About three years ago I stopped buying paper towels and paper napkins and I’ve never looked back! If one of your goals or New Year’s Resolutions is to go green or to cut down on household expenses, this is a great way to do it. I haven’t added a mega-pack of paper towels or a 500 count package of napkins to my cart in over three years!
Instead, we have a large supply of cloth napkins, dish towels and rags that we use every day.
Yes, I did receive some criticism and push back when this all began. My husband looked for the paper towels for weeks. My mom threatened that if we stopped buying tissues she’d stop visiting. My father-in-law, I swear, didn’t use a single napkin during one entire visit because he just didn’t know what to do with the cloth napkins at his place during dinner!
I know you might be thinking that this is crazy or totally impossible for your family. But hear me out! After three years I can’t imagine turning back from cloth to paper–my son and I even take cloth napkins in our lunches and even our 2-year-old is used to wiping his hands and face with a cloth napkin!
You can do it, too! I believe in you!
You need to start by building up your supply of cloth napkins, dish towels and rags. The rags are the easiest and cheapest: we have rags made from old flannel PJ bottoms, from cut up bath towels and old t-shirts. I keep them heaped under the sink in a bin.
I’m sure you already have some dish towels and maybe even some cloth napkins (did you use them for a fancy holiday dinner?). Now is a great time to find them on sale–in fact, they go on great sales after every holiday. Yes, I use heavily-discounted Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day dish towels all year! Flea markets and antique stores are fantastic places to find inexpensive cloth napkins. Never know what to ask your in-laws for on your birthday or for Christmas? Dish towels and cloth napkins are always the right size!
Second, stop buying paper towels and paper napkins. Just stop cold turkey. It’s tough at first–you’ll be reaching for the paper towel roll all the time! But just start using those rags for wiping the counters, cleaning up spills. Get used to going through one or more dish towels every day. Some families have each person keep their cloth napkin and re-use it for several meals. We use a new one for each person per meal.
Third, come up with your system for laundry. I keep a re-usable canvas bag hanging on the door to our basement. When a rag, towel or napkin is dirty, it goes right into the bag. The bag is taken to the laundry room in the evening and goes into the next load of laundry. I don’t care about stains on our everyday napkins and dish towels but do keep an unstained set or two set aside for times when we have guests. As for the rags? They’re stained like crazy, but who cares?
I’m sure you’re thinking: I have enough laundry already! I promise that you won’t even notice a difference. What we use in a day or two always fits into the next load or two of laundry. Even when we line dried all summer, I never minded the cloth towels, rags and napkins. (In fact, they were the easiest things to pin to the line!)
Give it a try! You might just fall in love with cloth!
In order to assure you that she is not trying to be holier-than-thou, Aimee happily admits that she has a deep weakness for clearance-priced fancy paper cocktail napkins and currently has a small supply of them in her cabinets! You can read more about Aimee’s crazy life with her crazy boys at Smiling Mama and about family-friendly activities for getting out and about in Prince George’s County, MD, at Out by Ten.