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Using Cloth in the Home

A couple of years ago, we were primarily using disposable products at home.  Lots of paper towels, one-time-use “sweeper” cloths for sweeping floors and dusting, sponges for scrubbing, tissues for nose-wiping, and paper napkins at mealtime. This is probably common for many households, and while it sure is convenient, it definitely contributes to all sorts of environmental problems.

Whether you’re talking about deforestation, filling up landfills, toxic waste in our water systems from the bleaching process, or even the energy needed to create all these products, disposables are a problem.  Fortunately,  it is easy to make changes in this area, and every little change can actually help make a great difference.

We still use some disposable products, but we’ve transitioned away from many of them, and are getting to ready to say good-bye to a few more.  Here are a few simple ideas for switching to cloth around your house, and making the transition easy.

Cloth Napkins

This was one of our first transitions: replacing paper napkins with cloth napkins.  When I first considered this, I remember thinking cloth felt too “fancy” for everyday meals. But we purchased some really basic napkins and now they just feel normal to us. Our napkins are actually bandanas from Hobby Lobby (without the Western pattern) – they were regularly priced at $0.99 each, but I got them half-off – $0.50 apiece!  I bought twenty for ten bucks.

Our cloth napkins, a.k.a. bandanas, that match our blue and white dishes.

A friend of mine actually inspired this idea – she had done the same and I would have never guessed her napkins were bandanas.  I am looking forward to eventually buying more napkins in different colors and maybe some patterns, too – it’s a fun way to dress up your table for holidays and special occasions, too.

You can also sew your own cloth napkins; buy some fabric you like or re-purpose some old fabric, cut into squares, and hem the sides. If you need some inspiration, just do a search on the web for “tutorial cloth napkins.”

Here are a few tips for cutting back on dirty napkin laundry:

• Re-use your napkin for a few days, or a week, until it really does need to be washed – there’s no need for a clean napkin at each meal. (Guests are the exception, of course!)

• Distinguish whose napkin is whose by leaving the napkin at the table after each meal in each person’s place.  Alternately, if you use your table for other purposes between meals, use a specific napkin ring for each person in order to designate who that napkin belongs to.  Or, use different color napkins for each person, or embellish napkins with embroidery, etc.  Get creative with it!

Cloth in the Kitchen

Paper towels are a basic household item, and I still use them sometimes.  But we’ve cut way back by stocking up on a bunch of basic cotton kitchen towels, and reaching for them first. There is very little that you can’t do with a cloth towel, and you will find you need paper less and less.

We were at Ikea one day, and noticed that they had simple kitchen towels for $0.50 per towel.  Again, we stocked up and purchased about twenty of them, for a grand total of $10.

Our kitchen towels, folded and stacked in the drawer.

Tips for Making the Transition:

Put away the paper towels so that they’re not out in the open. If you can’t automatically reach for them, you will think before using them.

Hang the cloth towels you are currently using on a hook where you will see them, or in the handle of the refrigerator – somewhere visible and accessible.  Keep the rest folded in a kitchen drawer.  You can use these for all sorts of basic spills and clean-ups in the kitchen and around the house, as well as drying your hands after you wash them.

• Keep the hand-drying towel separate from the spill towel.  You can re-use these both for quite awhile; the hand towel will stay clean for some time, since it is only used to dry clean hands.  The spill towel can probably be rinsed, wrung out, and re-used a few times before washing.

Blowing Noses and Drying Tears

Before there were tissues, there were…handkerchiefs!  How quaint and old-fashioned!  Yet how very green and modern, too.  Handkerchiefs are making a comeback. Tissues are one of the worst offenders when it comes to deforestation, bleaching processes, and even hormone disrupters like parabens. (Yes, have you ever read the ingredients on your box of tissues?  There are often other things besides paper in there!)

Handkerchiefs went out of vogue when our society became germ-phobic; tissues seemed like a sanitary solution.  But handkerchiefs are perfectly sanitary when you know how to wash them. Honestly, if you have a washing machine, detergent, and hot water, that’s really all you need to wash the average hanky.  If you’ve been sick, you might want to soak them first with a little Bac-Out.

Hankies are also softer on the nose – nice!  We haven’t switched to hankies yet, but we are about to do so.  We have some friends who keep a few baskets around their house with cloth hankies in them, so they are always handy.  You can tuck one or two in your bag before you leave the house, and you’ll be good to go.

