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Is it really a “necessity”?

Last week, in my 100 Ways to Save $100 post, I talked about using less and I briefly mentioned how we've eliminated paper towels from our home. Little did I expect that this simple remark would result in a number of emails asking how we have done this.

You want to know how we've eliminated paper towels from our home? Well, here's the answer: I just stopped buying them. Seriously, that was it.

About two years ago or so, I realized that paper towels were one item I could never find that great of a deal on and I most assuredly never seemed to be able to snag them for free. I also realized that these were an item many people lived without for thousands of years, without being the worse for it.

So I talked to my husband and asked him if I could do an experiment: could I just stop buying paper towels and see if we missed them?

You know what? We never really even noticed. When we needed to clean up a spill, we just used a towel. When we needed to wipe something up, we used a rag. And so on. I keep a drawer-full of towels and rags in the kitchen handy for these types of things.

Honestly, the only times I've realized we didn't have paper towels were when someone was at our home and they asked for a paper towel. I'd just tell them we actually don't use paper towels, but the rags or towels are in the bottom drawer in the kitchen.

We've received quite a few reactions of shock to that statement. It seems as if the thought of living without paper towels is a pretty foreign idea to most Americans. Oh well, I guess it wouldn't be the first time we've been classified as weird!

Now, I'm not writing this to make the case that all of you need to quit buying paper towels. However, I share it as an example of how there are many things we've come to think are "necessities" in life which really aren't.

How about trying to live without some of these things and see if it really is that difficult or earth-shattering? You might be surprised to discover you don't even miss these once-considered "necessities".

What about you? What simple things have you eliminated from your life and found you didn't miss them at all? Tell us about it.

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247 Comments

  • E.M.C. says:

    That’s a great idea! Thankfully I was able to stock up on tons of paper towels a while back at CVS for free, so we will never need to buy them. But doing with out them would be pretty easy too. 🙂

  • linda says:

    I actually use paper towel for alot of things, wipes, coffee filters and for spills. So i don’t buy wipes or coffee filters:)

  • Jacki says:

    We use rags at our home in the Philippines. We do have paper towels or TP’s there but we prefer to use rags more. paper towels are only out when we have parties or something like that. We also have TPs in my mom’s business office and even at home but I preferred to use water and soap there.

    Now I am using TPs here everyday and I try to use rags as often as I could instead of papertowels.

    Crystal, I am not shocked with what you family is doing. I actually think you are smart and very simple. Using rags instead of papertowels are no big deal for me. You are not weird.

  • Honey says:

    Definitely dryer sheets. Never use them. We live in the south so its pretty humid most of the year. In the dead of winter (all 4 weeks of it) we get a little static and I might use some I bought on clearance. But the rest of the time we just don’t need them. And they aren’t cheap!

  • Amber says:

    I lived without paper towels for years but really missed them when it came to blotting bacon or anything greasy. So what do you do with greasy foods that need to be blotted or drained? And giving bacon up is not an option LOL!!!

  • Pieces says:

    I am always amazed when people ask for paper towels in our house too. I keep a roll around but the only thing I use them for draining fried bacon.

  • Christin says:

    I recently made the same decision! AND the same thing happened in our house! We never missed them! We are pretty messy so we had to have a lot of rags on hand – but I LOVE washing the rags and thinking about how many tress I am NOT killing by re-using the rags!

  • carla sorensen says:

    Hi! We also gave up paper towels. It was only last month, out of necessity mostly, and like you, we have not missed them too much. The only thing is that we have a cat that is older and throws up a lot. It is kind of gross to clean up that kind of stuff with old rags, and then have to rinse it out, but I am doing it! I doubt I will ever go back to buying the paper towels. Also a long time ago we gave up dryer sheets. Just this week I tried the vinegar suggestion, but really our clothes and towels are always fine with neither.
    Thanks for the post!

    Carla

  • Dawn S says:

    We have a house cat so we have hairballs – I use carpet cleaner and it’s just easier for me to use a paper towel with it than to add to my laundry pile with an item that I can never totally get the chemical smell out of. I wish I could make it work for us now to forgo paper towels, but until our geriatric cat finds the big litter box in the sky, that’s an expense I can’t cut.

    We have cut out using liquid fabric softener, though, which saves us a good bit. I just started using dryer sheets that are torn in half.

  • Rose says:

    I would love to quit paper towels, but I guess my biggest obstacle that I would see is that frequently (even with paper towels in the house I try to use rags/towels first), I reach for a rag or towel, and the drawer is empty. I don’t have a huge supply and we have 5 children. Even doing laundry 5-6 days per week, I cannot ever seem to keep enough dish rags and towels in the kitchen. I’ll get all caught up on laundry, have the drawers full, and in 2 days, it’s empty again. Since we have so many kids, I’ll do darks one day, whites another, towels another, etc., so I’m not doing towels every day. Do you have a huge supply, or do you have a suggestion for obtaining a huge supply on the cheap?

  • Leah Johnson says:

    Several years ago I stopped buying paper towels as well. I buy when I run out and I think I bought a 12 pack the last time I purchased them and I have not bought anymore for over two years. I just keep them way up high in a closet.
    Instead we use towels and I use microfiber towels for cleaning. The only reason I keep some still in the house is for the jobs that would ruin my towels – i.e. we just redid our bathroom and there was nasty stuff to clean up, so I used paper towels to do this, also I use them when I cook bacon.
    The other thing I very rarely buy is baby wipes. I buy a very large refill pack and keep one tub in our van and then one for emergencies in the hallway closet – this would be when I haven’t refilled the wipes container yet. We use cloth wipes – much more economically smart for us.

  • Ann says:

    I don’t miss paper towels at all either and also have been surprised at this. I just use rags and I have tons of them. I also stopped buying paper napkins, although this might be harder for folks who have younger children at home. I always used the better grade PTs, which were expensive and am glad not to be spending the money.

  • Judy says:

    I have one roll of paper towels tucked away in the back cupboard. I use those for making bacon in the microwave. Other than this I have not used paper towels since the day my son said “why do you waste your money on paper towels … they are costly and are bad for the enviorment”. You know … he was right. I have not missed them.

  • Amy says:

    Paper napkins. I only buy them for birthday parties, etc now. We use cloth all the rest of the time. It is not that much work to throw them in with the rest of my kitchen/bathroom laundry and it takes about 2 secs to fold them with the rest of everything. I have gotten them on clearance for practically nothing and also at yard sales, etc. I have even made some to match holidays by sewing around the edges of just plain old cotton fabric. I feel like we are helping not only my budget but the enviroment as well!

  • Nelson says:

    I really like having paper towels and I feel they are totally worth the price. I probably pay $20 or less for the year on them and I think they are worth every penny.

  • Angie says:

    I stopped buying liquid hand soap since I could never find a good deal on it and the kids would play with it in the sink and make a huge mess. I’ve replaced it with my endless supply of free Buddies soap and actually like it much better.

    We also use very few paper towels. There is a always a rag or towel handy. I use flour sack towels for cleaning windows and it works much better and less waste.

  • Elle says:

    Not weird at all!! I just realized how wasteful they are too… do I really need to use 2 an hour each time I do something? I just use rags & dishcloths for everything now. I do have a roll in the house – but that’s about it. It’s lasted for several months & only use it when trying to de-grease bacon after cooking or other random uses!! It’s great! Less cost. Less waste. Don’t even notice the ‘lack of’ either!!

  • Jen says:

    I haven’t bought paper towels in a about a year. And your right, once you live without it, you realize it not necisary for your day to day living. Growing up my Mom never bought paper towels and we made it just fine without them. Once I started my own household I was determined to not live as poorly as my parents had. But then I realized I was just wasting money, pouring it down the drain so to speak. I’m happy to say I don’t need all those fluff items I thought I did 10 years ago!

  • Julie says:

    We actually stopped using paper towels about a year ago. I still keep them in the kitchen, but one roll lasts a very long time. I use rags like you.

    I ran out of swiffer cloths for my swiffer sweeper about a month ago and decided to find a way to live without them. I have used a microfiber cloth on my swiffer sweeper instead of them. The microfiber attaches just like the swiffer cloths, though the microfiber is just a little bit bigger. They work great and I just shake them out in the trash afterwards and then throw them in the wash. Love that!

  • Nancy says:

    We never buy paper napkins. We use cloth napkins and I wash them. I have several so I only wash them once a week and then hang to dry in my basement.

  • Erin says:

    Kleenex!

    We go the old-fashioned handkerchief route, with a slight adaptation (because we don’t buy those either!)– we have so many soft, thin burp cloths and baby washclothes that we just use those. They’re much softer, contain the ‘goods’ better, AND it’s easy to tell whose is whose and keep them separate when we have more than one sniffly soul around the house. When my little ones have a cold, their ‘handkerchiefs’ get tucked into their jeans pockets so they’re always handy, and replaced when needed. So easy!

    I don’t miss Kleenex one bit. The soft clothes feel better on sore noses than even tissues with lotion/aloe.

  • Trixie says:

    Hello,

    We keep paper towels in our home but seldom use them. My husband and I grew up using rags, dishclothes, and towels for all our clean up needs. Out of habit, we just reach for the old standbys and not the paper towel.

    Somebody must be using a lot of paper towels though.
    Each week at the grocery store I see people loading upon them. If you are currently a big pt user, you could save yourself a little extra money buy changing to rags.

    Take Care,

    Trixie
    http://farmhomelife.blogspot.com/

  • I appreciate this post a lot, as we ran out of paper towels before I went on vacation, and I struggle with whether or not to buy them again. They are convenient mostly for wiping up things that we don’t want to use a “common rag” for, like when chicken juice spills on the counter, or when we are wiping down the sink or toilet. But I think if I get organized enough and have a stack of “rags” on hand, the ones I only want to use once could go into the laundry after I’ve used them – they shouldn’t take up too much extra space.

  • Leigh Ayn says:

    Guests are always shocked to hear that we don’t have paper towels, napkins, or use disposable tissues (I do keep a box in the guest bathroom for company, but the rest of us use hankies).

    Sometimes people make a huge fuss about not wanting to mess up a towel or pretty napkin, and I just tell them I would rather wash one that buy one that we have to throw away!

    I also keep a basket under the kitchen sink to toss the dirty towels/dishrags/napkins in and I empty it every other day, when I wash the whites.

  • Jaycie says:

    I did a ‘paper towel challenge’ months back. I put a post-it note on my paper towel holder with the starting date. I wanted to see how long I could make a roll last. Every time I saw that post-it note, I tried to find a different way to clean up a spill! It lasted 20 days (which is a long time with a “clutsy” toddler and you’re a paper-towel addict!) I’ve since made them last longer and longer and should be paper-towel free soon! I should just go “cold turkey” like you and just quit buying them!

  • Jennifer says:

    Cable TV — We just gave it up cold turkey about 6 years ago. We haven’t missed it! We get a lot more done in the evenings. With the new digital converter, we get even more channels with our rabbit ears antenna. But we still don’t turn on the TV much any more. We’re quite satisfied with that decision!

  • JD says:

    You are not weird! We started using towels and rags instead of PT when my son was born three years ago. I was just trying to cut back. We didn’t completely get rid of the PT, but we use only a couple of rolls per year now. I was just tired of trying to find deals on them, then breaking down and spending $15 per month or more at the warehouse clubs. I’ve almost convinced my husband to switch to cloth napkins, too. Only problem – I got such a good deal at CVS (!) that we are stocked for the rest of the year at least.

