Simple Switch: Paper Towels

Last month I decided to start showing that going zero waste really just means making a bunch of small switches in your daily routines to produce a little less waste every day. To help illustrate how easy most of these changes can be, I’m going to post an easy alternative to a popular non-zero waste item every month.

This month’s simple switch: Cloth Towels instead of Paper Towels


Paper towels are a completely unnecessary, albeit handy, invention . Truth be told, anything you can do with a paper towel, you can do with a regular cloth towel or dishrag. This includes throwing it away every time you use it, though that would just be silly. Cloth towels can easily be thrown into the dirty laundry after they have been used, and this simple switch can save you from a whole lot of trash. (If you are concerned about having to do more laundry, don’t fear. Rags and dish towels are relatively light and easily fit into the load of towels I was already doing every month.)

Now I realize that paper towels are sometimes the easiest answer to a serious spill, and if I had them in the house I can’t say I wouldn’t be tempted to use them. But once I quit buying them and had to find other alternatives,  I realized just how easy they were to replace.


The biggest change was my own mindset on the use of dish rags. I now look at my handmade cotton dishrags the same way I used to look at paper towels. I use them on my biggest, most disgusting messes, but instead of tossing them in the garbage like I did the paper version, I just throw them into some warm soapy water to clean them so that they are ready for the next spill. They don’t stay looking as beautiful as when they were first made, but I read somewhere that some things are just meant to be stained.


In addition to my dishrags, I have my regular towels that I use to wipe down wet counters and to dry dishes or my hands. I keep one hanging from the door of the refrigerator for easy access.

I also invested in some nice napkins to use when I’m eating instead of reaching for a paper towel or napkin to wipe my hands off.


And because I don’t want to stain any of my nice towels, I have lots of rags that I can use for messes like spilled coffee or juice. I often use a rag on a spill before coming in with my dishrag to finish off the job. Having some cloth towels that I don’t care about has made giving up paper towels a breeze. Some of them are made out of old pillow cases or sheets that I cut up, and some are rags that were made for this specific purpose.


There are so many options when it comes to alternatives to paper towels, and some of them are downright adorable (I’m looking at you, cloth napkins). I honestly rarely miss having paper towels in the house, and on the days that I do I just remind myself how much easier my life is now that I don’t have to take out the trash.


4 thoughts on “Simple Switch: Paper Towels

  1. I’d really like to start doing this. I already have several dishtowels, etc. I probably just need a few more of them, and I definitely need to increase my stash of cloth napkins. Thanks for posting this- some of us need a little post to do even common-sense things like this!

    Liked by 1 person

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