5 Smart Alternatives to Paper Towels

If you’re lucky enough to actually find paper towels at the grocery store right now, you’re probably blowing through them with all of the sanitizing going on at home. The bad news is that even one roll of paper towels can take its toll on the planet. The good news is that there are some hassle-free and affordable alternatives out there. Better yet, you won’t have to scour the markets looking for that last elusive roll!

First, the facts. Did you know that Americans use around 13 billion pounds of paper towels each year?  This is equivalent to 40 pounds or 80 rolls per person per year, and requires 51,000 trees per day! It also means that 254 million tons of paper towels are discarded each year. 

Additionally, paper towels can be difficult to recycle, as paper towels are often made from recycled paper pulp – a non-recyclable product, and if they’re dirty or wet, they further degrade. Thus you cannot recycle them in your curbside blue bin. 

So what are the other options?

For a small change, you can use the pick-a-size rolls that allow you to use smaller sheets. Better yet, use 100% recycled paper towels. if every household in the United States replaced just one roll of regular paper towels (70 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 544,000 trees each year!

If you want to take the next step and go paper towel free, here are five great alternatives –

  1. Microfiber cleaning cloths – Absorbent and fast-drying, these cloths can hold several times their weight in liquid and attract dust quite well.  They’re inexpensive, reusable, and effective. 
  2. Reusable paper towels – The next best thing to actual paper towels, these towels last up to a week and can handle even the wettest of messes. 
  3. Sponges – The good old fashioned sponge still works wonders around the house. Porous enough for spills, they also have a built-in scrubber and should be a go-to for kitchen cleaning. 
  4. Newspaper – Newsprint is something you may already be recycling, and it’s useful for small spills, or glass cleaning in particular. Just use with a spray-on vinegar solution for a streak-free window. 
  5. Bamboo Towels – A newer alternative, these towels are sold on a roll and while they look like paper towels, they’re more durable and can be machine-washed for reuse up to 100 times.

So why wait? There are so many great alternatives to paper towels, and even a small change can make a big difference!

Blog post written by Solana Center volunteer Cyndi D.