You may be surprised to hear that there are many reusable paper towel options, and you may not be as surprised to know how much better they are for the planet. Since we’ve made the switch to them in our household, we wanted to share our picks for the best reusable paper towels to help you clean your house and the Earth of countless wasted paper towels.
It can be a challenge at first to remove the convenience of just wiping up a mess and simply throwing it all away. But trust me from experience: It’s not as hard as it seems to switch to reusable!
Even for the messiest among us, there is a reusable paper towel that does the trick. You can escape the guilt of watching a disposable roll spin down to cardboard in just a few days. Instead of tossing each sheet in the trash, you’re squeezing it out to use again tomorrow.
Let’s get into it: the why, the how, and of course, the best reusable paper towels.
What is a Reusable Paper Towel?
Like the name implies, reusable paper towels do the same job as your trusty kitchen counter roll, except you can use them more than once. You’ll find different kinds made of different blends, but generally, they’ll come in sturdy natural materials like cellulose, cotton, or bamboo.
Reusable paper towels have been around for over 70 years. In 1949, Swedish civil engineer Curt Lindquist patented Wettex, his cellulose-cotton blend that you could use, rinse, squeeze, and use again.
All reusable towels essentially work this way. Once you’ve used it, you’ll just run it under water and soak the fibers. Squeeze away the dirt until the water runs clear, and you’ve got a damp rag that awaits tomorrow’s messes. Or, if you’re like me, you can grab a reusable towel that’s machine washable for maximum convenience.
Do They Actually Work?
Most reusable paper towel brands will say that you can use each sheet for months before you even need to consider disposing of them.
From personal experience, this is true, but there is some fine print: It’s not recommended you use your reusable paper towels to clean up extreme messes. So if your cat misses the litter box and you’re wiping up the accident with your new dishcloth, you shouldn’t expect the same longevity as if you were just using it to dust your windows.
However, reusable paper towels can last quite a while if you use them strategically. The best way to get life out of your reusable towels is to bring them out for light daily cleaning. Spray down surfaces with a natural all-purpose cleaner (you can also use one of our DIY cleaner recipes!) and get to wiping glass, countertops, tables, even swipe the kitchen floor while you’re at it. I like to keep a damp reusable towel right by the sink to sop up the everyday mess of dishes and cooking.
Environmental Benefits of Reusable Paper Towels
Of course, we’re not using these towels just because we like them. The most rewarding benefit of using reusable paper towels is their environmental impact. One pack of six towels can replace dozens of disposable rolls, which go right to the landfill.
When it comes to your carbon footprint, every little bit counts. Household waste that sits in the landfill emits methane over time. This dangerous greenhouse gas is a large contributor to climate change.
According to the EPA, paper products are the #1 material that Americans toss in the trash each year, so imagine how much you could reduce your personal waste just by cutting down on paper towels.
Reusable paper towels aren’t permanent, but they do last quite a bit longer. Better yet, many manufacturers use compostable materials, so you can add the reusable towel to your compost bin once it’s soiled. Just be sure you aren’t composting anything you’ve used to wipe up a chemical spray. Stick with natural cleaning products for the best results!
While reusable towels come from natural sources like paper and cellulose, they also use less raw materials during production than their disposable cousins. The lighter production process makes them less wasteful to manufacture, so even if you throw out your dirty reusables every weeks, you’re still limiting landfill waste.
Reusable Paper Towel Brands We Love
One of the joys of using reusable paper towels is the wide selection of options. It might be hard to pick just one, mostly because each manufacturer offers a range of beautiful colors and designs to complement your taste.
The difference in reusable paper towels comes down to patterns, materials, and whether or not you can compost or machine wash the product. I’m fond of a few different reusable options, so read on to find the best reusable paper towels out of everything I’ve tried.
1. Swedish Dishcloths
The Swedish Wholesale Store: bringing us dependable, eco-friendly products at an unbelievably cheap rate. We love these cellulose and cotton dishcloths because they have a great, sturdy texture that scrubs away all kinds of grit.
This 10-pack of reusable paper towels comes in assorted bright colors that can absorb up to 20x their weight. Perhaps the best detail about these dishcloths is that they’re both dishwasher and washing machine friendly! I can’t stress the convenience of throwing soiled reusable towels in with my load of laundry.
These types of reusable paper towels are becoming more popular and easier to find; I’ve even found very similar types at Trader Joe’s!
2. Bamboo Towels
Whenever I start to miss the disposable paper towel experience, I bring out the Bamboo Towels. These reusable (and biodegradable) organic bamboo sheets come in a roll just like the real thing, and their soft white color might make you believe you’re using a disposable sheet. Even though they feel like they’re disposable, they can be washed and reused over 120 times before composting them.
Bamboo is one of our favorite favorite materials. Not only is it super soft , but it also comes from a highly sustainable source! Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, shooting up to 3 feet per day.
For a different type of fabric that’s great not only for wiping up spills, but also appropriate for the dinner table, we love these super cute handmade “unpaper towels” from This Joyful Home. These reusable eco-friendly cotton cloth towels come in off-white or bright white with assorted colored stitching on the edges that can replace your disposable napkins as well!
They’re also machine-washable, pre-washed and pre-shrunk prior to being sent to you. While they’re great for normal clean-ups, I do like to reserve a few clean ones just for guests since they’re so attractive and I don’t want to stain all of them!
Finally, we’ve been pretty impressed by Wowables: the durable reusable paper towel roll. This is a great option for a compostable towel: it’s 100% biodegradable and made of 70% wood pulp and 30% unbleached non-GMO Cotton. They’re definitely tough enough to hold up for some gritty messes before it’s time to hit the compost bin.
Wowables claims that one paper towel roll can last up to 2.5 years when used for light cleaning. If you do the math, that’s quite a few disposable paper towels (and dollars!) saved. They come in an attractive yellow shade with a bumpy texture that is great for tougher-scrubbing.
These are also machine-washable and dishwasher-safe, and can be even be used to replace your Swiffer pads when moistened beforehand.
Taking steps to make your home more environmentally-friendly doesn’t mean saying goodbye to your favorite products. Like a scrubby sponge and a soft kitchen towel, paper towels have their place among my essential cleaning supplies.
Once I took the plunge and started cleaning with reusable paper towels, I found they’re often much better suited for the job. Durable fibers like cellulose, cotton, and bamboo are much more efficient at scrubbing away grit and grime without tearing into pieces.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my reusable towel journey. No more filling my garbage can with soggy, soiled scraps of paper: I get a lot more out of my dishcloths, and it’s hardly more work than throwing the dirty towels in with my laundry.
So, take it from me: there is a reusable paper towel for everyone! Try some of these, or go hunting for your own. Either way, you could save 100’s of paper towel rolls from ending up in the landfill by making the swap. That’s a big victory any way you slice it.