Save Money in the Kitchen with Cloth

Save Money and Reduce Waste by Switching to A Paper Free Kitchen

One simple change in the kitchen can make a big difference in reducing waste and saving money: switching to entirely to cloth instead of paper.

This is one easy change that I resisted for a long time but wish I had made the switch much earlier. I think the idea of removing paper products in the kitchen is much more daunting than it actually is to switch.

I have many friends who cloth diaper but who still resist the idea of using cloth instead of paper towels and napkins in the kitchen (kitchen messes are less gross than poopy diapers in my opinion… at least most of the time!).

If you’ve never considered the idea of using cloth in the kitchen before, I’d encourage you to give it a try. Not only does it save money and reduce waste, but I actually find that it isn’t much extra work at all (and we cook 3x a day).

What Kind of Cloth?

I think the two biggest factors that make using cloth in the kitchen easy for us are:

  1. Picking the right kind of cloth
  2. Having enough of them on hand

To go paper-free in the kitchen, you have to replace paper napkins, paper towels and other disposable products like cleaning wipes. I’ve found that there isn’t necessarily a single solution that replaces all of these, but that there are very effective replacements for each category. For instance:

Hypothetically, all paper products could be replaced by huck towels or microfiber cloths if you didn’t mind the how they look as napkins. I’ve found that both of these are more absorbent than paper towels or regular napkins and surprisingly easy to use.

If you haven’t heard of huck towels before, I can’t recommend them enough. We got a few from a friend for our wedding and I searched for years in home stores and couldn’t find them. Then, I noticed them in an odd place: in the hospital! Turns out that these are the type of towels they use in the hospital for absorbing blood and other fluids during/after surgery.

You can order huck towels online and they work wonderfully as regular kitchen towels and in place of paper towels.

For microfiber, I like these because they are naturally antibacterial and seem to last forever (I’ve had mine over a year), but even the big economy packs in the auto section at stores like Sam’s and Costco work great for kitchen messes.

We actually had a big supply of cloth napkins already since we bought them instead of renting them when we got married (It was a lot cheaper!) They were all white though and have gotten stained over the years, so I’ve occasionally replaced some of them with colorful napkins like these or mismatched ones from thrift stores and yard sales.

Setting up the System

If you’re just switching to a paper-free kitchen, setting up a good system for using cloth greatly simplifies things. I have cloth napkins, microfiber cloths and huck towels in easily accessible places around the kitchen so that even the kids can use them. I also have a place where used towels go so they can be washed.

We keep cloth napkins by the table in a cabinet and huck towels and microfiber in a drawer by the sink.

The kids are responsible for setting the table before meals and cleaning up after so I’ve made sure that they can easily reach the napkins and the microfiber cloth to clean the table after meals. When they are done, used cloths go in to a small basket under the sink. With our family size, I’ve found it helpful to have on hand:

  • 2 dozen or more huck towels
  • 1 dozen microfiber cloths
  • 3-4 dozen cloth napkins
  • Other assorted cloths for cleaning and picking up spills including cut up old shirts, old cloth diapers/inserts or old socks (for younger kids to use in cleaning and polishing)

The assorted other cloths are especially helpful in really big messes that create a cloth that is easier thrown away than washed.

The Laundry Aspect

My biggest hesitation in switching to cloth was the extra laundry, but just as with cloth diapering it really isn’t a big deal once you get in the habit. I’ve found a few tips that have made things easier though:

  • Use separate loads for microfiber and towels/napkins so the microfiber don’t pick up the lint from the others.
  • Run a rinse cycle with some baking soda first to cut any grease
  • Run an extra rinse cycle with vinegar at the end if needed for extra cleaning/deodorizing
  • Using this BioKleen oxybleach occasionally to get rid of stains or odor (I also use this on cloth diapers occasionally)
  • Wash every other day and teach younger kids to fold the loads (easy thing for them to learn how to fold on)

The Savings

I wish that I had kept up with how much we spent on paper products for the kitchen when we used them so I could give a good estimate for how much we save. Maybe some of you can chime in below with averages of how much you spend on paper products.

I do know that for under $60 you can get a good supply of all of the cloth replacements for paper products in your kitchen, and based on the prices of paper products in the stores, I would think these would pay for themselves within a few months.

Do you use cloth in your kitchen? If not, would you consider making the switch? Let me know why or why not below!

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Reader Comments

  1. I also have a “paper-free” kitchen. I will say that I’ve never heard of huck towels, and while I do have microfiber cleaning cloths, I don’t keep them in the kitchen. I guess we all have our ways of doing things! A drawer full of “regular” kitchen dishtowels and dishrags works for me. : ) And some handmade cloth napkins….I love not having to buy paper napkins!
    The main objection I hear to ditching paper towels is “I have to have them for draining bacon!” Maybe I’m weird, but I just set it on a plate and it works just fine. I figure it’s ok to eat a little fat, and the few drops left on the plate isn’t going to clog the pipes.

    • Draining the bacon is the only thing we still use paper towels for, lol. I think a cheapie wire rack would solve that problem, though 😉

      • We use cut parts of paper bags to drain our bacon. Works great!

