As part of the Change Challenge series, I want to tell you a little bit about how I do things on a day to day basis at our house. Not that I think how I do things is the best or only way to do things. I have just been getting lots of questions lately from friends and family about how I do some of the things that I do.
So, I figured many of you would have similar types of questions. Sometimes the thought of changing habits, or doing something new, like not buying paper towels, can be overwhelming we don’t even know where to start. Or we can’t even imagine what it looks like to not use paper towels around our homes on a daily basis.
Since we’re tackling changing our cleaning this month, I’ll start with how I handle cleaning cloths around my house.
My mom was just telling me the other day about how my grandpa used to rinse out his paper towels, hang them to dry, and reuse them, so I guess it’s just kind of in my genes! But I’ve taken it a step further by not buying paper towels at all!
If you’d like to quit using paper towels around your home to save money and reduce waste, the secret is to move your paper towels to somewhere inaccessible!
Yes, that’s right, somewhere inaccessible. The idea is this: move your paper towels to somewhere where you don’t see them and they aren’t easy to grab. At the same time move your cloth wipes and rags to somewhere super easy to access. Then you will be less likely to automatically reach for your disposable paper towels, and more likely to reach for your reusable cloths!
Pretty soon, using your cloths and rags will be such a habit that you’ll find you don’t even need to buy paper towels any more!
How I Did It
When I first decided to cut back on using paper towels, I moved my paper towels from the kitchen counter next to the sink, to a shelf in the laundry room, which was just off the kitchen. And then I moved my kitchen cloth, that I wanted to start using more regularly, to an accessible drawer in the kitchen.
For more ideas about the kinds of cloths and rags I use around my house, check out this post. By using these different types of cloths, I haven’t bought paper towels in over 6 months!
I bought a package when we first moved into our house for the original cleaning that we would do, and haven’t bought another package since then. I also don’t buy paper napkins or tissues. The only paper product that we use in our home is toilet paper.
Recently, I had a friend tell me that she doesn’t like to clean her kitchen with a rag because usually it’s been sitting on her counter or sink for a few days and she thinks it’s gross (which it probably is), so she uses paper towels.
Basically, I use several fresh, clean rags every day around my house. I grab a clean washcloth to wipe K’s face after breakfast every day, and if it’s not too dirty, I rinse it out to reuse it for after lunch. I use a clean dishcloth every day for washing dishes, and a clean washcloth for wiping the counters and table.
I don’t reuse cloths that have been sitting around for longer than a day. I have lots of all of the different kinds of cloths that I use, so I never run out before I’ve done a load of laundry. I think that’s one of the most important things – if you always have a cloth on hand, you won’t be tempted to reach for a paper towel.
We also only use cloth napkins, even when we have company. Our home group for our church comes over every Tuesday night for dinner, and I only offer cloth napkins. I’m washing a load of rags every week anyway, it’s really not a big deal to add 8-10 more cloth napkins to the load.
Every night I gather up the used, dirty rags, usually there’s a small pile on the kitchen floor by the door to the basement, and I throw them down the stairs into a mesh hanging laundry bag. In the mesh bag they are able to air out and not get smelly or moldy.
I would say I wash rags at least once a week, sometimes twice. I have bleached my rags in the past, but am trying not to use bleach anymore, so I wash my rags in hot water on the heavy duty cycle with detergent and Oxyclean and an extra rinse.
I do have some rags I could use and then throw away for really gross stuff, like if our dog throws-up. They’re usually Jer’s old t-shirts that I have cut into rags and I’ll use one of those to clean up a yucky mess and then just throw it away.
Also, it’s important to figure out a system that works for you for storing your clean cloths. I have almost a whole drawer and part of a cupboard in my kitchen dedicated to kitchen cloths. I have a whole shelf in my hall closet for cleaning rags. And I live in a small house with limited storage space – I have made room for what is important to me.
Using cloth instead of paper towel has really just become so second nature to me around our home. I don’t miss paper towels at all. It did take a little getting used to at first, but there has not been a time in at least the last 4 months that I’ve thought, “I wish I had a paper towel for this.”
For me, I see no reason to throw away a paper that was only used one time when I can easily wash and reuse rags over, and over, and over again. Not buying paper towels will save you money and save the earth at the same time. Using rags and cloths around your home instead of paper towels is definitely frugally green!
What do you think about using rags and cloths in place of paper towels? Is it something you do, or could see yourself doing? What steps can you take toward going paper towel-less this month?