How to Reduce the Use of Paper Towels

April 3, 2012

When it comes to the budget, I do my best to reduce the money spent on things that just go to waste, such as paper towels. The one thing that I’ve found when it comes to paper towels is that if they are around, it can be hard not to use them. Slowly, I’ve worked at reducing my use of them and I’ve got it down to almost nothing throughout the year.

I started with a “Paper Towel Challenge” several years ago. I simply put a sticky note on my paper towel holder with the current date at the time and any time I’d go to grab a paper towel, I’d see it and try to find a better alternative. I was able to go 20 days without using any.

Over time, I’ve found things that have worked and haven’t worked. And here are my favorite finds: (Note: Not sponsored items. Just things that I like!)

Skoy Eco-friendly Cleaning Cloths – These little gems have saved me countless paper towels. They feel like a cross between a thick paper towel and a very thin sponge. And even though they are little, they can soak up liquids like you wouldn’t believe. I actually did a (very informal!) test the other night. I poured the same amount of water on the counter to see how the Skoy would work compared to paper towels and here’s what it looked like:


The Skoy cloths soaked it up with room to spare, as you can see. I could just wring it out and I was able to soak up the same amount of water a few more times before I couldn’t get the counter from being wet.


The Paper Towels–took me two of them and the counter was still wet and the one paper towel was dripping everywhere. It would have taken me 3 to clean up the spill just once. (No worries, I didn’t waste the paper towels. They were used for cleaning!) :)

The Skoy cloths dry out fast and I haven’t noticed them getting “smelly.” They are machine washable and mine have lasted for a long time. You can get all white or multi-colored. I like the multi-colored ones so I can use them for different things and not mix them up. Overall, I love them and they have helped me greatly reduce paper towel usage.

The next thing I noticed I used paper towels for was microwaving bacon for quick meals. But then I found the Presto Microwave Bacon Cooker. This one cooks well and all the grease drips to the bottom. (Once the grease has cooled, I can store/freeze it for later use in cooking/recipes.) I just wash it up when I’m done and I don’t use a single paper towel.

Paper towels can average around $1 or more a roll. (Yes, you might be able to find some cheaper through sales/coupons.) If you are going through a few rolls a week, you might be able to save yourself $50 or more a year just by cutting them back 50%. Overall, the best way to help eliminate paper towels is to be conscious of when and why you are using them. Each time you go to grab one, ask yourself if there’s a better alternative. Not only will you find that you might be able to save money, but you can eliminate unnecessary waste.

What ways have you found to help eliminate paper towel usage? What ways are you still finding that you need them?

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jackie in NC April 3, 2012 at 9:53 am

I am trying to eliminate our paper towel usage, too, and have managed to reduce it significantly. Mostly by using rags or cleaning cloths to clean with and cloth napkins with meals. The only thing I cannot find a substitute for is draining fried foods. I remember when I was young my grandmother used to use paper grocery bags, but with all of the weird illnesses out there these days, I don’t think that’s an option, at least not for me. Do you have any suggestions for that?

2 coupongeek April 3, 2012 at 10:12 am

Hi Jackie,

That is a good question! I don’t make a lot of fried foods but we do layer the plate with a couple when we do. I haven’t found a solution for that one, either. Maybe some of my reader friends will be able to help…anyone have any ideas?

Thanks for sharing your story, Jackie!

Blessings,
Jaycie

3 Michelle April 3, 2012 at 10:14 am

We use flour sack towels in the kitchen to cook with and dry our hands on. I just get one out per day for cooking and one out per day for drying your hands. Then I throw them in the wash with the laundry at the end of the week. That has saved us a lot of paper towels. I also use reusable dish cloths and sponges around the kitchen instead of wiping up with paper towels. I buy one six pack of paper towels about every 2-3 months. I also buy the select a size paper towels to save on usage.

