The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Drop the disposables: Paper towel replacements

Mark's three year old paper towel roll.Is there life after paper towels?

When I first suggested to Mike that we stop using paper towels, he was skeptical.  It's easy to see why--they're the go-to fix for almost any mess.  Tear one off to clean up a spill on the floor or use them to drain our beloved bacon.  It was a hard sell, harder in fact than any other green switch we made.  But really, it's so easy and inexpensive to replace your paper towels with more sustainable options. . .

  • When frying, use a wire rack upside down on old, clean newspapers to soak up the grease.
  • Use old t-shirts or worn towels cut into manageable pieces to soak up spills.  We've been doing this for so long that I start to do it at other people's houses without thinking.
  • Use cloth napkins for smaller messes, as they soak up much more than a paper towel could ever hope to.
  • Stop buying paper towels, or keep some on hand for emergency purposes only.  We often have a single roll on hand, but it is used over a period of months.
  • Use napkins given to you by restaurants to do some of your dirtier work, like soaking up the bacon grease in the bottom of an iron skillet.  After all, they can't take those napkins back. ;-)
  • Old flat and prefold cloth diapers are great for wiping up messes.  I have a favorite dust cloth that was once used to diaper my dad!

Yup, there's life after paper towels and it appears to be just as tidy.

style="font-family: Bitstream Charter;">Brandy and her daughter
Brandy seeks self-sufficiency on a little lot in town, tending her most sincere pumpkin patch and borrowing the neighbor's clothesline.  She lives with her husband Mike and daughter Willow, both of whom love it when she knits for them.  Check out Brandy's blog and her etsy shop (full of hand-made napkins and other goodies to help you ditch the disposables.)

This post is part of our Drop the Disposables lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Anna Hess's books
Want more in-depth information? Browse through our books.

Or explore more posts by date or by subject.

About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

Want to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.

Great photo, Anna! I can't believe Mark has neglected those towels for so long. Is that Strider? He's cute, but nowhere near as good looking as Huckleberry. :-P
Comment by Brandy :: Young in the Mountains Tue Mar 24 13:55:54 2009
Yup, that's Strider. Huckleberry has been hiding for the last couple of days, so I couldn't use him in my photo shoot --- Strider had to fill in. :-)
Comment by anna Tue Mar 24 13:59:34 2009
We ditched paper towels three years ago. I missed them for about a year, but I'm pretty much over it now. Folding cloth napkins is a breeze. They sit next to the kitchen towels in the drawer, ready for use. Cotton is absolutely better for absorbency than synthetics. Dark colors are better for hiding stains (mostly grease stains). I like 20" squares. We keep paper towels handy for occasional bacon grease (too expensive to eat all the time anyway), and for nasty things the cat does, also occasional. ;)
Comment by Jennifer G Sat Nov 26 22:10:52 2011
I use rags for the few situations you're talking about using paper towels for. Yes, we then throw them away, but I feel better about throwing away a bit of a ratty t-shirt that has become so awful it's only fit for the rag bag compared to throwing away paper towels specially manufactured for the job. Sounds like you're well on your way!
Comment by anna Sun Nov 27 10:07:02 2011

profile counter myspace

Powered by Branchable Wiki Hosting.

Required disclosures:

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a few pennies every time you buy something using one of my affiliate links. Don't worry, though --- I only recommend products I thoroughly stand behind!

Also, this site has Google ads on it. Third party vendors, including Google, use cookies to serve ads based on a user's prior visits to a website. Google's use of advertising cookies enables it and its partners to serve ads to users based on their visit to various sites. You can opt out of personalized advertising by visiting this site.