5 Eco Friendly and Reusable Paper Towel Alternatives to Save the Trees and Your Budget

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eco friendly paper towel alternative options to save trees and your budget

When it comes to making the transition to an eco friendly lifestyle, one of the easiest changes to make is to stop buying paper towels. Not only does this save you quite a bit of money, it reduces a huge strain on the environment caused by the paper towel industry.

Don’t believe me? Here are some quick facts about the impact of using paper towels:

  1. Paper towels cannot be recycled. This means an estimated 6 million pounds of paper towels wind up in landfills every year.
  2. Paper towels account for an estimated 110 million trees and 130 billion gallons of water, just to produce.
  3. Rolls of paper towels cost an average of $1 per roll. That adds up quickly, especially for an item that you don’t even need!

So what can you use besides paper towels? I’m glad you asked!


When we were first married, our total income for our first year of marriage was a whopping $16,000. Obviously, there wasn’t room for superfluous purchases like paper towels. We cut up ratty old clothes to use as rags. Depending on what we used them for, we either washed them to reuse over and over again or we threw them away. This is obviously the cheapest option, but might not be for everyone, especially if you don’t wear cotton. Polyester and linen wouldn’t absorb very well, and wool is generally water-repellant.

Keep reading for the best reusable paper towel alternatives:

Related: Why a Portable Washing Machine is a Frugal Lifesaver for Apartment-Dwellers


Do you still get the newspaper? For smaller spills, cleaning up with old newspapers is a way to use them again before they hit the recycle bin. Also, windows can be cleaned with that beautiful streak-free shine using old newspapers and some vinegar in a spray bottle.

Looking for more creative ways to save? Download my free ebook!


I used to babysit for a family who used washcloths for everything from napkins to cleaning up spills. Generally, you can find bundles of washcloths for less than $12, so this would be an option that would probably be more absorbent than old t-shirts.

Wood cellulose towels

We received a supply of Swedish towels in our MightyNest subscription this month and we love them! They are made of wood cellulose, painted with adorable patterns using non-toxic paints, and reusable for several months. When they finally wear out, we can throw them in a compost bin and return them to the earth. All the convenience and feel of a paper towel, but without the waste.

MightyNest is my current favorite subscription! For just $10 a month, you get a new item or two that help you transition to a non-toxic, eco-friendly lifestyle. Sign up with my link to get a set of 3 dryer balls or 2 sheets of beeswax reusable wrap for just $3 for your first month!

Un paper Towels

For families with frequent messes (or just looking for the convenience of a paper towel with a single investment), there is the “un paper towel,” made of cloth. My favorite part of this option is the convenience of it. They have snaps so all the towels snap together like regular paper towels, and you can even put them on a standard paper towel holder! When you’re finished using it, just throw them in the washing machine. How awesome is that? If you sew, these can be made in an afternoon. If that’s not your vibe, Etsy has plenty of options for you, like this classy wood grain patterned set of 12 that fits any kitchen decor.

I have actually never purchased paper towels in my adult life. I don’t even miss them, even with a toddler! Using sustainable options for cleaning up messes is one way that we save money and decrease our impact on the earth.

Do you use paper towel alternatives? Leave me a note in the comments and tell me what you use, and share this post with your friends who are looking to save money and live green!

Ditch the paper towels and start using one of these eco-friendly alternatives! #ecofriendly #greenliving

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  1. Heather @ The Pennywise Playbook

    March 1, 2018 at 10:42 am

    LOVE the idea of the un-paper towel!!! Great ideas here.

    1. Mrs. Crunchy

      March 1, 2018 at 11:42 am

      Aren’t they so cute????

  2. Kindell

    March 1, 2018 at 11:33 am

    Love this! I’m guilty of obsessively using paper towels, this make me want to change my ways!

    1. Mrs. Crunchy

      March 1, 2018 at 11:44 am

      Find your favorite replacement and you will be hooked, I promise!

  3. Madalena Rowan

    March 5, 2018 at 9:37 am

    oh wow, I didn’t know paper towels aren’t able to be recycled! I’m going to make more of an effort to use wash cloths instead, because I sure go through a lot of paper towels! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Mrs. Crunchy

      March 5, 2018 at 9:42 am

      You’re welcome!

  4. Outi

    August 20, 2018 at 6:27 am

    As a side note, if your area has the option of recycling bio-waste, then used paper towels should end up there. Unless they have been used for wiping up something that should end up in compost, naturally. Always check the approved guidelines from your local operator, because they vary greatly!

    1. Mrs. Crunchy

      August 20, 2018 at 9:22 am

      Wow, that’s awesome, I’ll have to check our local guidelines! Thanks!

  5. kathy weltman

    February 25, 2019 at 8:23 pmYour comment is awaiting moderation.

    All of the alternatives to paper towels mentioned above are fabulous. I would like to add Rakot75 to the list as well. It’s a cloth towel on a roll, strong, durable, reusable, washable and toss when it’s life has ended. Feel free to ask for a sample .

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