Would you ditch paper towels for this re-usable "unpaper towel" roll?

September 11 | meganfinley

UnPaper TowelsThanks to KP who uploaded her super colorful and quite eco-friendly paper towel roll photo into our Flickr pool, I learned what an unpaper towel roll is. We talked about going toilet paper free. But would you ditch your paper towels?

KP explains:

A couple of years ago, my dude and I had committed to ridding our house of paper towels. We just decided that they were expensive, and wasteful, and really- how much extra effort does it take to throw a cloth in the wash? Since moving to our current place, we have fallen off the bandwagon. The ability to store bulk items in our pantry had us in disposable paper product heaven.

…After roaming about on Pinterest for a while, I came across a picture of "unpaper towels" — snappable homemade cloths that fit on a regular paper towel roll. Brilliant! It was just the push I needed to recommit to cloth. They looked easy enough to make, so I decided to go for it!

LongRollSMHere they are all lined up, snapped together, and ready to be rolled up and used.

At home on the counter…And here they are rolled up and at home on KP's counter.

If you're interested in making one of these eco-friendly unpaper towel rolls, you can find the full tutorial over on KP's blog. So… do you think YOU could make the switch?

  1. With designs and patterns like that, I'd gladly give up my one roll of paper towels that last us around 2 months, if not more. Those are cute!

    4 agree
  2. Yep, and I do! My 15-month-old loves helping me "clean up" with our unpaper towels, upcycled from Goodwill fabrics by a local work-at-home mom!

    1 agrees
  3. As someone who spends hours lusting over her unborn baby's patterned cloth wipes, I must say those are extremely cute. I can't picture myself taking the time to snap them together, I'd rather fill a drawer with them, which is basically what we do at home, but with way less pretty ones. This is our system: We use paper for the really nasty messes (a bit of fruit gone bad that has liquefied in a drawer in the fridge, for example) and cloth for everything else. We keep different stacks of terrycloth dishcloths/rags for drying hands, lint-free cloths for drying dishes and glasses, older or stained cloths for drying pots and pans (they tend to stain the cloth), microfiber for soaking up various spills around the kitchen and actually deep cleaning the kitchen. Sounds complicated, but since they all look different, it's very easy to manage.

    20 agree
  4. I stopped using paper towels (mostly — some things, like smushed bugs, still require them) about a year ago (in addition to cloth napkins), but.. I guess I just don't see the point in something like this as opposed to stacks of individual cloths? I have a whole system of different cloths/towels used for different purposes, some in a drawer and some in a basket on the counter. Once I got the system figured out it's really easy to maintain.

    This is cute, but it just seems like extra work to me. But maybe I'm missing something!

    7 agree
    • I was going to say the same thing….Why this, and not just dish cloths?

      4 agree
      • True, but you could get (or make) cute individual cloths too! I guess for me the extra step of having to snap/unsnap them would make me *less* likely to use it.

        13 agree
    • Honestly, its seems less likely to topple over into the sink like my stack of washcloths does about once a week.

      3 agree
      • I wonder if you could roll up washcloths and store them in one of those dispensers for soda cans or canned food that they make for your fridge or pantry.

        2 agree
  5. Not with a puppy around! In fact, paper towel consumption in our home is generally limited to dog related issues, be it piss to puke.

    9 agree
    • Yeah, I have a 14yo incontinent dog. He has a pot belly from his Cushings Disease so diapers and belly bands won't stay on him. He's also really good at missing the newspapers all over the place. Paper towels are an unfortunately big part of my life.

      0 agree
      • We are completely paper towel free. I had an old incontinent dog as well, but I just used the mop to clean up her messes until she passed.

        1 agrees
    • Agreed. I almost forget that I own paper towels until it's dog barf time. On a semi-related note, I haven't had to pick up cat barf at all since getting a dog.

      7 agree
      • Oh god yes… And when I forget to put the litter box out of reach… **shudder**

        2 agree
        • Mmmm….kitty krunchies. My dog's nickname is "Litter Lips". Pretty much the biggest dilemma whenever I move to a new place to live is where the cat box is going to go so that the dog doesn't get it.

          4 agree
    • I was *just* thinking that the major use of paper towels in my home is to wipe up cat vomit.

      Since I mostly handwash and save trips to the laundromat for sheets and towels… the thought of rinsing out barfucious cloths, then having them sit in the hamper for a week or two… ick.

      To be fair, the reason Barf Patrol is the major paper towel use is that I already use cheap terry cloth dish towels or old bathroom towels for most cleaning tasks. These Un-Towels do qualify as cuter.

