Cloth Invasion: Use Fabric instead of Paper

When I was trying to strain my brain to see what more I could do to try and help the earth, I looked around for what we used a lot of and just threw away. The most obvious answer was threefold: napkins, toilet paper (which we also used as tissues) and paper towels.


All were easily solved. We went to thrift stores and garage sales and bought cloth napkins. They didn't have to be fancy, just usable. They can be used a day or two by each person before just throwing them into the normal wash. (They don't take up that much room.)

Now the tissues: Mom and I now use handkerchiefs, one handkerchief per day and they get washed at the end of the week. It's amazing how much TP we used just blowing noses. We both have allergies, so that makes it even worse.

As for the paper towels: cloth does just as good a job for cleaning things as paper towels are. For these jobs, I use old sheets, stained or ripped clothing that can't be given to Goodwill, old towels, and other cloth that would otherwise just get thrown away. Knit/fluffy socks are great for dusting, T-shirts and other porous cloth for normal cleaning (including glass), and rough cloth for scrubbing. They don't fall apart like paper towels, either, and also can be thrown into the wash.


A note on these ideas however: if cleaning up something really nasty, like oil or grease or ink. I recommend just throwing the cloth away or wash it in a load with only other such cloths.

By Saber from Omaha, NE

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October 6, 20080 found this helpful

I do the same thing. I got to thinking one day about uses for old clothes that were not even fit to give away due to stains or holes; and I figured that I could get one more use out of them by using them for cleaning rags. And they are a lot more durable than paper towels. If they are not too dirty, I wash and re-use; if too dirty (grease ), then I throw them away. Old t-shirts are the best; soft and absorbent.

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October 6, 20080 found this helpful

I also save newspapers for many uses. use them to clean your mirrors and windows with a vinegar/amonia/water solution. I also use them instead of papers towels to clean up something really messy (dropped an egg on the floor) and even to drain bacon on.


Back in the day we were taught to line our garbage cans with them because we didn't have plastic bags.

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October 7, 20080 found this helpful

I agree with everything except the tissues, for sanitary reasons.

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October 7, 20080 found this helpful

We made napkins out of old fabric that I had a box full of. Cut it into squares and zig-zagged around the edges. My family is resistant to anything new but they use them at dinner usually every night.


TC in MO

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October 8, 20080 found this helpful

You all are a tad more thrifty than I am. Although I do save old towels and sheets and use them as rags, or during hurricane season to sop up leaks. As for clothing, I upcycle those:

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October 10, 20080 found this helpful

I have been using cloth exclusively napkins for about 21 years now. Hankies for about six, rags for paper towels for about two years now. I am so thrilled with the lack of waste. I save threadbare rags to cleanup yucky messes like cat barf & just throw them away, they have well served their purpose.


I am so happy to see others doing this as well. It may be a small thing to do for the environment but they all add up.

Trish in CT

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January 14, 20140 found this helpful

That's great. I am using the napkins as well. I suggest having different colors and patterns so that you can tell which napkin is yours. It helps if you have several people in your household.

Here is another tip different topic. Ever get tired of dirty wrists or elbows?

I found a solution. Cut off the rib part of socks, use for the wrists. Just pull over your wrists, also protects your blouse/shirt or a wrist support brace from dirt and grime.


This also will keep bugs, dirt out of your shirt while your working in the garden.

For covering elbows you can cut the tip of the toes off and slid that over your elbows. This really helps when your leaning on them all day.

I do both of these and can change colors to fit my dress for that day. I get a lot of people saying how neat that is and smart. So don't fret about it not being cool.

Deah in Texas

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