Alternatives to Paper Towels

Category Reusing
Paper towels can be costly and feel wasteful as they can only be used once. Keep the paper out of the landfill by investing in an alternative. This page contains alternatives to paper towels.


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I have decided not to buy paper towels anymore. I am using several alternatives. For draining fried foods (bacon, chicken, fries) I use a cloth diaper. I had some new ones that we're never used for my grandson. After I put the food on the diaper, I wash (degrease with dish soap) the diaper after I wash the dishes and let it dry on the old paper towel holder. Dish towels, cut up old towels/sheets and old wash cloths are my other substitutions. I just think about when I grew up without paper towels, and how much I do not have to succumb to the imagined need for them.

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To save on paper towels, and land fill. Tie a hanging towel in the kitchen. They are hard to find, but easy to make. I use mine, when cooking and cleaning the whole time.


By Laura Meller from Spartanburg, S.C.

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

April 1, 2011

If I give up paper towels, what should we use for quick pick ups, spills, etc.? I don't want to be passing germs using cloth rags, on items in the kitchen. Any ideas? How can I get the rest of the members in house to go along with this idea?

By peggybarry from MA


Alternatives to Paper Towels

It is probably unusual but I am a big fan of bandannas. They are so light weight and easy to clean and wash, but any fabric you like would do. I think it is good you are doing this! We can each contribute to the earth's improvement one person and one act at a time! (05/08/2009)


By Robyn Fed

Alternatives to Paper Towels

Good for you! Here's what I have found to work best. Choose affordable washer/dryer friendly items. All can be found at yard sales, and washed daily with your laundry.

  • Washcloths: use these to wipe counters, appliances, sinks, anything. I use regular terry washcloths and also the crocheted ones(Cotton yarn, I make them)

  • Hand towels: Hang on fridge/oven to dry your hands after washing(as they get damp or "dirty" you can use to pick up anything messy), these are most versatile, you can pick up food spills and then rinse off chunks etc. before washing in washer.

  • Cloth Napkins, keep your eyes out for the good cotton napkins(absorbent, not thin and slippery). You can make these also (I do).

  • Cloth rags:Old towel/cloths etc. that you were about to throw away, keep them for one last use, like the nasty kitty/dog accidents. Cut up the towels so you can get the most out of it.
Good luck! (05/08/2009)

By Heather

Alternatives to Paper Towels

You will so miss the paper towels! I use them still after trying to quit, because I use them in cooking and such.
Unfortunately I found no solution to replacement, and this is because I was now using tea towels in the kitchen which required washing and cleaning solution (409) to be effectively "germ free". So in essence either pay small money for cleaners, or small money for paper towels. (05/08/2009)

By dede smith

Alternatives to Paper Towels

My husband used to love those blue paper 'shop rags', but they are about $5 a roll. They are thick and absorbent, but they go through so many. I either save or buy at garage sales the clothing no one else wants, like old flannel or plaid shirts, old frayed towels and sheets, and just cut up into the proper size.


I store them in a mesh laundry bag (the kind you wash sweaters in) that the zipper had broken on. I just put a nail up under the shop rafter, and hang the bag and rags there for him. When they get too nasty for his tastes, he just throws them away. (05/08/2009)

By Frances Adams

Alternatives to Paper Towels

I use cloth diapers. Somehow after 4 kids (one set of twins) I have a ton of cloth diapers. I keep them in the kitchen in a deep decorative basket. They are great and absorbent. I throw them in the laundry and wash them as I get to a white load that needs a little more to be full. I do still use paper towels but severely less. (05/13/2009)

By Libby

Alternatives to Paper Towels

I buy cheap, thin bleach from discount store and put it in a spray bottle. A light spray on the counter tops and mop up with my cloth. I still use paper towels for other things though! (05/16/2009)


By marion davidson

Alternatives to Paper Towels

Sponges work for liquid spills. They can be sanitized with diluted bleach, or microwaved wet for 2 minutes. (05/16/2009)

By merlene smith

Alternatives to Paper Towels

I try to use a sponge whenever I can. Then I throw it in the dishwasher each day when I wash the dishes. Microwaving for 2 minutes doesn't seem to tackle a stinky sponge though. And newspaper DOES work wonderfully on windows. Good luck! It's hard to give up disposable paper towels. (05/16/2009)

By Janel

Alternatives to Paper Towels

We haven't given up paper towels, but we also use the white terrycloth "shop towels" sold in (I think) the automotive department at discount stores for all kinds of clean-ups. They hold up well to laundering in hot water and bleach, which I think disinfects them sufficiently for most uses. My hubby even uses them as napkins at dinnertime. Well, when we're eating home alone, that is! :) (05/17/2009)

By ChloeA

Alternatives to Paper Towels

Small wet dry vac from black and decker. For your hands you can use small individual cloth napkins. Then just wash with the rest of your things. White ones you can bleach. (05/17/2009)

By theodora baker

Alternatives to Paper Towels

In the long run I don't think you will save much if any by giving up paper towels because you have to have something. Paper towels you use then throw away or something you have to wash. That means either a extra load or a larger load more water more money. The cloth would have to be at least one a day maybe two a day.Why give yourself more to wash and dry don't we have enough to wash and dry. LOL (05/18/2009)

By Teresa Tart

Alternatives to Paper Towels

On a newspaper being sterile enough to wrap a newborn in: while the printing process can produce enough heat to kill off a lot of bacteria at the moment of printing,it actually being sterile if unread is really an Urban Legend.

By the time an unread newspaper gets to the stand, the store, or your home delivery--it has been through the ( ungloved) hands of the press workers, the people who load it onto the delivery truck--the loading dock, the newspaper carrier, the store stockroom--you get the drift.

Not to mention the black and color inking that will readily rub off onto your hands. It's great for cleaning windows, but I wouldn't wrap a newborn, an animal, or anything edible in it.


By Candy Killion

Alternatives to Paper Towels

I have to say that I quit buying paper towels a few months ago and have not had any trouble giving them up. We still have a holder over our sink in the kitchen so I hang the dishtowel that I use to dry the dishes, yes I wash them with my hands I don't understand why anyone would use a dishwasher that wastes more water than it is worth, to dry off our hands when we wash them. If you have to clean up a spill they will work just fine. Just put them in the wash it's just that simple.

Also you can wash your windows with a little dish liquid in a bucket of water and dry them with a dishtowel as well. I used to work in a park as a housekeeper and that is how we washed the windows in the buildings there. Also scrap material from old clothing works fine for cleaning jobs around the house. No need to buy those sponges that just collect germs and sour anyway. Peace! (06/07/2009)

By Donna Griffin

Alternatives to Paper Towels

I keep a stack of cloths that I cut from old T shirts. I use pinking shears. I also keep a spray bottle full of a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar to use in the kitchen. A spray of this solution, a wipe with the t shirt cloths, and the job is done!

And as for the statement in one of the above posts "I don't understand why anyone would use a dishwasher that wastes more water than it is worth", I would have to disagree. It is just DH and I at home now. We only have to run the dishwasher every three days or so. For us, it is cheaper to use the dishwasher every three days than to wash all by hand. (03/04/2010)

By kerly87

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May 8, 2009

What are some alternatives to using paper towels? - Nancy J.

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