How We Went Paper Towel-less

It had been bothering me for a while that we used so many paper towels. For example: every time T would make a sandwich (read:  A LOT), he would grab a paper towel to put it on rather than a plate.

Anyway, our (I was guilty of it too) constant use  of paper towels was completely killing me, so I thought I would make some un-paper towels. I looked through Pinterest (of course) and glanced at Etsy. People had some really great ideas, but they were all fairly expensive to buy or make. I saw a set of 12 snap towels in a cute print selling for $50! I decided to figure out how to make my own in a cheaper way. I knew I wanted these qualities:
  • sturdy
  • absorbent
  • bleach-able!!! (not very green, but I keep it to a minimum)
Paper towels are what I use to clean up some of the grossest messes in our house, so these had to be able to withstand some heavy cleanings and hot water.

All of the available towels I saw were really cute, but did I really want some cutesy design when I would possibly be cleaning up chicken residue or cat puke with these? Um, no.

Then there was the question of how they would stay on a roll. Everyone seemed to be using some version of snaps or elastic to keep everything rolled tight. I racked my brain for a better idea. Snaps are kind of expensive and I didn't want to spend all that time sewing them on....So then I thought, why am I limiting myself to a roll??

And with that I quickly got these:

The basket takes up just a little more room than our paper towel dispenser did and holds about ten towels at a time. I got it for $1 at Dollar Tree.

I went for simple aaaannnndddd frugal. These towels are actually car washing towels so, they are super absorbent. Plus, plain white = bleachable/no cute print to fade! I got a pack of 60 from Costco for $20.

I washed them all, then selected 20 of them to be our un-paper towels. I differentiated the two (basically, which go to the kitchen and which don't) by doing a quick zig-zag stitch, in blue thread, down one edge of the towels. Like this:

The other forty towels sit above our washing machine for miscellaneous uses.

For the the dirty towels, I found another simple solution. I used a bin from Dollar Tree and hung it inside the cabinet door under my sink with 3M hooks. Super simple and now we have a way to collect them and carry them upstairs to go into the wash.

Price break down for the un-paper towels:

  • Towels - ($6.75ish) I'm using a third of the 60 pack I bought for $20.00 from Costco.
  • Basket - ($1.00) From Dollar Tree.
  • Bucket for dirty towels - ($1.00) Dollar Tree, again. (I seriously LOVE that place so much)
  • 3M hooks - had on hand  
 So, for about $9.00, I have a green, un-paper towel system in place. Not too shabby.

The lesson here is to get creative with your solutions, especially if you are tight on cash. Nobody ever said you had to buy  a fancy, pre-made product to go green! :)

I'll be working on some more frugal crafting this weekend, so stay tuned. 

How do you go green? Any nifty ideas??

Check it out...
Linked up to: Your Green Resource at SortaCrunchy ; Frugally Sustainable


  1. This is a fantastic idea! I love how you did it on the cheap. Stopping by from Frugally Sustainable's link party! I just wrote about 12 ways to reduce your trash, and this was one of them, but I haven't actually done it in our house.

    1. I'm glad you liked it! We haven't missed paper towels at all so far.

      Going to check out your 12 ways to reduce trash, now! :)

  2. So, get this. My completely insane boss likes to buy washcloths from Sam's for the office to wipe up spills because they're more absorbent; we use them to dust, too.

    Except, when he's done with one, he throws it away, just like a paper towel.

    I have built up an impressive stash of cloths (nicer ones in a basket under the kitchen sink, rattier ones (and some hand-towel sized ones) in a bin by our other cleaning supplies) for absolutely FREE just by fishing them out of the trash and taking them home instead.

    We use them for everything now except killing cockroaches. They're endemic to our kitchen (gross, right? but they're attracted to water, it's not that we leave food out), and while I will happily toss dog vomit/diarrhea, rabbit poop, and food spills of all kinds into the washing machine, I just can't throw in dead cockroaches. They stick to the cloths (so are hard to shake off in the trash) and then you find their little body parts on your otherwise clean cloths after running them through the wash...ugh. So we have one roll of paper towels exclusively for that purpose. :-)

    Also, my mother-in-law gave us a couple dozen old plain white handkerchiefs, and I replaced paper napkins with those--they're the right size, plain white so no fading. I kept them in the same napkin holder as the paper napkins at first, but ended up getting a pretty ceramic basket at Target for them and tossing the ugly napkin holder.

    I love using cloth instead of paper--it saves so much money! And I agree, why buy adorable prints for something you're going to use to clean up vomit? Cheap is the way to go. ^_^

    1. I can't believe he throws cloth away???!! Makes no sense...

      EEEWWW to cockroach body parts. lol, I would totally agree with not using the towels to clean up cockroaches! In fact, I usually grab a couple of squares of toilet paper to get rid of large spiders. There bodies do stick to towels really bad, won't shake of into the garbage, and I refuse to touch them with my hands *shudder*.

      Great idea with the handkerchiefs! We got cloth napkins in a pretty print and now there are stains that won't come out and a few are really faded. I think white is the way to go with stuff like this!

    2. He throws away absolutely everything he decides he doesn't want or need anymore. Computers, bookcases, storage bins (like the nice fabric ones from Pottery Barn),'s terrible, but at the same time, I'm slowly completely reorganizing my house with his trash (or selling it on Craigslist).

      Basically, this is what happens when you have more money than sense. Sigh.

      All the toilet paper's too far away, lol. But I'm glad I'm not the only one who wants paper for bugs! At first, still having the paper towels meant the DDH tended to use those and I would use cloth, but now even he goes for the rag bin or the cloth napkins first. Yay!

      I'm thinking about buying some pretty napkins for company, but for everyday use...I mean, I cover spaghetti sauce and curry with them when I reheat lunch in the microwave. They're going to get stained weird colors. ^_^

    3. Crazy... At least you get to benefit from it! ;)

    4. We keep paper towels around for the same reason so I just bury them on our linen closet. It means they're on the same floor as our kitchen but much more inconvenient to get to. DH forgets that they're there so he doesn't use them! :)

    5. Keeping them hidden is a great idea. I would probably have to hide any paper towels from T, too. :)

  3. Love this! The only time I miss paper towels is on the rare occasions we make bacon and when I'm spreading grease on my cast iron pans. Any suggestion for something to use on these things instead of fabric? I've tried to use fabric and the bacon grease doesn't really wash out.

    1. You can try using newspaper or the pages from a phone book. We haven't made bacon since we made the switch ( which now that I think about it, is odd. lol), but I know of others who swear by phone book pages!

      Maybe thin cardboard (like a cereal box) would work?

      Let me know if something works for you! I think I'll be trying phone book pages this weekend. :)

    2. Oh and for spreading grease you may want to try wax paper or butter wrappers...

    3. We use cloth in our kitchen but I do keep a roll of paper towels in our linen closet for occasions like bugs and specifically cast iron greasing! I just use a tiny piece for each pan so I end up using maybe a 1/4 of a paper towel for four pans. And don't feel too bad about that!

    4. Just wanted to update you, I used phone book pages for bacon earlier this week and it worked really well. I think I liked it better than paper towels! Of course, this is only useful if you have a phone book laying around your house.

      Good Luck! :)


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