The Un-Paper Towel

If you've been with us for a while, you know our dog, Feeney, loves to snack on paper towels. When he came to live with us a year and a half ago we quickly learned not to leave paper towels on the coffee table and we invested in covered trash cans; a small price to pay for a less disgusting morning walk....

With all this focus on paper products we became more aware of just how many paper towels we were burning through each week. And when our basement renovation left us with just enough storage space to keep only the stuff we absolutely needed and loved, it was time to evaluate the entire linen closet shelf full of rolls of paper towels, bought in giant 12-pack bulk.

At first we tried reusing sheets of paper towels, but in reality, that's just weird. I mean I have nothing against drying off the side of a mug and then setting the towel aside to use again, but we're talking dial-a-size sheets of paper here, there's not much life in those things to begin with.

We use cloth diapers and cloth wipes for baby M, so naturally I had the brilliant idea to make cloth paper towels. Lots and lots of cloth paper towels. But when I priced out Birdseye fabric and factored in my time, it didn't seem like a fun project anymore. Especially when I was spending all my free time sewing for baby M's nursery. So naturally I went to etsy and searched for cloth paper towels. And wouldn't you know, there are all kinds of unpaper towel makers out there! I searched by price and bulk quantity and then I read descriptions. I finally settled on one seller, Love for Earth, who preshrinks her fabric first. This, I decided, was an essential feature; if left to shrink after sewing I could end up with 50 unpaper towels of all different, wonky sizes after their first wash. Wonky doesn't stack well.

I bought my unpaper towels and they arrived tied neatly with a bow. I stuck them on top of the toaster and waited for S to notice. "What's this?" he asked that night. "Unpaper towels," I replied. "You mean napkins?" So yeah, they're like napkins except I don't wipe the counter and rinse down the sink with our napkins, do you? They're unpaper towels and we love them.
They have since taken up residence in our kitchen compost container for the winter. The used unpaper towels go in a vase on the counter and we wash them with our light laundry. Every few weeks we soak them in oxyclean for a few hours to get the stains out. In the five months we've had our unpaper towels we've only used two rolls of paper towels. And Feeney has eaten none. Success.

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  1. I love this idea. We use microfiber clothes for washing down surfaces and the kiddo's face. (White for face, grey for surfaces!) But still use some paper towels. My husband insists on them for wiping up chicken juice and such. Drives me crazy! I'd love to have a paper-towel-holder-free kitchen!

  2. I like this idea! But I do have to admit...I have to clean up cat puke often enough that I don't think I could ever get rid of paper towels entirely.

  3. I've wondered about this for a while. I know several people who have a paper-free kitchen. I may start with cloth napkins then graduate to paper towels though!

  4. I should point out that I still use paper for tomato sauce spills. I'm not that dedicated to stain treating!

  5. Oooo may have to get me some of these.

  6. We switched from paper towels a couple years ago and haven't ever looked back. Your solution is prettier than mine though--we just cut up old t-shirts and the like.


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