More Green For Less Green

Living more eco-friendly for less money


Paper Towel Alternative

Eight months ago we decided to phase out paper towels in our house and switch to one-use-and-wash cloth towels. To maximize the eco-friendliness of this move, we wanted to repurpose something that we already had rather than go and buy a new cloths from the store. Enter my husband's old, holey T-shirts.

I started by cutting down each side seam, then cutting out the sleeves. With the shirt in more manageable chunks I was able to start cutting it into useable pieces. I decided that I wanted each cloth to be the size of 1/2 paper towel. This size is big enough for most clean-up jobs, but small enough that we aren't tempted to reuse them (and thus spread harbored bacteria).

Storing the cloths in discreet way was important to me. I didn't think a big wad of rags, even clean ones with a noble purpose, would encourage my husband to stick with it. So, I decided to use a small canister. While it is easy enough to just lob the cloths in there, I like a more streamlined approach. I stack all of the cloths, then invert the pile and push it in the canister so that just one cloth is visible (like how a box of tissues is packaged). That way I can grab one cloth without taking seven others out.

Once a cloth is used, it goes in an open plastic basket in the laundry room. Note that the holding area must be an open container (and be sure your wet cloth isn't balled up when it goes in) otherwise you will end up with a seriously stagnant stench. Blech!

In our house, white cloths are for kitchen jobs and they can get washed with any towel load. Any cloth made of colored or patterned cloth is for outside or bathroom cleaning. They have their own separate basket in the laundry room and get washed by themselves. (If you use cloth diapers or pads you could add these to that load). Honestly, I don't know if laundry cross-contamination is a legitimate concern or not, but I'd rather not risk it.

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