        • Sounds good! We will have to try that!

          • We use this to cook the bacon in the micrwave and it works perfectly and the bacon is suprisingly very crisp and there is no splatter to clean up. I put it in the dishwasher each night. No need for paper towels anymore.

          • We switched to cloth napkins 2 years ago and I will never go back to paper napkins. We purchased napkins on Etsy that are made of Berber (cloth diaper material), they have a colored stiching on the edges so everyone in the house has their own color. We use the same napkin all day and then at night they are put in a little bag that hangs off our oven door. Whenever I do laundry I just put them in, with that current load. Very easy and we havent bought napkins in over 2 years which is such a cost savings.

      • We drain our bacon or French fries on paper groceries bags, that we request when we shop. Also at some stores you can purchase them if you want

      • After reading this article, I searched (and added to my Amazon Wishlist!) Huck towels and cloth napkins. I am very interested in slowly changing over to a less wasteful, more sustainable lifestyle. Thank you for this article and sharing your helpful tips!

    • We save cereal boxes and use them to drain grease on.. Also a wire cooling rack works.

  2. I’m super intrigued by the “huck towels” — we’re paper-free, but I haven’t found a good solution for oiling my cast-iron after I wash it. I also am reluctant to buy any more microfiber, because although it works great — it is not compostable (and therefore destined for landfill). Ugh! So many things to consider! I’ll definitely order some of the hucks. Thank you!

    • We use a regular cotton rag to wipe down the oil in our cast iron. We don’t wash it all the time though. Once there is a certain amt if oil on it, it doesn’t seem to absorb anymore so the spreads the oil pretty well

    • I use a pastry brush to oil cast iron pans.

      • For cast iron, I simply use my hands and some regular vegetal oil of any kind. I figure it’s only good for my hands after doing the dishes.

        (I also use my hands to pluck stuff out of the sink drain. Just do it when it’s fresh!)

  3. That was going to be my question. I could easily go paperless except for the draining of fatty foods, bacon, taco shells, etc.

    • Hot things should never be placed on paper towel anyway – it causes the material to release the chemicals that were used to bleach it, which stay inert except when exposed to heat. I use a simple cake drying rack on a plate or pan to let the fat drip off. better yet – bake the bacon in the oven, so you don’t have to worry about spattering, and then just prop a corner of the pan when you take it out and it will run into the corner.

      • That was helpful, never thought of the cake cooler. I love baking bacon, just don’t have an oven right now. Thank for your ideas

        • my pleasure 🙂

      • And then save the bacon fat for cooking.

    • I use paper bags if I have any on hand, old pieces of fabric or just put them on a rack over another dish so the grease drips through.

      • All good ideas, thank you

  4. Would bamboo or hemp terry cloth work? I use those for diapers and they work great. Very absorbent and the stains come out in the sun. One of them is a little fuzzy in the first few washes but it goes away after time. I also have micro fiber but it can be very drying on your skin. (it absorbs the moisture out of your skin, shouldn’t be used in direct contact with skin for diapers) I would be interested if the hemp or bamboo would work. Thanks for the advice!

  5. This was the first change I ever made actually, probably because I grew up with someone whose family only used cloth napkins. Even though my own family thinks it is gross.

  6. We just use old wash cloths for almost all kitchen cleaning. Honestly, I even use them for greasing my cast iron, I haven’t really had a problem with washing it after. For draining grease, i usually just use a plate & let the fat drain off, or a sieve if theres way too much oil… I dont find much need for napkins.
    We generally don’t set the table with napkins unless we’re having guests or eating something particularly messy. My 4 year old just cleans himself off with a damp washcloth at the end of a meal.
    At this point, the washcloths are looking a bit ratty, but they are clean & still work. I like the idea of thrifting for some cloth napkins to add to our cloth only kitchen, though.

  7. We’ve been a paper-free house for about 5 years. I knit a lot of wash rags out of cotton or bamboo yarn. They’re such a quick, easy knit, and perfect for long car rides or knitting with a sleeping baby in your lap 🙂 We also use all of our old pre-fold diapers for wiping and cleaning. Thrift shops are a great place to get a stash of old towels and washcloths too! I have a special stash of “rags” for the really icky stuff, like grease and animal messes.

  8. I use flour sack towels for the kitchen, and keep the older ones for dog towels. They work great! I do keep a roll of recycled paper towels for the really gross jobs, but I only buy maybe 3 a year.

  9. I have a nearly paper free kitchen. Use microfiber clothes to wash dishes, clean up and use at table napkins. Only have paper to drain things on however after seeing Iyss post I just might have to rethink that.

  10. I’ve been paper free in the kitchen for at least 10 years. I find that using baking soda and the hot water setting works best to clean the cloths. Also, my fancy new washer has a soak setting that I usually use for the cloths. The baking soda takes care of all odor problems that can occur when you have too many wet cloths lying around until they make it into the wash. My biggest problem is when relatives stay with us. Some people just seem to be so resistant to not having a paper towel. I’m frequently having to remind them that napkins and dish towels are supposed to be used for cleaning messes. As they get too stained for the kitchen they go into the “cleaning rag” pile.

