Disposable paper towels are a staple in most households, but they come at a cost to both the environment and your wallet. Fortunately, reusable paper towels are a better way to clean up spills and messes without generating so much waste.
These sustainable alternatives are often designed to be washed and reused, making them an eco-friendly and cost-effective solution for cleaning and maintaining your home. From cloth to bamboo, various reusable paper towel options can help you reduce your environmental impact while keeping your home clean and tidy.
Reusable Alternatives To Paper Towels
As a proud user of reusable paper towels, I believe it's important to provide honest reviews that cover each product's benefits and drawbacks. I want to help others make informed decisions that align with their sustainability goals and needs.
I aim to share my experience with these eco-friendly alternatives, including how they stack up against traditional paper towels. Whether you want to reduce waste, save money, or positively impact the environment, I've got you covered.
At the bottom of this post, I've got some tips about how to care for these, and I'll also share how I choose the brands I review. That way, you can feel confident that you're getting a thorough and unbiased product assessment.
So, let's get started on our journey to a more sustainable future, one roll of paper towels at a time!
1. You What You Have
Various items can be used as alternatives to paper towels that you may already have in your home. Cloth napkins, for example, are a great option for wiping your hands or cleaning up small spills.
They are reusable and can be washed and dried like regular laundry. Washcloths are another option for cleaning up spills or wiping down surfaces. They are small and easy to store and can be washed and reused.
Dish towels are another common household item used for various cleaning tasks, such as wiping down counters or drying dishes. They are durable and can also be washed and reused many times. Socks, t-shirts, old towels, or pillowcases can be repurposed as cleaning cloths.
If you have cloth diapers, the reusable cloth wipes that often come with them can also be used as an alternative to paper towels. These wipes are made from soft and absorbent materials that are perfect for cleaning up spills and messes.
Ultimately, the key to using what you have as alternatives to paper towels is to get creative and consider the materials you already have. Doing so can reduce waste and save money while keeping your home clean and tidy.
My Review: It’s important to note that different materials may have varying levels of absorbency and softness on delicate surfaces. However, old t-shirts and towels work well for everyday cleaning tasks like wiping down counters and tables.
To do the cleaning with repurposed fabric even more accessible, I suggest designating a specific area for dirty rags and soaking them in a separate laundry load. This way, you can keep them separate from your regular laundry and prevent any potential cross-contamination.
2. Swedish Dish Cloths
Swedish cloths, also known as Swedish sponge cloths, are typically made from natural materials such as cellulose and cotton.
Cellulose is a plant-based fiber that is highly absorbent, while cotton is known for its softness and durability. Some Swedish cloths may contain other materials, such as polyester or rayon, depending on the specific brand or manufacturer.
Overall, the combination of these materials creates a durable, absorbent, and eco-friendly cloth that can be used for various cleaning tasks around the home.
Their high absorbency makes them versatile for kitchen, bathroom, or general house cleaning. These cloths can replace up to 15 rolls of paper towels, saving money and reducing waste.
These cloths dry quickly, helping prevent odor-causing bacteria and ensuring they're always ready for use. They're also backyard compostable and plastic-free, making them an ideal choice for those who care about the planet.
With each cloth lasting up to 9-12 months, these biodegradable dishcloths are an excellent investment and are some of the best reusable kitchen towels for their size and durability. However, I have had mine for much longer.
Where to find Swedish Dish Cloths:
Zero Waste MVMT's Swedish dishcloths are made from 70% cellulose wood pulp and 30% cotton, making them a biodegradable and compostable option for your cleaning needs.
They are highly absorbent and effective at cleaning up spills and messes. They are also durable and can be reused often, making them a cost-effective option for those looking to reduce waste and save money in the long run.
At Zero Waste MVMT, sustainability is at the core of its mission. Their Swedish dishcloths are just one of many products they offer to help you reduce your waste and live a more sustainable lifestyle. PRICE: $12 for a two-pack.
Ecoligie By Danica Swedish cloths are a sustainable alternative to traditional paper towels and cleaning cloths. These cloths are made from 100% biodegradable cellulose and blend natural wood pulp and cotton. They are designed to be highly absorbent and durable, making them perfect for cleaning up spills and messes in the kitchen and around the home.
One of the standout features of Ecoligie By Danica Swedish cloths is their reusability. Each cloth can be used repeatedly and is easy to clean - rinse with water or toss in the dishwasher or washing machine. This helps reduce waste and save money over time, as they can replace hundreds of rolls of disposable paper towels.
