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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How To Stop Using Paper Towels in the Kitchen

Remember my 2015 New Year’s Resolution to give up paper towels? The process is underway and so far so good! We are down to just 2 more rolls, which I will keep in the garage for “emergencies.” Besides that we are done with paper towels! Today I wanted to share some tips for how to stop using paper towels in the kitchen that have helped to make our family successful at this goal. It was surprisingly simple and easy!(Side note: I will share tips for giving up paper towels in regards to housecleaning in a later post.)

tips for how to stop using paper towels in the kitchen from @janemaynard

I’m just going to share what we did with some good old fashioned bullet points. Here we go!

  • Buy a WHOLE BUNCH of cloth towels that are good at drying. I like lightweight cloth towels better than terry cloth. Flour sack towels are my favorite to use in the kitchen. In addition to the flour sack towels I already own (you can buy those pretty much anywhere these days, by the way), I also purchased the Tekla and Elly dish towels from Ikea, which were $0.79 – $1.00 per towel. (FYI: I like the fabric used for the Tekla towels a little better, they have a little hook for hanging and they’re cheaper.) I am also planning to buy a few of these Bird-E  Towels on Etsy (thanks to reader Sara B. for that suggestion!).

tips for how to give up paper towels in the kitchen from @janemaynard

  • Store the towels all together in a VERY accessible spot in your kitchen. I bought a bin to keep all the towels in and we keep the bin in a drawer in the middle of our kitchen, one that all of the kids can easily reach.

tips for how to give up paper towels in the kitchen from @janemaynard

  • Get a small basket to set in the laundry area for soiled towels and cloth napkins. I bought a cute basket to set on our dryer and that’s where all the dirty (dry) towels and cloth napkins go.

tips for how to give up paper towels in the kitchen from @janemaynard

  • Hang hooks in the laundry or kitchen area. I found wall hooks that say “LAUNDRY” at World Market, but any hooks will do! After we’ve used one of the towels, if it’s too wet to throw into the laundry basket we hang it on a hook. Luckily for me my laundry area is right next to the kitchen, so the hooks hang above the washing machine. If your laundry room isn’t close to the kitchen, find a good spot in your kitchen to place the hooks. The key is that they need to be accessible!

tips for how to give up paper towels in the kitchen from @janemaynard

  • While we’re at it, get a basket for cloth napkins is stored in an accessible spot in the kitchen. We’ve had cloth napkins for a long time but we would were terrible and almost always just grabbed a paper towel because it was easier than walking across the room to the linen drawers. I took the cloth napkins OUT of the linen drawer and put them into a basket that hangs on the wall above the kitchen counter . As soon as I made that change we have only been using cloth napkins. It’s awesome! (Note: As you can see in the photo above, I haven’t actually hung the basket on the wall yet, but that’s the plan!)

The key to successfully getting rid of paper towels and paper napkins is making the cloth versions accessible and easy to grab. It’s so simple but it took me a while to figure it out! Now that we have our system in place, everyone is using cloth with no issues whatsoever. My kids know where everything is and what to do with dirty towels and napkins. Every time I see one of the towels hanging to dry above the washing machine it makes me so happy!

If you have any addition tips, thoughts or questions, please share! (Also, be sure to check out the comments on my original paper towel post. There are some great tips there, too!)


  1. Some great tips. I need to get that little laundry basket.

    • cost plus world market! it’s so cute, I love it. my sister bought some a few years ago and I was always jealous…I finally got one of my own! 🙂

  2. 2

    I LOVE that brown basket in the last pic. Please tell me where you got it? (I am a basket collecting freak). You’ve got me thinking that I would like to try adopting some of these ideas too!

    • the red bin, the basket on the dryer AND the brown basket you mentioned are all from Cost Plus World Market! Just got them, so they should be in stock! 🙂

  3. 3

    For big messes, we use white “bar towels”…cotton blend, more substantial & hold up to bleach better. Or Food Lion sells reusable bamboo cloths – this is what we always used with the babies! Now retraining the grandparents has been tougher!