  11. You can buy white huck by the yard at the major chain fabric shops and many online fabric shops for somewhere between $3.50 & $6 a yard. It’s a favorite for embroidery.

  12. I’ve done this without noticing… most spills are simply cleaned up with a dishtowel, which then journeys on to the laundry pile. Of course we don’t have kids yet, so spills are not the norm, but still… and I also wash our dish sponges at least twice (once to return them to the kitchen, once to turn them into bath scrubbers) before throwing them out.

  13. I’ve desperately wanted to make ours a paper-free kitchen for well over a year now, but first I didn’t want to start sewing towels in the middle of massive international house buying stress, then I didn’t have anywhere to sit and eat, much less sit and sew, and now we finally have a table so that I can sew, but a puppy that is still having accidents inside. This blog really got me excited about the prospect again, though, so now I’ve got the husband on board and the moment the puppy is house trained the paper towels (organic recycled, but still!) are out of here! Thank you for getting me excited about this again!

  14. So which is better for napkins: polyester, %100 cotton, or a blend? I use cloth bibs for the kiddos that I got at an estate sale which are great as they also double for napkins. I want to make some napkins and more bibs and was wondering which fabric would absorb and resist staining the best?

    • I don’t have kids yet, bit what I do is hunt through thrift shops for vintage sheets I like the pattern of and use those for sewing projects. The fabric is super soft from ueats of washing. I have a free source for the cottonpoly napkins so haven’t bought paper towels much in almost 6 years.

  15. We are mostly paper free in the kitchen. One thing that really helps is keeping wet bags in the kitchen and dining room for soiled rags. We use the “travel sized” cloth diaper wet bags. I think they are meant to hold 4-5 diapers and we can easily fit in 3-4 days worth of dirty rags in there. They are hangable on a door knob or similar. Then we just toss them in the wash. Much better than placing dirty, wet rags in with regular laundry, etc. or having to walk them down to the laundry room. We use child-sized washcloths the most. They are great for our pre-schoolers to wash up after meals and just the right size for cleaning our dining table (which doesn’t get terribly messy) and even countertops after an “easy meal.” I hate using large dish or other rags when something small will do – and it keeps laundry loads smaller.

    • I love the idea of using wet bags in the kitchen. Smart!

  16. I have a paper free kitchen, have bidet sprays in the restroom and I cloth diaper, While going paper free you should also consider the amount of money you would spend on laundering the cloth, my electricity and water bill are getting higher because I washing them every other day. Though I get plenty of sunlight my apartment community doesn’t allow me to dry my clothes on the patio, so I have to run 2 dryer cycles. Because of this I some time to move to a higher tier pricing.

    I still use cloth because of eco conscience and not cost.

    • We used to hang our clothes inside by the patio door, could you do that?

    • I also live in an apartment that doesn’t allow hanging clothes outside, but when the weather is nice, I push the limits and hang it inside by the open screen door. For the long summer in Texas when I do not wish to air condition the neighborhood, I use wool dryer balls- a one time purchase that cuts my dryer time in half. They also soften my clothes, reminiscent of the days I used those awful dryer sheets… and I love putting a few drops of lavender essential oil on the dryer balls when I am drying sheets.

    • I know Shivashankari posted 6 moths ago but can she or someone else recommend a brand and type of bidet spray that can be bought/used in the USA? I really, really liked them when abroad.

  17. Can you die whatever white cloth you are using a different color? I know it makes no difference in their use, but it looks so happy when you have a rainbow of colors 🙂

  18. I clicked on your link to the huck towels and there were 7 colors. 🙂 I got fuchsia and yellow. 🙂 The price did vary a little depending on the color but not a ton.

  19. We have been paperless for a few years. I do use paper towels for bacterial spills.

  20. I got Bird-E towels through Etsy. They are wonderful and come in various colors and sizes. Highly recommend!!

  21. I was raised on tea towels (to wipe dishes), cotton terry dish towels (to dry hands and mop messes), and cotton dish cloths for the kitchen sink. I rather like the bar mop types of kitchen towels and dish cloths. They are cheap and when they go ugly, I send them to the shop for my mechanic guys. I like cotton napkins — handmade are fun. I still keep a roll of paper towels around, but we hardly ever use them. My daughter says her friends always reach for a paper towel after washing their hands in the kitchen even though she always has a clean towel out.

  22. I’m paper free in my house…except for when my family comes to stay. I have to keep a roll of paper towels and paper napkins or my father will disappear and come back with them. Grrr! I love cotton flour sack cloth! I also use knitted washclothes. I do have to say that I HATE microfiber. It’s a texture thing. They make my hands so dry, almost immediately! I’ve never actually cleaned with them because I hate handling them. I just stick cotton, that way when they have gone past their time of usefulness I can compost them. 🙂

    • I, too, am paper free but for the times I have reluctant visitors I keep recycled/compostable paper items on hand so that it is at least better. i also purchased extra silver ware and glasses (which i store in the basement) so that we never have to use plastic ware when we entertain.