Photo by Lene, also called Manisha

If you don’t want to buy handkerchiefs, you can cut up some old flannel baby blankets, or buy some flannel fabric and cut it with pinking shears – no hemming necessary.  That will make for a nice, soft, thick hanky.  You can also use plain white cotton weave fabric, like your grandmother probably used.  And again, here’s a fun opportunity for personalization – embroider your hankies, get different colors for different family members, etc – make it fun and make it your own.

Cloth for Cleaning House

We have switched to cotton microfiber cloths for cleaning house.  Whether I’m cleaning the bathroom sink or the baseboards, they will do the trick. You can use them dry as dusting cloths – lint and dust (and hair!) will stick to them like glue, much more effectively than the old disposable sweeper cloths I used to use.  You can use them wet with your cleaner for scrubbing the bathroom sink, and for getting up those spots on the floor that dried before you got to them with your other kitchen towels.  (Hey, I have a toddler! It happens.)

Our microfiber cleaning cloths, stacked neatly on the washing machine. No, they don’t stay like that.

Cloth Wipes for the Family Bathroom

One other area where cloth can be used at home is in the bathroom, as an alternative to toilet paper. You can wash these just like cloth diapers, and save lots of money on toilet paper, as well as saving virgin forests. We haven’t gone there yet, but we’ve considered it. Simple Organic contributor Megan wrote about her family’s switch to cloth in the bathroom; you can read about it here.

Areas For Improvement

We still use sponges for washing dishes and the occasional clean-up job in the kitchen.  I’m not even sure what the average sponge is made of, but at the very least it’s creating more waste.  I know you can now purchase biodegradable sponges, but we haven’t made that leap yet.  We will look into this area more closely this year.

We also find it challenging to completely abandon our paper towels. The two main ways that we still use paper towels are to absorb the grease in bacon or sausage, and to wipe out our cast-iron skillets after cooking.  Does anyone have ideas for alternatives to paper towels in these circumstances?  I’d love to hear them!

How do you use cloth at home? Do you have other ideas that I didn’t mention? Please share!

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  1. bright and blithe

    Such a timely post as I have been pondering this very subject for a matter of days and wondering where to begin. We use a ridiculous amount of paper towels with a toddler in the house. Really. Thank you for this post.
    .-= bright and blithe’s last blog: one choice at a time =-.

  2. Kara

    I too use cloth for cleaning the bathroom and kitchen. I also made the switch to cloth napkins at the start of the year!
    As, for how I avoid sponges and paper towels:
    Sponges = dish rags. I wash dishes early to avoid the stuck on mess and then I don’t require much extra elbow grease when cleaning with cloth. I also change them out frequently, so that I’m not scrubbing with a germ-y towel.
    Paper towel for bacon grease = flour sack towel (or some sort of lint-free linen). I have a separate stash for dealing with this type of greasy mess and they are not used for anything else (since they can get a little grungy).

    • Katie

      Kara, that’s a great idea for bacon grease – thanks! I’ll look into that!

      • Kara

        You’re welcome!

      • Bernie Johnson

        I seem to remember reading a blog post about unpaper towels once where the author said she used cut up tshirts, holey socks, and really grungy rags or towels she was getting ready to toss for greasy messes and wiping out pans. She just kept them in a separate basket under the sink and threw them out when she was done. It seemed like a good way to get another use or two out of something that was heading for the garbage anyway.

  3. Xan

    Thank you! I stopped using paper napkins 30 years ago; my kids were stunned the first time they ate at someone else’s house and they had paper napkins “like a restaurant. Where do you get those?” I was in my 40s before I finally gave in to pressure (from my less-enlightened DH) and started buying paper towels, but a roll will last us months; I always forget they’re there. People used to ask me what I use to clean up spills. Um, a dish rag? They can be washed you know. I used cloth diapers too, but then I’m a hard case, although I have to say I draw the line at toilet paper.
    .-= Xan’s last blog: What the kids remember =-.

  4. Nikki Moore

    I quit using paper towels in the kitchen after being inspired by your blog. 🙂 I have a pretty vintage turquoise stoneware bowl to keep a stash of rags, just cut-up old t-shirts, and I use them for everything in the kitchen…even wiping out greasy pans. I have a roll of paper towel well out of reach – it’s in the bathroom near the kitchen – and the only thing I use it for is cooking bacon, to sop up the grease. I’d probably use the cloth for that too, if I knew I’d be doing laundry that day…but we only do laundry once a week or so.

    I don’t use paper towels to clean much anymore either…but I’ve read that blog about cloth TP, and I have to say that’s where I am drawing the line at this point. 🙂
    .-= Nikki Moore’s last blog: everyone’s afraid of something…or several things =-.