  • Laura Oller says:

    I stopped buying paper napkins. We just simply use cloth napkins. It helps that it is only my husband and I and our (almost) one year old. But the cloth seems to be just as good ore better than paper napkins. I also feel just a little bit special using them 🙂

  • Kristina says:

    A ditto on dryer sheets. My husband used to use them but since I started using 3 old tennis balls in the dryer, the clothes are soft enough. And his skin has cleared up (I think he has was sensative to one of the ingredients).

    I can’t give up the PTs though. I use them for cleaning up after chicken and pork prep. I think we go through less than a roll a month.

  • Andrea says:

    Obviously regular towels clean up spills better, but the one job I’ve never thought of a replacement for paper towels for is draining bacon and greasy stuff. I’m thinking it would ruin a towel. How do all you non-paper towel commenters drain grease?

  • Elise says:

    I did the same thing with paper napkins. I bought two sets of inexpensive dishrags and I have some cloth napkins that have been given to me over the years. We started using the cloth napkins while still using the paper napkins. But as we got used to the cloth we stopped using the paper. So I started buying less. I haven’t bought any in months and I’m sure I’ll never buy them again. Now I’m doing the same thing with paper towels.

  • Pam! When I read the ingredient list one day, it freaked me out. Then I waited to find a good deal on some, and didn’t find one for 6 months. During that time I realized, I really don’t need it! I’m sure if you did a ton of gourmet baking, it might be a necessity. For me, I just use butter or oil to grease baking dishes and it has been fine. Great post, Crystal!

  • Debbie says:

    Great article Crystal. My husband and I are nearing retirement and I am going over every expense with a fine-tooth comb. I decided, as you did, that papertowels could easily be done without. I have a million rags and save the worst of them for the really icky clean ups and then throw them away. The rest are just given a good washing and then back in the rag bag they go! Makes me feel just a wee bit smug!

  • Jennifer says:

    I’ve thought about eliminating them; I could do it for cleaning certainly, but what about for food? What do you do if you need to soak up the grease from meat or something like that?

  • Michele says:

    I personally have cut way down on the use of paper towels, but I still buy them to keep some on hand. I use washcloths bought specifically for the kitchen to wipe up spills and wipe down the table and counters. Paper towels are used sparingly, and like you mentioned, it’s usually when someone comes over and asks for them. I do find them handy to blot pizza grease and to wrap fruit in when we’re on the go. But like any other disposable product, there are more environmentally and cheaper substitutes out there!

  • Jenny says:

    We have done without paper towels for years! I will buy them these days if they are .50 or less. We only use dryer sheets in the winter, and we use wash cloths on our swiffer (I find it really works better).
    We also do without a store bought all-purpose cleaner around here. I have used the vinegar/water/tea tree oil solution for years now. I love that my children can help with the cleaning and I don’t have to worry about what they are spraying!

  • Liberty says:

    Awe, yes – the paper towel! We rarely, rarely use them – like a couple rolls a year if that! I have a drawer FULL of towels and rags for dirtier jobs. As well, we rarely use paper napkins, instead I have a wonderul selection of cloth napkins. We do not own a microwave, and *gasp* live well without one. We do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets at all – I use dryer balls and vinigar in the wash if in need of a softener. We never swiffer anymore – I use a broom and vacuum daily. I guess a back to the basic vs the conveniences! Great post! 🙂

  • Rachael says:

    We gave up our satellite television last spring after deciding we really didn’t watch enough television to justify the $50 a month. We bought a set of rabbit ears, and soon afterward we found some at a garage sale for only $5, so my husband returned the other set to the store. We don’t miss satellite at all and I like knowing that my children have less access to some of the more questionable content on tv now.

  • Katie says:

    I don’t think I have EVER bought paper towels. They are way to expensive and its so much easier to use a towel or rag. Plus we have a huge stash of cloth napkins so the need just isn’t there.

    God Bless,
    Katie
    http://www.1200ayear.blogspot.com

  • Liz says:

    We don’t use PT very often but I do still buy them..they’re used mainly like other people said, for draining greasy items, or for when someone is sick in the house. In that case I keep a roll of PT and trash can by the bathroom sink. I have 3 little ones who aren’t always the best about washing their hands really well (especially when sick) and I think using a reg. towel just keeps the germs around even longer.

  • tammy says:

    I have tried to go without paper towels several times in our house, but it just doesn’t work well for us. However, we don’t buy LOTS of other things and get that puzzled look when we tell someone. It makes me laugh but also makes me proud every time I realize we are “beating the system”! 🙂

  • angela says:

    Hi, we decided to go without some things to see if we really needed them or not, we got rid of the toaster, and now that the TV needs a new box we didn’t get that either, we figure we are not going to pay someone to put filth in our house , I do not want my son watching even the commercials , we also use rags instead of napkins and paper towels, my grandmothers come over and can’t function in my kitchen without them, but we do very well without them. My husband says that if the microwave goes out, we won’t get another one, we have never paid for a microwave , they have always been given to us. With times the way they are we are also trying to go with less heat. We use candles that we make out of old candles and crayons to help heat our house , electric oil- filled heaters and keep the thermostate low. It works pretty good.

  • Celeste says:

    I also have (mostly) stopped buying paper towels, napkins, and swiffer cloths. It never really occurred to me to use cloth napkins… I just stopped buying them because it seems we’re always with an excess of napkins after dinner out! Servers end up bringing you a huge stack that you don’t use and you might as well take them because otherwise they’ll just be thrown out. Eating out once every week or two seems to keep a constant enough supply to satisfy our needs.

    I’m a rags and microfiber cloth person as well. I say mostly doing without buying those things because I must admit that I bought a multi-pack of paper towels because I just bought a house that hadn’t been lived in for a year and needed some cleaning! Plus having to clean out my apartment, I knew they’d come in handy. I am happy to report though that even with all that cleaning, we only used 4 of the rolls 🙂 The rags still took the brunt of the storm!

    Also going to mention the loads of scratch paper I end up with from coupon printing, etc. Who needs to buy those notepads anymore?

  • Kyla says:

    My husband is actually the one to get us to stop using papertowels because it is wasteful and not good for the environment. I still miss them sometimes but we make it work. You tend to realize how you waste papertowels when you dont have them. I use to use one papertowel for drying my hands when cooking and sometimes I would have to dry my hands five times..thats a waste when you have cloth towels….

  • Helen says:

    Great post. I’m sure it was your blog that originally wanted me to get started on this challenge many months ago. I grew up with paper napkins out for dinner each night, and paper towels in endless supply. However, hubby and I rarely use napkins at dinner (basically only with pasta and other very messy meals) so my Halloween clearance napkins are still around 😉 He was a bit reluctant at first, but will now use rags to clean the bathroom and even the kitchen floor. Although he hates rinsing them out and using them again (like, halfway through doing the floor) and will use a fresh one, but it’s better than PT.

    Currently we do have a few rolls on hand, and use them mainly for wiping the counter with lysol after cutting chicken or other meat to prep for freezing/cooking and for cleaning cat puke. Like another poster said, it’s gross to rinse out a rag while doing that, but I commend her for her effort at it! Maybe someday we will get there.

    My mom buys the large pack at SAMS so I do purchase a few rolls from her for $1 each when I need a couple, but really they last a long time (large roll, nice quality) So yes, good to have on hand, and I’m not sure when I’d be willing to go cold turkey, but I feel I am doing what I can.

    Also, as for Swiffer, I am going to either knit or crochet some covers for when our last box runs out. What a waste!! Not just the environment, but the cost too!

  • jillbert says:

    You are not weird to me. Or maybe I am just weird, too? LOL. We do not buy many disposable products — no plastic water bottles. No paper napkins. Never bought dryer sheets — who needs ’em when you dry on a line? We’ve gone without paper towels in the past but are housebreaking a new dog so they’re back in our life. I’d like to lose sandwich bags — I pack my kids’ lunches every day but haven’t found an alternative that works as well. Any suggestions?

  • I do not think you are weird for not buying paper towels, I think it is weird that so many people have to have them. I do still use paper towels only for washing around the toilet as that grosses us out to have that in our washer and what if we grab that rag later for something in the kitchen, but I have torn up old sheets etc and used those to wipe around the toilet.
    On getting large quanities of old rags, check second hand stores. They will tear up the old clothes they get and sell bags of rags.

    Something we have given up that most people live with on different occasions would be phones, we lived without a phone for awhile, electricity – we lived without for a while, running water which we lived without, refridgerator etc. But we did it for 4.5 years and have it all now again and it is nice to know we can go without it if we needed to.

  • Ashley says:

    Do you use napkins? We use paper towels for everything. We use them as napkins, plates (if we’re eating something that we don’t want to waste a plate on), and cleaning rags.

  • April says:

    Great post! I don’t buy paper towels either because of the cost. Like you, we stick to towels and rags. Thanks for showing me that we aren’t the only ones that are “weird”! 🙂

  • tina b says:

    Similar to your removal of paper towels, we have removed disposable napkins. My husband’s grandmother gave me about 20 cloth napkins this past summer, and I decided to try using those exclusively once we ran out of our paper napkins. We haven’t bought any more paper napkins since! I love using cloth, and they don’t take up any extra money – just throw them in the wash with whites/towels/sheets/whatever! I LOVE THEM!

  • Suzy says:

    We are in the midst of going paperless – towels and napkins as well. We have about 50 napkins left and 3 rolls of paper towels that I am just keeping for icky horrible messes or perhaps to bring out after our new baby is born to make things easier for a week or two.

    Please don’t tell me people are going toilet paper-less? We cloth diaper, use rags mostly, and are quite frugal with lots of things – but finding some sort of reusable toilet paper is where I would have to draw the line!

  • Camille says:

    We never had paper towels around my house growing up (or if we did I never recall using them) so I’ve never used them. My husband likes them, but I’ve weaned him off!

    Anyway, this may not be a simple thing to give up, but we didn’t renew our cell phone contract when it was up last October and the only time I’ve missed it is when we get separated in a large store (like Sam’s Club)! 🙂 I can use walkie-talkies for that! It is so nice to have one less bill to pay every month!

  • Brianna says:

    Over the past few years we have cut waayyy down on our use of disposable paper products. We don’t have Kleenex–we use handkerchiefs instead. We don’t use paper napkins. And we use very little in the paper towel department. I’ve considered stopping buying them all together–and actually have done so once or twice. But then I can never figure out how to grease a pan! So, help me think outside the box–how do those of you who have no paper towels in your home grease a pan and drain bacon?

  • Alaina says:

    We quit using paper towels too! I do miss them at times, but I get over it pretty quickly. At first, my husband thought I was crazy…but then the idea grew on him.

  • Liz W. says:

    I quit buying paper napkins when my children were still at home. I did it because I was trying to find something my children would remember was different than their friend’s homes. When I was growing up my mother made homemade rolls or biscuits every night for dinner. I thought that getting crescent rolls or brown and serve rolls was a real treat. I realized that homemade rolls was something that my friend’s didn’t have and I wanted my children to have a similar memory. We haven’t missed paper napkins and even though my children are grown and on their own I still use cloth napkins.

  • Stac says:

    I did this a year ago too and have never missed them!

  • Samantha says:

    We did this too and don’t miss them at all. We also stopped buying napkins (we use cloth napkins now) and sandwich bags (we use tupperware). Not only is it reducing the waste added to landfills it saves us money. And, we don’t miss it at all! Actually friends have told me it feels special that we use cloth napkins for dinners.
    PS I too am 32 weeks pregnant with 2 children 3 and under and I would love to hear how you are preparing for baby. Got any good freezer meals to make ahead?
    I LOVE YOUR SITE!!

  • We don’t use paper towels much – I can’t seem to get a good deal on them, either. I’ve got a couple of rolls left and unless a super duper deal pops out at me, we won’t use them, either.