      2 agree
      • Confession- we still have 2 rolls of paper towels left from before "the switch" that we use solely to pick up cat barf. Quilted toilet paper works too. These get used more for counter wipe-ups and as napkins. We have cleaning cloths that are more scuzzy for deep cleaning.

        0 agree
      • Eilonwy: This is more important to me than you can possibly realize: Is this actually your name? How is it pronounced? If it is not actually your name, how did you choose it? Do you have any nicknames?

        That is all (from the questioning frontier). Likewise, I use paper towels primarily for cat vomit. Oh please, PLEASE be willing to answer my questions, though!

        0 agree
        • If that's really her name, that is awesome! I think it might be a reference to Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain though. It's pronounced EYE-lawn-wee. You should check out the series! This is my first comment of Offbeat Empire…that's how much I love it!

          To make my post relevant: I've been wanting to go paper towel-less for a while, and this cute solution might finally spur me into action. I'm not sure about using snaps, although a roll might be useful for guests to know what to use when there's a spill!

          0 agree
  6. I try to use cloth as much as possible, but it's been hard to get my fiance to quit the habit of using paper towels for everything (yet he always uses the dishcloth on the floor, which icks me out–the floor is one of the places I use paper towels). I always use paper towels for greasy pans, though, because I don't need that grease getting into my clean clothes in the wash.

    3 agree
  7. It's not very fancy, but when we ditched paper towels I just bought one of these big packs of microfiber towels.

    We use different colors for different stuff – blue in the bathrooms, yellow for "paper towel" messes and food related cleanups and green for deeper cleaning in the kitchen and rest of the house. I keep a small bin in the bathroom and under the kitchen sink to collect laundry from both places and wash regularly. It's great!

    We also have some pretty cloth napkins, those go into the kitchen laundry as well when they need washing.

    4 agree
    • Love the color coding – it freaks me out when I see dishes being dried with a cloth from the bathroom, etc.

      5 agree
  8. I'm not ready to entirely give up paper towels, since I use them for things I don't want going through the laundry — really greasy jobs, wiping the hair up off the bathroom counter (I don't know why, but hair just grosses me out — and I don't really want MORE hair stuck to my fleece sweater when it comes out of the wash, thanks!). For anything I don't mind going through the wash, I'm already using rags — folded in the drawer, not cute-and-on-a-roll, but they work fine (right now, I'm going through some old t-shirts of mine that just were not in good enough shape for goodwill…)

    0 agree
  9. I've cut down on paper towel use a lot by just having a basket of rags handy for cleaning and spills. These cloth rolls are adorable, though!

    0 agree
  10. They're cute, but we just use old washcloths for the majority of our cleaning*. Other clothing items that have become too old to wear or donate are turned into rags too. No offense to KP's hard work, but they seem more like a novelty.

    *Though the boy does use paper towels when the cats puke.

    1 agrees
    • While I totally agree with you here (rags work fine and are very practical), for me, "novelty" can be the key to making positive changes in my home. Sure, I could just use a rag… but am I more likely to be excited about it if I make some cute snap-together cloth towels that look like what I'm used to using? YES.

      In other words: sure they're novel. That's not a bad thing.

      20 agree
      • Fair enough! I've always been accused of being too spartan.

        3 agree
      • Thanks Ariel, I couldn't have put it better myself! The thing that most appealed to me about the snap set up (aside from the fact that I knew I could use them at a later date if I ever made cloth diapers, even though I'm not expecting, cough) was that our behavior didn't need to change one iota to make a change. I still have a roll on the counter that I can grab a sheet quickly if I need to. We have a whole bunch of knitted dishcloths in a drawer that we use too, it just depends on what kind of a mess it is.

        Crafting is my therapy time, so I tend to find obscure projects that I get great joy from creating, as well as using. I smile when I see them on my counter, they make me happy and I like looking at them. I also realized that these would make a great present, and have already given a few rolls as gifts. It's a novelty, and people appreciate the beauty, as well as the usefulness. Thank you for sharing this project!

        5 agree
  11. Dude. My kids might actually use these, since they either can't remember that dish towels are in the drawer, or use them all to make beds for their stuffed animals that "YOU CAN'T USE IT BECAUSE COWIE IS SICK AND NEEDS HER BLANKY". Now if only I could sew…

    1 agrees
    • Looks like there are several people selling these on Etsy, but they don't come cheaply!