Another great thing about Ecoligie By Danica Swedish cloths is their versatility. They can be used for various cleaning tasks, from wiping down counters and surfaces to cleaning up spills and messes. They are also great for use in the bathroom and can even be used to remove makeup. PRICE: $5.99 for one.
My Review: I prefer using Swedish dishcloths instead of traditional cloth rags for tackling messier liquid spills in my daily cleaning routine. Thanks to their superior absorption capabilities, these dishcloths can quickly soak up sizable spills, even when damp. They are my top choice for oily surfaces since oils are more challenging to wash.
A word of advice, make sure you dry them properly. If you leave them wet and rolled up in the sink, they will get smelly, and you will likely have to toss them.
One of the things I appreciate about these reusable cloth wipes is their slim and narrow shape, which makes them perfect for cleaning in those hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. They are just the right size to slip between appliances, furniture, and other tight spaces where dirt and grime can accumulate.
And the best part? These cloth wipes are safe on all surfaces, so I don’t have to worry about damaging my furniture, countertops, or other household items. So whether wiping down my wooden coffee table or cleaning my stainless steel appliances, I can trust that these wipes won’t scratch or leave any marks.
Although Swedish dishcloths may have a higher price tag than other cleaning cloths, their value per use justifies the cost, IMO.
I have heard some people complain that they get stiff when they dry, making it hard to store them. I don’t agree, You can keep them in a drawer or hang one over the tap, it will dry with a curve in it.
By far this is my TOP PICK.
3. Reusable Cloth Wipes
Reusable cloth wipes are a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to disposable paper towels or baby wipes. These wipes are made of soft and durable materials such as cotton flannel or bamboo and can be used for various purposes, such as wiping down surfaces or cleaning up spills.
They're great for camping trips, picnics, or packing in kids' lunch boxes. And best of all, they help to reduce waste and avoid harsh chemicals found in many commercial disposable wipes.
Another benefit of these cloth wipes is that they're easy to clean. If left in a pocket and thrown in the wash, they'll come out clean and ready to use again.
To care for these cloth wipes, rinse any stains with cold water, then wash with your preferred detergent in warm or hot water.
Avoid using fabric softener or dryer sheets, as they can decrease absorbency. Tumble dry or hang to dry, and expect some shrinkage (ending up as 7"x8") since they are not pre-washed.
Where to find Reusable Cloth Wipes:
Cheeks Ahoy's Reusable Cloth Wipes set of 30 is a perfect solution for those looking for a more sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to disposable paper towels. Made from one layer of 100% cotton flannel, each cloth measures 8"x8" and is soft and gentle on delicate surfaces, making them perfect for cleaning glass, electronics, and other fragile items.
These cloth wipes are versatile and can be used for wiping messy hands and faces after meals, cleaning up spills, washing and drying dishes, as mealtime napkins, and for lint-free cleaning and dusting.
These reusable paper towel rolls are also suitable for diaper changes and can be used as baby wipes at the changing table or in the diaper bag.
They are easy to care for, and after use, you can rinse them with cold water to loosen any stains before washing them in a warm or hot wash with your detergent of choice. PRICE: 30 for $44
Cozy Simply Living's reusable paper towel roll is a great sustainable alternative to traditional disposable paper towels. Made from high-quality materials, each roll comes with 12 reusable and washable towels that can be used for various cleaning tasks.
The towels are made from 100% organic cotton flannel and 100% cotton terry cloth, making them soft, absorbent, and durable. The organic cotton flannel is perfect for wiping down surfaces without leaving any streaks or residue, while the cotton terry cloth is great for absorbing spills and messes.
One of the standout features of this product is the convenient roll design, which makes it easy to tear off a towel as needed, just like traditional paper towels. The roll can be placed on a standard paper towel holder or in a drawer for easy access.
In addition to being eco-friendly, the Cozy Simply Living reusable paper towel roll is also budget-friendly. Each roll can be washed and reused hundreds of times, saving you money in the long run compared to constantly buying disposable paper towels. PRICE: 12 for $37.99
My Review: When I started using these ages ago, I was pleasantly surprised by their effectiveness. The soft texture of the cotton flannel makes them gentle on delicate surfaces such as glass and electronics, which has been a lifesaver in my household.
The cloths are highly absorbent and do a great job picking up dirt, dust, and other particles, making cleaning up spills and messes a breeze.
One of the things I love about these cloths is how durable they are. They have held up well despite repeated use and washing and still look and feel great.
