done! Where Are They Now?

One of my most-clicked on and linked to posts is this one from two years’ ago about giving up the paper towel addiction.  I thought you might like a little update…
the bar towels lasted two years, I just replaced them last week
(stains, and some little holes – they are re-purposed, don’t worry)
here’s a comparison of one of the few decent ones that was left – pretty good! I think two years is a great run for these kitchen not-paper-towels.
here are the new ones – I went with white again, it’s my favorite towel color for any type of  towel (no fading, can be washed on super-hot, and they can be bleached if necessary)
need a closeup?  they’re the same brand again from Target in the kitchen towel section
here are the pretty new towels ready for action – I’m convinced that putting them in this container is the only reason I stuck with this plan for the past two years
 After 2 years of living with this complete revamping of my kitchen clean up lifestyle, here’s how you can learn from my experiment if you were to try to do this yourself.



  1. Love that you’ve made it 2 years with no paper towels! We’ve been “off” our paper towel addiction for a good 5+ years and honestly, we don’t miss them. =)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Where did you get the container?

  3. Love this idea and your fabric napkin idea. May have to add this to my fall/winter to-do list I’m working on 🙂

  4. I use bar mop towels for cleaning, but My family uses paper towels after washing their hands. I think its more sanitary. What about window cleaning? What do you use?

    • I’m the same with using paper towels in the guest bathroom. For cleaning windows I actually use newspaper. Then throw them in the recycling. They’re great for a streak-free clean.

    • We use different towels in the bathrooms and I try to change them daily — but I can totally see the paper towel argument 🙂

      For window cleaning I use a squeegee and dish soap when I do all the windows and a microfiber cloth for windows and mirrors for smaller jobs.

      • I love this idea of not using paper towels & keeping nice (rags) out on the counter! (I hide mine in the back of the sink cabinet, but the family still finds and uses them when a rag would work better.) I also do not like sharing hand towels in the guest bath and use wash cloths the same way as you use the bar rags. I got a pack of inexpensive washcloths from Sam’s or Costco and rolled them up in a black wire basket that I got from Ikea. I hung that basket on the wall and hung a second basket to catch the used towels. People love it, and it cuts down on the paper waste as well. 🙂

    • You can always use coffee filters too or rags for windows if you are not a coffee drinker.

  5. I love these towels, I use them in my kitchen too! Great idea to cut out the papertowels!!! 🙂

  6. I’ve been paper towel free for almost 2 years – well nearly! I still have a few rolls around, one is still under the sink for really icky messes, but I am not sure where those came from still because I no longer buy them! Maybe it is my hubby? 🙂

  7. I went paper towel free a long time ago. I love it. It’s so much cheaper, great for the environment, less garbage can fill up and they are way more absorbent then a paper towel.

  8. Because of your post, we went paperless as well. First it was the napkins (haven’t looked back), then the towels. We still have paper towels only because we had some, but never use them. When we move, we’ll donate them to the church (along with the paper napkins). 🙂 Thanks for the tips!!!

  9. I LOVE this idea for the kitchen. I’d still use paper towels in our guest bathroom…but for the kitchen this would cut down our use so much!! Thanks for the challenge… I’m accepting!

  10. We don’t use paper towels either. I keep a roll, but it last forevvvver now. I don’t use them, and neither does my husband, so I guess it’s the kids. It’s a habit I picked up from my mother in law.

  11. I’m going to have to try this!

  12. Oh my!! We use hand towels as well as paper towels and dish rags, but NEVER thought to let them dry before I put them in the dirty basket for dirty rags, lol. MY kitchen thanks you soo much and our noses too!!!!

  13. How do you break your husband of this????? I can use only towels, he however makes up for what I don’t use plus some. Talking does not work… LOL!

  14. I use towels in the kitchen, but I still keep paper towels around. I am thinking I need to stock up on more towels and start diminishing the use of paper towels in our house.

  15. I keep a roll of paper towels for cleaning up glass. It is so much easier to use a throw away towel and wipe up broken glass and liquid all together. Plus, you usually get more fine shards than when I try sopping up liquid and then sweeping… ugh

    • Try using tape to pick up glass shards…. a girl at work the other day did that and I was amazed that I never thought to do that! (She used that thick mailing tape)

  16. Anonymous says:

    What about peanut butter? My nemesis! How do you get the oil out of the cloth – this is why I don’t use cloth napkins either.

  17. I buy napkins by the bulk at Sams Club, but after reading this article I will follow this idea to save some money.Thanks

  18. The money saved on not buying paper towels (not to mention the environmental impact) makes this a well worth-while endeavor. I think we are all so accustomed and socialized since childhood to use paper towels we see no other way. Great post. The cross-contamination point is a great one; the only drawback I could see happening with this method.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I picked up some of these today. What do you actually use them for? Cleaning the kitchen? What do you use the wash and dry your dishes? You clean up every kitchen mess with white towels (like red juice spills, or grease on the stovetop)?

