I have mentioned on here several times that I planned to make cloth “paper towels” and use them whenever reasonable to cut down even more on paper products around here. I currently use cloth napkins exclusively and have made several other changes that relate to this theme. This is just the latest, but it required some advance planning and some time and effort, but nothing extensive (or expensive.)
What I have made is about 40 cloths, finished with simple serged edges, in roughly the size of a paper towel. No hard math was done. I just cut them with a rotary cutter in what looked like the right size and, believe me, they are not all the same, but it doesn’t matter. I used white birdseye cotton–the kind that used to be popular for baby diapers. There are other choices of fabric that would work for this, but this is very much like the feel and absorbancy of paper towels. Here they are in their receptacles–one is for clean and one is for dirty/used.
I don’t see any need to give you close ups of the towels, because–they’re just plain white towels. But I thought you might like to hear my plan. I knew I had to have one or this wasn’t going to work. Luckily, there is only one other person that I need cooperation from and he’s a grown up with every intention of going along with the plan for frugality’s sake, as well as preserving trees (yay!)
I am still using regular dish towels for drying hands and dishes, as long as said hands or dishes are actually clean. In other words, soap was used and the hands were rinsed thoroughly and will not be leaving fingerprints on my towels. I have lots of these and they hang under the sink, always handy. The new cloth paper towels will be used for anything else I would normally use paper ones for; such as cleaning my counters and mopping up small spills, drying cleaned produce, cleaning windows and mirrors, etc. The actual PAPER towels will still be available if needed for truly nasty jobs, like greasy, burnt, or oily messes.
I’ve made it as easy as I can for myself and Jim. The clean ones are in a bin right next to the sink and the receptacle for dirty ones is right beside it. I’m hoping I have enough of these to get through a week at a time and I’ll just dump them into the laundry with my white towels and sheets. (If I find I’m not getting through a week, I’ll make some more.) When the weather is good and I’m hanging things on the line, these will go there, too. Chlorine bleaching is kept to a minimum in my house, as it is hard on fabrics, but sunshine on my white towels and sheets is a great bleacher and disinfectant, so I use it whenever reasonable.
And so, that is the plan. I found the two matching baskets (that go great with my kitchen) for half-price at Michaels. I’m sure you can find bargains, too, if you look around a bit. (Yard sales, flea markets, Goodwill.)
I’ll follow up on how this works out for us, but I feel good already. I know it’s going to work because it’s logical, easy and cheap. I bet even if you have kids, they can handle this.
Oh, and as a side note: If you don’t sew, don’t have a serger, don’t have time to make them….whatever….you CAN purchase these things online. I think they are ridiculously expensive, but it’s all relative. If I didn’t have a serger, I’d still consider doing that. It just makes it a lot less “frugal” but still doable for most people. My fabric didn’t cost half of what they are charging for finished ones and I didn’t mind investing my time, but everyone’s situation is different.
So, chalk up one more small victory for me–and the earth–and the trees. I’m doing one thing at a time, working toward “better.”
ADDENDUM July 4, 2011: Already made a quick change for the better here. I put the real paper towels UNDER the sink where they are accessable when truly needed, but not so easy to grab. My paper towel holder was a homemade one with a large wooden dowel, so on that is now hanging a regular hand towel. It’s as accessable as the cloth paper towels beneath it. This is working out really great for us. Saving money and paper. Truly a successful change. A blogger friend of mine is using old cotton t-shirts for her “paper towels.” They were free, and she didn’t serge the edges, because they don’t ravel. This is another truly frugal and EASY way to do what I’ve done. Please consider doing something like this for your planet….and your pocketbook. Happy 4th!