They were not as effective at cleaning greasy or oily messes and required washing after each use. In addition, they will shrink or fade over time if not washed and dried correctly, and there is a risk of bacteria buildup if not cleaned thoroughly.
Overall, though I would recommend them!
4. Bar Mops
Bar mops are reusable kitchen towels or cleaning cloths typically made of absorbent cotton or cotton blend. It is designed for use in bars and restaurants but is also commonly used in homes for various cleaning tasks that can withstand repeated use and washing.
The name "bar mop" comes from its original purpose of wiping up spills and messes in bars and pubs. It is a rectangular-shaped cloth, usually around 16x19 inches, and is often sold in bulk. Due to its high absorbency, durability, and versatility, it has become a popular alternative to paper towels and other disposable cleaning products.
The tight weave of the cotton fibers makes bar mops especially effective at picking up dirt, dust, and other particles, and their scrubbing texture makes them perfect for cleaning up big and small messes.
The larger size of standard bar mop towels makes them great for cleaning large areas like kitchen counters, while the petite size is ideal for smaller tasks like washing dishes.
Where to find bar mop cloths:
Looking for a sustainable alternative to single-use paper towels? Look no further than Juniperseed Mercantile's Organic Cotton Unpaper Towels! Crafted from 100% unbleached organic cotton, this set of six reusable towels is perfect for quick cleanups or tackling tough messes.
Not only are they durable and absorbent, but the lightweight fabric is easy to clean and doesn't contain harmful chlorine bleach or fabric softeners. I have found these to be a wonderful addition to my cleaning routine, both in the kitchen and bathroom.
The size of the towels is perfect for cleaning up spills and wiping down countertops, and I have found them to be quite absorbent even from the first use. PRICE: $23.99 for a six-pack!
Full Circle Tidy 100% Organic Cotton Dish Cloths are an eco-friendly and sustainable alternative to traditional synthetic dishcloths. These dishcloths are made from 100% organic cotton, grown without harmful pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, making them safe for you and the environment.
The Full Circle Tidy dishcloths are soft and absorbent, making them great for cleaning dishes, wiping down surfaces, and tackling spills.
One of the standout features of the Full Circle Tidy dishcloths is their unique design. They feature a non-scratch scrubber on one side and a soft, absorbent texture on the other, making them versatile enough to handle a variety of cleaning tasks in the kitchen.
Another benefit of these dishcloths is that they are machine washable and dryer safe, making them easy to clean and reuse. They come in a pack of six, so you'll have plenty to use around the kitchen and can rotate them out as needed. PRICE: $8.50 for a 3-pack, making this one of the most affordable paper towel alternatives.
My Review:I have been using bar mop towels as an eco-friendly replacement for paper towels in my kitchen for years. I keep a jar of these towels by the sink as a paper towel holder alternative, and I simply grab one instead of a paper towel to wipe down counters.
These towels have a scrubbing texture that makes them ideal for cleaning up both big and small messes. Yet, they are also soft on skin and great for drying dishes. I love using them to wipe down counters and the kitchen table. I even place a damp one by the stove while I’m cooking to quickly wipe up spills and keep things neat and tidy.
In addition to general cleaning tasks like baseboards and doors, these towels are perfect for washing dishes. The standard size of a bar mop is typically around 16 inches by 19 inches, great for cleaning large areas like kitchen counters.
When it comes to laundering these kitchen towels, I let them dry overnight over the sink, and then toss them into a bin under the sink. When the bin is full, I simply toss the load into the washing machine. It’s that easy!
5. Flour Sack Towels
Flour sack towels are a type of kitchen towel made from cotton. They are thin and lightweight and typically measure around 28 x 29 inches. Historically, flour sack towels were used for packaging and transporting flour, hence the name.
They were made from leftover scraps of cotton fabric and were often reused in households as dish towels, napkins, and cleaning cloths.
Today, they are a popular alternative to paper towels used for various tasks in the kitchen and around the house. They are highly absorbent, lint-free, and durable, making them a versatile and eco-friendly choice for a zero-waste kitchen.
Flour sack towels have many other uses besides drying dishes. They can be used as a strainer for nut milk, a cheesecloth for cheese-making, a cover for rising bread dough, a napkin for a picnic or casual dining, a baby burp cloth, or even a baby burp cloth as a lightweight and breathable baby swaddle.
They can also be used for crafting projects, such as printing designs onto fabric or creating custom embroidery. The versatility of flour sack towels makes them popular for many households and businesses.