  23. How about drying a raw chicken? I use cloths but they don’t seem to work as well and then I am not sure what to do with the dirty cloths if I am not doing laundry right away. Does anyone have a tip??

    • Wash it out with hot soapy water at the kitchen sink? I don’t dry my chicken. You could let the chicken drain a bit on a cake rack over a cookie sheet until it dries. I suppose where you put your cloths depends upon where your washing machine is in relation to your kitchen. I just pitch mine into a small basket at the bottom of the stairs from the kitchen. It is not in the way. Most of the time they are not yucky. They were just used for drying hands or wiping something. If they are yucky, I wash them out first. You could put the cloths under the sink in a bucket and put them by the washer by the end of the day. You could wash the used cloths, and hang them up to dry near the washing machine until you are doing laundry. You could hang them like the old days when they dried the dish towels in the kitchen. It isn’t a practice used today, but maybe on a towel rack behind pantry door would work.

    • I dry my chicken directly over the kitchen sink on a wire rack then just sprinkle baking soda and vinegar over the juices and rinse down the drain with water boiled in the kettle.

  24. But sometimes, a mother really needs a meal served on paper plates 😀

    • LOL! I have been trying to eliminate paper in our home for quite awhile, and my husband let me know the other day that when our third baby arrives in December, he plans to use paper plates for the first three weeks at least. I guess he got overwhelmed with dishes the last go round.

  25. Been paper free for years. We use the disk towels from Ikea (Tekla). 100% cotton and I use them all over the house – from dusting, bathrooms, kitchen, etc. I keep a small pail in the kitchen and when they get dirty I throw them in there and then up to the laundry. I have probably 20 of them.

  26. There are still a few reasons I still can’t ditch the paper towels. The bacon dilemma seems to be a common theme here and I am also perplexed as to how to not make my bacon in the microwave with paper towels underneath. I did see radiantlf’s comment on the bleach in the paper towels being released by heat, so now I think I will have to cook my bacon another way. I train puppies for service dogs and I don’t think I have to explain the issues that come along with potty-training a puppy :). Anybody come up with an alternative to cleaning up that kind of mess? Honestly, the thought of putting cloth soiled with puppy mess in my washing machine is a little gross.

    • You scrape the bulk of the mess in the toilet like you would a cloth diaper. Keep a bucket with a lid to throw your dirty towels in it makes it easier.& It’s no worse than washing a favored item that a puppy has accidentaly weed on.

    • I have the same dilemma – I already wash my kitchen cloths and towels in a separate hot wash- but can’t stand the idea of of a pooey cloth (even rinsed) going into my machine that then washes my napkins that I wipe my mouth on! (we had a guide dog puppy for a few weeks) How do those of you are washing cloth diapers AND kitchen towels work it? Obviously separate loads, but also super hot washes? Sanitisers? Perhaps I am just super-neurotic after reading somewhere about the high amount of faecal contamination that was swabbed off a washing machine drum **blush**

      • When cloth diapering you do a quick wash with everything that is soiled first. Then you do a long, hot wash with good agitation for a second wash. You can do a rinse if you choose after that but it’s not recommended for people with hard water. This way it gets the dirty water out so the second wash is using fresh water. It works really well although some people add 1/4 cup of bleach to the main wash every once in awhile to make sure everything is getting clean.

  27. I have had a paper free home for 38yrs. It was a decision I made because
    I thought, and still do, that cloth (mostly terry) was more efficient,
    cleaner, and cost less. There wasn’t **anyone** that I knew who made
    this choice. I used, and made, cloth napkins, kitchen utility clothes,
    and kitchen towels (cut and serge a bath towel.) I developed a system
    and continued to use this method through working as a teacher and
    raising six kids. Along with hubby of course! The only complaint the
    now adult children have was/is cleaning up after the dog or any other
    yuck factor work. I gave them rubber gloves, old newspaper and TP. They
    may still complain, but it didn’t turn them off. All the my children are
    OK with the method, save the rogue roll for dog mess, but some of the
    spouses are not. Go figure.

    At one point I found it necessary to
    ditch paper products for personal use. Not only did it work, it worked
    much better than I anticipated.

    I also use cloth handkerchiefs
    as well as hubby. They are better. My mother once told me that Kleenex
    had a campaign to encourage disposable tissue use. It was “Don’t put a
    cold in your pocket.” It can be found online. I also understand that
    paper product use increases every year.

    Advertising “works.”

  28. What I really need help figuring out is what to do about dishes. I’m cooking with bacon fat a lot these days, and coconut oil, and frankly I have no idea how to get stuff clean!!! I’m using a castile soap wash/vinegar rinse but haven’t figured out how to get away from the synthetic sponge. What do you do for dishes? Especially the grimey ones?

    • I find that I’m still experimenting too with the best liquids to cut through the fat. BUT the best things I find for ikky pans is either my Enjo kitchen mini (the glove it too bulky for me) or a copper cloth/scourer- it’s amazing. And a hot water/vinegar rinse.