    We also don’t use paper napkins. I guess we’re just not messy eaters! When we have company, I use cloth napkins or use the “special” paper ones I got on clearance a couple of years back.

  • SarahJane says:

    I grew up without papertowels, but I like having them now since we don’t have a washing machine. Last year we went about 4 months without any paper towels, but have found that I will never change the car’s motor oil without a roll on hand. Yuck.

    Since we have no kids at home, we’ve stopped buying fresh milk. We have oatmeal or eggs for breakfast and use powdered milk for baking. We’ve eliminated those pesky mid-week milk shopping trips.

    We also have no tv. We used rabbit ears for years and last spring our single channel disappeared. We’ve switched to NPR for news and don’t miss tv one bit.

  • Gina says:

    We use paper towels minimally, no paper napkins at all, no keelnex, dryer sheets only in winter, any type of TV that had to be paid for (cable, satellite, ect.) a land line phone, and I’m sure others but right now I need to go fix lunch! 🙂

  • Tracy Hughes says:

    This is SOOO true! I ran out of paper towels a few weeks ago and have not bought any since. We have been making due without them. I do miss them when cleaning mirrors though…But it’s not worth going out and spending the money on them. PLUS, it’s much more “green” to not use them. Whenever I feel like I am really having the urge to go get some I try to think of the fact that I am being environmentally friendly AND saving money! Good idea to keep a box of a bunch of rags in the kitchen! Going to do that today!

  • Kristen says:

    I buy them when I can get a really good deal, which is rare. I definitely don’t see them as a necessity, but they are nice to have with a 2-year old!

  • shel says:

    You’re not weird at all! I managed to live without paper towels or paper napkins until our family got larger. Now with 7 kids, it’s hard to keep up on laundry, so we do use paper towels and disposable diapers more than I want to. I have a drawer full of kitchen towels and rags, tons of them, but we can go through that drawer pretty quickly with so many messes around here (my kids are home all day since we home school). I buy them in bulk at BJ’s (store brand) once a month and save money there, but I wish we didn’t have that expense at all (along with disposable diapers unless I can snag a good deal on them). I may try to go without the paper towels again, just for a challenge.

  • mom23 says:

    Crystal, I think that’s great! I’ve stopped using them as well. I take old towels and cut them to a size that’s convenient, serge the edges and leave them in a basket by my sink. I’ve had a lot of positive comments from guests who’ve seen them. It really costs nothing to add a few extra towels/rags to my laundry. I also stopped buying paper napkins and use cloth. I’ll buy paper napkins if I have guests staying for awhile. Not weird in my book–you’ve always been very inspiring to my family. 🙂

  • Christy says:

    I laughed at this post because I like you stopped buying paper towels years ago. My husband likes paper towels but lives without them occasionally he does snag a roll now and then but they last forever it seems because we have gotten so used to not having them. So you’re definitely not alone in the not buying paper towels so you don’t use them category. I find that just not buying it works for a lot of things.

  • mom23 says:

    Crystal, I think that’s great! I’ve stopped using them as well. I take old towels and cut them to a size that’s convenient, serge the edges and leave them in a basket by my sink. I’ve had a lot of positive comments from guests who’ve seen them. It really costs nothing to add a few extra towels/rags to my laundry. I also stopped buying paper napkins and use cloth. I’ll buy paper napkins if I have guests staying for awhile. Not weird in my book–you’ve always been very inspiring to my family. 🙂

  • trisha says:

    I use a few papertowels, mainly for the greasy icky jobs that I don’t want going thru to my washing machine or down my drains.

    hmmm, what have I gone without and not missed? dryer sheets, cereal (boxed), frozen pizza, store-bought cookies and a bunch of other store-bought foods.

  • Honey says:

    I hope I’m not posting this twice. Leigh Ayn, I think what you said about having a basket under the sink is good. Who wants to have a bunch of dirty rags everywhere? This is a bit off topic, but when my children were babies (gasp-5 yrs ago!) (2.5, 1, 1, newborn, and newborn), I got really tired of having a bunch of dirty bibs lying all over the counter (I would try to use them for more than one feeding). I finally found Baby Bjorn plastic bibs. They are great! You can rinse them off and even run them through the dishwasher. They cost about $6, but they are worth it.

  • we have done this too. i only have paper towels in the house if they are free with a coupon. my love likes to have some around of garage and car clean up. other than that i use dish towels for everything. i actually like it better. and it really has not created that much more laundry. i do change the towel that i use very often to prevent the spread of germs, etc. i have found that the william sonoma kitchen towels are excellent quality and withstand many a washing. of course i buy them clearanced because they are ridiculously priced at regualar price. this one elimination has saved our family quite and bit of money.
    http://www.thedomesticchick.blogspot.com

  • Nell says:

    We cut them out too, but then it drives my mom and mother-in-law crazy so they buy us more at Costco when they come over!

  • Donna Wolfe says:

    Oh no! Now I’m feeling super guilty, we just bought 2 big packs yesterday at Target—they were on sale for 4.88 for 4 rolls. ALMOST didn’t but my husband LOVES THEM and pleaded. I caved bcuz my daughter (18months) pulled a carton of 18eggs off of the counter and I had to use (and lose) a towel. It was just so gross! In regards to sandwich baggies I use the little flat plastic, rubbermaid containers and just wash them everynight as part of the lunch packing routine.

    HERE’s what I really wanted to post—my family gave up cable. My 7yr old was always begging for more TV time and we were all watching more than we should considering how much time we never seemed to have. We don’t really even miss it–AMAZING. And we communicate much more and enjoy the Arizona outdoors a lot more!

  • Alisha Hughes says:

    It drives my in-laws crazy but we have yet to pay for cable service or the dish. Everytime my in-laws come over they talk about how we should really just buy cable, but we soooo don’t need it! My husband just watches the shows he misses on hulul.com now, so that helps too. I just need PBS to get through life. 😉 I was going to mention that microfiber towels work great for dusting.

  • Hi Crystal,

    I thought this post was so funny because I hardly ever buy them….. and the only reason why I DO is because my mom lives with us and really likes using them in the kitchen. So it’s a small price to pay for her happiness when she’s helping clean the kitchen :).

    A few years ago I stopped using them for the most part because…. we… have…. plenty…. of… dish towels!!!! WOW! I could use them just as well as a paper towel and I can wash them since I’m doing laundry anyways. When I’m in a bind and need to use paper towels I’ll use a big vanity napkin (I like to make cloth napkins, but my sewing machine needs a tune-up, and that’s another story as to why I haven’t had it tuned up yet…).

    Thanks for sharing!
    Mary

  • Cathe says:

    We don’t use paper towels (my mother never did, either, so it seemed like a luxury we didn’t need), even when we had little children. I haven’t been able to give up paper napkins though. DH and DS #3 (the only one still at home) use them in their packed lunches. I already lose so many plastic containers and silverware that I hate to give them cloth napkins, too!

  • Rachel says:

    I’m with you on the paper towels. When I cut my grocery budget way back that was one of the first things to go. A few more of our “sacrafices” that we don’t really miss…

    Paper napkins – I found that my husbands (gently used) linen shirts make great napkins. Whenver a shirt is torn beyond repair, I cut 4-6 12″ squares. Zig-zag a 1/2 inch seam and fray the edges. These work great!!

    Plastic baggies – I picked up varyious sizes of plastic containers and use these in the kids lunches. Even my 5 year old can remember to bring the containers home. Homemade plastic baggies can also be made with a FoodSaver and plastic bread bags.

    Bathtub cleaner – I have a huge stockpile of Pert Plus…it works great to clean the bathtub.

  • Jessica says:

    I was able to get 30 rolls last summer for free. Before that I was geared up to stop buying them for good too! So I decided that since my husband is a big fan of the paper towel, that I would try to make those 40 rolls last as long as possible. My solution was put them under the kitchen sink, rather than on the counter right next to the sink. We both kind of forget they are even there. I also have drawer full of my non-good kitchen towels that can be used for spills and clean ups, etc. And I still have about 8 rolls left of the 30 nearly 9 months later, which tells me we could probably do without them all together. We’ve also given up paper napkins in our house. I have about 15 cloth napkins that get washed every few days, and we use those at meal time in place of paper. It’s a significant savings!

  • Kelly says:

    I know they fill landfills ” sigh ! ” But , we use the plastic bags from the grocery store to clean up cat messes . We then tie them closed and put in the outside trash .
    As for not using plastic bags for lunches , Tupperware used to make square plastic sandwich boxes . They were the size of a sandwich and had a lid . I still have mine . We used them for my son’s lunches until he stopped taking one .
    You could also send a bento box , which is a Japanese lunchbox with removable reusable containers .

  • Trish Y says:

    I rarely use paper towels for cleaning because they just don’t hold up well enough. One thing I “converted” to was some plastic plates. I home school our 5 children, we we are all home for each meal, every day. I used to buy stacks of paper plates for our lunch meal because I didn’t have 21 plates to use every day! And, I didn’t want the pressure of having to wash dishes by hand after every meal. I finally realized that it was silly to buy a package of paper plates every month, so I found some of those plastic, divided plates in packages of 4 for $1 (at Walmart). I bough 4 sets. More than enough to take care of breakfast and lunch… and, less waste.

  • Miriam says:

    Try coffee filters for draining greasy items. Much cheaper than paper towels and they do work.

  • Jill says:

    I also use paper towels sparingly. When my husband and I married, I noticed that he used a crazy amount of them, and over the years I have managed to wean him off them. But sometimes I will still notice (and cringe!) when he grabs several just to dry his hands. I guess old habits die hard.

    I have never used fabric softener and only use dryer sheets once in a while. I will say, however, that a dryer sheet does an excellent job at removing soap scum from the tub – it does an even better job than high powered (and pretty toxic) tub cleaners. I even clean with used dryer sheets and it does a great job.

    Regarding cat throw-up and hairballs, I have a stack of fast food and take out napkins that I use for that. I don’t steal their napkins or intentionally take more than I plan to use, but I noticed over the years that they always give you more napkins than you need in your take out bag (and my husband always grabs more than he needs – another bad habit I’m trying to break him of). So, instead of throwing away the excess napkins, I tuck them in my purse and take them home. That keeps me from using paper towels. I mainly do it because I hate for anything to go to waste.

  • Kellie says:

    Yes! We stopped using them 8 years ago to produce less waste. However, it REALLY comes in handy that they’re cheap, too! 🙂 BUT the biggest downfall of this plan is dog puke or toddler poop on the floor! 🙂 yuk!

  • Michelle Z. says:

    I don’t usually read the comments, so I had no idea that there was a reaction to your suggestion to eliminate paper towels.

    My family couldn’t afford something like paper towels when I was growing up, and so we never had them. My mom cleaned with rags, we used terry towels to dry our hands. We never missed paper towels.

    I actually prefer to wipe things up with microfiber towels (I first started buying these to use as soakers in my son’s pocket diapers). They do a much better job than paper towels. They scrub up messes on the stovetop with just water, too, so I’ve eliminated the need for 409.

    I have to admit…we have one roll of paper towels. My husband likes his bacon cooked in the microwave, and he likes to place it between two paper towels. Since we only eat bacon once or twice a month, this jumbo roll of towels has lasted us over a year. And I did get it for free – I had a $1 off any size Bounty, and jumbo rolls went on sale for $.95.

    My other reason for not using disposable things like paper plates or paper towels is that we have to pay $1 each for special garbage bags in order to have our garbage taken. I am fanatical about not creating any more garbage than we absolutely have to because it annoys me to “throw away” more than a dollar each week.

