#896 Stop Using Paper Towels

8 May

paper towel roll

Quit them cold turkey if you can. Photo via flickr by edkohler.

A friend joined a warehouse club and was excited about the savings, until she realized – where am I going to store my five billion rolls of paper towels? Instead of building a warehouse to store your warehouse purchases, try eliminating the need for many of the bulk buy purchases. First on the list to eliminate? Paper towels.

As a single-use product, paper towels are economically not a very good investment. Depending on the rate of use, paper towels can fly off the roll and into the trash faster than a weekly shop can keep up with. Instead of trashing your money and trees with paper towels, get rid of them altogether and replace paper towel use with things you already have around the house.

Here are some ways to stop using paper towels and save a little more from your grocery and supplies budget:

  • Go cold turkey. All smokers or other addicts know that one of the most effective ways to quit an addiction is to eliminate the  product and make it unavailable for consumption. If you eliminate paper towels from the house completely, you’ll be forced to adapt and find alternatives. Like any other cold turkey quitting program, the first two weeks will be hard and then it’ll get easier. Soon you’ll wonder why you spent money on paper towels to begin with.
  • Rediscover sponges.
    A better choice for cleaning up spills. Photo via flickr by Horia Varlan.

    A better choice for cleaning up spills. Photo via flickr by Horia Varlan.

    If you have a dishwasher, you may hardly ever touch a sponge, but you probably have one at the kitchen sink. Sponges are perfect for cleaning up spills – the number one excuse to use a paper towel. A sponge will do exactly what a paper towel will do – soak up a spill and allow you to clean it up. The big difference is that a sponge is reusable. You can rinse and wring for later use or if the spill requires more than one go with the sponge, it’s no problem to rinse and wring until the job is done. Instead of using half a roll of paper towels, try one reusable sponge. I have a “nasty” sponge pile of old kitchen sponges that I use for toilet cleaning or other particularly nasty uses so that I can throw them out after a long life as a “clean” sponge.

  • Explore rags. What to do with those old t-shirts and cloth diapers? Turn them into cleaning rags for dusting, wet cleaning and other jobs that paper towels are used for. Like sponges, rags are washable and reusable. If you are reusing old clothes or sheets for rags, then cut them up into varying size rags and store them along with cleaning products in an easy-to-access place for all your cleaning needs. An old rag, can go into the “nasty” rag pile and used for a nasty job and then tossed after a long life as a t-shirt reborn as a cleaning aid.
  • Dry your hands on a hand towel.
    hand towel hand drying

    The proper way to dry hands. Hint: not with a paper towel. Photo via flickr by AlishaV.

    One of my pet peeve uses of paper towels is using them to dry hands. That’s what hand towels are for. Or dish towels. I like to keep two hand towels or dish towels in rotation so that when one gets really soaked, I can use the other while the wet one dries out. Have a well ventilated place where the towels can live in a spot convenient to where you normally do a lot of your hand washing and drying. Throw the towels in the weekly wash to keep them fresh. If you have family members who are paper towel hand drying offenders, remove any paper towels from easy reach or altogether, leaving only the hand towel available.

  • Wash with a wash cloth. If you use paper towels for messy kid hands and face, then keep a wash cloth handy as well and use the wash cloth to wipe them down after meals or before running out the door and into public view.
  • Keep a limited supply of paper towels. Buy a roll and make sure it lasts for a certain amount of time – say a month or more. This will make you think every time you reach for a paper towel, “can I use something else for this job?” The answer is most undoubtedly “yes.” The only tricky paper towel replacement is draining bacon. Paper towels are excellent for draining bacon, but if that is your only paper towel use, I think one roll could last a year or more.
  • Use silicone mats and products for baking. Another tough to replace paper towel use is greasing cookie sheets. Replace a paper towel and butter or oil with silicone baking mats, cups and trays that can be reused thousands of times.
  • Don’t use paper napkins either.
    cloth napkin

    Photo via flickr by jenny downing.

    Get classy and use cloth napkins. Growing up in my large family, we each had our own napkin ring with our initials to store our cloth napkin so the napkins would not get confused during the week. Then they’d be washed at the end of the week. Holiday dinners and company meant my dad broke out the ironing board and used the nice cloth napkins instead of our every day ones.

  • If you really need a transition aid… you can try the reusable bamboo paper towels made from renewable bamboo sources called Bambooee that can ease the transition to not using paper towels. Make sure the spouse and kids know not to throw them out. And after they are torn from the roll, they’re really just another reusable rag. But hey, they can drain bacon!

The added bonus of being thrifty and saving lots of money usually means your also being green and saving resources, which is never a bad thing. Eliminating paper towels is no exception.

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