    • Chelsea, I switched over from regular dish soap to Castile soap about two months ago. Like you I was happy with it except for oily dishes. Then I found a recipe on pinterest that added a little washing soda to mix. MUCH better! Still not quite right though. Now I use a scrubby, I make mine out of the nylon net bags that oranges/potatoes sometimes come in, but anything like that should work. They rinse out great with hot water too. Don’t fill the sink with wash water, just get dish a little wet, then add soap directly to scrubby. Add more as needed. I am really happy with this method.

    • For baked on oil, I sprinkle with baking soda and spray with white vinegar. If it is really hard to get off, use more baking soda to make the paste thicker and let it sit for a while. A small scrub brush will make short work of it.

  29. Biggest paper savings comes from using real dishes instead of disposable. Once you make the change, you’ll really like it.The first few weeks, the family is scared they’ll break a dish, but they get used to it quickly. Corelle dishes are nearly indestructible and they aren’t very expensive. I have a set I’ve had for 25 years and they still look great. I have fancier dishes for special occasions and house guests, but for every day, the Corelle are wonderful. I hate eating from disposable plates of any kind after using real dishes for several years.

  30. Just discovered your blog a few days ago and been reading lots. I find your articles balanced when it comes to health issues which is awesome – so well done there (although I’ve never heard of oil pulling and finding it difficult to get my head around that). I live in South Africa and although paper is available for the kitchen, a roll lasts MONTHS because we hardly ever use it! I tend to use it more for crafty things (wiping up paint), then I do in the kitchen. Sometimes I’ll use it for messed egg, but that’s about all. So, this was an eye-opener for me, as I’m sure most of us in South Africa use cloth – aka dishcloths, here. I have some small ones I use to wipe down counters with after cooking, and then I just rinse it out afterwards, with water and a bit of dishwashing liquid, and leave it to dry. I machine wash it once a week. I can’t imagine using paper for that! I have bigger ones for hands and to dry dishes. Yes, I handwash dishes. We don’t have a dishwasher even though most people here have them. Thanks for a great blog.

  31. I’ve been wanting to switch for a while now, just have one quick question. When you have something particularly icky with a lot of possible bacteria (like raw eggs/meat) do you just use a microfiber cloth for that and then into the wash after that? I guess I’m just a little unsure how to handle that because I’m one who is really super diligent about washing hands/counters really well after touching raw meat/eggs. I feel like I can’t wrap my head over how to deal with that. Thanks!

    • Yep, and dump some vinegar in the wash to help kill anything bad…

  32. We actually just bought a 40 pack of microfiber towels at bjs last night (blue and white probably the same ones you have pictured). Wondering if these can replace both paper towels and napkins…. We were using cheap wash cloths for everything in the kitchen the past few months, but I wanted something more durable…. So I was thinking maybe use the blue for clean ups / spills / windows / etc and the white for napkins….. Or do you think microfiber would be awkward as a napkin for hands / mouth? If so I will maybe pick up a pack of 55 terry/cotton towels at bjs next week for 19.99..

  33. We actually just bought a 40 pack of microfiber towels at bjs last night (blue and white). Wondering if these can replace both paper towels and napkins…. We were using cheap wash cloths for everything in the kitchen the past few months, but I wanted something more durable…. So I was thinking maybe use the blue for clean ups / spills / windows / etc and the white for napkins….. Or do you think microfiber would be awkward as a napkin for hands / mouth? If so I will maybe pick up a pack of 55 terry/cotton towels at bjs next week for 19.99..

  34. I know this post has been up for awhile, but I just now saw it and I love it! My household has switched to cloth. My weakness was clorox cleaning wipe, but after considering the waste and the chemicals… I gave those up too!
    For people on a tight budget, my favorite way to recycle is to cut up old t-shirts for cleaning rags. The material doesn’t fray so there’s no hemming needed. Just cut up and throw in a stack. The material is so soft that it’s even great to use for cleaning windows. So now my rag stash is MUCH bigger :]
    I’ve really enjoyed your blog and I can’t wait to read all of your other posts!

  35. My biggest question is how much of an increase in utilities is there from all the additional laundry? Gas, electric, water, and sewer bills would all be increased; so is it really that big of a savings over paper towels?

    • It hasn’t seemed to increase my utility bills at all. Napkins and extra rags (in place of napkins and paper towels) are so small that it doesn’t really add much to my load of laundry. I wash my cloth with my towels and I haven’t noticed an increase in washing. :]

  36. i would love to do paper free but i haven’t yet because of living in an apartment and the cost to do laundry itself is barely affordable but thank you so much for sharing the information so i know what to get when i finally move into an apartment with in-unit washer/dryer or move into a house! hopefully in the next year or so!