  • Kellie says:

    Oh and Rose – go to Goodwill and buy a whole bunch of old towels and wash them in hot! 🙂

  • Cara says:

    I also stopped buying paper towels several years ago. At first I thought I “couldn’t,” then I just… did! Now I use washable towels & I never have a problem!

  • Pam says:

    We too are trying to wean ourselves from paper towels. I have a few rolls left (from a large package I bought at Costco), but don’t plan to purchase more in the future. We use microfiber cloths for cleaning and in the swiffer, cloth napkins, cloth diapers, and cloth diaper wipes (baby washclothes or cut up receiving blankets). It all stared last summer when I started cloth diapering my two babies. After a few months of washing diapers, I realized that I could do away with many of the other ‘disposible’ products in my house and instead use rags, towels, washclothes that could be laundered with our towels. We honestly don’t miss them at all. I wish we had made the switch sooner!

  • Deb says:

    I also do not use paper towels or paper napkins. I have a huge supply of rags because when our bath towels wear out and get holes in, I cut them up for more rags. Also when we get take out from certain places, they always give you tons of napkins so I save what we don’t use and use those for draining grease, and other really yucky things. Or else I will use a really wore out rag and just throw it away instaed of washing it. But be careful to keep cleaning rags and rags used for food separate. I have a kitchen drawer for rags we use for food clean up and wiping hands and a place under my sink for rags used with harsh cleaners. That way if I need a rag for draining bacon grease, I am sure that I have not used it to clean the toilet! Once you give up paper towel you will find it easier than you think to find other ways to do those pt jobs!

  • Microwave!
    I didn’t like the idea of buying food and then nutrients (that we paid for!) being depleted in the microwaving process. We now use a toaster oven. It’s almost as fast to reheat food!

  • Angela says:

    Great post! Topics like these really make us stop and think about what we really need and want. We quit using a microwave 7 years ago. I use a toaster oven instead to heat and reheat food. I haven’t missed it one bit. People think we are CRAZY but they just haven’t tried it. We also use cloth diapers and wipes. Haven’t missed disposables at all…and the extra $$ is nice too. Keep on posting…we all need eye-openers!

    Joy and blessings
    Angela

  • Sarah says:

    As a scientist who is concerned about the very real possibility of us ruining this precious earth in the near future, I am overjoyed to read about all of the comments from readers who realize the economic and environmental reasons to give up paper products!
    If you are concerned about cleaning up “germy” messes around the kitchen and bathroom, make sure to leave your (homemade) cleaner on for about 10 min before wiping with your rag and 99% of the germs will be dead before you wipe.
    Now if we could only get rid of those pesky plastic water bottles leaching BPA into our bodies and filling our landfills…

  • Dawn (rn4jchrist) says:

    Just wanted to share:
    we actually don’t use paper towels, hubby always thought it was just a waste, why have both napkins and paper towels??
    so I buy them on occasion if they are cheap, so it’s like a luxury to have them in our home…
    you will never miss it, unless you use it on everything… like I do with baby wipes!

  • Christy says:

    I totally agree with the paper towels! We stopped buying them years ago, and they have never been missed. It is just as easy to use a towel.

  • Peggy Lorenz says:

    You can drain bacon on sections of brown paper bags if you have them. For “pet messes”, etc. just take a section of newspaper and crumple it up first, then smooth out…it makes it much more like a paper towel!

  • We rarely use paper towels. I do have a roll, but I bet I have had it for about a year. We also don’t use disposable napkins except for maybe birthday parties where we might have 20-30 family members present. We have been using cloth napkins since 2000 when we got married and requested them on our bridal registry. I am also always on the lookout for cloth napkins on clearance sales.

    I also try not to buy diposable cleaning cloths. I just use old towels that I cut up into smaller squares.

    The only time I ever buy paper cups or plates is when we have a birthday party with alot of people. I found some plastic compartment plates at a yard sale that I use when we eat outside on our patio and I even take them to picnics.

    I also try not to use plastic bags for lunches or snacks. I use plastic containers instead.

  • Dawn says:

    I use my old cloth diapers (were used at spit clothes not for bottoms) and dishrags. I do buy ‘some’ paper towels just for DH as he’s a bit of a germophobe about using towels, etc. I have noticed a great reduction on our usage and it’s saving us money. When I buy them I get them at CVS on sale with coupons and use my ECB’s towards them

  • alyssa says:

    I ditto the dryer sheets. People talk of cutting them in 1/2, but I say try without! I never understood their purpose. They just make clothes stink, in my opinion!

    I also never use fabric softener. My mom never used it because it left a residue on the clothes, which would scratch eye glasses when you tried to clean off smudges with a shirt or other garment. My grandma used it and her towels were so thick and soft, but they wouldn’t absorb water very well! Pointless. Our clothes are plenty soft with regular old detergent!

  • Lisa says:

    For a couple years now we don’t buy papertowels. Instead I bought a bunch (15-20) inexpensive washclothes and we keep them in a kitchen drawer and use them for “napkins”, to wipe up spills, etc. They are so much softer and nicer anyway.

  • Jessica says:

    Foaming hand soap is another one that I don’t buy. The kids just play with it to see how big of a soap mountain they can make in their hands, and I have to refill them every few days. Since I get lots of cheap or free dish soaps from playing the drug store games, I always make sure to buy the antibacterial kind. If you fill the foamy hand soap container with cold water, then add a tablespoon or so of antibacterial dish soap, you get foamy hand soap for super cheap….and it’s also really cheap entertainment for the kids :)! Make sure to not use too much soap or your mixture will be too thick for the pump. I usually have to replace the pumps every 4 or 5 months, but I’ve gotten several for $1 or less with coupons or on clearance.

  • Sandra says:

    We eliminated bottled water from our household. My husband and I carry around travel mugs, and we fill them up with water to leave in our cars. We’ve stopped using bottled water for about 7 months now, and we do not miss it at all.

  • jessica says:

    I’m working on phasing out disposable maxipads. I invested in some cloth ones last year and I love them. The only think keeping me back is that I work outside the home and so transporting soiled cloth pads could be a hassle (especially since I take the bus to and from work).

  • Broke Girl says:

    I grew up in a home that never used paper towels. Think of the waste–not just financial / economical, but production, shipping, and garbage. I recently made a blog posting of things in the SkyMall magazine I would never buy. (Well, I’ll probably never by *anything* from SkyMall), but this is an excerpt from my post:

    #3. For $59.99, an “Electric sensor-activated paper towel dispenser.” It’s probably easier to pull a towel from the roll all by myself.

  • Elizabeth Sue says:

    I guess we are major weirdos too! We don’t use paper towels, use mostly cloth diapers, and don’t have any bottled water…just refillable stainless steel and BPA free jugs….Atleast you are in a good company of fellow weirdos!

  • Yoopermom says:

    Good for you! We are a family of 9, with 3 under 3, and haven’t used paper towels much in the past 15 years. Neither of our moms can stand it when they come to visit! We use t.p. for blowing noses instead of buying that other tissue and we don’t even have a Kroger or other store where we can get it for free like some of you. I say count your blessings and bloom where you’re planted!!

  • Katie L says:

    We don’t miss dryer sheets. I also stopped buying hand soap for the bathrooms and instead fill the foaming pumps with dish soap and water. I haven’t taken the step to eliminate paper towels yet, but we’re using towels and rags much more often now.

  • Bridgett says:

    Our recent give up is garbage bags. I have not bought a single garbage bag since July 08! It seemed no matter what kind of deal I would find on garbage bags it was still too much to me. I couldn’t handle paying for something I’m going to put trash in. It just sounds crazy to me. So one day we used our last one & I remember looking @ the bags in Wal-Mart & I said I’m done. I refuse to buy them. Some other things we don’t buy b/c I can’t understand paying for them are: cable TV, paper towels, dryer sheets, & I go back & forth w/laundry detergent…

  • We use towels rather than paper towels – have bought only 3 rolls of PT in as many years. We buy mechanics towels at CostCo/Sams (about $12 for 5 doz) – they are simple terry cloths that can be bleached, if you do that. We use ours until they dont look nice in our little “towel basket” – and then we donate them to the local pound. After reading all the chemicals on baby wipes packages, we decided to use only rags on our newborn (easier with #1 than #2)…we just keep a squirt bottle of clean water, a basket of clean rags, and a pail for the dirty rags – then double wash them before using again. I would guess the extra washing, sorting, etc outweighs any $ savings, but now I know it is only water on my babes’ bottoms.

  • I’ve never used paper towels! I keep a drawer full of towels and dish cloths and that’s what I use. That’s what my mom did growing up. It is a little more laundry but not much!

    Someone commented on my site that I should give up buying toilet paper and get a bidet. Now, that would be wierd!!!

  • April says:

    I am so glad other people do not use paper towels! My dad thinks I have gone insane for not having them! We use cloth napkins, and rags/towels.

    For the bacon or greasy things, we use plain unprinted newspaper. I bought 5 rolls of 100′ x 36″ each on clearance for 99 cents a roll at Hobby Lobby a couple of years ago, and it seems to last forever! We use the paper for large coloring paper and for other projects too.

  • Tanya says:

    We use papertowels because the grease that would come in after working on farm equipment kept ruining my towels but that is the only way we use them. I recently found we were always buying cleaning products for different uses and spending a fortune so I went to just using lysol wipes for most things or one all purpose cleaner with bleach in it. I chose the lysol wipes because I generally have a coupon and I can get them for less than a $1 and I get whatever all purpose cleaner at the dollar general store I can using a coupon to make it free or near free. This saves me money and keeps the space needed for storage of cleaners to a minimum – plus takes out the guess work for my son on which product to use when helping me clean. keeping it simple saves both time and money I was once told and I believe it.

  • Helen,

    I haven’t tried them yet, and I guess you’d have to risk your kids not losing them, but I’ve seen plastic sandwich holders (small tupperware shaped like a sandwich) at walmart and some other stores. Those would help eliminate the bags for the sandwiches! A friend of mine just uses the “disposable” tupperware you can buy at the market for this, but reuses it of course. 😉 Although I’d still use the bags for cracker, chips, and things but I guess you could use another small tupperware for that too couldn’t ya? 😀 I love this site it always makes me think of smarter ways to do things!

  • Kasey says:

    For a long time I thought I couldn’t live without my cell phone- then we needed to cut expenses, and my husband has a cell phone through work, so we decided to cancel our plan. I was constantly having people asking me how I could go without a cell phone, and my response? Well, there are pay phones (actually, now there aren’t very many of these around- tough to find!) and if I’m really in a bind, chances are there will be someone around who can let me use their cell phone.

    About 2 years ago we decided it would be a good idea for me to have a basic phone in case of emergencies, so now I use a prepaid. The only people who have the number are my husband and my son’s school, and I rarely use it, but it’s nice to have for peace of mind. I do kind of wish they hadn’t completely done away with pay phones, though…

  • D. Jacks says:

    I ran out of plastic wrap a couple of years ago and have never remembered to buy it again. Turns out we don’t really need it anyway. When I’m heating something in the microwave I just cover it with another plate turned upside down.

  • Susan says:

    We also use lots of rags instead of paper towels and mostly cloth napkins. (Like a pp, I just throw them in the washer with whatever is already going in!)

    To jillbert…try Happy Sacks (now called snackTAXI) for reusable Ziploc type bags or Wrap-N-Mat for sandwiches. (And no…I don’t own any of these businesses or work for them!)

    What else did I give up to save money? I gave up baby wipes a long time ago and use cloth wipes for the bottom and baby washcloths for the face. Now that ds is out of diapers, they’re great rags!

    Also gave up coffee filters and use the gold cone for our Cuisinart. Costs about $9 upfront but no need for filters ever again.

