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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:
- Paper towels cannot be recycled. This means an estimated 6 million pounds of paper towels wind up in landfills every year.
- Paper towels account for an estimated 110 million trees and 130 billion gallons of water, just to produce.
- 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:
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
I cannot say enough good things about Swedish towels. Made of a mix of cotton and wood cellulose, these are thick and sturdy, but still biodegradable and compostable when they finally wear out. When I was sent a variety pack of swedish towels from Swedish Wholesale, I knew I had to share my review here. In short – I absolutely love them.
These are the thickest Swedish towels I have ever used. They are sturdy, maintain their scrubbing power (they don’t even shred when I scrub off dried on pasta sauce), and are still soft enough to gently but effectively scrub off peanut butter off my son’s face. The company states that a single towel can replace seventeen rolls of paper towels.
They come in a 10-pack I love the variety pack too with all the different colors. If you use swedish towels for all your cleaning needs, the variety pack allows you to color-coordinate which towels go with which tasks. For example, I could designate yellow to be the color I use to clean the toilets, and the blue to clean my son’s face.
Definitely would not want to confuse those two.
But wait – how would you get the two confused?
Because they are machine washable. And naturally antibacterial.
So basically, the best things ever.
Ready for your own set? Replace 170 rolls with this money (and space) saving set of 10 swedish towels.
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!