    • Katie

      Nikki, so glad you’ve been inspired here! 🙂 Great idea to use old cut–up t-shirts!

  5. Lynne Patti

    Hi There! We have gone paperless in many aspects of our home, but I would like to know how you get your cloth laundry clean without bleach. Every time I wash our cloth laundry without bleach, it doesn’t get “clean” i.e. it’s still stinky! How do you do this without bleach? I’d appreciate your thoughts. We have our 2nd baby due in July and I’d like to eradicate bleach from my system before then! THANKS.

    • Diane

      I add white vinegar to the rinse cycle and it gets smells out beautifully. I started doing this when my son began sucking on his blanket, creating a mildew smell that I couldn’t get out. It worked so well now I do it with everything. It doesn’t get out stains or make whites “whiter” like bleach, but it works great for getting smells out! Cloths, towels and rags coming out smelling perfectly clean!
      .-= Diane’s last blog: Happy Second Birthday! =-.

    • Katie

      You can also try adding baking soda to your wash – baking soda is great for killing odors. If neither of those help, make sure you are not letting your cloth laundry sit around for too long before it gets washed; mildew will grow and that makes stink. You could also try Bac-Out.

    • Stephanie P

      Hello! I use both baking soda and white vinegar and love my results (I just put the vinegar into my old downy ball so I don’t have to babysit my machine).

      You might also try some hydrogen peroxide. While I’ve never had it stain anything of mine, you might test it in a spot to make sure, first.

      If stains are part of the issue, line drying [in the sun] can remove both stains and odors.

      Hope to have been some help!

  6. Amanda

    Like Xan, I use old cloth diapers for big spills.

    My one vice is Clorox wipes. At the end of the week, I like to wipe down my counters, doorknobs, toilet, baseboards, and anything else that’s visibly dirty with the wipes. I even give my toddler baby wipes to ‘help’ mommy.

    • Jeanette

      Rubbing alcohol and a rag works great for this purpose, and doesn’t leave the residue I found those wipes leave.

  7. Babychaser

    Thanks for the ideas and encouragement!!!

    We haven’t gone paper free all the way yet either, but we are close in the kitchen. Instead of paper towels for greasy things, we usually have some paper napkins we stash when we’ve eaten out. (no, it’s not healthiest, but we do sometimes order pizza, or go pick up wings, or quiznos. And when we do, we save the napkins for just such occasions. Also, after my second was born, a family brought us dinner, including a pack of Easter napkins. Because we don’t use paper napkins, I just tucked them up in our cupboard for greasy occasions.

    As far as my cast iron… I just move the warm (if I am good, usually it’s cold by the time I get to it) pan to the sink where I rinse it with hot water. I use my nylon scrapper (Pampered Chef left over) and my scrubby sponge to get it nice and clean. Then I either use an older towel to dry it, or set it on a burner to heat dry. We use wash clothes for most of our dishes washing, but I still use the sponge with scrubby or steel wool for the cast iron.

    • Katie

      Good ideas – both about using paper napkins that show up with take-out foods, and the cast iron cleaning. Thanks!

  8. saturday

    i’m not sure what you cook your bacon in, but for my cast iron i have a little plastic scraper that i use and put it right in my grease jar.

  9. Chris

    Some great reminders/ideas! I definately need to make the paper towels harder to get to and the white towels easier to get to in the kitchen. (We have a large collection of absorbant white towels about twice the size of handtowels. My husband uses them at work and they are supposed to throw them away after a single use, but the guys all take them home to reuse instead – cheap is good, free is great! We’ll use these towels for just about anything, including on the cast iron, and making them easier to get to would definately help us remember.) And since we already have a pack of cloth napkins (a gift) I think I’ll go pull them out…

    Although my husband will not go for cloth wipes/tp (and at this point neither will I) I am wondering if I could get him to switch to hankies. He goes through about a half a dozen tissues on a GOOD day!

  10. RaisingZ

    We’ve made the leap and have a paperless kitchen and I am starting out with reusable baby wipes this week (in my attempt to move to cloth diapers). I love the hanky idea and will work on that project after I tackle cloth diapers 🙂 We only use paper towels in the bathroom for cleaning. I am not able to let go of them yet because I have a three year old boy who loves to “spray” down the bathroom when using the potty.
    .-= RaisingZ’s last blog: Say It With a Song Sundays 🙂 =-.

  11. Amy @ Amy Loves It!

    Those towels from IKEA are the BEST! I love them!