  • Eleanor says:

    Back to the question of “what have I given up?” I recently gave up a curl enhancing gel product for my hair AND blow drying my hair. I have shoulder length moderately curly hair. Fortunately, I live in the humid south, which helps with the curl. A couple of Saturdays ago I was crunched for time, so I simply pulled my hair back from my face with a hairband and got to work. To my surprise, my dry hair an hour later was curlier WITHOUT the product and blow dry, saving me $$ on product and electricity, plus ten minutes a day to dry my hair. When I am working, I simply shower early enough that my hair is dry before I leave the house.

  • Sarah says:

    I love this post!!! It’s so funny how something like paper towels can stir up so much emotion:) We’ve gone without paper towels for several years because I also thought they were just to expensive. When people came over they were shocked I didn’t have them with kids:) Well, we just had our third baby and my mom picked me up some paper towels and other groceries after she was born. My daughter is almost four months old and I have loved every minute of using them:) (Can you tell I’ve been using them sparingly:) They are just so handy but we’ll be going back to a non-paper towel family very soon. There are so many things we use every day that we think our necessary but really aren’t.

  • Heather S. says:

    We use a combination of paper towels and rags. I got a bunch of the Marcal towels when they had the free coupon and cut them in half to make them last longer.

  • Rachel says:

    Your questions about what is a “necessity” actually made me think of some TV series I used to watch. I just HAD to know what was going to happen next or what was going on in the show. Now I’ve quit watching ’em, and — surprise! — I don’t miss it one bit!

  • Robyn says:

    I did a little experiment of my own: We keep our bulk paper towels in the garage and I just didn’t bring in another roll when we ran out. No one missed them. We just went to the towels and washcloths when we needed them. The only thing I use them for is draining bacon. We don’t use them to cover food in the microwave, instead, we cover our plate with another one, flipped over. It keeps the food more moist anyway!

  • Crista says:

    We no longer use paper towels, paper plates, plastic silverware, or paper napkins. Like you mentioned, the only ones to miss these items are guests. I’m trying to stop using fabric softener and just use dryer balls instead, but the static is difficult to beat (we live in Michigan).

  • Tanya says:

    Crystal – I blogged about this as you got me thinking about this last week. http://gottfamilyfarmlife.blogspot.com/2009/03/paper-towels-use-them-or-not.html

  • Karen says:

    Last year I started cutting back on my usage. I keep a stash of rags under the kitchen sink. I use them for all sorts of things. My only problem is that I need paper towels for blotting greasy food. I don’t fry food very often, but when I do, I want to get all the grease off that I can. I certainly don’t want to use a rag for that.

  • joyce says:

    We stopped using paper towels a while ago also and survive perfectly fine, we had to invest in a few more dish towels and use that to wipe our hands or for spills. Every time guests are over they ask where the paper towels are and I can not figure out why paper towels are such a big deal, don;t get me worn, when my mom brings them over I use them and they definitely have a use but they are definitely not a necessity!

  • Honey says:

    I would be interested in a cost analysis of running the dishwasher vs using paper plates. Like the other poster, I stay home and school my 5 children-so we’re here for every meal. I do use disposable plates for breakfast and lunch. Then (since my husband likes real plates and I want dinner to be nicer) I use real plates for dinner. I still at least run the dishwasher 1-2 times a day. We just bought a very (expensive) low energy dishwasher. I am just curious if it is less costly to throw a few paper plates away that I get for cheap or to run the dishwasher and use dish detergent and rinse aid. Anyone know? And which is better for the environment?

  • Anne says:

    Interesting – I actually had been thinking what a waste paper towels and paper napkins were. But I don’t know what would clean my mirrors and windows well – cloth seems to smear them. Suggestions??

  • Dea says:

    My biggest question is – what do you use for draining bacon or fried foods, then?? That’s the ONE thing I use paper towels for that I have no idea what to use something else for it…..that and mirrors, because the newspaper idea? Never works…

  • One frugal thing that I save on is baby wipes. I make my own. For about 1.00 a month. With paper towels!! I use Viva paper towels on sale and with a coupon of course:) You just tear them out and cut them to fit your wipe box, then pour 2 cups of water with 2 tbsp of baby shampoo and baby oil already mixed in the water over the wipes and voila! Homemade wipes for 1.00 a month. Now I haven’t used paper towels in 10 years for napkins, I do like to use them for cleaning the windows and things though, so I go through about 3 rolls a year.

  • Julie says:

    Great post! I don’t use paper towels either. I have a little bin full of rags that I use for all sorts of things. My friends find this weird but it’s free and “green” and I love it!

  • Eva says:

    We also do not buy paper towels or paper napkins. We use towels and cloth napkins. The only time I will buy napkins is when we have a birthday party and the only time I buy paper towels is for cleaning around the toilet.
    I just can’t use a towel even though I would bleach them in the wash I just couldn’t use them for anything else after that. It grosses me out too.

  • Jenny says:

    I’m also curious about other methods for draining greasy foods!

  • mary beth says:

    I have lived without paper towels for years. In response to how to drain greasy bacon, I put them on one of those wire baking racks…My bacon is usually so crispy it is nearly dry anyway.

  • Andrea says:

    I do not use paper towels either, we use rags. I have a day care and my kids use rags to dry their hand too. They each have a peg and they get a fresh towel under the sink. When these get too yucky, I use them for cleaning. I do not use paper napkins, I bought about 5 dozen cloth napkins at a thrift store. None of them match, each of my kids have a favorite one. I almost never use my dryer. It works great but cost alot of money to run and heats the house. I have 3 lines in the back yard and everyday I just take my laundry out while the kids play. In the basement I have 2 retractable lines in case the weather is bad. I live in Denver and have avoided using my dryer for a year, with a few exceptions. I do not drink soda at all anymore. I haven’t had a soda in 2 years. I drank 2-3 a day (like most people). I don’t miss it. I had a sip of my husbands a few months ago, gross! I can’t believe I used to drink it everyday.
    I don’t miss paper towels, paper napkins, my dryer or soda!

  • Megan says:

    We don’t use paper napkins – we’re clean eaters! – but what I’m wondering is: how do you clean your bathroom?? I cringe to think of throwing a rag into the washing machine that I’d just used to clean my toilet !! Other than cleaning the bathroom we don’t use paper towels at all either…

  • Lady Di says:

    I gave up napkins and bought paper towels as I too have a geriatric cat. Him losing his food every now and again required something a tad more… toss-able. “rags”/linen towels were not doing so well. I’d actually rather use liquid softener as sheets are havoc. But I can never catch the rinse cycle in time, so there goes that thought. Plus everything has to be scent-free, lye-free, dye-free and any other free you can think of due to severe allergies.

    So I guess you can say everything from my deodorant, bathing and straight to my laundry having changed as I given up scents.

  • kim says:

    When we bought our house in May we decided to try a paperless kitchen, no paper towel, napkins or plates. now, 10 months later and we are still doing it and it didn’t take any effort at all. I had a bunch of cloth napkins and asked my mom and mother in law who were both decluttering to give me any they didn’t want. We bought a couple of packs of 4/$2 plastic plates at Target and we are set.

  • Carrie says:

    It’s a good idea, but sounds tough. I have also noticed that PPs are hard to get a good deal on and they disappear quickly. This is one I might be able to do but not sure I could get my husband on board.

  • LaTanya says:

    jillbert–I use square Glad plastic containers (5x5x2) for our lunches, including sandwiches. They fit a sandwich perfectly and it never gets smushed. Since the sandwich doesn’t really dirty up the container, it is a breeze to quickly hand wash.

    We haven’t cut back on our paper towel usage. I think I would eventually like to switch to solely using cloth rags. We have made other cuts that has saved us a ton of money (no home phone–cell phones only, only have limited basic cable–we have to have cable internet and it was cheaper to have cable and internet! go figure!! reduced how much we eat out and use coupons for just about everything)

  • This is so funny! We replaced paper towels with a 25-pack of white washcloths (from Costco, were around $7?) and go through them once a week or so. They’re just so much more effective than paper towels and have paid for themselves over and over.

    As for napkins, I buy cute vintage cloth napkins at the thrift shop and keep a little basket of mismatched ones at the ready. They go with our ‘look’ and are, again, so much more effective!

    Way to go!

    amanda @ http://www.housemade.org

  • Karilee says:

    I’m so glad to see this post! You wouldn’t believe how many crazy looks I get when people find out that I don’t regularly use paper towels. I have a 12 pack that I bought when I had family visiting, as it seems that my folks just can’t get along without paper towels!! They were shocked to learn that my previous 12 pack that had long since run out had been used over the course of a year. I too, have a large supply of rags and towels to clean up spills. With children in the house there are often lots of messes to clean up and kids tend to use LOTS of paper towels to clean up a mess when just one would’ve completed the same job. THAT really raises the price of paper towels, when you go through too many. It doesn’t cost that much to toss in a few extra rags or towels with your normal laundry loads…especially when you have gotten a killer deal on detergent!! 🙂

  • Diane says:

    Your post is great timing! I was watching the news today when a commercial announced Oprah is doing a WHAT CAN YOU LIVE WITHOUT segment today at 4:00!I don’t normally watch her show but I might try to catch this one.

  • Susan says:

    I think paper towels are a definite necessity. I have learned too much about bacteria, food borne illnesses, and cross contamination to give them up. The kitchen towel is the nexus of cross contamination. And it seriously grosses me out to have to go to someone else’s house who doesn’t use them. You don’t know the last time they even changed the towel, let alone how long they washed their hands before they decided they were clean and then wiped them on the towel. And if you have to wipe up a raw egg or chicken juice… paper towels are definitely the way to go.

  • Kirsten says:

    I use cloth rags, cloth napkins, flannel hankies, and cloth menstrual pads. I really don’t miss napkins, tissues, or nasty plastic & bleached paper pads!

    I only use paper towels for blotting greasy foods and for cat puke!

    I save a lot by making my own household cleaners. I just buy baking soda, borax, tea tree oil, vinegar, and castille soap in bulk. That’s really all you need to clean everything in your home.

  • maggie says:

    Funny, I just finished buying some cute napkins at Crate and Barrel when I read your post.
    http://www.crateandbarrel.com/Family.aspx?c=445&f=27613&fromLocation=GRC
    No, I can’t sew…otherwise, this LOOKS easy.
    Maggie

  • Tammy says:

    We buy the cheapest paper towels and only use them to dry off our hands when we are cooking in the kitchen.

    I have never bought dryer sheets.I also use vinegar in
    my laundry to help keep static and white fuzz off the clothes.

    I did try taking one of your challenges and haven’t bought shaving cream in ages!

  • Laura says:

    I’ve always used paper towels sparingly- growing up it was almost a sin to use a paper towel when a rag would do! I guess things like that just stick with you 😀 One thing I do use them for is bacon grease. Almost a year ago, I came across a deal where I got about 8 jumbo rolls of Scott’s paper towels for less than $0.25 each and we STILL haven’t even made it 1/2 way through the first roll! They take up so much space to store, I almost wish we used them faster! We do use paper napkins though. For us, I can get them so cheaply (< $6/year) and we are pretty good at using them wisely, it's worth it to keep the laundry loads to a minimum. As an aside: an interesting trend I've noticed- the more couponing I do and the more "convienence" items I get for free/for pennies, the more I use these items (sometimes just to use them up!) instead of using the good ol' rag. Sometimes I think I'm more wasteful because of these free products.

  • Leah says:

    I just want to add that we cut out paper towels too. We bought a big old pack of bar mops at Sam’s Club and keep them in a drawer in our kitchen. We keep a massive pack of cheap paper napkins for use at meals (and for yucky things I don’t want on my towels like cat barf).

