How Cutting Out Paper Towels Saved Money
True Story- my family used a ton of paper towels every single day. From spilled milk in the morning to wiping off the counters- we used a lot of paper towels. On a bad day- we could go through an entire roll. That’s a lot of paper towels (and thus a lot of trees gone and a lot of money in the trash can.) Paper towels are expensive- even with coupons and a sale! It seemed like every week we were using roll after roll. A 6 pk wasn’t lasting too long.
I decided enough was enough about a year ago and we haven’t looked back. In fact- the number of paper towels I’ve purchased has dwindled to nearly NONE! I have had the same packs in the garage storage for nearly a year now! I only buy them when they are super super cheap to keep on hand for those messes I just can’t stand to use a dish towel for- like body fluids (human or our 4 footed friend) or for the super super messy things like kids finger painting!
As I’ve found clearance hand and dish towels I’ve snatched them up. It doesn’t have to be a “kitchen” towel- I’ve found very little difference in the mess cleaning power of a rag labeled “kitchen” versus one labeled “wash cloth”. The wash cloth sized towels have been perfect for our family as kitchen towels. They have such enough space for most messes but don’t take up a lot of room.
I’ve found great deals at Dollar General and JcPenney and Kohls. I got a cute basket at the Dollar Tree and keep the washrags and towels in there. As they are needed we simply take one out. Sometimes we can use the same one all day- rinsing it out and wiping off the counters with a little soap and other times (like the day the blender exploded milk shake all over the counter, me and the floor) we use it and immediently place it in the laundry basket. At this time I have about 50 of the small washcloth sized towels- this is important for my family because I hate doing laundry and will put it off as long as possible (until one of us starts to run out of socks or other necessary apparel items!).
The rags are lasting me at least a year so far- because I have so many they are not getting used or washed too often so I think my investment is paying off.
Estimated investment into cloth rags: $20.00 (I grabbed lots of 10 pk for around $2.50 each during after dorm sales and on clearance)
Paper Towel estimated cost: .50 roll x 3 rolls a week = $1.50 week x 52 weeks =$78.00/year (and that’s pretty conservative for my family!)
The $20 in towels has already lasted me a year and even tossing a few due to wear and tear or extreme staining I expect that they will last me another year. So $10/year in rags versus $78+ in paper towels…. $68 might not seem like a lot but besides the cost savings, we are being “greener” to the environment by not having trees harvested to wipe up messes to less trash bags we’re paying to be picked up- it really has made a big impact in our daily lives.
Even if I buy a 6 pk or two of towels a year ($6 or so after sales and coupons)- we’re still coming out far ahead reusing cloth towels. And the cost in water and detergent is minimal since I have to do a load of regular towels every week anyway – these small scraps of cloth don’t really add any measurable extra cost there.
What disposable item have you swapped for a reusable variety?
9/10/15 update: I just wanted to update on this. I am still loving being paper towel free! In the past several months we’ve used only about one roll and that was because we had a cook out.
2/20/16 Update: We’re still going strong and loving it. A few have worn completely out and I found some clearance deals
4/7/2020 Update: Still going strong. Of the originals from years ago…we maybe have one left? if that. But as I find clearance deals I add them to the stack and the worn out ones go to the garage.