reusable cleaning towels

As part of our minimalist/frugal path, we have been working towards a less waste or zero waste lifestyle. It sort of makes sense when you consider the natural progression. Owning less stuff has made us more mindful of the waste that we do create with the stuff that we still own.

About two years ago, we bought a set of 36 microfiber cloths (these are the towels we bought) in an effort to reduce or eliminate our paper towel consumption. We have two different colors and differentiate them by area used. The blue towels are for the kitchen and the yellow towels are for the bathroom.

At first, we only used the towels for routine cleaning such as wiping down counters, drying dishes, etc. Mr. Smith was a little leery of the idea of eliminating paper towels completely at the time because of the occasional animal mess. (Aren’t hairballs the worst?!) There was also the question of, “But how will we drain the bacon grease?” Both seemed like valid reasons at the time for keeping some paper towels around.

Since moving to the apartment, six months ago, we have not used any paper towels. We actually ended up donating our paper holder! It turns out the critters don’t “mess” all that often and when they do, a few squares of toilet paper does the trick. Heck, I’m normally flushing the mess anyway. As far as cooking goes, the towels do just fine for draining the occasional greasy meal. It also helps that we’ve drastically reduced our consumption of bacon.

We end up doing a load of wash towels, reusable napkins, hand towels, and kitchen towels, about once every three weeks. I keep a small hamper in the laundry closet to catch the dirty towels until it’s full and then run a load with hot water.

Cost breakdown:

One of the common claims for switching to reusable towels instead of paper towels is the potential for cost savings. As you can see from the math below, the reusable towels are, indeed, most cost-effective than paper towels. However, the savings seem minimal. Further, the calculations are not necessarily comparable as there is more than one towel per roll of paper towels. However, this seemed to be the most efficient way of doing the math. Also, we may not be the norm when it comes to paper towel usage.

One set of cleaning towels: $16.99 for 36 towels used over 24 months (and counting) = $.02 towel/month + washing

36 paper towel rolls: $48.42 for 36 rolls of paper towels used over 28 months = $.05 roll/month

With minimal cost savings for us, the major benefits of switching to reusable towels are the positive environmental impacts. We no longer contribute paper towel waste to the landfill and we don’t incur the environmental harm from having paper towels delivered or going to pick them up.

Have you ditched paper towels? How is it working out?

One thought on “reusable cleaning towels

  1. Interesting. We have not ditched paper towels completely but since you pitched this idea months ago, I have purchased a wagon load of cloth napkins we use now instead of paper towels. I discovered that thrift stores usually have piles of cloth napkins that someone used maybe once and decided they didn't like them. Lucky for me because they are an investment when you buy them new. We rather like them and feel a bit fancier using them. I like your idea of color coding bathroom vs. kitchen use. We will likely not buy paper towels again for a long time as that big supply from Costco is lasting us far longer than expected. I still do like to have a roll in the trunk of the car. Not sure what for … I just feel better knowing it's there. LOL!


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