  • Julie says:

    paper napkins. My husband had the habit of dabbing his mouth with a paper napkin after every bite. When the meal was over, he’d use it to sop up any juice/liquid left on the plate. I was stuck with gross, wet gobs. I asked if we could experiment with cloth napkins I’d found for next to nothing at a clearance sale.
    After two weeks, my husband said he’d made up his mind. No more paper. His dabbing habit is over, I have no more soggy paper on the dishes, and my 3yo son finds it much easier to set the table with cloth.

  • Joanne says:

    We use paper towels, but it takes a long time to go through a roll. We do not sue disposable napkins – we use cloth, everyday, every meal. The other BIG thing we have removed is using the dryer.. I have a clothesline.. I LOVE to know that the wind and sun are drying my clothes, and as a bonus, it saves us about $100/month on our electric.. and NO we don’t live in the country.. we live in a BIG city!!!

  • Kristi says:

    Instead of papertowels to clean up spills, we use the old clothe diapers. The kinds that used to use pins and were pretty bulky. They were used as burp clothes for my kids, and now I keep one under each couch cushion and the rest under the sink to grab quickly for spills. They are super absorbent and wash up really nicely.

  • meg says:

    We did a similar thing a few yrs ago, no more paper napkins and limited paper towels. It did take awhile to get my husband on board. The only thing we use paper towels for is to wipe grease off a pan prior to washing the pan. I don’t want to wash greasy rags with my other laundry.

  • I do buy paper towels, but I bought an 8pk last July and I’m on the last roll now, so I don’t use them very much, mostly just for greasy stuff. Otherwise I just use towels and rags that I bleach to keep from getting smelly.

  • Kim Stewart says:

    I don’t use paper towels to drain my bacon. I use several pages of newspaper that I cover with a coffee filter. I have been doing this for years. The newspaper is super absorbent and the coffee filter keeps the bacon from coming in direct contact with the newspaper which overcomes the ICK factor. You can get a big pack of coffee filters at the dollar store. The funny thing is i don’t use the filters for coffee ever since I got a reusable gold filter from Freecycle.

  • I bought some bundles of the washcloths at Walmart and use them for kitchen towels. I did buy some Bounty the other day to give to my son’s classroom. We haven’t used paper towels in our house in a good long while. Glad to see that others households are without them as well.

  • Beth says:

    Jillbert- Check out Wrap-n-mats. They are a great alternative to those plastic sandwich bags. I love them!

  • Cinderella says:

    This is a great article. I am trying to retrain myself to using rags, dish cloths, and hand towels and stop using so many paper towels. We always use linen tablecloths and linen napkins…we’ve been doing this for years and it’s so easy. How do you clean the microfiber cloths used on swiffers? Mine seem to attract so much hair that they look gross after a good cleaning. We only have paper plates for emergencies (ie. power/water is out). What do you use to scrub your dishes with?

  • Cindy says:

    I have tried to eliminate throw away paper products from our house for ecology and economy. However, it’s my husband who can’t seem to do without his paper towels and his paper plates! I have a dishwasher and a washing machine. I try not to buy paper products and then he comes home with giant amounts from BJ’s! I’ve decided I can’t win with him on this one.

    I do buy my paper towels from Stop and Shop and I buy the choose a size ones so we can use less.

  • Denise M. says:

    You know, I had not really thought about it. I believed it to be a necessity. I’ve only had 1 friend that kept washcloths under her kitchen sink to clean up the kids after a meal. I liked that idea. I have a huge set of them since my recent purchase from Sams. I’ll see how long I can get them to last.

    One thing we have gone without is cable/satelite. It has been nice, been using the digital converter box and it just gets one channel- weather. We have put it in our bedroom to be able to check the weather when we are getting ready for the day and such. Really like not having it where the kids are. We are really so much more productive.

  • Laureen says:

    Like some of the other people said, I have pets and so paper towels are just more convenient if there’s an accident. But I do buy them at the dollar store or the store brands when they are on sale, and I use them sparingly.

  • Audrey says:

    I have to say that I too have pretty much have stopped using them myself. I still buy some when I can find a good deal because my husband has yet to get away from them. But I keep a bin full of rags in my kitchen and have made some little cloth wipes myself for cleaning up faces. I actually prefer the cloth to paper towels now.

  • Amy B. says:

    I love the freedom of walking down the paper towel aisle, knowing that I don’t have to buy ANY of them! It almost makes me giggle. We too use towels, rags, and cloth napkins. I have been following your blog for over a year now, and my family has been blessed by the things you have taught me! Thank you so much. May the Lord bless you with His nearness.

  • Sarah says:

    If anyone is looking for rags head to Ikea. In the kids department they sell a 10 pack of rags for $2. They are wonderful, and I am always able to find a rag!

  • Gerberta says:

    We gave up TV about 5 years ago and have not missed it at all! My kids now spend more time reading. In their spare time they enjoy playing board games or playing outside when the weather allows for it. We still have a TV and use it occasionally for movies but network television was becoming progressively worse and we are glad to have it out of our lives.

  • Interesting post! Come to think of it, I think the only time I’ve purchased paper napkins was for a party. We never keep ’em in the house.

    I do use rags quite often for cleaning, but do like paper towels for sanitary cleaning (as a previous poster said, for chicken spills, toilets, etc.). I only recently purchased Kleenex when I found it for free at the drugstore!

    Thanks for challenging our thinking, Crystal!

  • Maggie says:

    Fabric softener. Someone gave me a bottle and I haven’t touched it yet. We just don’t use it, and its not necessary.

    Crystal – you are NOT weird. You are very, very smart, and while the world blows their $$ on wastefulness, you are resourceful and creative. I admire you!!!!!! Thanks again for challenging all of us.

  • Anon says:

    I tried to give up paper towels by replacing them with a basket of old napkins under the pt holder; my husband was really missing them so I put them back on the list to honor his wishes.

    I haven’t bought a box of dryer sheets in years and years; the one box I purchased has lasts us forever. I only use them when fluffing my husband’s uniforms so I don’t have to spend an hour ironing them each week; saves me an hour of ironing and electricity to run the iron. I reuse the dryer sheets quite a few times, too.

    On the rare occasion we cook bacon, we use the broiler pan in the oven and drain it on a brown paper bag; if we are cooking bacon for potato soup, we leave the drippings in the pan to cook the onion. ;o)

    We go through 14 cloth napkins just at breakfast and dinner daily; we need to wash them every two days to keep up with those meals. Using a paper napkin or paper towel at lunch helps us during the busy homeschooling day.

    Reusing (used) textbooks more than makes up for the money we spend on some paper napkins at lunch daily. Our home education budget is less than $500 a year for 5 children; this includes our HSLDA membership.

    Fun to see how needs and wants vary family to family.

  • Tera says:

    We don’t use paper towels either. I bought enough kitchen rags and towels to last us for a few days worth of messes. I always wash my kitchen rags/towels separately from everything else–I just have a thing with kitchen stuff being mixed with dirty clothes–and throw in a load when I’m down to my last couple of rags. I also bought a stack of white wash rags (10 for $2.50 at Kohls) to use for cleaning purposes. My husband now knows that colored rags are for kitchen/food messes and the white rags are for cleaning other messes. Also, I just use my rags and towels to drain my bacon. It works, and it doesn’t stain that I’ve noticed. Plus, I’m not too picky about the appearance of my dish rags!

  • Stacy says:

    Another one here who gave up paper towels (almost). I did it when I realized we were using up a roll every few days. All I did was go to Wal Mart and get 2 18-packs of the cheapo white wash cloths. I think they cost me $5 total. We keep them on our kitchen counter in a big bowl (old plastic salad bowl that is cracked). We use them when we want, then leave them on top of the washing machine so they go in with the next load of laundry. We have even used the washcloths to drain bacon and clean up greasy messes- they just get rinsed out in the sink briefly then to the laundry with everything else. The only thing we use paper towel for anymore is when our cats pukes or leave other messes that I don’t want to put through the laundry.
    We have a separate set of rags (green) that are only for cleaning the bathroom. They get rinsed in the sink after use and go in the laundry with everything else.

  • Rae says:

    We don’t buy napkins… use cloth. I don’t buy liquid or sheet fabric softener. I use dryer balls that I got on clearance at CVS (they were cheaper on clearance than buying tennis balls). I have never bought a Swiffer cloth because I am cheap. I use microfiber cloths for most cleaning. They work better than paper towels (even the expensive kind) and last a long time. You just have to be sure that you don’t use fabric softener because that will ruin them but that’s not a problem because we don’t do that anyway 😛 They don’t leave streaks on glass/mirrors either. You use one wet then one dry and streak free clean. I do use paper towels for some things though. I wash EVERYTHING in cold water so I will not use a cloth on the toilet or after wiping up raw meat because I don’t have the confidence that those germs will be killed. We do buy tissues because I think putting a dirty hankie back in your pocket is nasty but we only go through 1-2 boxes per year so we aren’t filling up the landfill (or spending) too much on those.

  • Catherine says:

    I grew up not using paper towels for spills or other incidents around the house. I mostly use paper towels for blotting greasy things (BACON!) and for wrapping up lettuce to dry. I keep them hidden away and use rags (ruined t-shirts, pajamas, old washcloths & handkerchiefs, crappy towels that we got for free at a baseball game, etc) for all my cleaning needs! If they get ruined, no big deal, then I will throw them away.

    To the people that don’t know where to get rags – look to those clothes you don’t wear anymore because they have a hole in them, but you can’t bare to just throw them out. I’ve also seen people selling rags by the pound on craigslist and other places.

    As for what I don’t buy anymore – Laundry Detergent & Softener. I have some pretty sever allergies to fragrances, so this has saved me more money than most. First, I use vinegar in the rinse cycle. It’s amazing. For detergent, I make my own. It’s so simple and very inexpensive. Trent from the simple dollar has a great tutorial:
    http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/04/09/making-your-own-laundry-detergent-a-detailed-visual-guide/

  • Nicki says:

    This is so true! I was just having this conversation about paper towels with a friend today. One of the things that helped our grocery bill was that we stopped buying paper products, well, except for toilet paper. 🙂 Anyway, I did the same thing, I just quit buying it and I don’t miss it. It’s challenged me to look at other things that we might consider neccessities and try to do without.

  • Mrs. Jo says:

    I buy a few rolls a year and keep them on hand but mostly use cloth rags. Paper towels may not be a necessity but neither are disposable diapers. However, you would agree that disposables are more convenient sometimes. I find paper towels are convenient in that they are great for draining bacon grease, sticking in a bag of lettuce to keep moisture off the lettuce and make it last longer, and cleaning up horrific messes like throw-up chunks or poop where you don’t really want to wash the rag!
    Using them all of the time really is wasteful!

  • Ace says:

    We haven’t eliminated anything…yet. I never realized that we could live without paper towels. That’s a great place to start!

  • Sherry says:

    We use rags and cloth napkins. It didn’t take that much adjusting. I wash the cloth napkins once a week as my children are older and don’t usually make messes. I toss the rags every day into the wash.

  • Shakyra says:

    We gave up on paper towels too a while back. Before that I had stock up on them and still have like 30+rolls that we only used to drain oil from fried food. For everything else we use wash cloths (got a pack of 30 on clearance for $3.99)
    I get regular napkins when I can get them for free and use those for when we have visit. I am so glad we switch to cloths!

  • Cynthia Gilbert says:

    Love your post. I hardly ever buy paper towels, but my husband likes to have a roll on hand for any occasion pet messes.

    The other item we stopped buying and were surprised that we didn’t miss was paper napkins. I’ve never liked cloth napkins – they don’t absorb much, smear a lot, etc. – but with two little messy girls, we went through too many paper napkins. So I bought a 12 pack of washcloths on clearance at Target for $3. They work so great!