  37. Looks like Hucks come in many different colors on Amazon now! 🙂 I’m getting lime green and either yellow or fuchsia. 🙂

  38. I have begun a whole makeover process with respect to cleaning and utensils in my home. A few natural cleaning products have not worked, unfortunately: the dishwasher tabs from different sources/recipes and though one carpet stain remover worked wonderfully, it killed my ancient vacuum cleaner. So I’m picking and choosing what I trade up. I’ve switched to cloth for cleaning ie microfiber and cut up tshirts, cheap and/or old washcloths and hand towels. I’ve cut up old bath towels and sewn the ruff edges down. But replacing paper towels (the precut style of half or full sheets) is the hardest but the last to do. We use them for covering some food items when microwaving, for the obvious cleanup and for when my poor old rescue dog (male) forgets his manners. I’d rather wipe up and toss that than wipe up and wash. I’ve replaced my laundry detergent & fabric softener, my counter, bathroom cleaners and a whole host of other chemically ridden products. Until I find a dishwasher tab or powder that doesn’t wreck the insides of my machine OR leave a wretched thick white powder coating on everything, I’ll either have to wash by hand (oh dear) or continue to use store bought brand. Love your blog btw!

    • Try using soap nuts. Put 4-6 of them in a small muslin bag in the cutlery rack. They can be used multiple times before composting. They can also be used for laundry, shampoo, toothpaste (haven’t tried that yet), general cleaning, and more.

  39. I have never used paper towels in my kitchen or bath (except, of course for toilet paper!!)I use wash cloths for dish rags, and toss into the laundry after 1 day, never more than that for sanitation reasons.
    I have several hand towels for use as drying cloths and drying hands, which also are only used for two or three days, for reasons of sanitation. I only wash these items together and don’t add other clothes or towels with them. I use baking soda for a clean fresh scent, and often will soak first before washing. I use vinegar of the 4 thieves or plain white vinegar (full strength) with added lavender for countertops to keep them clean and to help with any germs.
    I also use these vinegar concoctions on the cutting boards. (I usually cover the board with wax paper for use with meats, to help avoid bacteria, and wipe down with the vinegar solutions).
    I have never had problems, and have never regretted not using paper products. I have found that microfiber does not work well for the kitchen, as it does NOT absorb water at all, and therefor does not work as a dishrag.
    Plain organic cotton, if possible is what I use, or hemp, or bamboo. (regular cotton has been grown with so many toxic chemical pesticides, that it is impossible to wash them out as they are ingrained into the actual cotton itself). Bamboo is extremely soft, but the absorbency in bamboo takes getting used to. (it is actually more absorbent, but you can’t just wipe, you have to go slowly to absorb all the water, or else it will just push the water around).
    **For Angela and the oiling of cast iron: I bought a basting brush (like a paint brush, with natural fibers) and use organic coconut oil and just brush it on after rinsing with hot water. The coconut melts onto the hot cast iron, and voila! Just take a small spoonful of the coconut oil, plop into the hot pan and brush it around after it melts.

  40. I believe it is HB 362 in Texas that disallowed the ability of subdivisions to prohibit the use of “solar appliances” i.e. a clothesline. I don’t believe that in Texas they can enforce a “no clothesline” statute. I would get a copy of the HB and hang my clothes outside.

  41. I have a question. What do you do about washing/ sanitizing these towels if you can only wash in cold water. Draw backs of a rental 🙁

  42. We went paper free in our kitchen about 3 years ago and we LOVE it! Thank you for writing about this and providing useful suggestions and links to facilitate the change!

  43. I am oryginally from Poland and back at home everything seemed to be more natural/organic. We never had paper towels in the house ( they were not that popular and later just expensive). Few years ago when i went to visit my mom i saw that nowdays she us just addicted to the paper towels… i miss home and my childhood memories so i try to get myself unused to on “instant” improvements” and so for.. In my kitchen i tend to use cheap wash clothes i buy on sale at target or so on use the, instead of the paper towels but occasionally have some paper in my kitchen. I was wondering about the huck towels – I saw on the joann fabrick store that they have white hucktowelling fabrick- is it the same fabrick ? Could i use it to saw my own towels or is it a different think? Thanks for everything you do and for sharing your ideas with us- love them!

  44. I go through soooo many paper towels to clean my counters and stove. I use a lavender scented spray as well. I bake bread and other things I roll out on my counter and I’m not sure how regular towels would do with crusted on flour and residue. I’ve begun using regular cotton towels for as much as possible, though.

  45. Do you feel strongly about using cloth over disposable sponges? For me, even after laundering, dishwashing cloths tend to smell and get gross after a period of time. For the sponges, they’re easily replaced.

  46. what about using flour sack towels will they work? i use them in my sons diapers

  47. I buy maybe two packages of 6 paper towels a year. It would be less but my teenager is a pain and finds them and uses them. Everything else is a cloth. Saves a ton of money.

  48. Great ideas! I just read down through the comments, and found answers to the few questions i had (i.e. bacon grease), My kids are grown, and I only used cloth diapers for burping rags, but found out that they also make great cleaning rags.