Where to find flour sack towels:
You can find these at most antique shops and flea markets. That's where I got mine. I am always on the lookout for these. I buy the large ones, have a good friend cut them up, and see them into smaller dishcloths. I love them! They are unique and add a rustic vibe to my home. You can also buy them online.
Nature Is Gift's organic flour sack towels are made from GOTS-certified 100% natural organic cotton and are unbleached and undyed, making them safe and non-toxic for everyday use. They are soft, durable, and absorbent, making them perfect for various tasks around the home.
Nature Is Gift's organic flour sack towels come in a set of six, each measuring 28x28 inches. They are large enough for kitchen towels, dishcloths, napkins, and even as a reusable alternative to paper towels. The towels are pre-washed and preshrunk, ensuring they maintain their size and shape after multiple washes.
One of the unique features of Nature Is Gift's organic flour sack towels is that they are handmade, ensuring that each towel is of the highest quality. They are also eco-friendly and sustainable, as they are reusable and can be washed and used repeatedly, reducing waste and saving money in the long run. PRICE: $30 for a 10-pack.
My Review: Flour sack towels are a must-have in any household, and if you haven’t already incorporated them into your routine, you’re missing out! These vintage-inspired towels are versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. My personal favorite use for them is to lay them out on the counter for dishes to drip dry.
And, they work great for hand drying dishes as they’re lightweight and dry quickly. You’ll love that they’re lint-free and perfect for cleaning windows and large surfaces, making them an essential tool for keeping my home clean and tidy.
6. Unpaper Towel with Snaps or Buttons
Reusable paper towels with snaps or buttons are cloth towels that replace traditional paper towels. They are made from various materials, including cotton, bamboo, or linen, and are typically sold in sets of multiple towels.
The snaps or buttons are used to fasten the towels together to form a roll, which can then be easily stored on a towel holder or hung from a hook.
The snaps or buttons also provide versatility in how the towels are used. They can be snapped or buttoned together to create a longer towel for larger spills or messes or separated for smaller tasks like cleaning counters or wiping up spills. This feature also makes them customizable to fit your needs and the size of the mess you need to clean up.
Where to find Unpaper Towel with Snaps or Buttons:
The Tailored Home makes cute sets of handmade non-paper towel alternatives! This item comes with snaps, and the store sells an insert to keep them together. This is an awesome feature, especially for keeping everything organized and easy to use. They are 10 x 10 in size.
This product makes for a great hand towel and a cleaning cloth for heavy spills and cleaning up around your house. You can choose from a variety of fabrics to fit your style. The reusable paper towels come in a pack of eight, and if you prefer not to have snaps, you can buy non-snap towels. This is by far our favorite reusable paper towel with snaps! PRICE: $47 for a roll.
Stacy Kitchen Decor offers an eco-friendly alternative to paper towels with their reusable cloth paper towels, made from 100% cotton and available with optional fastenings for easy rolling. These towels are sustainable but practical and versatile, suitable for cleaning up all messes. They are 10 x 10 in size. PRICE: $37 per roll.
My Review: I do love using these in my home. But there are a few things I want to mention. One potential drawback of organic unpaper towels with snaps or buttons is that they require more effort and time to fasten and unfasten than traditional paper towels.
This can be exceptionally inconvenient when dealing with spills or messes that need to be cleaned up quickly.
After about five years, which is a LONG time, the buttons become worn, making the towels less secure and less effective at staying in place.
I was also constantly worried about scratching certain surfaces, like wood and glass. So I fold the cloth back to avoid the buttons touching any surfaces.
It’s finer for tubs and tiles, but use caution on more sensitive surfaces.
7. Reusable Paper Towel Roll
These are as close to a roll of paper towels as possible! They look almost identical and work the same way. They come in a roll. All you have to do is tear it off and use it to clean your home. These sheets will last about one week, then can be placed in your backyard compost. Most organic waste programs will not accept them, FYI.
Where to find reusable paper towel sheets:
If You Care's Reusable Paper Towel rolls are super absorbent and can hold up to 16 times their weight in liquid, and won't leave behind fibers, each piece of the roll can last for one week.
The roll is made from unbleached, chlorine-free, and compostable materials, making it an excellent choice for those looking to reduce their environmental impact. Each roll contains 12 sheets perforated for easy tearing and can be reused several times before composting or disposing of them.
The towels are super absorbent, perfect for cleaning up spills or messes in the kitchen, bathroom, or any other area of the house. They can also be used for dusting, wiping surfaces, and other cleaning tasks. PRICE: $32 per roll.
My Review: I’m surprised at how durable, and long-lasting these reusable towels are. I only need to use one per week, and they’re stronger than traditional paper towels like Bounty.