    I saved a couple paper napkins for when guests come over, but it turns out that most of them prefer to use our washcloth napkins too! 🙂

  • Lee says:

    We also only use cloth napkins and rags for paper towels. I cannot tell you how much I save every year by doing this! Also how eco friendly it is!

    As for bacon grease, which we have maybe 4 times a year? I have one towel I use for that and tuck it away. When it smells I buy a new one.

  • FishMama says:

    What I think is weird, is that I snag these really cheaply so I almost always have a stockpile. 🙂 (Paper napkins are another story.) Since I’m a germ freak, we regularly use paper towels for cleaning and don’t mind the small expense.

  • Jaime G says:

    Us? No cable TV, only basic phone service (no call waiting or no caller ID, ouch!), no convenience foods, no paid magazine subscriptions, no internet on our cell phone, and the list could go on. Life is sooo much simpler now. LOVE IT!

  • Kristin says:

    Same here on paper towels. We no longer buy them and have used cloth napkins for many years. And except for degreasing bacon – we don’t miss either!

  • Melanie says:

    When I ran out of free Bounty from a CVS deal a few months back, I challenged myself to see how I’d do without them. Like many other readers, I also found that the only thing I really missed them for was when we drained or blotted greasy food (such as bacon or dotting the grease on pizza). I found that regular TP works just as well. People may find that to be strange, but if you figure that it’s pretty much the same product — just in a different size, it may help. In our case, we still have lots of TP left over from CVS deals so I’m not paying for anything extra.

    Another idea if you just cannot part with paper towels is to work them into your CVS deals when you are going to get “overage” on FREE with ECB deals combined with coupons. 1 rolls varies from .99 – 1.29 at most stores.

    I’m always thinking of how can I use something I already have or can acquire free or cheap for alternative uses.

    We also use shampoo for body wash and hand soap instead of just using it to wash our hair.

  • Jess says:

    I hadn’t thought of eliminating paper towels before. Hmmm.

    It’s funny. I get similiar reactions when I tell people I don’t have cable or satellite. They wonder how I can make it. Puhlease people. Television is so not a necessity.

  • Melodie says:

    While I haven’t completely stopped using paper towels, I have used Handi-wipes instead of paper towels for the past two years for most messes. I try to save the paper towels for the sanitation of things that I am particularly fussy about. For example: I use paper towels when cleaning and drying my children’s hands after dinner or for wiping up messy things (like cleaning up blood from raw meats, cleaning bodily fluids: now more frequent because of the messes my potty-training son makes) that I don’t want to worry about boiling before putting it in the laundry with other clothes. I feel that rags tend to be used more than once before washing and thus are a sanitation hazard in these areas. Hence, paper towels are worth it for those few uses.

    But I use Handi-wipe rags for just about everything else. I like the Handi-wipes because they came in a package of 70 for less than $10. They wear out a little faster than rags, but they take up much less space in my drawers. A MUST when we have limited kitchen storage. They are good for anything from dusting furniture to wiping up spills and wiping down counters, tables, chairs, and sinks. I’ve even used them to clean the floor.

  • Melissa says:

    When I was growing up we never had paper towels – never needed them, I guess! We stick with reusable things like diapers, wipes, napkins, etc. I haven’t bought napkins in years it seems. It’s better for the community in that we make less trash and it’s less money! Cloth napkins, I’ve found, are FAR more durable in keeping our little one’s mouth/hands/face/you-name-it clean while eating. Thanks for the post!
    Melissa

  • jennifer says:

    To the commenter who wanted to get rid of sandwhich baggies: do the kids use a reusable lunch box every day? If so, get a rubbermaid sandwich container. Then you just wash/rinse it every day and have less waste! I do buy about 1 roll of PT every other month. Like others, we have cats and there’s an occasionaly hairball or other gross Kitty mess.

    I stopped buying paper napkins in the last year. Got a bunch of cloth ones on freecycle, Goodwill and others super cheap at WM or Target along the years.

    I also no longer buy paper plates, except for the small ones and a package of those lasts me a long time.

    I’m guilty of buying bottled water, but I leave it in my car so it’s easy to grab when I’m on my way to class or somewhere. I always tend to forget my reusable one. I do however, have a reusable coffee mug for hot chocolate on the go!

  • Carla says:

    We gave up bottled water, basically because I stopped buying it. My kids each got a pvc-free bottle from Target to take back and forth to school each day and use at night, and my husband uses a big plastic cup. Such a no-brainer, I can’t believe I was even buying it in the first place!

  • vicki says:

    We use cheap gerber flat diapers to drain grease on bacon,burgers,ect.They can be found at Walmart & they dont leave lint.They do get greasy but I find a squirt of Dawn in the wash helps.We are a big family of 8 and for our rags I keep a trash can in the kitchen for rags.When its full I just dump them in the wash and do a load.You could use a diaper pail too ,but they need washed every day or 2 or they start to smell/mildew.

    Like someone else we gave up cable.We went with Netflix instead and after a week or so the kids really don’t miss it.

    We do not use dryer sheets.We use to use an old T-shirt cut into strips soaked in fabric softener as dryer sheets.It worked great.Then a dryer repair man told us how bad dryer sheets/softeners are on your dryer.It can clog up the lint trap.

    No coffee filters we bought a washable reuable one!They sell these at Walmart and Target.

  • Kristen says:

    DON’T USE TISSUES EITHER!!! Save even more money. Dont buy Tissues either!!! I dont buy PT or tissues and save lots of money, we just dont have the $$$ for it. I mean for $1 you pay for tissues you could have at least 2 rolls of toilet paper that will blow your nose at least 200 times

  • Chelssya says:

    We don’t use paper towels, either. Glad to see we’re not that weird! The only time we had them when I was a kid was when my mom could find a great deal on them. And then she guarded their use like gold! I just got used to not having them around. We have plenty of rags and even leftover pre-fold diapers (some might find this gross, but they’ve all been bleached) that we clean and wipe up spills with. It’s much better for the environment, too!

  • We’ve eliminated paper towels and paper napkins – I got some $1/yard flannel at Wal-mart last year and made a bunch of napkins and “paper towels” on my serger.

    I use cloth pads instead of disposables (use disposables when traveling).

    We used cloth diapers and wipes exclusively with my first and for the first year+ for my 2nd until she kept breaking out in horrible blisters from ours – despite changing washing routines. After 3 rounds of antibiotics, I switched her to sposies and she has been rash free.

    I’m actually contemplating going the cloth wipe route to help at least reduce (if not totally eliminate) toilet paper.

  • samantha says:

    we don’t use paper towels either!

  • Jessica says:

    We haven’t used paper towels for years. Dish towels are perfectly fine. We use cloth napkins (that I made) for our napkins and as paper plates…meaning we spread them on top of glass ones for a small snack/sammy, etc so taht we don’t have to wash the plate. As for weird? No, no. I think I have you beat there…. what item have we given up that’s not a neccessity? Toilet paper and tampons… we have been using cloth wipes for about a year now. We store the used one in a bin in our bathroom w/ a solution of water, Dr. Bronners’, and tea tree oil and wash them seperately w/ hot water. We keep a roll of TP on hand for guests. As far as tampons, I quit using them because of health concerns (toxins within the tampons themself) and the fact that I hate the cost and waste. Instead, I began using The Diva Cup almost two years ago and have continued using it for so many reason. It is scary the amount of money that is literally flushed down the toilet everyday. Not for everyone, but works for us and certainly something to open one’s mind to.

  • elle-tn says:

    I actually use paper towels in the bathrooms instead of hand towels. I also use them for clean-up with a spray bottle instead of buying those disposable clorox (or other) wipes. I loved using clorox wipes on the toilets but I gave them up last year to save money and have been just as happy with my paper towels and spray bottle. I also gave up a lot of cleaning products. I now use bleach for almost everything. Saves me a lot of money and I am still sure that my home is getting disinfected.

  • Lisa says:

    We have also cut back on paper towels and paper napkins, using cloth instead. What a savings! I have also sworn off of the lawn care that we had when I was working outside the home. Now that we are on one income by choice (and loving it!), I am taking classes at our local county extension office on lawn care, vegetable gardening, etc. Before this endeavor, I did not even know county extension offices existed. They are a wealth of information. A good web search on organic lawn care will also land you a wealth of information on great ideas for low cost lawn care (like adding worms – who knew!!).

  • JackieB says:

    I bought my last two roll of paper towers in November. We use microfiber cloths for everything except the very nastiest of messes. I think I am going to invest in another set of microfiber cloths for the “gross” stuff in a different color than the ones I use now, then I can be paper towel free forever!

  • Michelle says:

    I haven’t bought paper towels or paper napkins in long time (several years ago). We use rags, washclothes and cloth napkins. I have a basket in the dining room that I keep the folded napkins in. I have bought them on the clearence racks at stores and at yard sales.
    My fil was over the other day and he asked for a paper towel. He couldn’t believe we didn’t use paper towels.

    I keep a bag of old socks and pieces of torn rags that normally would be thrown away. These I use for cleaning around the toilet or other really yucky things (checking the oil in car etc). Then I throw them away.

  • Dawn Treader says:

    I heard once that paper towels are treated differently in the making of them than napkins and that they have chemicals in them napkins don’t because napkins are intended for food/wiping mouths, and pt’s are for wiping up spills.

    Some places used to use old newspapers to soak up grease from fried food. Probably full of chemicals too.

    You could save old t-shirts, rip them into pt size pieces, soak up the grease and throw them away. A grease soaked piece of cloth is also good for seasoning your cast iron ware.

  • jess says:

    Okay well, we don’t do paper towels, or napkins, we do cloth diapers and wipes…and I DO NOT buy trash bags. WHY would I spend money on something designed to throw away? That is how we got to the conclusion to do cloth everything. We use the plastic bags from the grocery store. I get lot of them and they are just about the perfect size. then when they are full they go out before the trash starts to stink! We have done this for years and love it! People think we are a little weird and my friends all pick on me, but I don’t care…it makes me feel better and stretch the budget…trash bags are another item that I rarely find cheap and NEVER free! Thanks for all the great ideas!

  • Karen says:

    we do not use paper towels except for cooking bacon. I bought some large pack of inexpensive washcloths and we use those to dry our hands and clean spills…etc.

    We also use cloth napkins. Most of them I have made from my extra fabric.
    It saves lots of money & the enviroment 🙂

  • Karen says:

    I forgot to add I use all one color towels for cleaning the kitchen & another color for the bathroom.
    I just throw them in when I do my lanudry…so no extra loads!

    we also use cloth wipes since we use cloth diapers.

  • Ramie says:

    We’ve not given up paper towels completely, but we bought a case of 12 rolls in 2003, and just last month (Jan 2009) used the last roll……so we might as well not have them around! I use them mostly for draining bacon and ground beef on, and for cleaning out the pan once before I wash it (so the dishwater in my sink isn’t totally greasy).
    We also have friends with severe allergies and keep them on hand for their use. I would hate for them to use a towel in my house that maybe has some residue on it that would cause a reaction with them….

    But we definitely don’t use them as cleaning rags, or everyday washing etc.

  • Angela O says:

    One thing I gave up 2 years ago was “regular” deoderant. I use Tom’s of Maine natural deoderant and realized that I sweat and stink LESS than I did with the “clinical” types of deoderant. I buy 1 natural deoderant per year–it really does last all year because some days I even forget to use it and find I don’t need it.

  • Stacy T says:

    I made us 2 dozen flannel cloth napkins/towels last year from the left over scraps from making the kids jammies… and we have saved a ton in buying paper towels and napkins.

