One Simple Trick to Using Fewer Paper Towels

updated May 1, 2019
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Recently, I was talking to Melissa Maker, author of Clean My Space. While I consider myself pretty neat and tidy, she’s made a career out of being a bit of a clean freak — she ran a cleaning company for 11 years, has her own line of cleaning products, and for-real washes her kitchen towels every day!

And there’s one common cleaning tool she just loves to hate: paper towels.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Paper Towels

“Paper towels are the worst!” complains Maker. “They may be easy and convenient, but they’re actually pretty terrible at cleaning. Paper towels fall apart when they get too wet, they’re not actually as absorbent as microfiber, and they leave behind lint and schmutz if you clean windows or a mirror.”

Another con working against paper towels: the fact that they’re disposable. Maker’s just not into that. “I don’t believe in using paper towels instead of something that’s reusable,” says Maker. I can certainly get on board with that. We try to be eco-conscious in our family — using reusable baggies for the kids’ snacks and fabric napkins at dinner every night — but there are some times when we have most definitely failed (see: the mountain of disposable diapers we’ve gone through in the last four years).

But because paper towels sit out in the open, in a perforated roll of perfectly sized sheets just waiting to be used, we all reach for paper towels way too often. We just put up with subpar cleaning experiences because they’re right there, staring at us. Not acceptable!

Trick Yourself into Using Fewer Paper Towels

We’d love to say to stop buying paper towels all together, but there are times you’re going to need one or two. Maker’s exceptions: “It’s OK to use paper towels for something you wouldn’t want cloth to touch, like chicken or meat juice, or the toilet or something really greasy,” she says.

The point: We should all try a little harder to be conscious about using paper towels strategically, instead of just out of convenience. An easy way to raise your awareness is to store your paper towels in a cupboard instead of out on the countertop. In place of the disposable towels, consider adding a basket filled with a stack of microfiber towels. Adding one small boundary (in the form of a cabinet door) may make you much more likely to reach for something else the next time you have a minor mess.

More on Paper Towels

Do you use paper towels in your kitchen?