Reusable Paper Towels 3
Natural Living

How to Get Rid of Paper Towels for Good [+ Cheap or Free Alternatives]

How can people live without paper towels?

How is that possible?

It can take a bit of getting used to at first, but once you’ve made the switch, you’ll won’t miss adding paper towels to your shopping list or your trash can.

What are unpaper towels?

Simply put, “unpaper towels” are pieces of cloth that are used in place of disposable paper towels.

They can be as simple as some pieces of cloth, or as complicated as multiple-layered sewn cloth squares that snap together and easily roll onto a paper towel holder.

Whichever version you choose is up to you.

What are unpaper towels made of?

Reusable paper towels are made of cloth, but the type of fabric is up to you.

I like cotton because it’s a natural fiber and is absorbent.

If you like microfiber, that could also be an option. Personally, I can’t stand the feel of microfiber so I try to stay as far away from it as possible. But that’s just a personal preference. I know some people, like my sister, who love it.

While there are plenty of types of fabric you could use to make unpaper towels, fabrics made with natural fibers will be your best bet for both absorbency and durability.


How do reusable paper towels work?

In many ways, reusable paper towels function exactly like regular paper towels.

When you need one, you grab it, wipe up your mess, and toss it.

However, the difference is where you toss the unpaper towels when you’re done with them.

I recommend having some sort of basket in your kitchen or bathroom to keep towels, washcloths/dishcloths, and reusable paper towels until it’s time to wash them. To make things easy, you can put this basket near the trash can so you only have to change your route slightly.

Does this mean I will have to do more laundry?

Yes, switching to reusable paper towels will mean more laundry, but it probably won’t add up to a whole new load. Instead, it will probably just make your towels load just slightly bigger.

Unless you use a whole lot of reusable paper towels…which bring me to my next point.

How many unpaper towels do I need?

I know, you’re looking for the exact number you need to buy or make to replace your regular paper towels.

But my house isn’t your house. I didn’t grow up using all that many paper towels as it was, so I wasn’t grabbing for them multiple times a day (or hour, haha). Because of this, I probably use way fewer paper towels (or their alternatives) than the average American.

We maybe have 30 cloths that we use as reusable paper towels. Honestly, I probably only go through about half of them a week. We could probably get by on 15, but some days have more messes than others, so I like having more than I need on hand.

If you’re used to using paper towels for anything and everything, you might want more unpaper towels. Or you can start with a smaller amount as you get used to using them and then work your way up until you have enough that you don’t have to resort to regular paper towels anymore.

How do you make reusable paper towels?

Even if you’re not crafty, you can totally make your own reusable paper towels.

If you want to get fancier with your unpaper towels, there are some additional supplies you can buy, but at a bare minimum all you need is some cloth.

How to make free reusable paper towels

Use things you already have in your house!

Personally, I had way too many cheap washcloths that I never used, so I use them as unpaper towels now!

Not only does this reduce waste in the sense of not throwing them away when I’m done, it also means I’m not wasting an opportunity to make use of something that’s just sitting in a drawer.

If you have an upright paper towel holder, you can roll up your cloths around the center, each slightly overlapped so the friction of the cloth holds them on, and then you can use them just like regular paper towels!

Our paper towels holder is horizontal and mounted in our pantry, so this method doesn’t work as well since they fall off, so I just keep mine in a bin to pull from when I need to.


How to make cheap reusable paper towels

If you want to put in a little effort to make some “fancier” unpaper towels, you can cut and hem some pieces of fabric so they hold up through lots of washes.

You can also add snaps to two of the sides of your reusable paper towels so you can snap them together on the paper towel holder so they don’t fall off.

Come to think of it, this would completely solve my issue of using individual pieces of cloth on a horizontal holder, but I like to be able to grab one when I need without having to stop to unsnap it, so I might just stick with my washcloths for now.

If you want actual tutorials, there are lots of reusable paper towels DIY pins on Pinterest of all different levels of crafting abilities or ambition. There are probably even some no-sew versions as well if you don’t want to touch a needle or a sewing machine.

Anyone can make or use unpaper towels, you just need to find the version that’s right for you!

Where to buy pre-made reusable paper towels

If you’d rather buy reusable paper towels, there are plenty of places that offer them.

Just a quick search on Etsy brings up tons of options, ranging from unprinted “paperless towels” without snaps to snap-together towels with floral, animal, or geometric prints.

Just like cloth diapers, I think the reusable paper towels you can buy are even cuter than the disposable version! They also come at lots of different price points so you can find some that fit your budget.


How do you wash reusable paper towels?

Once you’re done using an unpaper towel, simply toss it in your bin or basket until wash day.

But what if they smell?

If you have issues with your reusable paper towels, dishcloths, or towels smelling, you may want to consider either a covered container or a container that can breathe better. That way, your cloths won’t be sitting in dampness until wash day.

Personally, I’ve only had issues with smells when I’ve waited longer than a week to wash the load.

I wash at least once a week, and I haven’t had issues yet. But I guess it could depend on what you’re wiping up with your paper towels.

If you do have some smell issues with your unpaper towels (or the rest of your towels in general), just toss in a little vinegar to the washing machine and wash the towels in hot water. This has worked for me every time!




If you’re interested in trying out reusable unpaper towels for yourself, I hope this gave you some ideas and insight for how to start switching over and reducing waste in this area.

While there are definitely some cleaning instances where you don’t really want to use a reusable cloth and a disposable option is preferable, I’ve found these instances to be very few and far between.

In fact, I just keep old torn-up shirts, socks, or rags for these types of messes so I can just throw them away when I’m done!

Yes, I’m still throwing something away, but it was something that was going to get tossed out anyway and I got one more use out of it before it went in the trash.


Have you ever used reusable unpaper towels?

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  1. Kara Eckstein says:

    Microfiber cloths from Norwex have significantly lowered the amount of paper towels I use (a bigger upfront cost though). I still have trouble when dealing with raw meats and bacon, I need some throw-away paper towels for those. Any suggestions?

    1. I’ve haven’t used Norwex cloths, but I’ve heard from lots of people who love them! I don’t know if I really have any suggestions. We do have some napkins in our buffet that never get used so we grab some of those if we need them, or we can grab a really old rag that needs to be thrown out and just throw it away when we’re done. If I’m going to be doing laundry soon, sometimes I’ll just grab a dishrag that’s been used for dishes once, use it on the mess, and then throw it in the wash.

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