  20. I just saw glass containers 50% off at Hobby Lobby yesterday. Large jars that are the perfect size for this and have a metal lid for only $4!!!! This is such a great idea.

  21. Micki Mutch says:

    Awesome! it’s great to read you were successful for 2 years. Now do you think it would be harder to go back to old ways? Paper towel waste adds up so fast and this is a great solution! Thank youuuu 🙂

  22. I found a 1kg bag of scrap microfibre that cost me $5 – I have not used paper towels in 9 mths and do not miss them. In fact when i was at a friends house and had to use paper towels to clean up I was amazed at what a bad job the paper towel did and how hard it was to use in comparison.

  23. We stopped using paper towels about a year ago. I prefer using something thinner than a bar mop, so I made our non-paper towels from flour-sack towels. (Just cut each big towel into ninths, sewed 1/2 inch from the edge, and let the edges fray. Quick and easy.) They look a lot like paper towels, and dry very, very quickly. That helps to avoid smells, and I don’t have to run the dryer any longer than I would anyway. We keep them, folded, in a metal basket beside the sink, where the paper towel holder used to be. Works for us!

    • I just made some like that–with the flour-sack towels. There’s instructions somewhere I used. I actually used my edging stitch and went right over the edge. I’m trying to get away from paper products, too. I wanted to see what else could be used or what I could do. I bought some towels like these because they work great on the counter to dry dishes on (small apartment). These thicker towels would work great for larger messes and spills.

  24. I bought a pack of 60 bar rags from Sam’s for about $24 a year ago. We use them on everything and go through about a dozen a day. Since I have so many, I don’t worry about switching them out constantly.

    I’ve also picked up several sets of cloth napkins at garage sales and from mother-in-law’s linen closet(not being used). She embroidered the numbers 1-8(our family size) on the napkins for me (she’s awesome!) and we’re all assigned a number. That way we can reuse them for a couple of days through less messy meals but my OCD kids won’t freak out since they have their OWN dirty napkin. LOL! It has truly made a huge difference in our house! I do still buy paper towels because I use them to drain bacon and collect other types of grease while cooking. I should hide them so they don’t get used up so quickly. ;0)

  25. I bought a pack of 60 bar rags from Sam’s for about $24 a year ago. We use them on everything and go through about a dozen a day. Since I have so many, I don’t worry about switching them out constantly.

    I’ve also picked up several sets of cloth napkins at garage sales and from mother-in-law’s linen closet(not being used). She embroidered the numbers 1-8(our family size) on the napkins for me (she’s awesome!) and we’re all assigned a number. That way we can reuse them for a couple of days through less messy meals but my OCD kids won’t freak out since they have their OWN dirty napkin. LOL! It has truly made a huge difference in our house! I do still buy paper towels because I use them to drain bacon and collect other types of grease while cooking. I should hide them so they don’t get used up so quickly. ;0)

    • Paper bags from the grocery store work GREAT for absorbing grease from bacon 🙂 Once I started doing that, I had no need to use paper towels for that.

  26. I am curious, I buy one roll of paper towel a year, but I use that roll for draining bacon or other things. What do you do for that? Other wise I would totally make the switch and not buy any!

  27. I do love bar towels! Can buy them by the cheap at dollar stores. I would also recommend flour bag towels. You can by them in bulk and or 2 bucks a piece at farm supply stores. I love flour and tea towels!

  28. I love this idea as I realize I have a major addiction to paper towels that was growing worse by the day. I try to be green so I knew I had to do something. I went to target today got the container and the towels, love them already!! I think this is going to making the switch easy, thanks so much for the tip!!

  29. Inexpensive, aka cheap, bandanas make great napkins.

  30. I gave up paper towels a few years ago. I have limited their use to draining bacon and the grossest messes (like poop). I go through a roll about every two months. I keep them in an extremely inconvenient location so I (and my husband especially) can’t reach for them first. I bought bar mops at Sam’s. I think I got 3 packages of 24 ($12 each!). I have 5 young kids, and they are always spilling, splatting and making messes. They know to grab these for clean up. I love it. I also used the while canning. You would be amazed at how many towels you go through during a week long canning marathon. My only complaint is many of them are stained: tomato juice, grape juice, you name it. How do you keep yours looking nice? I have to constantly remind myself I bought these to get ruined. I hate bleach. It is so toxic. It was developed as chemical warfare.

