The Clever Little Way I Trick Myself into Using Fewer Paper Towels

published Mar 2, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Sarah Crowley

On the list along with shoes on or shoes off and organizing books in rainbow order, the paper towels vs. cloths debate is very polarizing when it comes to housekeeping discussions. I personally prefer to use reusable, washable materials over paper towels for nearly all of my family of seven’s kitchen messes: I’ll grab a towel to sop up the liquid from an overflowing pot on the stove, sponges for washing dishes (here’s my favorite), E-Cloth rags to clean our appliances, and my trusted Swedish dish cloths for wiping down counters. I find that they generally do a superior job at both lifting dirt and saving money (and resources!) because I can wash and reuse them over and over instead of reaching for paper towels that get used once and then trashed. But there is a time and a place for paper towels — even in my reusable-heavy household. 

If I’m cleaning up something particularly icky, such as pet messes, I will use paper towels specifically because I won’t have to wash them and instead just throw them away. I clean up raw meat messes with paper towels because I don’t want this kind of dangerous bacteria sitting around and multiplying on rags or towels waiting to be washed. Lastly, I use paper towels when cleaning up any kind of grease or oil because washing and drying rags with flammable liquids on them is a fire hazard

I have a unique solution for keeping paper towels accessible for when we need them, but not so accessible that they’re the first thing we reach for when there’s any kind of mess: I store our paper towels in the pantry. It’s a trick I learned before I even had my own home, from a slightly older friend who similarly “hid” her paper towels in the pantry to encourage her family’s use of rags, towels, sponges, etc. It’s now a hallmark of all the kitchens I’ve been in charge of. 

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

The paper towels aren’t just placed in the pantry. I use the edge of one of our pantry shelves to mount the dispenser (ours screws in). This way, the roll of paper towels is easy to use, and it’s also less tempting to grab the entire roll and bring it out (which would likely lead to excess usage). 

Any undermount paper towel holder (like this one or this one) can be mounted on the edge of a wide-enough wooden shelf. Alternatively, the paper towel holder could be mounted on the underside of a pantry shelf, on a kitchen wall, or even on the cabinet or pantry door. Or, you could opt for a version that keeps your paper towels hidden by mounting them in your under-sink cabinet or inside a cabinet rather than out in the open (like this one). 

If you’re dedicated to sustainable living — or are at least trying to do more for the planet — and want to reduce your paper towel usage, keeping them out of sight and out of mind to encourage the use of other options is one of the best ways to do it. I’ve saved tons of trees in my years of doing it!

Buy: Under Cabinet Paper Towel Holder, $18.99