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Paper towels, once so handy and loved by all, have become the nemesis of the green living world. The world in which we should all be living. Paper towels are wasteful and not entirely useful in most situations and 99% of the time, a rag will do a better job of cleaning. I haven’t completely given up on paper towels just yet because there are so many instances you would rather throw away the paper towel than wash a rag (like when we had to clean out a HUGE mouse nest on our lawn mower this spring!). Besides the fact that paper towels are hella expensive, cutting down on literally cutting down virgin trees is a great way to help the environment.
Here’s how to stop using so many paper towels in your home, without going crazy.
Buy Recycled Paper Towels
It may sound counter-intuitive to buy more paper towels, but buy some that are made with recycled paper, bamboo, or sugarcane. You won’t be cutting down virgin trees and you’ll definitely want to keep some paper towels around. You’ll want to keep some paper towels around for things like vomit clean-up, blood and other hygienic reasons. Yes, you can use a rag for all of these, but something that is clean and can be thrown away for hygienic reasons is better. I’ve seen so many people using rags for cuts, but there’s a reason why band-aids are sterilized and used.
Plus, making the switch to un-paper towel freedom is a lot harder than everyone in Instagram makes it look. Because, habits. I have been waffling between a stern use of no paper towels, to ones only for hygienic reasons, to fuck-the-world-just-clean-up-this-mess mentality. I’ve gone back and forth between recycled paper towels and the regular ol’ Bounty, but I’ve severely cut back my usage of paper towels, and that’s the first step!
Make Some Rags
My rags are all ripped up old t-shirts or towels that have seen better days. I haven’t bought any specific rags for cleaning, besides dish rags, and I don’t see myself doing so in the future. Because we have so many towels that are…well, not really suited for drying off anymore. They’re old, guys. They’re falling apart. They’re ready to be made into rags. You probably have some of your own. Rip ’em up into handy squares perfect for cleaning the kitchen counters, dusting, wiping down the bathrooms, small spills. I have mine in different sizes for different uses, making it easier to use depending on whether a spill just happened or I need to scrub the shower clean.
Or Buy Some
It’s okay! You CAN buy rags. Buy bamboo or buy some of *these nifty rolls for easy-access.
Make it Handy
Having a bunch of ripped up t-shirts or nice and pristine white bamboo rags isn’t going to do much if you put them away in the closet and forget about them. Have them in a handy spot where you need them most – your kitchen. Have them in your bathroom for cleaning, have them in your closet where the rest of your cleaning products are. Have them next your comfy spot on the couch where you’ll most definitely spill a drink or twelve. Have them in the best spot available.
Ain’t she a beaut?!
Find a Spot for the Dirties
I can’t tell you how many times I stopped using rags and reverted back to paper towels (don’t worry, only for that day or two) just because I didn’t want to throw the rag on the floor or I was too lazy to bring it to the laundry room in the basement. Contrary to thinking otherwise, laziness will always win out. I haven’t done any scientific studies or anything, but it has to be the number one reason why society hasn’t completely switched over to being environmentally friendly.
So, my laziness won out a few times. But, then, I brought in a cute bucket (and, didn’t buy anything new. This adorable bucket once held flowers at my wedding…now it holds rags. Oh, how it has fallen) and kept it by my garbage can. In go the dirty rags and dishcloths and dish towels! Out they go on the way to laundry and I never have to worry about a pile-up of rags in the corner of my kitchen, again.
Know it Doesn’t Have to be Fancy
I’ve seen so many Pins on Pinterest on how to make your own re-useable wipes. Sounds pretty cool and neat and all that jazz, and I thought about doing it. They’re in a cute glass jar, they’re easy to grab, they’re ready to go! And, then, I thought about why I’d need to do that in the first place. My spray bottle is under the sink, my rags are right next door. It would take longer to make the cloths than it would for me to pull a rag out of the drawer and spray down a counter. It would also mean buying a jar and creating more waste that isn’t necessarily needed.
They’re cleaning rags, guys. No need to be fancy or Instagrammable- if you need to make wipes to ease yourself off the Clorox or Lysol ones, go for it! But, know that all you need is a cleaning agent and some old rags.