    I have also used old “burp cloths” as hankies… cheap, soft, and {yes, they are CLEAN!!!} frugal!

    I have been sans paper towels for almost a year now, and I can say that I do not miss them. This post breaks down each frugal and green option very well. Great job, Katie!
    .-= Amy @ Amy Loves It!’s last blog: The Week I Suffered from Brain Freeze =-.

    • Katie

      Thanks, Amy!

    • Trisha

      Well, that answers the question I was going to ask – “Is there such a thing as iron-free hankies.” 🙂

      My mother used to iron hankies every day, and when I left home I never got into the habit of ironing, and made sure most of my clothes don’t need ironing. (Hubby irons his own shirt for church when necessary, but even his are anti-wrinkle.)

      What put me off hankies was that they were scratchy and unattractive unless they were ironed. But soft burp cloths sound much better.

  12. Pam

    Another good place to find cloth napkins would be your local thrift shop! I love the idea of using bandanas. I have a drawer full that have been sitting there and now I will repurpose them for this! Thanks!

  13. Stephanie P

    Love it! I’ve gone paperless in the kitchen and really don’t plan on turning back…ever.

    Some of my tips:

    1. Separate towels for separate jobs:
    We have “pretty” towels that hang on the oven handle just used for drying hands and maybe the wet dish or two that comes out of the dishwasher. We have large and small barmops in various colors and sizes. Dark colors for a dark spill and lighter colors for light colored spills. Also, the small barmops are the exact size to fit on your “Swiffer” mop. So, I use a dark one to clean the floor. Finally, we have dish rags to wash dishes (not contaminating food utensils with what might have been used to clean the floor or the bathroom, no matter what cleaner was used).

    The barmops are really cheap at Bed Bath and Beyond and I always get coupons in the mail! Since I recently got married, I had a lot of new towels to begin with.

    2. Make sure everyone in the house knows the system.

    Different task towels are kept in different places so as to not get confused and clean up a stain with a “pretty” towel 🙂

    3. Different color of cloth napkin for different people. Easy to reuse and not get confused.

    I hope to eliminate disposable pads and toilet paper (for me only for #1) in the very near future.

    • Katie

      Thanks for sharing your tips, Stephanie!

  14. Pam

    We use cloth in many areas of our home instead of disposable paper products. But, we do have room for improvement. You gave me some great ideas in this post – such as having baskets of hankies to use in place of tissue. Also, I have been wanting to make the switch to cloth napkins and didn’t know that I could do it so reasonably with bandanas from Hob Lob. I use my iron skillets all the time and use a mesh scrubbie to clean it out instead of paper towels. You could pour the majority of your bacon grease into a disposable container (such as coffe can, soup can…) and sop up the rest with an old cut up T-shirt cloth. I usually keep a bucket filled with water and a scoop of oxiclean in the laundry room to throw all of my kitchen towels in until the day I wash my whites. Thanks for the great tips.
    .-= Pam’s last blog: The Living Room – Yes, I Procrastinate. =-.

    • Katie

      Ooh, a mesh scrubbie- I forgot about those things! Hmmm, it would be fun to crochet one. And great idea about a bucket with water and oxi-clean in the laundry room until wash day – I think I will start doing something like that! Thanks!

  15. Theresa Milton

    I have cloth diapered my daughter for almost 2 years. She is potty trained now but still uses one every night for accidents. I also have switched to using cloth towels for clean ups. I have a basket of clean towels, wash cloths, etc that I go to first. When they are dirty there’s a ventilated crate right beside my sink that I throw them in to wash. I use cloth diaper wipes but haven’t ventured into grown up wiping. I honestly think my family would cry. 😀 I keep paper towels on hand for my husband. It was his only request…that they be in the house IF he needs them. I have noticed that he reaches for cloth more than paper…pretty cool.

  16. Katie

    Wow, such great ideas and suggestions from everyone – thanks! Keep ’em coming!

  17. jenny pruett

    i replaced sponges with knitted washcloths and i feel they work great! they scrub so much better than the usual washcloths.

  18. Stephanie P

    Oh yeah! I also cut out those plastic mesh sponges in the shower. While you can wash them a few times, petroleum products aren’t really all that great for you and it stinks to keep spending money.

    My MIL got me some monogrammed washcloths for Christmas and BAM, new washcloths to use for showering and replace my old mesh sponge. Since switching to primarily bar castile soap, the washcloths are nicer to use anyway.