      0 agree
  12. This is adorable.

    Our current method works great for us but it is not anything I'd share with anyone. My husband is a bartender so he accumulates a lot (A LOT) of bar rags. One day I started using them around the house and realized how great they work. We've been paper towel free ever since. But the junk drawer full of stained bar rags and old cloth diapers is not something I'd share with friends or even let stay out on the counter with company around.

    This is a much cuter method and probably a little more likely to change the minds of my more skeptical friends.

    2 agree
  13. So cute!! I'm pretty good about not using paper products but one area I'm weak in is paper napkins at mealtimes with the kids. This could be a really fun way to encourage switching over.

    Also I like the idea of putting a "pretty" roll out when company is around. I try to reserve some towels as "company" towels but they go in the same big drawer as the rest of the "working" towels and eventually… all towels become working towels. ( I think they mate overnight. )

    I have to confess though I'm skeptical about the snaps. It seems like it might make it too hard to tug free and the thought of that hard snap banging around as I wipe seems like something that would bug me.

    Has anybody tried it without the snaps? Like if you just overlap the towels and roll them up? Would that work?

    0 agree
    • I think that if you use microfiber they should be "grippy" enough to hold up together without the snaps.

      0 agree
  14. How cute! I totally want to do this now! We don't buy paper towels anyway, because we just don't have the cash. We use just random ugly towels, many are stolen from my husband's old work, so they're all stained with mechanical stuff. Haha! These are like 5 million times way cuter! I want!

    0 agree
  15. We only use a roll every two months, as they are limited to stuff we don't even wanna deal with washing. We cloth diaper and use those and old t shirts and other old tea towels and stuff for cleaning up most messes. However, there are just some things that I don't ever wanna see, smell, or even think about having touched ever again, and that's what paper towels are good for. Puke, poop, urine, etc, that can all wash… The stuff that I find under or behind stuff after not cleaning it for a year or two, probably not so much.

    Those towels are cute, but I doubt I would ever resnap them together.

    0 agree
  16. Super cute! If I had a washing machine, I might do this. But since I don't, I wouldn't do this. (Right now I only have to do about two loads of laundry per month. Even that's a pain, lugging everything around and finding quarters and running back to unload the machines before the neighbors throw my stuff on the ground…)

    0 agree
  17. They are so cute!

    Aft a couple of years of being paper towel free (in a passive way), I just bought paper towel on the weekend. I was tired of not having anything to put oily food on to drain off the oil. Anyway, hilariois timing. And so cute!

    0 agree
    • If you get a local paper like I do I just save and use that for bacon/other greasy stuff duty.Mine comes free from my city once a week.

      2 agree
  18. That's pretty awesome! I really only use paper towels when I (rarely) use the microwave to prevent food splatter or for floor messes, so I can't see myself using those but it's a great idea! I could see it being an especially good idea for people who have small kids.

    0 agree
    • We use the "natural" colored basket style coffee filters to cover stuff in the microwave…packet of 100 lasts for months.

      0 agree
      • Ooh, that's a fantastic idea! They're so much thinner, so you're not wasting quite as much paper!

        0 agree
  19. Pretty much all my households have been paper towel free. My last place we used mechanic's shop towels–white terrycloth squares that are seriously cheap–even for the dog/cat messes. But we also had a washer and dryer in the apartment, so it was easy to deal with.

    These are super cute though! I have a feeling they would get disgusting and destroyed in about a week with my tribe. Sadness.

    1 agrees
  20. I love this idea! My 2 problems are 1. I can't sew, and 2. Cat nasties… while I could totally see myself using these for most applications, those special little surprises my bad kitties make in the wee hours of the morning just deserve paper… there are things I just can't see putting through the wash with items that are going to come in contact with my body :S… however, I still might consider a hostile take over of my mother's sewing machine to see if I can't make a set as adorable as these :)

    0 agree
  21. We made the switch even without much thought when we moved in together. We didn't have money for paper towels, and when my mom went to costco, I tagged along, and split a 60 pack of car rags with her. Ta-da: kitchen towels. We buy one roll of paper towels every month or two, because there are some cat messes you just don't want to have to deal with washing out of a cloth towel. Other than than, we have a GIANT (These days, maybe 50) stack of cloth towels on the shelf near the sink. I'm always shocked at my dad's house where he has like three cloth towels. How can you function without many cloth towels.

    0 agree
  22. These towels are so damn cute!

