How I Make a Roll of Paper Towels Last a Year

Photo by Dragon Images / Shutterstock.com

It takes me forever to use up a roll of paper towels, it seems.

It’s not that I’m particularly neat. It’s that I see no reason to use paper towels when I have plenty of rags.

Sure, paper towels are convenient. But they’re expensive too. Why use and toss wads of paper when I can use a piece of cloth, launder it and use it again?

And if you’re just draining salad greens or wiping up spilled water, you don’t even need to wash the cloth — just hang it up to dry.

Call that eco-friendly if you like. I prefer to think of it as common sense.

Maybe you do too. But you’d be surprised how many folks don’t clean their mirrors with vinegar and water and squares cut from old flannel sheets. Or who dry lettuce on paper towels rather than worn-out dish towels. Or who actually buy sacks of “shop rags.”

I have a theory: The reason so many clothes end up in thrift stores is that not enough people have rag collections.

Old diapers, trashed T-shirts

My cleaning-cloth collection includes old washcloths, bits of terry cloth towels and pieces of worn-to-death blouses, T-shirts and flannel pajamas.

The rags are battle-ready when I need to wipe up spills or wash my stovetop.

For quite a while, my cleaning rags of choice were old cloth diapers. Believe it or not, most were “slightly irregular” and therefore cost only $2.99 per dozen. (I couldn’t make that up.)

Don’t use cloth diapers? I bet you have at least one of the following:

  • Old sheets: Flannel ones in particular are soft and absorbent.
  • Trashed T-shirts: But only the ones too holey even to wear while gardening or painting.
  • Shirts or blouses: Long-sleeved cotton or flannel shirts worn out at the elbows, or whose cuffs are irreparably frayed, can be cut up. Save their buttons for future repair jobs, though.
  • Worn-out bath towels: Their job is to be absorbent, so these are great for cleaning or for draining freshly washed grapes.
  • Old pajamas: We all know how cozy a pair of often-washed flannel PJs can feel. But when they’re too threadbare to keep out the draft, scissor ’em up.

What if you’re more of a rayon-and-silk kind of person? Or you don’t wear T-shirts? Or you don’t expect your sheets to wear out for years? Round up some rags at:

  • Thrift stores: I once bought a big bag of towels and washcloths for $3.99.
  • Rummage and yard sales: These are where marathon T-shirts go to die. I’ve also seen bath towels for as little as a quarter each.
  • The “free” box at yard sales: I’ve seen old towels, washcloths and T-shirts there.

Green twice over

It’s not that I’ll never use a paper towel again. They’re great for jobs such as cooling off greasy bacon. But it seems wasteful to use a paper towel every time I spill something.

I also don’t want to use one every time I eat something.

I’ve been in homes where paper towels were used instead of napkins. That use-and-toss habit just makes me wince. I’ll stick with a regular plate and one of the cloth napkins that were six for a quarter at a rummage sale.

Not only am I saving money by not buying paper towels and paper napkins, but I’m also being green twice over: by not adding more than my share of paper to the landfill, and by giving worn-out fabric one more use before discarding it.

Do you have any tips for reducing paper towel use? Share them by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value
7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value

You can add value to your home without hiring a contractor to do expensive renovations.

5 Simple Steps to an Awesome Retirement
5 Simple Steps to an Awesome Retirement

The path to your dream retirement begins with these five steps. How many have you already taken?

5 Ways to Save up $500,000 in 15 Years
5 Ways to Save up $500,000 in 15 Years

Even if you’re behind in preparing for retirement, there’s still a way to pull together a solid nest egg if you focus.

How to Prepare Your Finances for Retirement in 7 Steps
How to Prepare Your Finances for Retirement in 7 Steps

Here is how to get your finances in shape for your golden years, one step at a time.

17 Amazon Finds Under $20 That Will Organize Your Life
17 Amazon Finds Under $20 That Will Organize Your Life

We’ve rounded up must-have products to help you get your ducks in a row.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?
Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?

Understanding survivors benefits rules is the key to getting the most from your benefit.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card
Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card

Credit cards offer many conveniences and protections, but sometimes it’s simply smarter to keep the plastic tucked away.

13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

8 Surprising Household Items You Can Sell for Fast Cash
8 Surprising Household Items You Can Sell for Fast Cash

Sometimes, the humblest household items are worth the most money.

Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early

Like the idea of financial independence? Part of the FIRE equation is cutting costs.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

There are easy high-paying majors available in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required. We’re here to help you find easy degrees that pay well.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

Stop Buying These 19 Things Online
Stop Buying These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing emergency food supply. Is your pantry well-prepared for emergencies? Knowing what to stock up on for emergencies can be a difficult task and we’re here to help.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores

You don’t have to be a chef or a restaurant owner to shop here.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.