    However, etsy does have some really cute ones that are made from yarn:

    I’m hoping to use a wetbag when I begin my cloth TP journey. I’ve bought some plain hankies for everyday and found some thin red towels in Target’s dollar bin for the “not everyday” time of the month so I avoid stains (very sorry if this is TMI…).

    Does anyone else already do the cloth TP/family wipes? I’d love to get some wisdom about what to put in the wetbag (i.e. soap, etc) along with the used cloths before I get to wash them.

  19. Emily @ Live Renewed

    Great post! Going paperless around the house is not as daunting as some people might think. We haven’t bought any paper products, except for TP, since moving into our current home 10 months ago. I have found that if I don’t have it, I don’t miss it, and I realize that I really don’t need it. I use a lot of the same types of cloth that you mentioned. Toliet paper can be used for blowing noses if it’s really yucky, and for killing bugs – that’s one I wouldn’t want to use cloth for!

    I recently posted about my latest idea for using my Swiffer mop without needing the disposable Swiffer cloths –

    Also, about using sponges for washing dishes – I can’t remember the source, but I’ve read some pretty gross things about the nasty stuff that grows in sponges because they don’t get completely dried out. That was enough to convince me to get rid of the sponges for good. I use cotton knitted dishrags and those green scotch-brite scrubbers – which I wash with my rags and reuse until they’re falling apart.

    I would encourage anyone who uses disposable products to just make a change in one area and see how easy it is and then you can gradually change you whole house over to cloth! I think cloth works so much better – I would never go back!

  20. Becky - Clean Mama

    I have been “out” (on purpose) of paper towels for the last week and we made breakfast sausage yesterday. Oh no, we made breakfast sausage – I used the paper napkins I’m trying to replace with cloth ones. Kind of defeats the purpose, but I really think I need a “just in case” roll of paper towels.
    .-= Becky – Clean Mama’s last blog: Monday of My Weekly Docket =-.

  21. Jessie

    On the napkin ring front: My grandma used to have clothes pins with each family member’s name written on them in Sharpie. You can clip it to your napkin so they don’t get mixed up, and it’s cheap and easy to add more family members or even guests!
    .-= Jessie’s last blog: Norman’s Birthday =-.

    • Katie

      Great tip, Jessie! How simple and cute, too.

  22. Karrie

    We went paperless in the kitchen about a month ago thanks to the post on Simple Mom. It followed our decision to cloth diaper about two months ago and just made sense. My family would grap a paper towel for everything. It really helps us to have them put up in the pantry. Also, it was hard to quit using my sponge. I was given some cotton knitted dishrags and just get a new one daily. Thanks for all the great tips!

  23. AlwaysLearning

    I bought a large package of shop cloths years ago and have used them as my napkins for my family. They wash well and when a little ratty looking, can be used for rags.

  24. Angie

    Has anyone tried growing your own luffa sponges? I’ve always wanted to try it, and was wondering if you could use them for kitchen dishes. I know they’re mostly used for the shower, but if you could use them in the kitchen sink, you could use them, and then if they got gross, just toss them into the compost pile! Anyone have any experience with them? Great post!

  25. Megan@SortaCrunchy

    I am SO ENCOURAGED to see so many people going paperless!

    I have to say again what I always say on this topic – cloth is just MORE EFFECTIVE at cleaning than paper. Every time.

    Katie – I just use washcloths for washing dishes. I got a few of those super cheap ones, and they have held up quite well. We don’t have a dishwasher, so I try to get dirty dishes to the sink to at least soak for a bit before washing and those little washcloths work nicely.

    I have to say the BEST nose wipers we have are some that I bought inadvertently back when we were cloth diapering. They are cloth wipes that are so, so soft one one side but a sort of hemp fleece (I think) on the other. I’m trying to think of what the material is on the soft side. Shoot. Can’t think of it. But the hemp fleece on the reverse makes them nice and sturdy and absorbent. We have traditional hankies that Kyle uses, but the girls and I love our soft ones.

    I could seriously talk about cloth in the home all day. That’s a weird topic to be so passionate about, isn’t it?!
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy’s last blog: whereby nobodies change the world =-.

  26. Jeannie

    Sigh. Bye bye kitchen sponge. Hubby is not going to be happy about this. But, I do the shopping so…

    I tried the cloth diapering and while it was great while nursing, after real food entered the picture, it just didn’t work for us. So, I use disposables. I know, I know… Maybe next time.

    We have tons of cloth napkins that we get at yard sales for cheap, and use those for everything from actual napkins to rags. I also went to Walmart (only store in the area) and got two packs of the 20 rags each. They’re cheap and will last a long time. I wanted enough that I will always have a lot on hand for spills even if I havn’t gotten to the laundry in a few days!

