When I tell people I live a zero waste lifestyle, one of their first questions is, "How can I give up paper towels!?!?"
Honestly I don't understand people's affinity for them. I haven't used a paper towel in almost a decade, and I don't miss them one bit.
It took marketers years to convince us to buy something that we throw away, but they have managed to really, really solidify their message.
Just a few short decades ago the thought of buying something like paper towels was absurd. Why would we waste our hard earned money on something that is used once in thrown away?
Wasteful, "convenience" items were not the norm. It's crazy to me how the mentality has shifted so much.
The good news is that it's super easy to go back to that mentality! All it takes is a little bit of help and commitment.
I'll provide the help, you provide the commitment and together we can save a trees and a whole bunch of dollars. (Paper towels are expensive!)
1. opt for wide weaves:
I've found that cotton fabric with a wide weave does a great job at absorbing moisture instead of pushing it around.
I don't like using microfiber because every time they're washed they release microplastic particles into the water ways.
If you've had your cotton dishtowels and they're not absorbing moisture they way they should be, you might want to look into stripping the fabric.
If soap is built up on the fabric, then it creates almost a water proof barrier that pushes the water around instead of absorbing it.
2. make it convenient:
Make sure to place the dish towels in a convenient location. Like in a bowl for the family to use while eating.
Fold a few and leave them on the counter so they're the first thing you grab when wanting to wipe up a spill or brush a few crumbs into the sink.
In the same vain, place the paper towels in a very, very inconvenient place. Put them all the way in the garage on top of something very tall.
This way if it's really, REALLY an emergency they're there, but you're not going to grab them just to clean up a drop of jam.
3. get dirty and messy:
We really seem to have this idea of cloth staying pristine and pure. It's something that we've reserved for only special occasions.
Break that thought by wiping up the craziest, messiest spills with cloth. Just do it!
I promise, it's not that scary. Cloth is pretty gosh darn resistant. After all it's been used to clean up messes for years.
If I wipe up something particularly disgusting... like dog vomit. I just rinse the dish towel in the sink and then hang it to dry.
Once it's dry I place it in the base of the washing machine so it's automatically washed with the next load of clothes.
4. keep 'em clean:
I find it's important to get into a really good routine around washing. The way I keep it simple is just throwing dirty towels in to the base of the washing machine.
This way I don't have to think about washing them or taking them to the hamper.
And, I promise, the environmental impact of washing cotton towels is much, much lower than the impact of buying new paper towels.
A lot of people are concerned about how much water it takes, but it's much less water than used in creating a new roll of paper towels. A single roll of toilet paper takes 37 gallons of water to make! YIKES!