  49. Old thread but here’s my 2 cents. I use fabric almost always in the kitchen. I have paper towels but I keep them in a cabinet. They get used for things like vomit. I almost never use a paper towel. If they sit on the counter everyone uses them instead. I refuse spend so much on them. I do to like microfiber at all. I have cloth diapers to clean with. Terry cloth kitchen towels. Tea towels. Napkins are around a bit as left overs from carry out. They get used when we eat really messy food. Which is rarely. Or we just wash up when done. I’ve been thinking of purchasing cloth napkins awhile now. But I love the suggestions of kids wash clothes or sheets.

  50. I found a microfiber dish cloth with mesh netting on one side at our local big lots. This work great for scrubbing scuzzy dishes. You can also add baking/washing soda for extra ooomph (how do you spell that lol) . The cloths rinse and wash clean. I don’t use the microwave for much these days but if the cloths need to be dried or disinfected I just toss them in the microwave for a minute.

  51. Finally a website that understands me .. Yes! I am definitely going to buy some huck towels! ??

  52. Any reccomendations on switching tissues to towels? I’ve always thought tissues were a huge waste! Would huck towles and/or cotton work just as well?

    • I cut up my two daughters’ old baby swaddlers (the muslin feels great on sore noses) and keep them all around the house. It’s been working quite well this allergy season!

  53. So, huck towels or microfiber…or both? I get a bit confused with the timeline when I jump from topic to topic 🙂

  54. I was wondering if you knew anything about Norwex products and the anti bacterial properties of their towels. Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you.

  55. I’ve gone paper-free just by cutting up old sweatshirts/pants. They aren’t amazing at soaking up water nor are they particularly stain resistant, but they are certainly eco-friendly and durable. A good way to use up what I still haven’t sent to Goodwill from my thrifting phase and a way to save a $ or ten.

  56. You may be very surprised, but for me the paper towels seem to be both a cheaper and more environmentally friendly option.

    We share washing machine and dryer with neighbors and it costs $1.25 per load in each machine. I pay about $0.60 for a roll of paper towels from bulk buying on Amazon. So that’s at least $3 to wash a load of those cloth towels and that’s if you don’t separate the loads… Plus you have to wash very regularly to avoid mold and other stuff growing on your towels 🙁 Also we do not have a small load option so I guess we waste a lot of water and electricity washing the relatively small loads of cloth towels. I use less than one roll of paper towels per week ( I buy the version with each towel being halve the size of the standard size). So as you can see I am saving a TON of money using paper towels, as well as all that stress of washing etc.

    When I switched from cloth to paper it was definitely a paradigm shift for me and I thought it very ironic that I was saving money as well as the environment by using a disposable product.

    • I have purchased white cotton bar towels, white cotton bar cloths, white cotton bath towels, white cotton and white cotton sheets and pillow cases. I wash a load of bath towels for the week and put the towels from the kitchn in with them. I do not use any bleach when I wash them. I wash them in soap and borax and they turn out fine. I am also on a limited income and only wash full loads when I have one and try and wash as many different things together from the same color groups to make each load a full load. By doing it this way, I find I save a lot more money than if I did wash bath towels sparate from kitchen towels and each color separately. The only things I wash separately are the towels, the sheets, and the pillow cases only because I was all the pillow slips (2 per pillow x 6 pillow as I have 3 different sizes on my bed and because it is a full xize bed there are 2 of each size) so instead of 4 different loads, I only have 3. If I did not have all the different sized pillows I would only hve 2 loads. I use one of the pillow slips as a allergin deterrent and one over that to cover the pillow and then the pillow case over that).

      • I also have tried to bunch up everything into as big a load as possible. Thing is, I do not consider it a good idea to put your household cleaning cloths in with anything else, especially bedding or towels. That is because household cleaning cloths will contain pollutants and dirt that you have hopefully removed from your house. Just wiping off dust will result in petroleum and other pollutants that could have drifted into your house from the outside, or even inside! And I do not have time to wash these cloths by hand.

  57. Yes, I would consider changing my whole house over to cloth. I have already replaced paper towels with cloth towels and sponges and synthetic cloths for all cloth ones. I have switched over to 100% cotton towels, washcloths, hand towels, as well as sheets and pillowcases. The only thing I have not done is switch over to cloth napkins. Until I can figure out where to store them, I am going to wait to do that as my apartment is about 300 square feet without a llinen closet, bathroom cabinet, pantry, or bedroom closet (I do have an armoire). I prefer the all cloth. It is better for me and the enviroment, besides my apartment is considered green and sustainable (the person that desiged this buiding has won awards for it) so it goes with the territory you could say.

  58. I use a microwave tray and lid for bacon and save the grease like grandma did (just use in moderation lol). I haven’t given up paper in the kitchen though, an trying a little at a time because the disinfecting wipes are expensive and nit overly healthy.

  59. Do you use the same cloth to clean up spills during the day? I think that’s my biggest problem. With paper products, especially the select-a-size paper towels, it’s easy to clean up spills and you can use however many you want. But once you use all of the cloths and then have to wash them, what do you do in the meantime?