    • My dear friend taught me this one: Rub your laundry with laundry bar soap, fels-naptha, zote, lirio, put this stained item in a bowl of water and set it out in the sun for a minimum of 24 hours. My really stained items i have left out for a few days, changing the water and soap just once. This got out red chili salsa and other holy mackrel stains. No failures yet.

  31. When my youngest is the messiest eater I’ve ever know. I repurposed some old flannel sheets into cloths about the size of a baby wipe and stored them in old babywipe containers. They finally ended up in our kitchen cupboards with my dishtowels, etc. I use them to wipe up the kids after lunch, snotty noses, etc. If they get too thin or grungy I toss ’em. You can get a LOT of them out of a set of sheets…a lot! I don’t have a fancy serger machine..I just zig-zagged close to the edges. They frayed a little but not bad.

  32. Along those same lines…..old sweats make perfect “Swiffer” cloths…..just cut to size and snap on and go – then throw in the wash/dry and reuse!! 🙂

  33. I actually use black microfiber cleaning cloths – they don’t show any stains!

  34. To dry my wash cloths and kitchen towels, I have a magnetic towel bar hanging on the side of my fridge. They are out of the way, no one can seem them because it is on the side we don’t really use which is facing away. Then they hit the laundry when dry 🙂

  35. I love this idea. I have wanted to do this for a while. I think I just found a use for my Christmas cash 🙂

  36. I love this idea! I’ll have to try it, but I’ll still have some paper towels around as I have a cat and dog who are both prone to occasional tossing of kibble/hair balls. I buy cotton bandanas from Campmor to use as napkins. They’re currently $2 a piece, but $1.75 in multiples. The colors are great, they’re sturdy and very long lasting, and they’re easy to wash. When they get too faded for the dinner table, they’ll go in the camp gear. When they get too ragged even for that, they’ll end up in my husband’s shop. I use a sponge to wash dishes. At the end of the day it gets rinsed well with a final rinse of white vinegar, then popped into the microwave for 1 minute on high and left on the drainboard to air dry. When they start getting too ragged for dishes, they get used for such things as cleaning the dog and cat bowls, the counter, the bathroom, etc. where they last longer (same cleaning method). Eventually, they also end up in the shop.

  37. I never use paper towels to wash my windows. Norwex has an amazing 2 rag system for washing windows, just wet down one cloth and wipe it down with the purple cloth! After a friend introduced me to those 2 cloths, I wash windows more because it is so easy and streak free!!!!!

  38. I’ve been looking into switching over. I found a “bag of rags” super cheap at home depot and may start with those…It was like $3.50 for a bag full of rags.

  39. I have bee using rags to clean for years instead of paper towels, but I still do keep them on hand for really gross messes. We have two kids, a dog and two cats, and sometimes they have accidents that I would rather not try to wash out!! It is about time for me to replace some of my rags though, and this seems like a great solution! 🙂

  40. We only use paper towels in the bathroom in a dispenser like they have in restaurants. We put only those in the main bathroom garbage and nothing else. So when I need to start a fire in the fireplace, I just grab a few off the top and use those because they dry so quickly.

  41. we use single use washcloths in all our bathrooms….the nice new ones go in the first floor bathrooms, and I actually love to use the “raggedy” ones to wash my face because they are so so soft. The transmission rate of illness went way down in our house….now it is rare for a virus /illness to go through the entire family….one of us gets sick and often that’s that. After I read this post I am going to get a container to put the bar cloths, great idea!!!

  42. I like to use the blue towels that the doctors use as sterile drapes for surgery. Most of the time they don’t get a drop of anything on them. I was able to get some from a friend of mine. They get softer with each wash. I’ve used the same ones for over a year and they work great. I get a new one out every time I cook in the kitchen. Works better than a paper towel and doubles as a washcloth when you clean up afterward.

  43. we usually don’t use very many paper towels in our house. i have reusable wipes – i think they were called handi wipes – got them at bj’s and have been using them for years. and i hate gross sponges. its funny because when my parents come over they use paper towels for everything – so much that my mom feels bad and brings me a roll of paper towels maybe once a month.
    but we have started using more paper towels because we have a puppy who pees and need to clean up pee from the carpet. she has gotten better but we are still blowing through them. hopefully this is just a phase….

  44. I have done something similar but tried to make it accessible to my two little ones – when my husband’s undershirts start to fall apart, I cut them into smaller rags and have them stored in a pretty basket that is kept on a child-height shelf. My kids know to go for a t-shirt rag for spills, wiping fingers, etc. I love the look of the canister, but with the two small ones it’s a basket for now!

  45. Hi – just come across this post via Facebook…
    Just wanted to add that I’ve been kitchen roll free since my youngest came out of nappies 2.5 years ago (UK fan here!!) We used cloth nappies on all our babies & they’ve been repurposed as hand towels, tea towels, floor cloths, general cleaning rags, etc etc…..
    I do still have kitchen roll for cleaning up nasty messes like sick or cat mess, but that doesn’t happen all that often, so a roll lasts ages!!

