When the toilet paper and paper towel shortage hit in March, I was in shock. Hoarding in general is a weird phenomenon to me, but the paper towel hoarding was what boggled my mind. One of the easiest steps all of us can make is to learn how to stop using paper towels!
My husband and I use fewer than 2 rolls of paper towels per year. And now we might be down to 1 roll. Per year! I know. Apparently that’s crazy.
How to Stop Using Paper Towels
It didn’t all start out as an effort to cut back waste and single-use anything though. I think it started when we got cloth napkins. Every meal we enjoy at home, we have the linens to wipe our hands rather than paper towels. And then I just had rags for cleaning, so that wasn’t a use for us either.
The only things we were using paper towels for included some microwaving (wetting them first to put over bowls) and to drain any fat on the rare occasion we were pan frying something.
The first use was removed when we got more microwave-safe silicone lids. You can read my full review of them in my 5 Easy Kitchen Swaps post. The second took some practice, but now were down to basically no paper towel use.
Whatever level of paper towel use you are at, just work toward using less (or fewer in this case)! You’ll gradually wean your way away from so much use.
Why Are Paper Towels Bad?
I know in theory we all understand that paper towels use trees and therefore we should have less waste, but there’s a little more to it than that.
Greenily shared these fascinating stats…
- To make one ton of paper towels 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water are polluted.
- In the U.S. we currently use more than 13 billion pounds of paper towels each year and that number is growing steadily.
- As many as 51,000 trees per day are required to replace the number of paper towels that are discarded every day.
Besides just the use (and disposing) of paper towels… think about the plastic wrapping around each roll, the emissions caused by creating the paper towels, transporting them to warehouses, stores, and your homes. And that’s before you think about the fact that soiled paper towels can’t be recycled, they must be placed in the trash.
Paper Towel Replacements
What and how you replace each use of paper towels is totally up to you, but here are some easy alternatives.
A note. We have a dirty towel basket under our kitchen sink. As we need to replace them, they go into the basket and we just do a load of towels every 1-2 weeks. Having places for clean and dirty towels is a very helpful way to stay organized and continue your use practice.
Drying Your Hands – Use dish towels, hand towels. The biggest complaint I’ve heard about these is they get dirty. Swap them out as often as needed. We probably go through 3-5 kitchen towels per week (I use them quite a bit when cooking). We have a drawer of kitchen towels and rags, so there are plenty of replacements.
Cleaning Your Counters – As I mentioned above, we have kitchen rags. They have a place and I only use those to wipe and clean the counters down. I keep them separate.
It’s great to use old towels for this use. And try to AVOID BUYING anymore microfiber clothes. They’re made of plastics that enter the water stream every time you wash them. We have a few and still use them, but now I am actively not buying anything microfiber.
To Hold Your Snacks/Food – I know paper towels, folded in half made great plates….but just use plates. This one is probably a great first step if you’re youre just starting off.
To Catch Grease – This was the last thing we were using paper towels for and I couldn’t figure out a solution for a while. There are two options. The first is to use a cooling rack. The grease will drip down through the rack and it will actually help your food stay more crispy because there isn’t steam creating on the bottom of your food.
As a Napkin – Cloth Napkins, Cloth Napkins, Cloth Napkins. Feel fancy, be more sustainable, and be more amazing. You can buy some to match your decor, get some from a family member with way too many (just ask – we all have them), or buy them second hand! We throw dirty (cloth) napkins into that bin under our sink.
Paper Towel Alternatives
The options are indeed getting better for “reusable paper towels.” I do generally believe we don’t have to have exact replacements for paper towels, but if the end goal is less waste, then I’m all for it. Look for ones that don’t have any chemicals and that are machine-washable. That means they’re truly reusable and should last you years and years!
So how will you stop using paper towels?