Why You Really Don’t Need Papertowels

Zero Waste Home

About 3 years ago, my husband found a book called, “Zero Waste Home.” He knew it sounded up my alley so he got it for me. I devoured it! The author and her family only produce a mason jar full of trash each year. It is truly amazing and very inspiring. It’s a book I highly recommend if you are looking for ways to increase your health and reduce waste at the same time. She lives a very nice but simple life that makes my heart smile!

Getting Rid of Papertowels

After reading that book, I really tackled reducing the amount of trash we produced. One of those ways was to get rid of papertowels completely. At the time, I was a professional housecleaner so I definitely used my fair share of papertowels. I wasn’t the type of person that used them for every single mess, but I did use them quite a bit. Papertowels do use up lots of trees, add waste to landfills, and often are bleached with chemicals. For me, getting rid of papertowels was one small step I could make in creating a healthier environment and doing my part to reduce the negative effect I was having on the earth. As many as 51,000 trees are used each day to produce papertowels. And the yearly discarded papertowels into landfills is 254 million tons. Yikes!

Papertowels remind me of microwaves. We’ve become so used to having them in our daily lives, that when we imagine life without them we kind of freak out. We wonder how in the world we will do without them. But I’m always amazed at how creative I get when I simply eliminate something that’s not healthy for me. I find really creative ways to make due without. Here are 3 simple tips on how I’ve done without papertowels…

1 | Have LOTS of rags. These are my favorite. They are actually medical rags used in surgery, but they are 100% cotton, super absorbent, and don’t leave behind lint. After professionally cleaning houses for 16 years, they are my only “go to” as far as rags go. One key to going without papertowels is to realize you can use rags. You can use rags to clean up the spilled juice. You can use rags to clean the toilet. You can use rags to wipe sticky fingers. I have a separate “rag” laundry basket that way I make sure my house cleaning rags get washed separately than dish towels, etc.

2 | Keep old rags. When my rags start to get really worn out and ratty looking, I keep them stashed away. I use this for when I need something “disposable.” When the dog throws up on the carpet, I really don’t want to deal with washing the nasty rag (although, I could) so I use a “disposable” rag. These rags are so old they aren’t good for cleaning anymore, but they are great for those 1-time jobs and then can be thrown out.

3 | Get cloth napkins. I don’t have paper napkins or papertowels. We just use cloth. I have about 12 so that when guests come over, I have enough for them to use as well. These are the ones I recently bought and love!

I say it all the time, but it’s not as hard as you think! When you run out of paper towels next, simply don’t buy more and see how you do. Stock up on extra rags and see if you can make do skipping out on buying paper towels all together. You’ll save money, the environment, and keep an unnecessary bleached item out of your home!


  1. Shelley on May 26, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    I’m close to making this switch, so I love your idea of keeping old rags for those icky one-time jobs…that definitely would help with my reluctance to give them up entirely!

  2. Amy on May 26, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    Yes! Love this! When we moved into our new place we didn’t have any paper towel and I just decided not to buy anymore. My husband thought I was crazy, but it has now been 5 months paper towel free! I did have fun finding some cute vintage cloth napkins at the thrift store. Love your blog!

  3. Lindsay on June 10, 2016 at 12:10 am

    Reading your blog and especially this post made me wonder if you’ve ever heard of Norwex? We don’t use paper towels or any chemical cleaners anymore now that we have Norwex! It’s amazing!

    • Lauren Dahl on June 12, 2016 at 6:32 pm

      Hi Lindsay, I have heard of it. My mom has some of their stuff. I haven’t gotten a chance to look into it yet, but I do plan on looking at it soon!

  4. Emily on June 16, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    Hi Lauren!
    After reading this post, I mentioned the idea to my husband and we decided to try to be paper towel free. We’ve been only using rags and cloth napkins successfully for 2 weeks now. Thank you so much for your ideas and tips. I especially like the idea of keeping old rags around for the really bad messes.

  5. Kristine on June 21, 2016 at 12:01 am

    Hi, Lauren! I love your blog. Thanks for posting about your favorite napkins! On behalf of Karama Collection, we’re so excited that you’ve chosen to live sustainably and choose ethical products that share dignity with artisans in Ethiopia. Can’t wait to keep reading! kristine@karamacollection.com

  6. Elouise on July 1, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    This is very cool! Thank you for the post. I live in South Africa, I am going to find these rags. What type of detergent do you use to wash your rags? Do you wash them at a higher temperature than you normally wash clothes?

    • Lauren Dahl on July 4, 2016 at 12:28 am

      You’d have to do some research for what kind of detergent is available in South Africa. I use Allen’s Naturally, but I bet you probably can’t get it there. I do wash them hot, and I usually keep them separate from my other laundry.

  7. Becca on January 5, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Hey Lauren! Reading all your posts for inspiration to turn our rentals and our home into chemical free zones! Question though- where do you get your lint free rags!?!? You said they were medical rags. Lint is my biggest pet peeve when cleaning- especially with black appliances! Thanks!

    • Lauren Dahl on January 6, 2017 at 3:31 am

      Hi Becca, these are the ones I usually get. I split the box with a friend.

  8. Donna on October 10, 2017 at 1:27 am

    What do you do with bacon?! lol I know its a silly thing to hold a person back on but we always use paper towel for bacon, like you put it on there to soak up the fat… is there a better option?!

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