6 Tips for Ditching Paper Towels

Paper towels were invented in the early 1900s by accident. A railcar full of paper was too tightly wound to become toilet paper as intended. Instead of sending the paper back, they cut it into sheets roughly 18" x 13" to make paper towels.

6 tips for ditching paper towels from www.goingzerowaste.com

Then they launched a marketing campaign to make sure that everyone knew they needed paper towels. Rags were deemed unsanitary to make way for the new and improved paper towel. 

It took a long time for paper towels to become a more permanent object in the home. People were not used to throwing things away. But eventually, we bought into the marketing hype. 

While I fully believe sanitary disposables have their place in life (medical, science, etc.) I don't feel as though the home is one of them. Let's talk about all those places you use paper towels and you can switch to cloth! 

the tools: 

I have tried lots of dishcloths, and most push water around instead of absorbing it. Paper towels are EXCELLENT at absorbing water. So, are microfiber towels, but microfiber comes with a whole slew of other problems. Every time a synthetic fabric is washed in a washing machine it releases thousands of microplastic particles into the waterways and eventually the ocean. This is a huge issue which we will get into at another time.

I have tried huck towels and was highly disappointed. I recently got these towels from Sur La Table and have been thrilled by the results. They absorb water like nobodies business. I can highly recommend these towels.

the application: 

after meal clean up:

This seems like the silliest and most frivolous use of paper towels. After you've finished making a meal, there's probably some crumbs on your counter. There's no reason to reach for a paper towel.

Brush all the crumbs into the sink or the palm of your hand. If you have a particularly sticky mess, dampen the cloth and wipe it up. 

windows and glass:

You don't need paper towels to get a streak free shine. I have had excellent luck with the dish towels I linked to above. You can't swipe once and expect it to be perfect. It takes a little bit more to make sure the window is dry.  

But, I hear that newspaper works well in a pinch! 

6 tips for ditching paper towels from www.goingzerowaste.com

drying your hands:

I lied, this is the most frivolous use for paper towels. 

grease: 

When I cook meat for Justin, there's typically grease left in the pan. Depending on how much there is in the pan, I'll either sautee with it or store it for sauteing later. If there's not enough for either of those things, take a piece of bread and use it to absorb the grease.

You can cut it into chunks to make croutons or give them to the dog as a treat. Just don't over do it, because, grease isn't that good for your furry friends. 

If you have something like bacon that's exceptionally greasy, place it on a drying rack and place a plate or baking sheet underneath. 

drying produce or meat:

After you wash your produce, dry it with a cloth towel instead of a paper one. Now, meat is a trickier subject. Often times you'll hear chefs tell you to pat your meat dry before cooking it. The only time I really deal with this is holidays. 

Instead of patting it dry, I put it naked on a drying rack on top of a baking sheet in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, but preferably overnight. Super crispy skin and no worries about paper towels. 

vomit and other gross stuff:

This is the one thing that Justin would like paper towels for, and I get it. But, I don't at the same time. If something happens, just wipe it up. Rinse the towel in the tub or sink or with the hose outside. Then throw the towel in the washing machine.  


I haven't use paper towels in years. I tried to think of everything you could possibly use them for, but what did I miss? What are some other tips you have for avoiding paper towels? 

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