Home Life: How to Break Up With Paper Towels
We had a perfect relationship in college. But as time went on, I changed and paper towels just didn't. They worked great when I only used my kitchen for takeout but couldn’t keep up with daily cooking messes. When I confronted them about their environmental impact, they just made excuses. When I really needed them like before a snow storm, they were always sold out in stores. I kept giving them chances to improve, but it was always a headache getting the truth out of them. One jumbo roll equals 6 regular rolls with 205 sheets each with triple ply? HUH?
We officially broke up two years ago, but we've remained friends. In other words, I still buy paper towels and use them, but much less than before. I don’t have any regrets, especially with a messy toddler and dealing with sold out aisles in a pandemic.
Does this have you rethinking your own relationship with paper towels?
Here's what you need to cut ties with paper towels:
[FYI: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.]
1. Tea Towels
Tea towels are your pretty towels that look nice hanging on your oven handle. I used to only buy them for decor and was nervous they’d fall apart with too many washes. But I‘ve never had any issues regardless of the price point (Hello TJ Maxx sales bin!). I think it comes down to the thick fabric. Now we use these to dry our hands and for messes that don’t stain like spilled milk.
To buy the one in the photo, visit Crate and Barrel. Be sure to check out their end of season sales for fun kitchen linens.
2. Bar Mop Towels
You know that classic movie scene when someone walks into a bar and the bartender is just mindlessly wiping up invisible stuff on the counter? This is the towel they're using. Bar mop towels are basically thick, boring, tea towels. These towels are best for big messes that will likely stain, like spaghetti sauce. Look for high absorbency towels that won't unravel in the wash. Or just use tea towels you don't care about.
3. Microfiber Cloths
Microfiber towels generally aren’t absorbent, but they still have many uses. They can trap crumbs on counters, polish stainless steel, and dust surfaces. This is probably the main thing I reach for instead of paper towels. A great 24 pack of them is available via Amazon here. They fray a little after the first wash, but otherwise hold up pretty good considering how often they are used.
4. Burp Cloths
When it comes to cleaning up a toddler after a meal, paper towels can’t even come close to these! Plus the softness of cotton is much better for sensitive skin than a paper towel. I keep a few in the kitchen that I don't mind being stained and I reserve the cutest ones for outings.
Aden + Anais make high quality and adorable burp cloths. The set in the photo has survived countless washes in our household. To buy via Amazon, click here.
5. Dinner Napkins
I never considered dinner napkins as an every day item for meal time. I only broke them out for special occasions. But now we use them 3 times a day and it adds a nice restaurant element to eating at home. I have a white set I reserve for guests and use dark colors for daily use.
Tablecloths really need to make a comeback. They aren’t just for picnics or fancy restaurants. Tablecloths are an instant way to decorate your dining space, absorb spills, and keep you from scrubbing the table after meals. When you’re done eating, just pull it off and voila, your table is good as new. These work best for families that use a highchair tray for little ones or don't need suction plates/bowls.
Target always has a big selection of everyday tablecloths that's worth browsing through. If you're looking for nicer options, check out these below available at Amazon:
7. Old Towels
Give your old towels a new life! Nothing can compete with the absorbency of an old bath towel. I keep a few tightly rolled under my sink for huge spills.
How you wash it all is up to you. But be mindful of going too long before washing an item, since it can lead to mold/mildew/chaos. Don’t wash them all together if you use cleaning sprays because it might ruin the colors of the other items. I like to keep it separated from my general laundry using this canvas bag below from Amazon. It washable, sturdy, and fits over the door.
All of this assumes you have convenient access to laundry. I have first hand experience on how coin laundry can make you feel dependent on single use items. So be on the lookout for an article about how to replace paper towels with items that can easily be washed in the sink.