Life without paper towels

I enjoy challenges. Perhaps that makes me the perfect candidate for just about any green living experiment. On the other hand, I believe that it is inaccurate to say that green living is a challenge. Certainly our disposable life has become a life of unmindful convenience, but is it really easier for us than it was for previous generations? Has our quality of life improved over that of our great-grandmothers simply because we have, for example, super-absorbent paper towels?

Ive never lived in a home in which the residents (my parents, roommates, etc.) were willing to pony up for the spendiest name-brand absorbent towels, but Ive always had paper towels. Perhaps the ease with which I have transitioned away from paper is the result of never having lived with the Bounty. On the other hand, paper towels of any quality are deceptively convenient, so I have tallied up my fair share of paper usage over the years. The key word here is deceptively convenient, because I can honestly say that I dont miss my inexpensive recycled paper towels one bit. Cloth does it better every time!

I dont remember the exact day that we stopped using towels. Nor did I record the date that we finally moved the now empty paper towel rack (counter top) to the laundry closet. We have held onto a single roll of paper towels stashed away that allow Mr. Green Me to sleep at night without fear of disaster and maybe someday will come upon a situation in which nothing else will do. Perhaps a winter day without any electricity and not a clean towel to be found?

By now if you are a paper towel devotee you are probably wondering if our house is a complete disaster and whether we are wading around in muck and dried messes. In fact we are not our house is clean (at least once per day while Baby Green Me naps) and at times even sparkling with shine.


The Green Me Family anti-paper towel stash:

  1. Regular old dish towels: there are a variety of dish towels with different uses and strengths, so if your current towels dont do the job maybe you need a different variety. Here is what I have found: terry towels are great for messes and moisture but sometimes leave behind lint; waffle weave towels are great for drying dishes or wiping ups spills; flour sack towels are perfect for drying dishes and hands.
  2. The European Sponge cloth is perfect for wiping up spills, wiping down the counter, and washing up spots on the floor. It is highly absorbent and highly wring-able. You can sanitize it in the dishwasher, laundry, or microwave and they are biodegradable at the end (think compost pile) when they’re through. If your cat (or other pets) like to leave you presents get a cloth damp, wipe up the mess, shake it in the trash, rinse off the cloth, spray on some enzyme wash pat clean the mess spot, and toss your cloth in the wash. Ta da! No mess, no towels, no waste!
  3. The Bamboo Sponge cloth is excellent for drying dishes or wiping up spills. This baby is seriously absorbent! After a run through the wash it is also soft and delicate for dusting your china or furniture, but still powerful enough to wipe up your toughest messes! (Think of that commercial with the kiddo and cupcakes you dont need a paper towel you need a Bamboo Sponge Cloth!)
  4. Microfiber towels: A spray bottle with 50/50 water and vinegar and a few clean and dry microfiber towels will have your windows, mirrors, and stainless appliances sparkling in no time at all! Newspaper works great, but it gets your hands all messy. Vinegar and microfiber is the clean, green, and simple solution! Microfiber is also great for wiping down furniture and dusting. But my all time favorite use for microfiber? Soaking up bacon grease!!! The Green Me Family has a somewhat illicit love affair with bacon, but we dont love extra grease. In the past I have wasted 10 or more paper towels trying to degrease my bacon. One microfiber towel does the trick sucking up the grease until my bacon is dry! I keep a few microfiber towels with my dish cloths (dont get them confused with ones for cleaning house) and when washed with a little baking soda and vinegar I never have any greasy residue left behind.
  5. Cloth Napkins: In a pinch a napkin makes for the perfect single use clean-up. I use the single use swipe washing up Baby Green Me after his meal or to pick up something squishy that Ive just dropped on the floor. (Floor towels of any kind go straight to the wash and not back into use!) Cloth napkins are of course also great to use with meals paper napkins are also out!


Energy Saving Tips (for you and your dryer):

  • Keep a small basket on the washing machine for soiled towels so you always have a safe receptacle for grimy, wet, or otherwise soiled towels. I line mine with cotton bag, so if it gets dirty I can wash it with out any fuss.
  • Wash your towels on hot if you must, but to save energy wash on cold. To deodorize the towels and your wash use baking soda with the detergent and vinegar instead of fabric softener.
  • If the towels are really stinky or they have been used to clean up pet stains or they are starting to mildew start the wash before bed and use an enzyme wash. Let the enzyme wash soak over night and complete the cycle in the morning.
  • Hang your towels to dry, but fold them how you like them first, this way they will hang dry, but appear to have been ironed and or expertly folded! (See photo above!)
  • Even the youngest among us can be trained to use cloth! Baby Green Me knows to pat his mouth with a napkin and he occasionally tries to wipe down his high chair tray after a meal.


The bottom line folks (repeat after me): I DO NOT NEED paper towels!

I DO NOT NEED paper towels!

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