    The other hint for the wash – one of those Downy balls. Put the vinegar in that so that it gets into the rinse cycle. You may need a couple to get enough in per load but they’re cheap and last forever.

    And, we love our clothes line! Even in the humid south, it only takes a few hours to dry and my little one really enjoys running around while I put the clothes up.

    • Katie

      Yes, the clothes line! Such wisdom from the older ways. 🙂

  27. Betsy Negley

    I use a dish rag or old wash cloth for dishes. I found some white washcloths somewhere really cheap and they work great! I am trying to go paperless in the kitchen but the DH is my last holdout. I watched my kids grab a LOOONG line of paper towels the other day to clean up a WATER spill, instead of grabbing a towel. sigh! Re-education is so hard sometimes. As for the bacon/sausage issue, I bake my bacon and then pour the grease off into a repurposed spaghetti sauce jar. If the bacon still needs blotting, use paper coffee filters (I know) but you can get them unbleached which helps the environment a little bit.

  28. Pat

    Hi, You mentioned in the ‘Improvements’ section near the end of your post that you still use sponges.

    Might I suggest a dish mop.
    I have crocheted some of these …they are made of cotton thread, heavy, nubby(good for scrubbing) …I use it several times. after I am through washing dishes (I don’t have a dishwasher…that’s another story) I run a dish pan full of hot water to clean it- add baking soda and vinegar and let sit for 1/2 hr or so, rinse, ring and let dry for the next day.
    I find it fresh the very next morning and can use it several days. I love these for doing the dishes and DON’T MISS the stinky sponge.

    I just found your site… and am loving it.
    I’m wondering do you make your own laundry soap?
    With the Borax, washing soda, and Fels Naptha?
    I use this , for all my laundry and use a little extra Borax for spot treating and tough stains.
    Seriously- do people not spot treat anymore?

    I think we’ll be trying the personal wipes for a week. At least give it a try.

    My MIL was born in 1929- and she had 6 girls in her family of 10 kids growing up.
    They had to use cloth napkins for their periods.

    These are not new ideas that you have- but we’ve become squeamish and self-centered–for the sake of CONVENIENCE!

    • Katie

      I don’t make my own laundry soap but I’ve thought about it….right now I use natural store-bought products. I am curious about this dish mop – I don’t know if I have ever seen one! I will do some research – thanks for the suggestion!

    • Kara

      I loved your comment about people not spot treating anymore! It’s so true. My bf couldn’t get the sweat stains out of his hat for his military uniform and he was going to purchase a new one. It turns out he wasn’t pre-treating it before throwing it in the wash. I showed him how and it came out good as new.

  29. Nicole aka Gidget

    awesome post, Katie! We’re in almost the exact place as you with all this. We actually use knitted dishcloths instead of a sponge to wipe the counters (they go in the wash and can be dried) and I have a few older ones I use to clean out the cast iron skillet with. Still use the paper towels for bacon, though too! 🙂 For the dishes I use one of those OXO brushes that you fill with soap. I think it’s better at scrubbing than my knitted dishcloths altho less “green” since the brush heads eventually will get disposed of.
    I’m thinking of switching to hankies and family cloth, at least for my daughter and I (not so sure about the hubby) very soon, too!

  30. Michelle Richmond

    I have alot of washcloths (facecloths) and keep half in the bathroom and half in a handy kitchen drawer. We use them to wipe counter, as napkins at supper and I also have dark green ones that I use on my swifter mop. When my kids were babies, I went to Kmart and bought a big stack of “ugly patterned” face cloths to use as baby wipes. I just kept a stack on the change table and a small bowl of water to wet them with. Using baby wipes only when going out and about. Plus you usually need to use 3 or 4 of the wipes to do a good job and it’s such a waste.

  31. Sarah

    The biggest problem I have with most of your suggestions is that I don’t have laundry in my apartment, or even in my building. I have to take my laundry to a laundromat, where the machines are bigger and have less options that a household machine. So I go less often, and as much laundry as I can carry is still only 2 loads.

    So while I do use handkerchiefs and cloth napkins/towels for water spills, and feel okay about throwing those in with my clothes, I don’t really want greasy food-stained towels a) hanging around my kitchen for a week or two, or b) washed with my clothes. And that goes about triple for cloth TP.

