How I said Buy-Bye to Paper Towels

by Katy on June 3, 2008 · 8 comments

When I was growing up in the 1970’s we never used paper towels. Instead we used dish rags, kitchen towels and sponges. It was a non-issue. I don’t think this was uncommon at the time. 

Somehow I became a paper towel person. Installing that special holder to hold fresh rolls in each of my homes, kind of making me feel like a grown up. (Something that at the age of 40 is still an intermittent sensation.)  I tried to be frugal about it, tearing off half a sheet at a time. I even tried cutting the paper part in half per an Amy Dacyczyn suggestion. This unfortunately resulted in little booger-sized paper towel bits that littered my countertop. Not the best solution.

So I simply stopped buying paper towels a few months ago. I waited for my husband and kids to complain, but so far no one has noticed. Or if they have, they’re keeping it to themselves. 

I took a scrappy old towel and tore it into paper towel size squares. I didn’t hem them. They’re quite irregularly sized and work just fine. Actually, I think they work better. Unlike a regular paper towel, they stay strong even when wet. A small plastic, vented wastebasket in the kitchen keeps up with the laundry.

“What about when you need to wipe up something unbelievably gross?” you may ask. (I’ll let you use your imagination in this one.) Well. . .  I wipe it up and toss the towel piece. 

I already use cloth napkins and have an impressive stash of dish towels, including some really nice linen ones given to me by a neighbor who said the color “didn’t go with her new kitchen.” Uh. . . okay, lady.

The environmental impact of any type of manufacture is always more widespread that one would imagine. For paper towels, trees have to be be cut down, fuel used to ship the raw materials to the factory, then to the store, then to your home. The paper towel gets used once, and then becomes garbage to be trucked to a landfill. It now begins the difficult task of decomposing. I don’t even want to think about the pollution produced at each step. Wow.

So next time you’re at the store pulling that ginormous pallet of paper towels off the shelf- stop and make a conscious choice. Do I need this in my life? Maybe you can choose to have one less disposable item as part of your home. Hey, you may even save a few bucks.

-Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

One last thought: I also use the towel squares wet, then wrung out with my got-it-for-free Swiffer. It works great.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Alexis Ahrens June 3, 2008 at 11:59 pm

Great suggestion! For me, the piles of little cloth diapers that used to constantly adorn my shoulder when Lucas was a newborn make great cleaning cloths. We have had the same Costco pack of paper towels sitting in our garage for almost two years now. Granted, it’s shrinking, but … two years!

Sidenote: I didn’t know anyone else other than me used the word, “ginormous”. 🙂


Shymom June 4, 2008 at 5:57 am

I am trying to wean us off paper towels. At this point we still use them but are down to using one roll every two months. Unfortunately, before I decided paper towels were stupid I had just bought a big ol’ 12 pack of the things. Now they are going to be taking up space for 2 YEARS. Ugh!


Elinor June 4, 2008 at 3:34 pm

“So next time you’re at the store pulling that ginormous pallet of paper towels off the shelf- stop and make a conscious choice. Do I need this in my life? ”

That really set off a bell in my head. I relate it to buying those 24(+) count bottle water packs. I don’t need them. I have cut back drastically, but still have a bit of a paper towel crutch I need to get rid of. I think your quote may have just pushed me over the edge.



Jan November 26, 2008 at 5:08 am

I think I’ll have to hit the thrift stores & see if I can stock up on some old towels. You’re right – growing up in the 70s, Mom used sponges & washcloths – not paper towels. Paper towels were wasteful & our family lived on 1 salary – Dad’s!


Jocelyn August 11, 2009 at 12:01 pm

But what do you use to clean your mirrors?? That’s the 1 thing I can’t find a replacement for.


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