I’ve been meaning to wean our family off paper towels for years, and this quarantine is finally giving the push that I need. Thanks, empty paper towel shelves at Kroger! So I’ve been chatting with eco-conscious friends and colleagues about favorite paper towel alternatives that can still keep up with my family’s needs.
Which happen to include wiping up baby spit-up, potty training, and teaching my toddler to cook. Not to mention all the extra cleaning, dishwashing, and doorknob wiping we’re all doing these days.
Oof. That’s a tall order. But thanks to a lots of suggestions and some internet sleuthing, I’ve found a few eco-friendly paper towel alternatives that I think will be up to the task. Here’s wishing all your spills be absorbed!
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I sill find myself reaching for the paper towel roll, even though the holder has been empty for a week now. So I love that these Unpaper towels stick together naturally and come on their own dispenser. These are easily the closest to regular paper towels, but with an eco-friendly alternative twist. I’m also a big fan of their whimsical prints that may get kids more excited to grab one and wipe down the dinner table from time to time.
($54/24-pack, Marley Monsters)
Despite their name, these Swedish dishcloths (also at top) are sort of like if a sponge and a disposable paper towel mated and had a baby. (Just go with the metaphor here.) These cellulose sheets are stiff when dry and become super absorbent when wet, which makes them perfect for wiping down counters. My sister, who owns her own baking business, swears by them. Just note that because of their stiff-when-dry fabric, you don’t want to use these for drying hands or dishes as much as for mopping up messes or spraying down the bathroom.
($12.79/set of 3, Amazon)
For those of us cleaning particularly gross messes (I see you, fellow new moms!), you might want an eco-friendly paper towel alternative that falls between disposable and reusable. These If You Care reusable paper towel towels are designed simply to be used for about a week and rinsed between uses — unlike the other options which are cleaned in the washing machine or the top rack of the dishwasher. Just be sure you have a good place to hang them dry. When you’re done with them, they can go right into the compost.
That said, one happy user does wash hers with dish detergent in the top shelf of the dishwasher or sprays with vinegar to get it to last more than a week. And some users say that while they’re very absorbent, they’re quite stiff, so they may be best for wiping spills, not drying hands.
Oh, and I like that you can also use them on your Swiffer Wet in lieu of the overpoweringly-scented ones the brand sells. Another big money-saver right there, too.
($32/set of 3 rolls. Food 52)
Bambooees Reusable Bamboo Towels first launched on SharkTank in 2013, and seven years later, it’s clear why they’re still going strong. Bamboo grows faster than trees, making these bamboo rayon towels naturally more sustainable than those made from paper fibers. Although, they really do look and feel a lot like the paper towels you’re used to.
Each sheet can be tossed in the dishwasher and reused up to 100 times, and reportedly get softer and more absorbent each time — in fact, many users suggest you wash one first before using. You really do get a whole lot of bang for your buck with these. They even claim that a single roll of 20 can replace app to 60 paper towel rolls! Wow, that’s a lot of Kroger shelf space.
If you want an eco-friendly paper towel alternative that’s a little more versatile for mutli-purpose use, try these Paperless Towels from a popular Etsy shop. They’re softer than Swedish dish towels and can work well as cloth napkins at the dinner table and hand towels too, just like you may normally use standard paper towels. Or hey, they could even swap in for toilet paper should it, ahem, get to that point.
($22.95/5 with discounts for more, up to 100, Gina’s Soft Cloth Shop)