image

      orange3 lm 

      7 years ago

      Our house is paper towel free :) I haven't bought paper towels in years. The switch was really easier than I expected.

    • Brandi Bush profile image


      7 years ago from Maryland

      I haven't totally stopped using paper towels, but I use a lot less than I used to! :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Love this lens! No disposable paper products in this house, including toilet paper and girly products.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      As I already knew, changing habits is the hardest part :)

    • JanieceTobey profile image


      7 years ago

      I read this lens when it was LOTD...and I'm back now to tell you that it made a difference in my life. I'm using dish rags and towels in place of paper towels now. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas with us!!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I really like this lens. I live pretty "green" but paper towels are one of the last things I really cling to. We do use recycled, biodegradable ones but I just did the math and it's over $100 a year. Not too much, but I can definitely think of a few things I'd rather use that money for!

    • Kaellyn profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting article! You gave me some new ideas.

    • kathysart profile image


      7 years ago

      OMG.. YES.. I have been NOT buying paper towels for a LONG time.. FANTASTIC LENS!! Whoot whoot and an ANGEL BLESSING!

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      @Leilani-m: Lots and lots of folks are writing lenses, articles and blog posts on this subject. Google "Zero Waste Challenge," and very likely you'll find a wealth of resources and tips for reducing waste at home and in the office. I've posted a number of blog posts under that topic myself. Some folks devote entire web sites to the topic.

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 

      7 years ago from Jersey Shore

      I have been working on making my families lives greener and this article really gives me incentive! thanks

    • Jimmy Gavin profile image

      Jimmy Gavin 

      7 years ago

      What a really good thought provoking lens

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I haven't used them for so long now, have I missed them, no and now I recycle other things that I use to throw out like my towels that are really handy rags

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      @IanMayfield: Not environmentally friendly, sad to say, Ian. They are still one-use items, but I'm glad to see you plan to work on the paper towels. Every little bit helps. The purpose is to make sure our children and grandchildren have as nice--or nicer--place to live than we have, right?

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      7 years ago

      We've cut way back on paper towels and have a drawer full of reusable ShamWow-type cleaning cloths. We also use cloth napkins for dinner, which is easy. So what if they're wrinkled, right? I remember my grandmother always used leftover yarn to crochet washcloths and potholders for her kitchen. Belated congrats on a truly useful LOTD. Happy new year!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      The Toockies shown above are exactly like the knitted dish clothes my grandmother would make and give out every year for Christmas to all her daughter-in-laws! My mom has a bunch of them. They last for YEARS!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      @NicoleLynn711: This is a great article. I think we should all use less paper and preserve our environment. We only live once. Gene

    • hysongdesigns profile image


      7 years ago

      For those that don't think cloth rags are sanitary, they wash out just as clean as the clothes you are wearing....I quit paper towels and paper plates a long time ago. Drives my mother and a couple of my kids crazy; the other one lives like I do ;-)

    • RawBill1 profile image


      7 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      We do use paper towels but very sparingly and they do not end up in our garbage, we compost them instead. Congrats on LOTD, it is well deserved.

    • JanieceTobey profile image


      7 years ago

      You've sold me on the idea. I purchased some organic cloths today. Thank you, so much, for writing this.

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 

      7 years ago from Concord VA

      We never had paper towels when I was growing up, so you can do without them easily enough, if you want to. Thanks for these great alternative ideas. Congratulations on LotD!

    • NicoleLynn711 profile image


      7 years ago from Bethel, CT

      I will admit I have a bad paper towel habit because im always cleaning something and its readily available. I'm stuck in the mindset that its more sanitary. Thanks for sharing and congrats on LOTD. I think I have a good new years resolution now

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is definitely a great challenge to think about and do

    • lindseythomas lm profile image

      lindseythomas lm 

      7 years ago

      A better way to start the new year, less use of paper towels.

    • digitaltree profile image


      7 years ago

      Great Lens, very informative. Is rare for me to use paper towel, in the kitchen i'm very clean. which is why i don't need to use paper towel.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens, lots of good information in here. Doing what we can to have minimal impact on the environment is always a smart move.

    • Wendy Leanne profile image

      Wendy Leanne 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Congrats on LOTD. I enjoyed reading your lens but think I'll stick with my paper towels just because I'm afraid of germs. I clean my kitchen counter with antibacterial spray and paper towels 7 or more times a day. If I switched to cloth towels, I would be using them each once and then tossing them into the laundry.

    • LynetteBell profile image


      7 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      Interesting lens and congratulations on getting lens of the day!

    • heehaw lm profile image

      heehaw lm 

      7 years ago

      i do not use paper towels often daily, i only uses it if it is necessary, the paper towels should only be used only to clean oily spills such as cooking oil and etc. other than that should be used with a cloth.

    • sockii profile image

      Nicole Pellegrini 

      7 years ago from New Jersey

      This is a really great lens. As I commented on one of the polls, there are one or two areas where disposable towels still work better for me than reusable rags and I haven't found a good solution, although I have been making a conscious effort to switch as much as possible for the past two years. I also appreciate that even my cleaning people use my rag bags as much as possible instead of paper towels, because it really can be hugely expensive otherwise.

    • lilymom24 profile image


      7 years ago

      Congratulations on LotD! I think we can reduce the amount of paper towels we use but at present, I can't imagine that the rest of the family will be on board yet.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens. After reading your lens, I learned that I should keep my paper tower huh? Please check out my lens whenever you have a chance. Thanks.

    • Thrinsdream profile image


      7 years ago

      I understand why this got lens of the day! Its brilliant the content is wonderful and the layout superb, it certainly has taught me a lot and not just about how much paper towel usage goes on in the world. I will certainly be using your brain storming idea, loved it. Loved it all. Great lens

    • JanieceTobey profile image


      7 years ago

      What a fantastic page on giving up paper towels!! I love this! Congratulations on Lens of the Day! Blessed.

    • KhairuZiya profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens..very useful, I'll think back to using paper towels

    • KhairuZiya profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens..very useful, I'll think back to using paper towels

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Paper towels are used only here in the west? In India, nobody uses paper towels. It's cloth towels and napkins all the way. Nothing new here, sorry.

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image


      7 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      I've always been pretty thrifty but still use paper towels occasionally for greasy stuff. I do use regular old cloths or towels for cleaning. Happy Holidays!

    • Lynda Makara profile image

      Lynda Makara 

      7 years ago from California

      My favorite idea is the one about cloth napkins and individual napkin rings. Very thorough article. Congrats to you!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      great lens, more people need to re-think their production of paper towel waste!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      There are times when only a paper towel will do because of germs.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD, well deserved! These products are wasteful and even harmful on so many levels. I want to do without them! Thanks for the great plan!

    • beckyf profile image


      7 years ago

      I've cut way back on paper towel usage, and don't miss the amount of them I used to use. I enjoyed your lens. It's very well-written, and on a necessary topic.


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