How We Ditched the Paper Towels and Went to Cloth

Ditching the paper towels has been a surprisingly easy transition for my household. See how we did, and how I made a pretty little container to house the towels!
How We Ditched the Paper Towels and Went to Cloth

Making the switch from disposable diapers to cloth (see my complete cloth diapering guide here) a few years ago was like learning how to ride a bike – not easy at first, but it became easy once we got the hang of it. Then, the ball kept rolling and before I knew it, I'd thrown in cloth baby wipestoilet cloth and cloth napkins so it just made sense to finish out the cloth revolution and stop buying paper towels! By the time it got to cloth towels, there was no transition at all because we were already so used to using cloth and not paper products.

I knew I had to come up with a method that was pretty and easy to access and dispose of the towels or the new system would never catch on for my family. Here's how I did it – without any sewing!

Buy Flannel From the Thrift Store to Use as Paper Towels

I was already using all my old towels for kitchen rags (to clean up messy spills and such) but they just aren't pretty and I didn't want them displayed on my countertop. I keep them in a kitchen drawer so they are easily accessible, and rinse out the goo after cleaning, then hang them up on the trash can to dry.

So, I decided to buy what I needed, but wanted something used both for the cost savings and to be green. So, I bought three receiving blankets from the Salvation Army for $1.99 each.

If you'd rather not buy, but upcycle something you already have, jersey cotton will not fray and is absorbant and can be found in:

  • Old cotton undershirts and t-shirts
  • Old jersey knit bed sheets

If you buy or use cloths that will fray, like flannel, cotton or terry, you'll either need to sew the edges (by god, who has time for that?) or do it the easy way and cut them with pinking shears. Now, they will still fray at the beginning, but then it will stop after a few washes and you can cut off the extra strings then.

I used the pinking shears to cut my cloth into the same size as paper towels, about 6 by 8 inches.

To store my pretty new cloth towels, I decorated an old oatmeal container with yarn (otherwise known as yarn bombing!). If you'd like to try this yourself, read all about it here. I didn't spend a dime to do this and the colors match my kitchen perfectly.

Yarn Bomb an Oatmeal Container
Now, I figured out a method of rolling the cloths so they are super easy to pull out and use.
Start by rolling one cloth from one short end to the other. Then take each subsequent cloth and roll them the same way, but on top of the previously rolled ones. Here is a picture of the second cloth being rolled on top of the first.
How to Roll the Cloth Paper Towels to Fit in a Container
Then, insert the one huge roll into the oatmeal container and you can pull out the towels one at a time!
How to Switch from Paper to Cloth Towels the Easy Way

Then, I keep a small trash can in the kitchen where I throw all our cloth products and wash them about once a week – rags, napkins and towels. It is important for the towels and rags to dry before throwing them in the trash, otherwise mildew will set in and it is nearly impossible to get out without a lot of work (even with lemon juice and sunshine, it sometimes still doesn't come out!). So, I hang the towels over the side of the trash can to dry, and it takes a few hours.

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  1. Sara, to remove mildew, just use either one or both in the laundry. 1/2 c. 20 mule team Borax and/or 1/2 c. Washing Soda. Since microfiber towels should be washed alone, I use one or both of these in the washer when laundering them. Works like a dream. And, YES, you should try your best to dry the towels after each use before adding them to your stash that wait to be laundered.

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