  60. I have not purchased paper towels or napkins for many years. Our household is just 2 adults. We don’t need a napkin for most meals but when we do we have some cool vintage cloth ones that we use. I use older dish rags to clean up spills and counter tops. Eventually those old rags get moved to the bathroom, then eventually discarded. On the rare occasion that we cook something that needs to be drained of excess oil, I use an older piece of cheese cloth. Also, I usually wash the dish rags and cheese cloth in the kitchen sink, in a small bowl, as my grandmother used to do. 🙂

  61. The automotive section of your local Menard or Fleet Farm has packages of micro fiber cloths, about the size of 2 big kitchen cloths… they usually come in 12 packs for about $9.00 or less if there is a sale. They are the exact same kind you find in the kitchen or cleaning section but half the price. They are super absorbant and work great for any type of cleaning at home. Funny that the price is SO much less because of the section they are sold in! I use them for EVERYTHING!

    • Would it be as safe to buy from the automotive store? I would have thought that purpose made kitchen towels would have to pass stricter safety standards than cloths sold for cars.

  62. I love cloth for the kitchen. When I find cotton fabric on sale, I buy a couple of yards of a “food/kitchen” print and make my own napkins. I must have 3 or 4 dozen in use now. I also stock up on kitchen towels. There’s a basket in the laundry room for kitchen linen ONLY. When full, I’ll overnight presoak the load adding some homemade enzyme solution. Then a regular wash and hang to dry. The grandchildren are accustomed to using 3 or 4 paper towels as placemats on their tv trays and another 2 or 3 for napkins. Getting them use to using cloth napkins at the dining room table has been “entertaining”.

  63. My husband wears a plain white cotton under-shirt every day. When they are stained with sweat I cut them into squares- most are a little bigger than my hand, which are perfect for wiping off countertops, baseboards, furniture, and little messy faces. The large pieces I use for straining liquids like cheese cloth. I get excited when one of his shirts has bit the dust- like a get a whole set of new linens!

  64. I strain and use beacon grease for cooking. Its tasty. Have a container I keep in the fridge. For cleaning I keep old degrading towels, t-shirts, microfiber dollar tree clothes. A friend uses old socks and underwear. Kinda odd but it works. They replace extremity often. Looked up the huck towels for kitchen towels though. The ones I get from the dollar tree are so so.

  65. linen dishtowels are a great sustainable alternative that if properly taken care of can easily survive 10 years and up to 30 years in the kitchen. It’s my understanding that production of cotton products is extremely harsh on the environment

  66. We are slowly (and new to) switching over to better choices around the house. One thing I just purchased were huck towels in two different colors. One color will be for the kitchen, the other for general cleaning (like in the bathroom.) We had been using blue (disposable) shop towels for cleaning because they can be used over and over. However, they do end up in the trash after a comparatively small amount of time. So I took my shipment and cut them up! yes, we washed them and I proceeded to cut them up. I made three or four different sizes (sewing the edges so they don’t fall apart) so we could use them for napkins to cleaning to drying dishes . . . different sizes are also good for different sized little people to help 🙂 Thanks for this nice, easy to incorporate, tip!

  67. Hi,

    First of all I would like to say a huge thank you to the wellness mama, your blog has been a source of such wonderful changes in our home! We are based in Germany, does anyone know of a European alternative to huck towels or where to buy them at a reasonable price? I check on and for one set its 80-90 euros which is a bit steep in comparison to the US site.

    Thanks in advance and a Happy New Year to you all.

  68. I use those cotton bar mop towels around the kitchen. When I’m home alone, I use them for napkins. My cleaning lady uses microfiber cloths, but I can’t stand the way they feel. I throw everything into my one laundry basket, and the only things I separate are whites. I wash microfiber with cotton, mix towels in with clothes, etc. Never had a problem. But I don’t eat dead animals or oil products. Not only is it a heart healthy diet, it makes kitchen clean-up a breeze. No icky grease layer everywhere. I’ll definitely try the huck towels when my stash of cotton towels runs low. Cotton is compostable, though, and microfiber is not as eco friendly but apparently it does hold more water!

  69. I’ve been paper towel-free for almost a month now 🙂 My biggest problems are the best cloths for interacting with food. I like the ideas in the comments for draining bacon, but what about for patting dry chicken? Squeezing water out of tofu? These are the types of things I can’t figure out a solution for. I feel like everything will just get lint all over it. Thoughts?

    • I would probably still use the same cloths suggested for bacon. I find that cheesecloths work well for more delicate foods.

  70. Happy to have found your web site as I am trying to go paper free and make my kitchen healthier (I’m 64 but it’s never too late to start!). Still going thru all the info but wanted to comment on one thing, you had a link to Norwex, I was surprised after going thru their site to find their microfiber is produced in China! Their justification for this is that China is known to be a world leader in textiles… well I’m old enough to remember when the US was a world leader in textiles… until too many companies started buying from China and put the US companies out of business! I make every effort not to buy Chinese products. If I can find the equivalent or close made in this country I will go for it… even if I have to pay a bit more. Please consider recommending American made products instead of Chinese made products.

    • I bought huck towels and I’m afraid mine were probably made in India; however the website I used does have some made in the USA.