The Aha Moment That Helped Me Kick My Paper Towel Habit to the Curb

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Minette Hand)

My name is Susan and I’m a former paper towel abuser. I recycle and compost and use LED lightbulbs. I buy non-toxic cleaning products, sustainable clothing, aluminum-free deodorant, clean mascara, and organic tampons. The only thing bursting my eco-bubble was my Bounty habit. Yeah, I said it — BOUNTY. No thin, gray, non-absorbent recycled paper towels for me. I liked my PT’s plush and bleached. The Quicker-Picker Upper or death.

I was a walking hypocrisy, filling landfills all over New York with my evil, unenlightened ways. But now, I’m proud to say, I’m reformed — and I have my friend Lauren and a pack of microfiber cloths to thank.

Here’s how I rehabbed: While staying at Lauren’s house for a week last summer, I watched her reach under her sink and grab a clean, colorful microfiber cloth to wipe the table and counters night after night. She let the cloth air dry, then maybe used it once or twice more after breakfast before tossing it in the wash. We practically never hit the paper towel holder the whole trip. The roll that was on the counter when we got there was the same one that was there when we left! I am not exaggerating! Lauren motivated me to literally clean up my act as soon as I got back home.

What I bought: SimpleHouseware Microfiber Cleaning Cloth, $20 for 50

I’m really shocked that it wasn’t that hard for me to make the switch. I thought I would be thoroughly grossed out by reusing cloths on everyday family messes (and annoyed by more laundry), but that didn’t happen. The bulk of my former paper towel usage was always spent on the final spritzing and wiping of counters, tables, and the fridge — surfaces that I clean beforehand with a sponge, so they were never that dirty anyway.

If I have more laundry, I barely notice it. I wash the cloths in warm water with my towels and I’m not grossed out by that either. I still keep a fat roll of Bounty on the counter, but only reach for it to attack the greasiest of goo.

Five months in and I can proudly say my clean stack of microfiber cloths under my sink makes me feel like a more superb citizen of humanity. And my bank account and mother earth are no longer texting me imaginary middle fingers.

More on Paper Towels and Microfiber Cloths

What about you? Are you trying to use fewer paper towels? How are you doing it?