The Green Life Edit: Reusable Cloths

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


Three or four years ago, I stumbled onto a book called "Zero Home Waste."  I have mentioned it in the past here, so you may have heard of it, but it was my first introduction into a seriously hardcore approach to green living.  Basically a woman and her family of four produce a quart size jug of trash every year.  Seriously.  They recycle, do without, or reuse everything.  And she lives in a gorgeous house, her kids eat cookies every day, and she seems somewhat normal for being that hippie.

Anyway, I have thought lots about this book over the past few years, and have often been inspired to make changes in my life, based on some of her suggestions.

One habit that I had a really hard time changing was using paper towels.  I knew they were super wasteful, because even though the biodegrade, they aren't recyclable, and you only use them once.

I didn't buy them very often before (once every few months, because my grocery budget has always been really small), but there are somethings that I always wanted to use a paper towel for. But in September, when we moved back to Austin, I decided that I would pull all my napkins and cloths out of storage, and use them for sinks, counters, dishes, sticky baby fingers, and everything else.  We haven't bought paper towels since.

The photo above is shows about 1/3 of what I actually have.  I have to do an additional load of laundry every week, just to make sure I have enough to get us through, because we use them so much, but they have been amazing.

The blue cloths on top are a set that I made out of an old pair of Adam's PJ pants.  I love these!  They are flannel, and the fabric is thin, but absorbent, and because they are a dark blue, they don't stain easily.  I just serged around the edges for a finish, and they make a great cleaning cloth. I often wish I had more than four.  They are great for cleaning the sink, counters, and floor.  I don't ever use these to wipe the toddler, because they go in too many other gross places.

The red and white napkins are Christmas napkins, but we use them year round, primarily for wiping hands and faces (occasionally the table, too).  The color is actually pretty helpful, because we often eat beet and tomato soup, so I don't worry about getting the napkins stained.

The blue and white cloths on the bottom are for hand drying and drying dishes.  I try not to use these for the toddler either, because they stain easily.

I have been amazed at how much I don't miss paper towels, now that I have enough cloths to really run the kitchen.  We go through 3 or 4 a day sometimes, but I know that I am doing the eco-friendly thing, so I feel really good about it.

How about you?  Have you ever thought about switching up your routine to include more eco-friendly practices?


9 comments

  1. We never had paper towels in my house growing up, and it wasn't until high school having friends over that I even realized that was unusual! I have gotten in the habit of using them since we bought my grandmother's house and she left us her years-supply of paper towels. Now after 2 1/2 years we are finally almost out and your post has me very motivated to not buy more!

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    1. I love that you inherited years worth of paper towels! That is hilarious! They are super convenient, but I feel like the waste isn't worth it. :)

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  2. We never had paper towels growing up so I have never used them. Sometimes I see commercials for "super strong, absorbent" paper towels that you can wring out and use again before you throw away and I think that's the silliest thing ever. That's called a dishrag, and you don't have to throw those away! I know that paper is biodegradable but most landfills are so sterile that even things that should biodegrade actually don't--like paper towels!

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    1. So ironic, right? Also, wringing out a paper towel makes me want to throw up... ew. I would much prefer to do it to a rag. At least you can rinse a rag out before you wring it out.

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  3. After 4 kids I found that I had an abundance of old washcloths, burp cloths and small baby towels. They make the best cleaning cloths. I don't have to worry about them getting stained and their small size doesn't take up too much extra in the wash load.

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    1. Totally! I love reusing old cloths for cleaning! Way to be green ;)

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  4. We use tons and tons of paper towels and I've thought a lot about cutting the habit over the last few months. I actually always grab our cloths whenever they're available, but the ones we have get used so quickly that we're back to paper in a few days before I get around to doing laundry again. I really love ikeas hand towels though, and they're really cheap. I should stock up on those once so that I don't have to keep buying paper!

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    1. I totally get going through them so fast. We seriously go through them SO fast. I finally just decided they would be an extra load and that is okay with me. I love the idea of using the Ikea towels! Those would be perfect to have a dozen of to supplement!

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  5. We used cloths even when the kids were little, and it really helped them to be independent. I kept a stack of (too grubby to use) towels on a low shelf. When the kids spilled something they could clean up after themselves! If it was just a water spill I'd dry the towel on a rack or chair back and the kids could use it again (to reduce laundry) but it gave them a sense of being able to correct accidents, and I wouldn't have left a roll of paper towels where they could reach it. (They loved unrolling toilet roll, so paper towels would have been fair game as well!)

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