Giving Up Paper Towels

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I suppose it was inevitable. My sweet pal Amy wrote a fabulous guest post a few months ago about paper towel alternatives. It was quite a hot topic, in fact!

I later admitted that I still used paper towels for various messes. But then, it happened. I went to buy a pack of paper towels and I kept hearing Amy’s voice in my mind. So instead I opted for a stack of kitchen towels I found on clearance, for less than the cost of the rolls.

At home, I folded them and placed them in a drawer next to the sink. After a week, I bought another stack, and left the paper towel holder sitting empty.

So it has been a month now, and you know what? It is totally working for me. Not at all as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, I discovered that the cheap bar towels I bought actually clean better than paper towels. When they are dirty, I throw one or two in with a load of laundry, which is never lacking in this house.

I am not missing the paper towels, and amazingly, my husband and children have not complained. :) By investing a few dollars in extra kitchen towels, I am potentially saving a few hundred dollars a year, not to mention reducing paper waste. Amy would be proud.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with my empty paper towel holder!

This post is linked to: Works for me Wednesday. For more frugal ways, visit Life As Mom.


  1. Bobbi Janay says

    What kind of towels did you get, and how many did you start with?
    .-= Bobbi Janay´s last blog ..Truth =-.

    • Alyssa Francis says

      I got the kind labeled “bar mop” towels at Walmart. I think they came in a 6 pack, and I got 2. I may add 1 more pack and keep one roll of paper towels under the sink for extra yucky messes.

  2. says

    I just need to do it! I do have a couple that I use, but I still buy the paper towels. I just need to quit. The thing is my husband likes to use them at dinner too. So I need to invest in some cloth napkins too. Do you buy white and just bleach them?

    Thanks for the tip!

    Blessings :)

    • Alyssa Francis says


      I have not switched to cloth napkins- yet. (Baby steps!) :)

      I think I would buy dark cloth napkins, to hide the stains.

      • Crystal Brothers says

        Seriously, cloth napkins all the way! They are so much better, and it’s SO easy to just throw them into the wash with another load since they are so small. Although I have a small trash can in our kitchen that I use as a “hamper” and I usually just wash all of our kitchen towels and napkins together in a load. Seriously, if you can do towels, you can do napkins.
        .-= Crystal Brothers´s last blog ..Coupon Booklets Available =-.

        • says

          Crystal is so right! Just do it!

          And, I have a friend that doesn’t even use napkins… she has a set of dishcloths that she uses instead. Fancy? No. Frugal? Yep!

          Of course, if you get napkins out of season/on clearance, you can really score.
          .-= Amy @ Amy Loves It!´s last blog ..Like Mommy, Like Daughter =-.

    • Alyssa Francis says

      The stains on the towels? Since they were so cheap, I don’t worry about the stains. Plus, they hide in my kitchen drawer, hee hee. I know what you mean, with pets and small children, big messes are inevitable!

  3. says

    While we lived in the States, I was using cloth napkins and mostly cloth towels, although I would use a few paper towels. One thing that I think helped keep them fresh is washing them with detergent and vinegar. Sounds strange, but it kept them from smelling musty.

    Now I can’t buy paper towels or napkins so the choice is easy. If they are really dirty I rinse them at our outside faucet or in the bathtub. (No washing machine either- someone does the laundry by hand.) Drying in the hot sun helps keep the odors away- if you have that option.
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..Company Girl Coffee- Visit from the Ambassador =-.

  4. Julie says

    I buy one roll of paper towels a year. We still use them to catch drips when we make things like homemade french fries or bacon.

    • Stephanie says

      we use a couple of papertowels on top of a folded paper grocery bag for french fries and other fried foods…. i just have a thing about putting what goes in my mouth on something that others have touched and has been on the floor. other than that we use paper towels rarely. i have an huge stack of cloth napkins that i have picked up here and there at thrift stores for usually 25cents a stack (usually 4 – 6 per stack)…. they are all mix and match which the kids love cause they get to pick which one they want each night!

  5. Christie Jarvis says

    Ok fine! I read Amy’s post awhile back and thought about it but never went any farther. I think that we will try this when we run out of paper towels this time. Y’all have inspired me :)

  6. Sati says

    It sounds interesting. I am soo addicted to my paper towels. I cannot imagine giving them up. But you make it sound like a good proposition to at least TRY it.