    But to answer your question… Paper towels have never been a part of my life, and I don't know many people in France who actually use them more than cloth towel. I guess it's a matter of cultural habits, or maybe the paper towel lobby is more aggressive in the States ;)
    I don't even use paper towels to pick up my cat's barf, I just have a couple of cloth towels dedicated to that purpose only.

    1 agrees
  23. We just use bar cloths. I was trying to get away with just otssing them in a basket instead of folding them, but my OCD with order and efficiency prompted me to just fold them in quarters and stack them neatly in a basket. And really, it doesn't take that long–certainly less time than it would take to snap a roll back together.

    We use scrap towels and cloths for the nastier jobs like cat puke and floors, and save the bar cloths for things like countertops. The nasty towels get soaked in a vinegar solution before getting added to the wash.

    0 agree
  24. This is cute and I like the idea of it out on the counter being all cute, but I know myself well enough to realize that I'm too lazy to make it and too cheap to buy one someone else made. We only use paper products for cat messes, especially our one old miserable drain circling cat who can't seem to poop in the box anymore. Because I'm lazy and I want to just wrap and flush. Otherwise, I use unsightly but wonderful bar rags/Goodwill towels for cleaning and cheap Ikea dishcloths as napkins, and find they work better than paper and are so much cheaper.

    Kudos for cute and innovative, though.

    0 agree
  25. Beautiful color palette. I just don't find it practical for our family. I do use cloth. I just use auto rags. They suck up water like no other business and clean faces and if they stain I'm not out designer fabric cuteness because I didn't invest in the first place. Adorable idea but I wouldn't do it. I'd have to bleach, iron, and snap it all back and I acknowledge I'm lazy.

    0 agree
  26. After seeing this post I immediately went to Etsy and bought myself a roll and I am glad to say that I LOVE them! I ordered them from HappiestCrafts and they are beautiful, well made, and awesome. The craftswoman, Stacy, sent them the very next day along with a handmade note. Also if you add the code "HAPPYFRIENDS" before checkout you will get 10% off!

    0 agree
  27. that's a lot of knives, man. distracted… anyway, i use regular bar mops for cleaning and only use paper towels for shh i don't want in my face cloths. toilet and uncooked meat juice. i get that you wash it out, i wash it out of my hands everyday (potty training ftw!) but for real, i'm not chancing salmonella soaked terry wipes in my machine daily with two small kids in the house. if i go completely vegetarian maybe, when my kids are older, we'll revisit. but for now paper towels have a small but important role in my life, next to the clorox wipes. just bein' real.

    0 agree
  28. When you wash them does the towel Lin get on the front of the fabric? Where did you buy the snaps? How are they holding up?

    0 agree
    • They've held up really well! I have a heavy duty snap press now, and would like to make a new batch with recycled thick towels instead of the flimsy terry cloth from Joann's, but that's my only complaint. No issues with lint getting on the front of the fabric.

      0 agree
  29. I am working on cutting down on paper products. I try to use reusable cloths or sponges and brushes for cleaning. That has dramatically cut down on buying paper towels but we still use them for some messes. My husband uses a handkerchief so we use less tissues. And I swapped my paper lady products for a diva cup and Luna pads. Our neighborhood also makes recycling paper we do use easy so that helps.

    0 agree
    • Little steps add up majorly over time! I make my own cloth pads and they are amaaaaaaazing. My endometriosis has gotten so bad that I can't use the Diva Cup anymore due to cramps, but am hoping to be able to again after a surgery in April. There's something that feels great about not spending $$ on something that's meant to be thrown away- be it paper towels or lady products! :)

      0 agree
  30. I really want to make the switch, but my fiancee and I are reluctant since we live in an apartment complex and pay $1.50 to wash a load of laundry. Once we get our own place and laundry is a bit more convenient, I'm soooo ditching the paper. As of right now, I'm trying to make the switch to reusable Swiffer Wet-Jet pads and reusable cotton makeup remover pads. I've been eyeing them on Etsy and my trigger finger is getting itchy.

    0 agree
  31. Love love this! They are sooo incredibly cute!
    But, I'm sure it would fall under the "maybe one day if I get a sewing machine and get around to do it" type of projects… They look awesome, but I'm not quite sure how much they will help, except for the prettiness.
    I use washclothes for almost anything, and my paper towel roll lasts ages! ( I probably only use it for things like putting around bacon or potatoes before putting in the microwave)

    0 agree
  32. Gorgeous! Love this idea for making a distinct difference for floor cloths and surface cloths. The two will never be confused again!

    0 agree

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