Ditching Paper Towels for Cloth


Ditching Paper Towels for Cloth Paperless

It can be easy to go through a lot of paper towels.  After having kids, I felt like I was going through way too many, with many more spills and messes than usual.  When we decided to try cloth diapers, I also wanted to try cloth wipes in the place of paper towels (or at least most of our paper towels).  Since making the switch, we have been able to use this eco-friendly, cost-effective system of using rags instead of paper towels.

There are many different kinds of cloths you can use in the place of paper towels.  Personally, my favorites are cheap washcloths, which are either sold as washcloths or rags.  I feel like they are very absorbent and hold up well from spills to scrubbing, but you can use just about any kind that works for you, from microfiber cloths to old t-shirts.  You can also be creative, such as cutting up an old sheet and sewing the edges so that the material does not fray.  Once our children were out of diapers, we saved the cloth diaper inserts to use as rags, and we always save old towels, washcloths, dish towels, etc. to use as rags.

I recommend keeping quite a few rags on hand.  I have a large bin of washcloth size rags in my mudroom, which is easy to grab and plentiful.  I also have a smaller stash of large size rags, which are about the size of hand or face towels, and come in handy for big messes.  I also keep some rags in the back of my car, which get used for messes in the car or if we encounter a situation that can use some cleaning up (anything from mud getting tracked into the car to if the kids spill something on themselves).  In the winter, we keep some large rags by our front door, for any stray snow, salt, or ice that gets tracked into the house.  I am always finding new uses for my rags!

There are some things I still use paper towels for.  Some examples would be grease or oil, when the cat throws up a hairball, and other messes that are just too messy or unsanitary to deal with.

I love using rags instead of paper towels.  They absorb so much more, so if the kids spill a whole cup of juice, I simply wipe it up with a rag, rinse it out, and toss in the wash.  And rags hold up well – I even scrub my floors with rags.

I use my rags with a lot of homemade natural cleaners – such as white vinegar, or a solution of vinegar and dish soap.  When I am done, I simply rinse the rags and toss into the wash.  You can find lots of recipes for natural cleaners online.

I have been washing my rags for years, and I don’t think any of them have worn out or gotten too stained use, but when the time comes, I will compost them.  I usually rinse them out before putting them in the washing machine, to remove things like dirt, sand, or food particles.  I usually use a natural powdered detergent (which does not leave residues and therefore keeps the fabric absorbent).  It also helps to add a laundry booster like Borax.  Lastly, I sun-dry when possible, which helps to reduce stains and odors.







  1. 1

    They were using old rags long before paper towels came along, and they work better!

  2. 2
    Robin Wilson says:

    I have to be honest. I do try to use cloth rags whenever possible, but I still use paper towels for some things. I had no idea that I could compost my cloth rags. I am talking about 100% cotton of course. I have never used Borax either. What does that do? Thanks for the nudge! I will try to be more diligent in my use of cloth!

  3. 3

    The Borax is a natural detergent, and it doesn’t leave behind residues like ‘regular’ detergents (which can often make fabrics less absorbent). My kids have been eating grape juice popsicles this summer, and I find that scrubbing with stain removers isn’t very effective – so I soak the clothing in a mixture of borax and the stains are gone! It is a great laundry booster, and helps the rags look not as dingy after I have been scrubbing floors :) (Here is the one I use – http://www.20muleteamlaundry.com/)

  4. 4
    sandy weinstein says:

    i have lots of paper towels, but choose to use old washcloths, towels, etc. the washcloths make great dusters, and clean up, just the right size.

  5. 5

    This is a great way to green up. I have to admit, I use a lot of paper towels. It would save money and a tree. Thank you for sharing!

  6. 6

    Using old rags definitely saves money and trees! It’s amazing how many paper towels you go through when cleaning up a mess. Old rags absorb much more!

  7. 7
    Cathy Shaw says:

    I also enjoy using cloths instead of wasteful paper towels. Of course, laundering these cloths takes up energy too, so I make sure to add them to a regular laundry, one I’d be doing anyway.

  8. 8

    I have to admit , sometimes a grab a paper towel when I know I shouldn’t .. I have plenty of cloth around to do the job.. I have to keep spanking my hands loll

  9. 9
    rochelle haynes says:

    This is nice to have very nice

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