Save Money in the Kitchen With Cloth

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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.

Paper Napkins Cloth Napkins

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.

Paper Towels Huck Towels

Hypothetically, all paper products could be replaced by huck towels if you didn’t mind how they look as napkins. I’ve found that they 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.

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, cotton rags, 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 cotton rags 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 cleaning cloths to clean the table after meals. When they are done, used cloths go into 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 cotton dishcloths
  • 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 when cleaning up oil, paint, and other non-washable spills where it is easier to just throw the cloth away.

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:

  • 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 or Branch Basics oxyclean occasionally to get rid of stains or odor (I also use this on cloth diapers sometimes also)
  • Wash every other day and teach younger kids to fold the loads (easy thing for them to learn how to fold)

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.

Of course, if you can’t quite give up paper towels in the kitchen (and no judgment here, I haven’t switched to cloth toilet paper and probably never will!) there are recycled options from responsible companies that make these a better choice.

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!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


143 responses to “Save Money in the Kitchen With Cloth”

  1. Tracy Avatar

    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. 🙂

  2. Sarah Avatar

    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?

  3. Kathy Tackeberry Avatar
    Kathy Tackeberry

    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.

  4. Barbara Avatar

    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.

  5. Galina Avatar

    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.

    1. Barbara Avatar

      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).

      1. Galina Avatar

        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.

  6. Erin Avatar

    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.

  7. Debra Avatar

    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.

  8. Loni Avatar

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

  9. Lauren Avatar

    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?

    1. Kelley Avatar

      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!

  10. Felicia Avatar

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

  11. april Avatar

    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.

  12. Stephanie fulton Avatar
    Stephanie fulton

    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.

  13. Connie Hall Avatar
    Connie Hall

    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.

  14. Amy B Avatar

    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.

  15. Hillary Autumn Graham Avatar
    Hillary Autumn Graham

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

  16. Andrew Avatar

    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.

  17. LB Avatar

    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.

  18. Ania Wheelock Avatar
    Ania Wheelock

    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!

  19. Wendy Avatar

    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!

  20. Rjtodo Avatar

    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 🙁

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