    • Katie

      Yes, it’s so hard if you don’t have laundry in your building! One idea might be to try setting up a bucket filled with water and a cleaning agent like Bac-Out or Oxy-Clean and putting your kitchen/food laundry into it to soak until wash day, and then do one load with all the cloth household items. But it’s very hard – I know, I’ve been there! 🙂

  32. Sarah

    As soon as I saw this I was reminded of my mom. Growing up in a big family and not having a lot of money my mom turned to the scraps she used from sewing. I can’t remembering using anything else now! Friends would think it was a little weird but personally I think it’s brilliant. She would just square up the scrap material then hem all the corners. We had every pattern!
    Now that we have a puppy we found we were using waaaaay to many paper towels, so we took some old towels and ripped them up to clean the puddles up.
    My mom to save as well, used cloth diapers when we were little and something similar to that time for the month. She told me it was all quiet nasty but saved lots of money (as well as being environmental friendly). I’m not so sure I would not want to use toilet paper but according to my dad and brother it is quiet expensive. Last year we bought new carpet and they figured up that it was as actually cheaper to use carpet then toilet paper! Enjoyed the article 🙂

  33. Carissa

    I love this post – thank you! I do use cloth more than paper in the kitchen, but I am definitely encouraged and challenged to do better.
    I had to post, though, b/c I do cloth TP and LOVE it!!! I cut up some of my DH old t-shirts a year or more ago, and I haven’t looked back. I still use paper for ‘the big job’ and a few days each month. But the rest are cloth and it is sooo nice and clean. Even my 4 y/o DD uses cloth. I’m so glad that we aren’t putting the paper “dust” and chemicals in areas where it shouldn’t be. I have enough to last 3-4 days and I wash them with the baby’s diaps. Once he’s potty trained, we’ll just wash with towels in hot water.

  34. Christy

    I save all bags that come into my kitchen. When I have bacon grease I dump as much a possible in a glass container that i keep near the stove. Then I crumple up a bag and use it to get more of the grease off. I don’t feel bad pitching it then since I got an extra use out of it. And then finally I have a stash of really old yucky things like socks with holes in them, my husband’s nasty old work shirts that I have cut into small pieces and I use one of them to get the rest out and I don’t mind pitching these either as they were only good for the trash anyhow.
    .-= Christy’s last blog: K is for Kitchen =-.

  35. Jen

    Thanks for the awesome article. We are all cloth users here at home as well. Family cloth, and I use a diva cup or cloth pads that I made. I use my kids old cloth diaper prefolds as everything. Those suckers are the most amazing for spills and for basic cleaning.

    A couple things I do, for bacon, I put a cookie cooling rack in a baking pan and let the bacon grease drain off into the pan. Then I can pour it into a jar. No paper or cloth for that!

    For cleaning my cast iron, I use an old potato scrubber or a plastic scrubbie. I’ve also been making my own scrubbie by crocheting old onion bags.

  36. Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

    I still have some paper towel for killing bugs and what you mentioned – it’s hard to find something that takes the same space as a paper towel roll on my overcrowded tiny counter!

    One thought on “disposable” cloth for yucky jobs – I save holey socks to clean the toilet now, and then throw them away because I’m not going to learn to darn them anytime soon! I hadn’t thought of it, but that and old T-shirts are what I should use for the cast iron.

    Thanks for the encouraging post!
    🙂 Katie

  37. amymezzell

    Some of you might be interested in Skoy cloths – have you heard of them? A friend of mine has been using them, and she showed them to me. I immediately went home and bought some online and bought an extra set to hand out to people to encourage them to use them. Cloth would definitely be better, but some people who aren’t ready for that (they think they aren’t) might go for these Skoy cloths as a transition.
    .-= amymezzell’s last blog: wednesdayyy =-.

  38. Jessica

    Great article! We use plain old washclothes for our needs. Hubby asks that we keep some paper towel around and I’m pretty sure we won’t be switching TP anytime soon, but the paper towel and TP we buy is made from 100% recycled paper and bleached without chlorine.

    We also plan on cloth diapering and probably cloth wipes too, that or making our own wipes with paper towel we use.

  39. Sara McGrath

    I can get 4 cloth napkins from one old pillowcase. I hem the edges and sometimes applique a design on or use letter stamps to write something…. Pillowcases are great for lots of DIY sew projects.

  40. Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage

    I’d not thought of making hankies.
    I’m going to watch for flannel on sale or some old flannel items at yard sales.


  41. Brooke

    Great article! Looking forward to making many paperless transitions this year. My question is about laundry. Can I wash all the dirty cloths together? Like the cloth that cleans the toilet, and the ones we use as napkins, and the ones we use as dish washers, and our bath towels, all in one load?? I’m guessing as long as it’s in hot water, it’s probably fine…but it just seems kinda gross, so I’m wondering if anyone knows what’s appropriate hygiene?? Thank you!