  7. says

    I have seen many talk about getting rid of their paper towels but with three munchkins and many spills I have yet to brave it, hard to make change but I am sure someday I will certainly test out this product! Thanks for sharing!
    .-= Brandy´s last blog ..Top 10 Tuesday: Friendship Is … =-.

  8. Angela says

    After reading Amy’s post I decided to give it a try. I also bought bar towels and wash cloths for my switch and I am so happy I did it! I still use paper towels to windex my mirrors and windows – b/c I found my towels leave lint behind on them. My 3 pack of paper towels has lasted since Amy’s post – and I’m still on the 1st one. This is a huge frugal and money saving move.

    And for those w/ little ones afraid to make the move I’ve got twin 22 month old girls – Don’t be afraid any longer! It’s worth it!

  9. says

    I would really like to go paperless, but the hold up is laundry. If I can establish better laundry habits, I would love to stop throwing money spent on paper towels away. In the meantime, I reuse paper towels that are just wet, not dirty. For dirtier jobs, old newspapers can be substituted.
    .-= Julia´s last blog ..Creative Ways to Have Fun with Toilet Paper =-.

    • Laura C says

      They have a microwave bacon cooker that has a drip tray and cover so no need for papertowels..I got mine at Walmart

  10. Desi says

    I found that keeping a bucket/trash can under the sink to act as a hamper for the kitchen towels really helps corral the towels. once full, it’s a load in the washer on hot. Keeping the kitchen towels seperated from the rest of the laundry is a must for me- but 2 drawers of folded towels in the kicthen will last me 2 weeks and is only a load of laundry.

    • Alyssa Francis says

      I LOVE this tip! I never thought to add a hamper under the sink but I can see how that makes a lot of sense. Thank you for sharing!

  11. Shirley says

    I have a tendency to go through rolls of paper towels like rapid-fire. I guess even if I don’t completely switch over to kitchen towels instead, I should at least cut back considerably and use them more sparingly….

  12. Alison @ Hospitality Haven says

    Good for you!! We gave up paper towels about a year and a half ago, and I don’t miss it at all!!

  13. Joyce says

    WATER, WATER, I still like paper towels and as long as I can afford them I am going to use them. My washing machine and dryer is in the basement and it is just easier for me to use paper towels. It takes water and electricity to wash and dry those extra towels. and then I would also have to fold them and put them away. That is extra work on me. What about conserving WATER. For me that is way more important than the paper towels. WE need water in order to live I have quit drinking soda pop. That is saving me a lot of money.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      It does take extra water, but it’s only an extra 1- 2 loads per month so we haven’t seen it on our water/electric bill and it really doesn’t add that much water/energy use. The water/energy used to wash cloth napkins and towels is still less than the water/energy/materials/etc. used to produce, package, and transport paper towels and napkins.
      .-= Crystal Brothers´s last blog ..Coupon Booklets Available =-.

    • says

      Hi Joyce!

      Really, I haven’t noticed an increase in our water usage at all. While a paper towel can only be used once, I use towels multiple times. And, I just throw a few towels in with a full load of laundry. They don’t take up any extra space, and by tossing them in with a full load, I’m conserving water.

      Crystal also had a great response, that the energy used to produce paper towels is much greater than the energy it takes to wash a few towels.
      .-= Amy@Amy Loves It!´s last blog ..New Addition =-.

  14. says

    This post has convinced me not to purchase the paper towels on my grocery list. I started cutting them in half a few weeks ago and that has helped cut down on usage. I do still like them, though, to remove bacon grease and other icky stuff that shouldn’t go down the drain. My biggest problem is my husband using them all the time! I think if I gave them up he would have a meltdown. Maybe I’ll just hide them and see what he does. Thanks for the inspiration!

  15. Christine says

    Hey, found your post when I googled “giving up paper towels”. I have been considering it for a while and not sure I could. LOVE all the tips here and today I’m going to get some towels AND napkins. I think I could almost make a load every couple of days! Or at least throw them in with other loads. I do need to be better about my laundry habits and this could help! Thanks for the encouragement.

  16. Belinda says

    I grew up in a house without paper towels- old bath and kitchen towels were cut down for rags and used until they just didn’t have anything left to give.. For really icky messes, those were the chosen towels because you can throw them away without any guilt. My family doesn’t use hand towels, so I keep those around for the inevitable spills my 2 year old makes. Haven’t made the switch to paper napkins, but have noticed that if they aren’t on the table, they aren’t used. And a wet washcloth or rag does a better job on a spaghetti face anyway!