  4. I have one question about the paper towels…how do you wipe up grease from seasoning your cast iron pan and also draining bacon after cooking? Those are the only things I really use paper towels for, but can’t figure out how to do without?

    • Hi Sara! That’s a GREAT question. That is actually one of the thing I’m saving just a few paper towel rolls in the garage for. Although, I’m also thinking this may be the system I come up with – drain the oil into a can to dispose of, and then have one cloth dedicated to wiping out the pan, and then rinsing that cloth well under hot water before throwing in the wash. Honestly, paper towels haven’t always been around, so I’m trying to think of what my grandmother and great-grandmother would have done!

  5. 5

    I cut up my children’s stained, old clothing that I cannot pass on for the greasy messes that happen. I keep the rags under the sink.

  6. 6

    loved your article. We are trying to cut back too. The switch to cloth napkins has been wonderful. How would you clean up cat puke, if you didn’t have paper towels. LOL but seriously.

    • K

      Well maybe as the kitchen towels get worn they become car clean up and other clean up towels. I would mark them in someway to make it obvious they are not to be used in kitchen .

    • I like what cindy said below – this may be a paper towel-worthy emergency! 😉 but I also like K’s suggestion!

  7. 7

    I use stale bread to soak up gross grease and also for other wet food as we don’t have a garbage disposal. And I use brown grocery bags for grease too.

  8. 8

    Peggy, I would consider cat puke an emergency worthy of paper towels! If you still get a newspaper that would be a good alternative.

  9. 9

    We have been off paper towel with the exception of grease (and those I compost) for years. After cloth diapering was done I had some wet bags that hung on door nobs that I realized we’re the perfect place to store dirty kitchen towls and napkins. We hang it on the kitchen door leading to the basement and when it’s full I just dump it all in the wash like I would have the diapers. Since our laundry is downstairs this works better than a basket and handles messy wet rags and uses less water for rinsing.

  10. 10

    I’ve been working on using less paper towel for a few months, just trying to get family on board is a challenge. I never thought about using cloth napkins, thanks for tip.

    • my kids are pretty excited about it – especially anna. they are totally bought in right now. they love knowing the “system” and I heard them teaching their dad last night. so, I don’t know, make them feel like they are super smarties by learning how to do it! seems to have worked for us! 😉

  11. 11
    Terri Scheidt

    Hey Jane! We are doing this as well and I’m just wondering what you use for cleaning the bathroom, in particular the toilet and floor? I use rags for everything else but can’t bring myself to using something not disposable for the toilet and floor. Suggestions??

    • this is going to be the subject of another post and I’m still working out my system, so can I be lame and stay tuned? I don’t totally have my answers for you ready yet!! 🙂

  12. 12

    Great post! Look for our link share!

  13. 13

    I have stocked up on towels and cloth napkins, with 3 rolls of paper towels to go.
    Do you rotate towels every day? How do you prevent grease stains on the towels and napkins (pre-treat with…?)?

    • so, I have my towels that I use as my kitchen towels (drying dishes, hands, etc) that hang on the oven – I change those out once or twice a week – I’ve always had those.

      for the big stack of towels I’ve gotten to replace the paper towels, we just use them as needed, then either throw them in the laundry or hang on a hook. You could re-use them if not too dirty, but I have so many I’m just using them basically once. I”m always doing laundry and they just go in with whatever loads I’ve got going, so they get rotated through the wash regularly.

      For stains, I use Oxyclean spray stain remover as needed. If I know there’s a grease stain, I try to spray it and toss it in the laundry basket immediately, otherwise I forget! I will tell you that many of our everyday cloth napkins have some stains, but they’re patterned fabric so you don’t notice! 😉

      hope this is helpful!!!

  14. 14

    ok am i an idiot but did you get rid of the weekly menus ? when i go to the home page i see a menu from jan 18 ? but i see you are still posting tips here from time to time ?

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