  42. vimla

    previous i was in the habit of using paper towels for cold. i hate people cleaning their running nose in thick towel-napkins. i observed one of our family friend highly educated (gynecologist and surgeon) staking her soiled handkerchief into her stylish costly purse, later she made her maid to wash her soiled kerchief. i really hate that act of unhygienic nature and i used to felt sorry about the poor maid. i feel bad for the poor maid. how do she washes others dirty clothes. but i got lessons. and now i myself i used to stack several extra hankies in my purse,especial when i caught with could and use them wrap them up with cleaner ones and put them in my purse, and hand wash them myself using soft brush and soap and then rinse with detol. the result the trash bins got rid of my soiled papers.
    How I feel bad for that poor others do the dirty dhoti dress

  43. Johnson22Tania

    I will recommend not to hold back until you get big sum of money to buy different goods! You can get the loan or just financial loan and feel fine

  44. Kathy P.

    You can scrape the bacon grease/meat grease out of the pan and use it to mix with bird seeds/fruit seeds/kitchen scraps of all kinds (google ideas) and make your own little suet cakes or suet blobs to feed the birds ! I usually look in the trash can and use whatever is in there to gently scrape the grease out…put it in a can in the freezer until you are ready to make some yummy tweet treats !

  45. LJ

    Hubby constantly pulls out the new sponges and has a terrible paper towel addiction, so he’ll be a hard one to break. I think to start the transition I will have cloths that are all exactly the same, whether for napkins, dishes, the floor, whatever. He is not going to transition well if I put restrictions on which cloths can be used for certain tasks!

    I have several sets of sheets that are getting very thin in the middle. I’m thinking of cutting up the outer edges and using them for hankies, dusting cloths, kitchen towels, etc. The sheets are so soft after years of washing! My mom sent me some crocheted wash cloths for dishes, and I absolutely love them–I cringe now when they are all in the laundry and I have to use the sponge…eeeew!

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  48. Kim

    I used my last paper napkin today. I started thinking of how many I have bought over the last six months. My four children sometimes use 4 each in on meal. I found this article and I am going to try it. My kids looked at me like I was crazy. They are getting use to mommy becoming frugally environmental. I read several of the post and did not see the grease solution I use. I use paper bags that I get from the store or sometimes the brown paper inside packages mailed to our house.

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  52. christine

    not having the issues with bacon grease myself (very rarely make bacon) i have read in other forums to use cake/cookie cooling racks with a dish underneath. there is a concern with washing a cloth that has been used in soaking up cooking oil. apparently there is a possibility of combustion.

  53. natasha

    bacon grease: in the old days people kept an empty tin can under the sink to pour greasy drippings into (People would actually reuse this grease for frying instead of butter or oil!!). I still save my grease (but don’t re-use) my grease this way: it hardens and can sit there until the can is full. Then throw it away. Step two; let the remainder of the grease cool and harden in the pan, and scrape it out with a spatula until the pan is almost clean. Wash under hot running water with a little dish soap and detergent.

  54. Maid Mirawyn

    I mainly use cloth in the home (except no family cloth here; my husband isn’t willing to even consider the idea). Dishcloths do multi-duty around here as napkins, too. (Yay for Ikea dishcloths!) It was hard for my husband to make the switch, because they ALWAYS used tons of disposable paper products when he was growing up. MY family was always too broke to depend on paper towels, though, and my grandmothers had that strong, post-Depression, waste-not mentality. He finally switched to handkerchiefs this last year. While suffering with allergies, he turned to them in desperation. He was surprised how much easier they are on the nose! We do keep a box of tissues in the house, though, for guests; we want them to feel comfortable!

    We do still have paper towels, though. My husband uses them with his cast iron. We also use them to clean up after the cats (hairballs and the like); some things we just want gone!

  55. Claudia

    For draining any fried/greasy food brown paper bags (if your grocery store uses them!) I am 66 years old and when growing up that is the only thing my mother ever used for draining everything from bacon to fried chicken and french fries. Then just throw away.
    Paper bags beat plastic bags.

  56. Richard

    We bought microfiber cleaning cloths from I add water rinse excess water out of the cloth and I can clean all the rooms in one shot. Saves lots of time and after i’m done cleaning I wash it in the sink and hang to dry. I save money on paper towels and I don’t need to use chemicals.

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