I’ve been meaning to switch to an eco-friendly paper towel alternative for years, and if 2020’s quarantine didn’t push you toward a new alternative, maybe we can help!

In time for Earth Day, 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 now doing these days.

Oof. That’s a tall order. But thanks to a lot 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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Eco-friendly paper towel options for the planet -- and your budget

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5 popular, eco-friendly paper towel alternatives that are good for your wallet and the planet


Eco-friendly paper towel alternatives: Adore the patterns on these Unpaper towel rolls

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 from Marley’s Monsters 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. ($64.99 for 4 or about $2.70 each, Amazon)


Eco-friendly paper towel alternatives: These Swedish dish cloths are a favorite, in so many cute patterns

Despite their name, these gorgeous Swedish dishcloths (also at top) are sort of like 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 a perfect eco-friendly paper towel alternative for those who use most of that roll 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. ($15 and up, set of 3, Amazon)

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Eco-friendly paper towel alternatives: These If You Care reusable paper towels can go right in your compost when you're done

For those of us cleaning particularly gross messes (I see you, fellow new moms!), you might be looking for eco-friendly paper towel alternatives that gall between disposable and reusable. These German-made If You Care reusable paper towel towels are designed 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 it with vinegar to get it to last more than a week. Other users say that while they’re very absorbent, they’re quite stiff, so they may be best for wiping spills, not drying hands. P.S.  I like that you can also use them on your Swiffer Wet instead of the overpoweringly scented ones the brand sells. Another big money-saver right there, too. ($32 for 3 rolls of 12 towels each, Food 52)


Eco-friendly aper towel alternatives: Bambooees are known for their cleaning prowess and sustainability, and save you a ton of $$$.

Bambooees Reusable Bamboo Towels first launched on SharkTank in 2013 and all these 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 gets softer and more absorbent each time — in fact, many users suggest you wash one first before using. You do get a whole lot of bang for your buck with these. They even claim that a single roll of 20 can replace up to 60 paper towel rolls! Wow, that’s a lot of Kroger shelf space. ($9.99/30 sheets, Amazon)

Related: Don’t toss it! Clever ways to use foods you might otherwise throw away, from cracker crumbs to old bread


Eco-friendly paper towel alternatives: Gina's Cloth Shop makes these Paperless Towels that mutli-task as napkins and hand towels, too.

If you want an eco-friendly paper towel alternative that’s a little more versatile for multi-purpose use, try these Paperless Towels from popular Etsy shop Gina’s Soft Cloth 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. ($19.95 for 10, with discounts for more; Gina’s Soft Cloth Shop)