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. Agnes de Bethune Avatar
    Agnes de Bethune

    We buy about 3 or 4 rolls of paper towels a year. They are indispensible for things like a grease spill. or draining the fried chicken. But I much prefer using the blue shop rags that can be had at any industrial supply house. I like the ones that are hemmed on all 4 sides because they fold up so nicely. We bought a few bundles about 30 years ago and some of those are still in service. We bought a second batch 5 years ago and I figure it will last us the rest of our useful lives. I was shocked when I calculated the overall savings these have given us over the decades. It’s really no trouble to toss them down the laundry chute and wash them with the blue jeans and other heavy cottons. They do require folding, just as cloth diapers do, but I don’t mind that small chore in exchange for the benefit.

  2. Lou Alice Collins Avatar
    Lou Alice Collins

    I save bacon grease, etc. in a pre-used glass jar in the refrigerator. When it is full and congealed I put it in the trash. As it is congealed, it doesn’t leak out. Then I reach for another jar I have in reserve. I save pickle jars, relish jars, etc. for this purpose. regular canning jars I save for “better” purposes.

  3. Gerald Avatar

    Not sure if anyone is still active on this post but I’m thinking of switching over to cloth but had a question about washing them.

    I saw baking soda mentioned several times. Does that mean you are washing with only baking soda or are you washing with detergent (or something else) then using baking soda in the rinse cycle?

    Sorry if this is a silly question I have debilitating OCD and if I used cloth I would want to feel comfortable that the rags are fully clean and bacteria free.

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      I wash with a detergent (or Branch Basics or Dr. Bronners Sal Suds) and then baking soda added if needed to cut grease and freshen.

  4. Linda Avatar

    I’d love to be paper-free! However, living in an apartment without close laundry facilities, it would be very difficult to do laundry as often as would be necessary using only cloth.

  5. Carol L Avatar

    For Gabe (and several others): You must be me!!! I have been paper free in my house for years. I dislike microfiber as it is made from plastic, (Huck towels also, I believe, but not sure.) And for me, all it does is move liquids, not absorb. I use washcloths and hand towels for dishes for ONE day, and then throw into a small step trashcan. I lay wet ones on top or hang on side until dry then place inside can. I have enough for about two weeks before I must wash them. When I wash, the hand towels and “dish” cloths go into a load alone, I soak for one hour with some laundry soap (homemade) some extra washing soda and if light colors, some generic Oxyclean (cheaper and no additives). I do an additional short wash with white vinegar made with GRAIN (otherwise, it is made with petroleum) and maybe a few drops of essential oils. (Careful, if it gets directly on the clothes, can leave an oil like spot). I then use a 15 minute drain and spin cycle TWICE, which allows me to only dry for 5-10 minutes to get fully dry. This spins almost ALL water out of clothing (Dryer takes up more energy than a washing machine).
    I use ‘family cloth” for pee, and wash separately. I use organic linen for “paper towels” in the kitchen, and love them. Get them on Amazon. You can get a rainbow edging, or single colors in many shades. They are a bit spendy, but I feel worth it as they feel similar to paper: thin but absorbent. (These are also thrown in with the dishcloths and hand towels).
    I use a special cast iron brush to wash food from my cast iron, (I have over 40 pieces of it!!) after I rinse in hot water, I use a pastry type brush to move a lump of coconut oil around to coat it. I place this inside a narrow, tall glass ‘goblet’ next to my stove (any tall container would work), which drains for a few weeks when I wash it. Wiping oily things out into the garbage first rather than rinsing down sinks which can cause blockages, then shaking it off of fabric before washing. (I do the same when oil pulling for my teeth).
    All ‘natural: waste: any cardboard from purchases, that isn’t recyclable, junk mail that can’t be composted due to slick paper or heavy print, goes into a receptacle that my dump allows as co-mingled recycling. I have a shredder that shreds paper that is ok to compost and then add it to my compost piles.
    Food waste is also composted unless it is meat, then it is garbage. I go to my local dump probably two-three times a year @ about $20. a trip.
    I have a well, and do laundry about two loads a week. If it is a bath towel week (once every 4 weeks) then three loads.
    I admit these totals will be more for most people as it is just me unless I have family visiting.
    I don’t miss paper at all!!!!

  6. Leah Caesar Avatar
    Leah Caesar

    We have been spending about $14 plus tax every 2 weeks for paper towels. I’m pretty stingy about how we use them, too. That rounds out to about $364 pee year without the tax, about $386 after tax. More than a dollar a day just to throw something away. It really doesn’t seem right. I’ve been trying to switch to cloth for years but needed more info to go on, suggestions for what works best. Thank you so much for this. I really think a lot of folks can benefit from it.

  7. Wendy Avatar

    I have certainly considered switching from paper to cloth. My biggest hesitation stems from not knowing which leaves a smaller “footprint”: saving the trees that are used to provide the paper or conserving the potable water that is used to wash extra loads of laundry? How do I know which is actually better for the environment? There hasn’t been as much attention on the shortage of water, but it is a very real, growing concern.
    P.S. I noticed a lot of comments regarding microfiber towels. They might be great for cleanups, but those are also very damaging to the environment. Katie actually blogged about that not long ago…

  8. Hally Avatar

    Hi Katie
    Good call – but just wanted to make you aware that the link for Huck towels in the UK takes you to paper towels on

  9. Lizanne Avatar

    What about for patting raw food dry ie chicken? And for draining oil from cooked foods ie bacon? I use all cloth except for these two uses. Do the huck cloths work for this? Do you keep (until washing) and wash the contaminated ones separately?

  10. Meredith Avatar

    Hello !! I have been looking into getting rid of paper towels and was very curious about yuck towels. That let me to sponge cloths.

    Just wondering if anyone has used these and what others think.

    Thank you 🙂

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