  17. Crystal Brothers says

    Yay! Good for you! My family gave up paper towels/napkins about 2 years ago (has it really been that long?!?) and I have no regrets! It’s no extra trouble at all to wash them and they work much better than paper towels.
    .-= Crystal Brothers´s last blog ..Coupon Booklets Available =-.

  18. Kim @ DomesticGeekGirl says

    Did you all know the original purpose of napkin rings was to mark each family member’s napkin so they could re-use it for each meal that day? How fun would it be to make each family member their own unique napkin ring, so they can “tag” their napkin for the day? I think I’ll try giving up paper napkins and work my way to the paper towels. Baby steps, you know.
    .-= Kim @ DomesticGeekGirl´s last blog ..Newsflash! Bloggy Giveaway =-.

  19. Nancy says

    My husband’s old white t-shirts make great rags, too. Why buy “new” rags when I’ve got a drawer full of his old stuff just waiting to be recycled! When our daughter comes from out of state for a visit and brings our granddog, she uses more paper towels in a weekend cleaning up after poochie than I use in 6 months!

  20. Marlena says

    I gave them up also when I saw you post about it. I was a big Viva fan and used them constantly. I won’t say that I haven’t missed them at all, but they are easier to live without than I thought. My husband was easier also than I thought with cooperating. He told me one day when I was making the grocery list that we were out and to pick some up…I said “oh, we aren’t using them anymore..get a dishtowel”. He said “um…oh…ok”. That was it.
    I have missed them for just throwing something in the microwave or for cleaning stuff up that stains (spaghetti sauce or fruit juice, etc), but that’s just mainly laziness on my part.

  21. Anne says

    OK, so I admit that when I read the title of this my first thoughts included “not a chance!”, “that’s absurd!”, and that’s taking trying to be frugal too far!”. Seriously. I couldn’t imagine. I have a very strong bond with my Bounty. Oh – and it HAS to be Bounty – I will buy no other.

    But then I mulled it over. And I read the comments. And I read the paper towel alternatives post. And I mulled it over some more.

    And I came to the conclusion that I could probably to this. And I admit I was surprised with my myself. But, realistically, I probably use 90% of the PT I buy to wipe my hands. Using towels for that is a no-brainer. And I think I can get buy with towels for all the other uses as well. (I hope, anyway!)

    With 2 cats that have “issues” I will continue to keep some PT around – I just don’t see myself washing any sort of towel or rag that’s used to deal with the messes they frequently make.

    But otherwise it’s all of the new bar mop towels I got at Wal-Mart this weekend for our kitchen.

    • says

      Wahoo! That is awesome to hear!

      And, like I told Jaime below, I have NO idea on cat “issues,” as I have no cats. So, if you all say paper towels are better for that, I will take your word on it!!!
      .-= Amy@Amy Loves It!´s last blog ..New Addition =-.

  22. Jaime says

    Okay, this might be a silly question but what do you all use to keep food from spattering in the microwave? That’s where most of my paper towels go since there are so many warnings about using any kind of plastic in the microwave. The only thing I would really still want to keep some around for would be cat messes but since I have a huge package in my closet, I think that could last me for several years! :)

    • says

      Hi, Jaime!

      I just cover my food with one of my towels. I use a smaller one, or fold a bigger one in half.

      No spatters, no paper towels, no problem!

      I also wrap bread products (tortillas, biscuits, etc) in a small towel when heating them in the microwave. That way, the food doesn’t touch the microwave, and it ends up being softer than just heating it up on a plate.

      Now, as for cat “issues,” I am clueless on those, as I have no cats :D
      .-= Amy@Amy Loves It!´s last blog ..New Addition =-.

      • Jaime says

        Love it! Thanks for the suggestions! I think maybe I’ll keep a second set of cloth rags for the cats – separate from kitchen towels! I loved the suggestion above about the hamper under the sink too! Great ideas!

    • Carley says

      You can purchase paper coffee filters for extremely cheap for hundreds. They work great for covering meals to reheat in microwave.

  23. Gina says

    I’ve been considering this for awhile. I have a Bounty addiction as well. My problem is one I haven’t seen mentioned. I use paper towels because I think they are more sanitary. You wipe up the raw chicken juice and throw it into the garbage. Also I have a few dishtowels but they just don’t dry well. I dry a pan and a plate and it’s soaked. I’d have to go through like 40 towels a day.

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