How to Break the Paper Towel Habit

 I hear alot about people wanting to ditch the paper towels but can't seem to give them up. Do you need motivation? Here's some facts:

Once used, paper towels cannot be recycled. As many as 51,000 trees per day are required to replace the number of paper towels that are discarded every day.

Other facts you need to know about paper towels include:

  • 40% of U.S. landfill trash is paper products.
  • The paper industry is the third largest contributor to global warming.
  • The average American discards of 700 pounds or more of paper each year.
  • If every household in the U.S. used just one less 70-sheet roll of virgin fiber paper towels, that would save 544,000 trees each year. Change that to using three less rolls per U.S. household per year, and that would save 120,000 tons of waste and $4.1 million in landfill dumping fees.
  • Your typical paper towel is manufactured using chlorine, which releases carcinogenic dioxins and furans.

I'll tell you what worked for us. A good old-fashioned "Rag Bag".  In our closet where we keep the brooms and mops, we have a bag that hangs on a hook (at child level) that is filled with rags.

As you can see from the picture, the "rags" in my bag are an accumulation of old diapers/burp rags, microfiber cloths, and old towels. Now, whenever the kids spill something, or need to wash the bathroom, etc they go pull a rag out of the bag. Once it's used, it gets thrown in the laundry and then back into the rag bag. It's really super simple and we never notice not having the paper towels. I can't think of an instance where the rag has not been better for a cleanup than a paper towel. I actually prefer the rags.

Don't have a rag bag? Your kids will have so much fun with this little project! Go grab a few grubby towels. Then make a small slit:

Then hand it over to the kids and let em rip!

You could let the kids make the slits, too. But, when I have let the little ones do this in the past, I end up with all kinds of crazy and un-useful sized rags. So, I score the towel and they do the rest. You may end up with a few little tails, but those snip right off.

And when you're done you have a nice sized stack of rags ready to be put to use. (I got 12 out of this towel, but it depends on the size of the towel and the size of the rag you are making, obviously.)

And what about that most important of paper towel tasks...draining bacon? Fear not.

I use "shop towels" I bought in bulk at my local warehouse store. They're like 100 for $10 or something. The material is kind of like a flour sack, but a little coarser. It works perfectly. 

So, what are you waiting for? Ditch those paper towels!



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I’m working on ditching the paper towel habit too. Yes, the one place I keep using them is pet cleanups….I probably could just separate my rags and wash/reuse the pet rags separate from the other rags. Another solution to the bacon-grease issue: Go vegetarian!


We use cloth for most everything. I just use paper for really gross things(like cleaning the toilet) that I don’t want to touch and bacon grease.

Mary Banach

I am making this my Earth Day resolution for this year!

Kim Kemsley

Alright, alright. I will kick the habit. I do compost the ones that are only wet but I don’t like the idea of adding chlorine and carcinogenic dioxins to my nice garden compost! Rags it is! Today.


Valerie, I do wash them! They might have some grease stains, but since it’s the only thing we really use them for it’s no big deal. I’ve never tried to compost them. Might start doing that for paper napkins when I have parties.

Kate Frowzy

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