4 Michelle April 3, 2012 at 10:16 am

@ Jackie, try the flour sack towels for drying your fried foods. It’s not disposable, but I think it would work really well.

5 coupongeek April 3, 2012 at 10:22 am

Hi Michelle,

I love the select-a-size towels, too! They may cost a little more but we can extend the length of the few rolls we do use, which recovers the cost and helps eliminate waste.

I’ll have to look into the flour sack towels. Thank you for the idea!

Blessings,
Jaycie

6 Jamie April 3, 2012 at 10:47 am

We also use flour sack towels, and I love them! If you try them with fried foods I would suggest a rewash or laundering separately. Even hand oils significantly decrease their drying efficiency in my experience – can’t imagine significant amounts of grease wouldn’t have the same effect to a much larger extent.

7 coupongeek April 3, 2012 at 12:06 pm

My dish cloths have become pretty bad looking. You have all encouraged me to pick up some of these flour sack towels. I like the idea, too, that I can use them to cover bread as it’s rising, etc.

Thanks for the tips on the fried foods laundering, Jamie!

Blessings,
Jaycie

8 Jennifer @ Spend Less, Shop More April 3, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Great article! I can find paper towels for around 60 cents a roll with coupons, but I just hate throwing that cash into my trash can. I bought some cheap dish towels and napkins at IKEA and have been able to cut back our paper towel usage pretty significantly with just those two small changes. Now, if I could only wean myself off of disposable sanitizer wipes, I’d be all set!

9 Amy Love April 3, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I just thought I’d mention that I have seen the flour sack towells at the local Dollar Tree stores for only $1.

10 coupongeek April 3, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I’m so glad I didn’t get into using the sanitizer wipes much when they first came out. I can see how those could be addicting to use, too! Every once in awhile, I’ll use them to clean up after a raw meat spill.

I’ll definitely check out the towels next time I’m at IKEA. I usually go there once or twice a year.

Thanks for sharing, Jennifer!

Blessings,
Jaycie

11 coupongeek April 3, 2012 at 1:31 pm

:) Thanks so much for the tip, Amy! I’ll check next time I’m there! They sound like a great useful kitchen item.

Blessings,
Jaycie

12 sheri grennille April 3, 2012 at 3:50 pm

we only use paper towels occasionally – cat spit up is the one thing i absolutely won’t use anything else on, when they have the food or fur bits. also, although we don’t buy the select a size, we do tear the towel down the middle or even into thirds when we tear it off the roll.

13 Cookie April 3, 2012 at 6:01 pm

On the opposite side of paper towel use: I use tham all of the time. My better half has been going through chemotherapy for a while, so his susceptibility to germs and infection is quite high. The idea of having possible germ-carrying material around the kitchen is not too exciting. By using the towels, I am able to avoid that possible problem and so far neither of us has even had a cold in the last 3 years! It may not be the paper towels, but I don’t want to “mess with success” under the circumstances!

14 coupongeek April 3, 2012 at 8:29 pm

I agree! You have to stick with what works for you, especially when it comes to medical issues! Hoping the chemotherapy goes well!

Blessings to you both,
Jaycie

15 coupongeek April 3, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Yeah, pet clean-ups are a must for paper towels. We use them when are dogs are sick, too.

Good idea to tear them down the middle!

Blessings,
Jaycie

16 leighvia April 3, 2012 at 9:16 pm

While it’s not the most convenient option every time, I’ve been know to cut my full size paper towels in half and even in quarters. I get looks from the family when I do this, but it sure beats using a full size towel sometimes. :)

17 coupongeek April 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm

I’ve often thought about doing that myself! :)

Thanks for sharing, Leighvia!

Blessings,
Jaycie

18 CJ April 4, 2012 at 7:56 am

I have two very messy cats and dont want to use cloths that I would have to wash afterwards. I love paper towels!

19 coupongeek April 4, 2012 at 3:23 pm

I agree. Pet messes definitely require paper towels!

Blessings,
Jaycie

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