  46. I drain my bacon using slices of bread and then the bread is used by making grilled cheese sandwiches. Or just incorporate the bread with the breakfast meal. Everything has been recycled into the stomach !

  47. strivingbelle says:

    How did you keep them so clean? Mine are all grey. Also what do you do with them when they get wet during the day?

    • I wash them with oxygenated bleach (oxi clean) and on super hot/sanitize. I have a little hook in my kitchen cupboard that I hang the wet and dirty rags on. Then when they are dry I toss them in the dirty rag basket. xo, Becky

    • the sun is a great natural bleaching agent. After washing, set them in the sun to dry.

      As far as drying before washing, My just hang them over the edge of my laundry basket. at the end of the day, they are usually dry and can be dropped into the hamper. I also use white vinegar as a rinse agent. that keeps them from being smelly and is a disinfecting agent as well.

  48. Betty Gladdeb says:

    I love this idea! We don’t use a ton of paper towels at my house as it is, mostly use them for cleaning mirrors/windows because we don’t get the newspaper. As for some people’s concerns with guest bathrooms, we keep a wicker basket on the counter with rolled up wash cloths (ours are brown) and another basket next to it (empty) for the used towels. This eliminates people reusing others’ towels. We have been doing this for years and it’s great! I need to try these “not paper” towels for our kitchen as well!

  49. Becky – I was trying to read your original post from 2 years ago, but the link at the top just goes back to the home page. Is there a way to still get to the original post? Thanks!

  50. I like this idea! I’ve been researching natural cleaners (that’s how I came across this post) – I detest the smell of vinegar (I have a sensitive nose), but still plan to try some of your recipes. We do not buy paper napkins (I have not done so since I was on my own in college) & use the “select a size” style of paper towels, but we also use the rags to clean – even rags made from well worn/holey socks or cut up under shirts especially to clean up pet messes. I guess I feel slightly conflicted on going almost completely paper towel-less because as one comment said w/ newspapers after cleaning a window, I feel paper towels could be thrown in paper recycling if they are not used for super gross messes. Also even if we use less or no paper towels, aren’t we now using more water and energy to wash more not-a-paper-towels??

  51. Hmmmm Just found a use for a bunch of cotton knit sheets that I purchased for $.50 each at a wholesale store. I do not think that as rags I will even bother hemming them since the fabric does not unravel. Thin, easy to dry, both air dry and in the dryer, and ALMOST free!!!. I am wondering if old ordinary sheets have similar value for napkins? Also, I keep a short handled shower squeegie around for moving counter messes to the sink in a hurry and it saves a lot of paper towel usage too. I have even used it on the floor along with a dust pan, when my husband accidentally dropped a jar of BBQ sauce. That cleaned up the biggest part of the sauce and the glass, but naturally I had to finish the clean up with paper towels (sorry!) and soapy water.

  52. How do you go about bleaching them? I’m a novice bleacher and my white bar towels are getting dingy and ugly. I love the white but am thinking about maybe getting a dark color next time. Nothing uglier than dingy white anything.

  53. Homemade cleaner beside your no paper towel towels? If so do you have a recipe you can share?

  54. i do keep a roll of paper towels on hand for doggie “accidents.” And if I don’t have any, my husband will buy them. We don’t take a newspaper, so I don’t have that to use.

    My husband drives me up the wall, though, with wastefulness, and paper towels are one of his specialties. If there’s a spill, he’ll head for them and pull off about FIVE of them when one, or possibly two, would do.

    I keep a “floor rag” hanging on a small towel bar on the inside of one of my under-the-sink cabinet doors. Any floor spills or dirt get wiped with that. It dries quickly there because heat actually comes up through the cabinet from the furnace. I occasionally wash it but don’t feel the need to have a spanking clean one there.

    The comment about bleach being developed “for chemical warfare” made me chuckle. Who comes up with this stuff? Bleach was developed in 1798, for crying out loud!

  55. So, you would recommend these over microfiber?

  56. What is the difference between just regular kitchen cloths (like the Target ones shown) and microfiber cloths? What does microfiber do?

    • This is cotton and microfiber is a blend of polyester and polyamide – microfiber is more absorbent, streak and lint-free.

  57. Jessica says:

    Do you have trouble with water getting under the container and pooling on the countertop? Do you have tips for how to prevent that problem?

  58. I bought the bar mops and jar today. My question is do you use one a day and the clean ones go in the jar for storage? Just trying to figure out what to do with the one I use after it’s wet.

  59. How many gallons is your jar for the towels – glass jar with lid – thank you

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