Reusable Paper Towels: 7 Alternatives to Have in Your Kitchen

In the typical home, the kitchen is the hardest place to be environmentally friendly. We use so many paper products, including paper towels and paper plates. Though it may seem overwhelming to make the switch to a green kitchen, you can start by using reusable paper towels and fabric towels. We will discuss the benefits of making the switch, paper towel alternatives you can try, as well as how to make unpaper towels. (Don’t know what those are? Keep reading to find out!)

Benefits of Reusable Paper Towels and Fabric Towels

Switching to reusable paper towels and fabric towels come with both advantages and disadvantages. Do not worry though, because the pros outweigh the cons. First, we will start with the benefits.

  • Environmentally Friendly: The best part about reusable towels is that they are environmentally friendly. Regular paper towels contribute to the large number of trees cut down every year and are done in just one use. Reusable towels last for years, greatly minimizing your footprint. All you have to do is wash them and they are practically as good as new.
  • Reusable: People generally use paper towels to clean up messes and spills and dry their hands. Unfortunately, paper towels are pretty much done after one use. Sure, you can rinse it out and try for another use, but maybe one more use is all you will get. They start tearing and falling apart. Reusable paper towels and fabric towels are completely different. You can use them time and time again without worrying about ruining them.
  • Cost-Efficient: Reusable towels are also extremely cost-efficient. When you compare prices at the store, paper towels are cheaper, but you have to keep buying paper towels once you run out. It saves you more money in the long run because it will likely be years before you have to replace them.
  • Minimum Waste: Paper towels generate a great deal of waste. Many American families use more than a roll in a week, and the waste adds up quick. Reusable paper towels and fabric towels produce only a small amount of waste. If you want to cut down on waste, reusable is definitely the route to go.

Disadvantages of Reusable Paper Towels and Fabric Towels

We would be doing you a disservice if we did not also tell you about the disadvantages of reusable towels. Though there are a couple, they should not deter you from switching to reusable paper towels and fabric towels.

  • Convenience: In today’s world, everything is about convenience. We will be honest, reusable towels are not convenient. Paper towels are easy because you pull off as many as you need, clean up the mess, throw them away, and you do not think about it any more. Reusable towels, on the other hand, require cleaning afterward, then folding and putting away. The best way to encourage yourself is to remember how much better reusable towels are for the environment.
  • Hygiene: For many people, paper towels are a go-to for cleaning up after children and pets. This includes the occasional vomit, urine, and feces. This way, the problem is removed immediately. If you use a reusable towel, you may never want to use it again after exposing it to so much bacteria. You then have to worry about washing and disinfecting the cloth. This is a deal-breaker for many people. If it bothers you, then only use paper towels for those particularly gross cleanups and stick with reusable towels for everything else. All that matters is that you are cutting back on waste.

Paper Towel Alternatives

The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to what paper towel alternatives are available. There are different kinds of cloth, sure, but some of the other items on our list may surprise you. Cutting back on your paper towel usage is going to be easier than you thought!

paper towels, reusable paper towels, unpaper towels, fabric towels, hand towels

Image Source: Pixabay

Fabric Towels

The great thing about fabric towels is that there are several different kinds to choose from. Microfiber towels are quite popular, and you can even buy textured ones that pick up messes easier. Fabric will likely last you years before you even have to think about replacing it.

Unpaper Towels

Unpaper towels are exactly what they sound like: paper towels without the paper. They are essentially a fabric cloth that people design to be just like paper towels. You pick an absorbent fabric and use snaps to attach them all together. This way, you can roll it up and use just like you would regular paper towels. Just pull one off and clean up the mess! They are also machine washable, so that is a plus.

Reusable Beeswax Wraps

If you have not heard of this product, you need to give it a try. Many people use it to wrap up avocado halves, fruit, cheese, and herbs. Once you are done with it, you just hand wash it in cold water with alcohol-free dish soap. Hang it to dry and you can reuse it again and again.

Chambray Napkins

Though you probably will not turn to these in the event of a big spill, there are great for when you have guests over. Instead of providing paper towels, just use chambray napkins. They can cover small messes and keep your guests clean while they eat. They also look great with your dining set.

Linen and Cotton Bowl Covers

Instead of using paper towels or plastic to cover food, use a linen or cotton bowl cover. These nifty products are just a piece of fabric with elastic around the edges. This allows them to cover just about any bowl or pot, which will keep them safe and fresh. You can even make these yourself if you are crafty.

Reusable Paper Towels

If you absolutely cannot go without paper towels, try reusable paper towels instead of the regular ones. The ones mentioned here hold 16 times its weight in water and will last for a week. If you do not want to hand wash them, you can place them on the top rack of your dishwasher. Though these are not as environmentally friendly as cloth, it still cuts back paper towel waste.

Reusable Sandwich Bags

Instead of using a plastic bag or a paper towel to wrap up your sandwich, try a reusable sandwich bag instead. They keep your food safe and you get to use it as many times as you want. Depending on the fabric, you can just toss it in the washing machine between uses. You can find some great patterns to make reusable sandwich bags here.

How to Make Unpaper Towels

If you enjoyed the idea of unpaper towels, we can give you step-by-step instructions to make them. It is actually easier than you may have originally guessed. First, we will list the supplies. Second, we will provide the instructions. Before you know it, you will have some stylish unpaper towels brightening up your kitchen.

To make unpaper towels, gather the following supplies.

  • 2 yards of terry cloth or flannel (You can use light or dark colors. Dark colors are less likely to stain.)
  • 2 yards of cotton fabric
  • Sharp scissors
  • Needle
  • Thread that matches your fabric
  • Ruler or 12x12 stencil
  • 57 to 63 snaps (You can get some extra ones to practice with beforehand.)
  • Snap applicator (Be sure you get one that is compatible with your snaps.)
  • Plastic canvas (2 to 4 sheets of 12x6 sections)
  • Embroidery thread (optional)
  • Super glue (optional)


Now that you have your supplies, here is how to make unpaper towels.

  1. Wash and dry both fabrics. This way, if any of them shrink, it will happen before you make the individual towels.
  2. Cut the cloth into 12x12 pieces.
  3. Lay a piece of cotton on a piece of terry (or flannel) with the decorative side (if you chose decorative fabric) facing the terry. Sew a straight stitch 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch from the edge to connect the pieces together. Leave a gap about 2 to 3 inches long on one of the edges so you can turn it right-side-out later. 
  4. Turn the cloth right-side-out and use a straight stitch to close up the gap. If desired, you can also use embroidery thread to add a decorative stitch around the edges to reinforce your straight stitch.
  5. Next, you will need to add the snaps. (Of course, if you just want some cute hand towels, you can stop here.) Each unpaper towel needs 2 to 3 sockets on the right side and the same number of studs on the left. This is so each towel can attach to its neighbor, so you need to measure out where each one goes. Use the instructions with your snap applicator to attach them.
  6. This step describes how to make the paper towel roll. Cut your plastic canvas into 11.5x6 sections and super glue them together to make a roll. The sturdier the roll, the more plastic canvas you will want to use. You can also apply some snaps to the roll so that your unpaper towels will attach to it.


We have covered quite a bit, but now you know how important it is to use reusable paper towels and fabric towels. There are several options to choose from when you make the switch, so the possibilities are endless! Once you make the switch, you can feel at ease because you have reduced the amount of waste you produce.

Image Source: Pixabay

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Lacey Jolley

I love exploring, experiencing new places, and eating good food! I'm amazed every day at how well the Earth provides for us, and I want to return the favor. I hope to help others learn how we can make our world a better, cleaner place.

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