How do I cut paper towels out of my kitchen habits?

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Between the Paper Towels

Karen needs your help!

Hey Homies!
We took the dive into a CSA, and it is so fun. However, this influx of new produce has us racing through paper towels — lots of items call for wrapping in damp paper towels for storage.

We’ve started talking about cutting disposables out — but it seems daunting to lose such a convenient product! How do I get started?

So, the easy answer here is, “Use cloth.” Sure, but what KIND of cloth do people use when you give up paper towels?

Me, I love tea towels. I don’t have any fancy ones — just some $3/pack jobbies from the grocery — but they’re thin, lightweight, all-cotton — and because of this they’re super flexible. Cotton tea towels work just as well for wrapping radishes as they do for dabbing my hands dry.

Homies, what have you got? If you don’t use paper towels, what do you use?

Comments on How do I cut paper towels out of my kitchen habits?

  1. I’m back to living with the parents, but my Mom uses cheesecloth around the kitchen sometimes for wrapping up veggies and baking, dishcloths to wipe up counter messes and cleaning dishes (they last a heck of a lot longer than sponges and paper towels and you just throw them in the wash when they’re dirty), and we use old, ragged t-shirts and towels cut up for messes or cleaning around the house (say, a bottle of apple juice falls on the floor from the fridge).

    We still use paper towels now and then, though, but only to put on top of food in the microwave on leftover night, or other more necessary circumstances.

  2. Growing up, my mom always had a store of clean, (never used!) cloth diapers around – just plain white ones – and we used those to clean up spills around the house.
    /sigh/ unfortunately my new roommates, while otherwise completely fabulous and awesome people, are paper towel using people who also use paper plates and paper cups and water bottles. And plastic bags from the grocery store. I /hate/ plastic bags from the grocery store – we already have like 100 in the house and are rapidly accumulating more. (Random Note: Does anyone have any ideas of what to do to use plastic grocery bags?)
    In any case – I unfortunately won’t be able to have the reusable everything house of my dreams this year – I just try to make up for it by doing my best to reduce such waste on my own.

    • A lot of grocery stores now have bins that you can put the plastic bags in near the entrance and they will recycle them for you!

      If you want to be crafty, though… About a year ago, I heard about a group of old ladies in West Virginia who were weaving plastic grocery bags into sleeping mats for homeless people! An interesting repurposing, I think! Though I agree, I nearly always use reusable bags. I did used to keep some on hand to carry my lunch to campus in inside my backpack or to carry extra shoes in my gym or work clothes bag (I’m a germaphone and can’t handle the idea of dirty shoes knocking against clean clothes, books, etc).

    • If you are crafty, I use my plastic bags to make plarn and crochet it into pot scrubbers. I’ve also used it to make my own reuseable shopping bags.

  3. Tea towels are great. Pieces of old T-shirt are great. And people with a garden might consider taking the time to build an outdoor fruit/vegetable storage… it’s a little bit more difficult, but there should be information out on the internet on how to do it. (Basically, you dig a hole, enforce the walls with concrete or wood, make a concrete or wood ceiling and cover everything with soil (and grass). On the inside, you cover the ground with sand and straw – and you have to make sure the ventilation is right. I totally plan to do this in our own garden, as soon as we have one… (^v^)

  4. A thought for making rags more accessible/convenient: If you take a dishtowel (or any piece of sturdy fabric in a rectangular shape), you can make a casing for elastic at each of the shorter ends (make it small enough that it creates a kind of puff/gather at the end of the towel, but big enough that when you stretch the elastic, you can still put your hand through it). Then fold it in half along the longer side, and sew the long edges together. You now have a tube that will expand/contract to hold whatever is in it. You can put a loop at the top to tie it on a hook, doorknob, etc. Then you can stuff the clean rags inside and hang it somewhere convenient.

    I make these for people as gifts sometimes, and also have one myself. Most people use them to hold plastic bags so that they can reuse them, but you could easily use it for rags.

  5. Try your bulk goods section of your local thrift shop/op shop for terry or flannel towels that can be cut to size, or get some super duper cheap flat-fold diapers at your local baby store/Target. Either are great for cleaning yuckies you don’t want to touch, but remember to always wash your towels on hot setting, perhaps with an additional rinse, to ensure that they don’t get stinky. If you have a Big Lots,too, that’s my go-to destination for microfiber towels for big jobs like window cleaning, dusting, car cleaning, etc. and el-cheapo kitchen towels for cleaning up after dirty kiddos.

  6. But how do you handle this when you don’t have a washer and dryer at your disposal? I also don’t have a vehicle, so I can’t exactly get to the laundromat whenever I want…..

  7. Old cotton-flannel sheets (torn into smaller squares) make excellent cleaning rags, as well as being super-absorbent for anything from wrapping up the bottom of a head of lettuce to replacing disposable feminine hygiene products. I highly recommend flannel for everything.

    But the question about laundromats is a really good one–what do people do who don’t have washing machines at home?

  8. We use a mix of paper towels (for extra dirty/gross joBs) and reusable/machine washable bamboo paper towels I got on Groupon for a steal! I use them for everything around the house now and they last a long time!

  9. We use lots of hand towels & vintage cloth table napkins to reduce the use of paper towels. For really dirty jobs I have a stash of rags cut from old sweatpants & sweatshirts and old towels. Basically any old cotton clothing I make rags out of and they work for one job or another.

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