They’re also much easier to use than my regular kitchen sponge or cloth and rinse well. I hang them up to dry overnight; they’re good to go again. The one downside is they only last about one week! I do take them camping, and they’ve come in very handy. I also keep a roll in the car.
Tips on caring for your reusable paper towels
Do reusable paper towels work?
Yes, reusable paper towels work as an alternative to single-use paper towels. They are typically made from materials such as cotton, bamboo, or microfiber and are designed to be absorbent and durable for cleaning up spills, wiping surfaces, and other household tasks.
Are Eco-Friendly Paper Towels safe to use?
Reusable cloths can be safe to use if they are properly cleaned and sanitized after each use. Bacteria and germs can accumulate on the cloths if not cleaned and dried properly, posing health risks. It is important to regularly wash the cloths in hot water with a good zero-waste detergent and to ensure they are completely dry before using them again.
Some reusable cloths are also designed to be more hygienic than others, with antimicrobial properties or materials that prevent bacteria growth. Ultimately, it is up to you to ensure proper care and maintenance and always follow the manufacturer's directions.
How to wash reusable paper towels?
Machine wash them with other dish towels, but avoid using fabric softener, which can reduce their absorbency.
After washing, hang them to dry or lay them flat (e.g. on top of your dryer), and they should be ready to use again within a few hours. To maximize their lifespan, wet and wring them out after every use.
Swedish dish clothes can be placed in the dishwasher, a real bonus. You must keep them dry between uses.
Treat them like regular dish towels by washing them in the machine (without fabric softener) and air-drying them. If you're short on space, you can lay them flat to dry on a countertop or table. Rinse and wring them thoroughly after each use to keep them absorbent and fresh. With proper care, your reusable paper towels can last for months or even years.
How to store reusable paper towels?
Storing reusable paper towels is easy and doesn't require any special steps. Once you have finished using them, rinse them thoroughly to remove any leftover dirt or debris. Then, wring out the excess water and let them air dry completely.
Once they are dry, you can store them in a convenient location, such as a basket or bin near your kitchen counter, where they are easily accessible for the next use. Some reusable paper towels come with a snap or button attachment, allowing them to be rolled up and stored like traditional paper towel rolls.
However, if you use regular reusable towels without fastenings, fold them neatly and stack them in a designated storage area. Remember to wash them regularly to keep them fresh and clean for continued use.
Benefits of reusable paper towels
Choosing reusable towels over single-use paper towels is sustainable and benefits the environment and your wallet. In the United States alone, using disposable paper towels amounted to a staggering $5.7 billion in 2017. The EPA reports that the total tissue waste, including tissues, paper towels, and toilet paper, amounted to 7.4 billion pounds.
Opting for eco-friendly alternatives like reusable towels and toilet paper can significantly reduce these numbers.
Traditional paper towels are made from trees, contributing to deforestation and illegal logging. Even when sourced sustainably, turning tree pulp into soft, absorbent paper towels requires water- and chemical-intensive processes.
In contrast, reusable paper towels made from materials like cotton or bamboo can be washed and reused countless times, reducing the need for raw materials and saving money in the long run.
How Did I choose these brands?
- Best Material for reusable paper towels: Look for towels made from sustainable and eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, or linen.
- Absorbency: Ensure the towels are absorbent enough to clean up spills and messes effectively.
- Durability: Choose strong and durable towels to withstand frequent use and washing.
- Size: Consider the size of the towels and make sure they are suitable for the tasks you have in mind, whether it's wiping down surfaces, cleaning dishes, or drying hands.
- Cleaning: Look for towels that are easy to clean and care for, and avoid options that require special treatment or cannot be washed in a washing machine.
- Cost: While reusable towels may have a higher upfront cost than single-use options, they are cost-effective and eco-friendly in the long run.
- Corporate responsibly: above and beyond using GOTS-certified or Oeko-Tex-certified fabrics, what else is the brand doing to be more sustainable?
A final word on reusable paper towels
So, are reusable paper towels worth it? HECK YES!
The impact of paper towels on our planet cannot be ignored. The amount of waste generated by single-use paper towels is staggering, and the environmental consequences of this waste are severe. Using reusable towels can significantly reduce our contribution to this waste and help preserve our planet for future generations.
So, the next time you reach for a paper towel, consider its environmental impact and opt for a reusable one. Together, we can make a difference and create a more sustainable future for our planet. If you found this post helpful, please help someone by sharing this article – Sharing is caring 🙂!