    We also started using a tad of vinegar *JUST A bit or is smells like vinegar, lol* in our rinse aid part of the dishwasher! 😀

    We also eliminated DISPOSABLE Diapers AND WIPES!

  • simone says:

    Yes! Great! I heavily eliminated paper towels from our family a few years ago but just limit them to, like others mentioned, bacon and other greasy spills. I buy the cheapest of the the cheap and maybe spend about $1/month. However, I’m convinced to go to cloth napkins after reading this post/comments!

  • Heidi @ ggip says:

    I’m not planning to give them up but I love this post! Bravo!

  • Erika says:

    We use rags/tea towels instead although we keep a roll around for dh who thinks we should have them “just in case”. I also keep a basket of facecloths at the sink for wiping kids’ hands/faces and we do cloth diapers.

  • Jami says:

    Yes, we gave up paper towel a number of years ago and not only have some people made fun of me, they even belittled me. I do have a roll hidden away, and I will give it if someone asks and then I will compost it.

    Also stopped using paper napkins years ago – only cloth for our family now (each of us has our own unique napkin ring).

  • We have considered giving up paper towels but like others, do not know what we would use to blot bacon grease! Also, do rags really leave mirrors streak free? I’ll have to try that.

    We don’t buy kleenex – we just use toilet paper. We don’t buy napkins because we use paper towels! Until our baby started daycare, we only used cloths. Daycare wouldn’t continue out practice, so we have had to use baby wipes. If I get to be a stay at home mom with the next one, we will use cloth only and no baby wipes.

    Cable is the biggest thing that we have lived without for the longest amount of time. We have not had cable in 3 years and we have not missed it at all.

  • melissa says:

    WE don’t buy paper towels either, what a waste. I have one question though that is really bugging me, why do people buy kleenex? Why doesn’t everyone just use tp?? Is it just not “fancy” enough? This one totally boggles my brain!

  • Liz Price says:

    We haven’t used paper towels for years!
    I actually received a couple of large packages of paper towels at a house warming party years ago, and they turned yellow and stale before I could use them all!

    Every couple of years I buy 1 or 2 large packages of kitchen dish cloths at wal-mart, all the same color, and use those as our “nice” rags (for wiping counters, messy hands, dishes, etc.) I recycle them into our cleaning rag box when they are worn ragged, then start over with a new color! The rags in the cleaning box are only for harsher chemicals, cleaning bathrooms, etc. That way those aren’t used in my kitchen or on my babies’ skin.

  • LDazzle says:

    For all of you bacon lovers, use a paper grocery bag as a grease collector. I’ve done this with bacon, pork chops, and fried potatoes. The bags soak the grease nicely and clean up is easy. Best of all? The bags are free from the grocery store.

  • Tracy says:

    Good for you Crystal! I’m so proud of your family for making this decision that is yet another example of how going greener also saves money!

    At my house, the first thing that comes to mind, and this is a big deal b/c I’m a very shy private girl, is that I gave up pads and tampons and just use a Diva Cup. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I totally understand why women get so excited about it!

  • Robin says:

    I pulled the plug on TELEVISION within a year or so after my husband and I married. After these 13 years without it, we’re so glad we did and wouldn’t think of having it again. We’ve received eye-popping looks from people as they comment they couldn’t live without it. But, it’s amazing what you can live without. 🙂

  • Erika Altamirano says:

    Due to my husband’s job-loss 4 months ago, we just plain ran out of money to buy paper towels. And guess what?! I haven’t missed them. Two weeks ago, my husband thought he should pick some up, and every time I went for one, I have been thinking, “I could be using a towel right now instead.” So I’m not buying them again. . . In my opinion, they’re just a money siphon! We have a newborn, a toddler, and a six-year-old, and we’re doing fine. Just get a 4-pk of washcloths for $1.49 at Target, and save all of those old rags. . . I’ve got stacks of them- they’re ugly, but they’re great for those dirty jobs. I’m also cutting out the store-bought dishwashing detergent and clothes detergent (making my own for pennies), and am going to home-made cloth diapers and wipes. And we’re installing Magic Jack for our telephone service for only $20 a year! It is so fun to save $$. In our case, all of these changes are over $250 a month in savings!

  • SortaCrunchy says:

    Re: the bacon comments. We’re a non-paper towel family here too, and we LOVE our bacon. I bake my bacon in the oven using a wire cooling rack on the cookie sheet. All the grease drains to the cookie sheet and the bacon doesn’t need to be blotted.

  • Alicia says:

    My husband and I have never had paper towels in our house! When we moved into our house in November of 2007, I bought a large package of napkins for like $3.00 at Wal-Mart and we put those out when we have people over, other than that we have always used towels instead. I personally like to use bar rags (the towels that most restuarant and bars get in bulk). We were able to purchase a packet of them containing 50 for $5.00 a few years ago and we just wash and re-use them. We also snagged a bunch extra for free when the owner of the bar was throwing some out because they were either stained or getting ripped. We use those for really gross messes and just throw them away instead of putting them in our washing machine.

  • Nicole says:

    If you are looking for free rags/towels, try the local hospital. My mother-in-law works in the laundry of a large hospital and they throw away rags that are thin or getting a little ragged. They throw them away by the trashbag full. I ask for the throw-aways and have rags to last forever. If one gets really dirty–I throw it away with no guilt!

  • Cynthia says:

    Great post! We stopped using paper towels about a month ago. I have been amazed at how little I’ve missed them. I took all the tshirts out of my closet that I don’t wear, and cut them into squares. b/c it’s t-shirt material, it won’t fray and it’s more absorbent than a pt. I just keep them in a basket on the counter. LOL-Now the kids fight over who gets the pink/blue/red or whatever color!

  • Kirstin says:

    I started using microfiber cloths a while back and I haven’t missed paper towels at all. I still have a few rolls around, but I only use them for garage spills when I don’t want to trash my indoor cleaning cloths. It is much more environmentally friendly since I just toss the cloths in the wash when we are done with them.

  • Crystal says:

    Hi,
    We don’t use paper towels or dryer sheets either. If we have a party(only twice a year) then we get a roll or two then. We also switched to the Buddies soap. Our boys cannot seem to find a way to waste or destroy it yet as they seem to do with all other soaps. We also do not use liquid fabric softener.. which some may find weird. We also do not use any of the multitude of “wipes” products that seem to be everywhere these days. Get a rag 🙂 We use washable microfiber mop heads that we ordered from QVC. They are great and I am not constantly buying new mops.

  • Lela says:

    We still buy PT but only when we can snag a deal and then we use them so sparingly (grease, bathroom & pet cleanup) that they last forever. Although using large quantities of paper is not environmentally friendly, water conservation is important too. If I used cloth to drain grease, clean up pet messes or clean bathroom “misses” it would take a lot of detergent & a lot of water for me to feel like those cloths were clean enough to use again.

  • Gloria says:

    Our biggie was TV. When we moved to TN our apartment had free cable for a few months. When that ran out we didn’t have any spare money so let it cancel. This was 1997 and we haven’t had it since. So do we miss it? Not at all! The only show we watch now is CSI and we can stream it off the web for free. It also surprises folks! No TV! How do you live??

    jillbert: Around back to school time they have these sandwich containers that are all the crayola colors. My girls love these and want to use them all the time. Even if they are eating in the kitchen!

  • Lana says:

    We use very few paper towels and have gone the rag route for about 20 years. I do like to have them for greasy messes and raw chicken cleanup though. We are almost completely a cloth napkin family. When the kids were small it was so easy to clean up spills at the table with the cloth napkins we had right there. Cloth napkins are great on picnics as they don’t blow away and they cover children’s plates to keep bugs off as mine always liked to graze alternated with playing. We quit using dryer sheet and softeners when my allergist told me that the active ingredient in them was fomaldehyde! It was amamzing how much better my skin is because I don’t use them. And I am not paying for them! My dad keeps a good quality paper towel in every pants pocket to use as a kleenex and just leaves them there to be washed! They last quite a long time and stay in his pockets through the washer and dryer! He finds it upsetting if someone removes his towels before washing his clothes. They just get softer with each washing.

  • Petra says:

    When we moved a year ago, our microwave broke and we still havent bought a new one. I don’t miss it and do just fine without it. On 2 occasions, friends have come over needing to microwave something and they both gave me the deer in the headlight look and ask why don’t i have a microwave? I simply dont care to add radiation to my food and i dont buy food that needs to be microwaved. If we need to warm something up, depending on what it is, we use the stove or the oven and thats not frequent.

    We also went about a month cold turkey (just didnt buy it) w/out PT and I personally didnt miss it, hubby did though.

  • Petra says:

    I forgot to ad…i havent had a cell phone over 2 years now. and we dont have a house phone. I stay home with the kids. if I need to tell hubby something, i just text him through the computer. sometimes it is inconvenient but we make it do. i am friends with the neighbors so if there’s ever an emergency i can just go next door. i don’t really miss it. we are thinking about getting the magic jack though. cant beat that!!

  • Kelly says:

    Ok so I guess I am the weird one. I have to have my PT’s! I dont buy napkins. I do keep towels right beside the sink in the kitchen but I only like to wipe my hands on it once and then wash it. So it just makes more sense to me to use the PT’s and toss it then wash a towel so much. I just think it is gross if my husband used the towel to wipe off his hands and then me wipe my hands that just really grosses me out!!!

  • Janice says:

    We do use paper towels, but very sparingly. We use them only for cleaning the toilet, keeping certain foods (like spaghetti) from splattering in the microwave, and soaking up bacon/sausage grease. Since I only use them for these uses, I only buy the “cheap” paper towelsand they last a long time. I refuse to pay any more than $0.59 per roll. I simply keep a dishtowel draped over the stove handle. We use that for drying our hands. I keep a washcloth draped over the sink divider and use that for wiping up spills throughout the day. I replace those daily or more often if needed.

    We stopped using paper napkins a while back. We now use plain white cloth napkins that can be bleached if they are stained. I do keep the extra paper napkins from eating out and put them in DH’s lunch.

    I am working on eliminating paper sanitary pads from our home. I have sewn up several from a flannel scrap of material that I found on clearance at Wal-Mart. A lot of pads can be made from scrap material. Ironically though, I haven’t had much use for my homemade pads because for the past 4-1/2 years I’ve either been pregnant or nursing!

  • Jennifer says:

    I love paper towels to pat dry my chicken or meat before searing in the pan. I can’t get a nice tasty brown on my meat without drying it off. What could you use besides paper towels? I’m a bit of a food snob and want a nice carmelized layer on my meat.

  • Becky says:

    We use about a roll of paper towels every three months. We also don’t use paper napkins. We use cloth napkins, and towels and dishrags. Towels go from the dishes to the hands to the floor, so I always have a towel on the floor to wipe up many messes from kids and dog. Then by my trash I have a basket for dirty ones that I wash once per week with bleach to kill any germs. We also cut in half our dryer sheets and they work just as well. And we used cloth wipes (which only makes sense since we used cloth diapers) We are trying to get rid of all wasted paper products in our home for the environment and for our budget. The only thing I refuse to budge on is TP!

  • laura says:

    I haven’t used paper towels in well three years. When I had my first son I bought packs of cloth diapers to use as spit up cloths and I always had one on my shoulder and realized they saved me so much money. My Mom actually won’t eat with us because we don’t have paper towels so now I ask for extra napkins when we eat out and keep them for her.

  • Katie says:

    To the person who asked about getting towels on the cheap, we picked up a pack of microfiber towels (like automotive detailing towels) at Sams Club. A pack of 24 costs $12 and they are super absorbent and great and scrubbing things. I use them for *everything.*

  • Mechelle says:

    Cable TV and TV altogether– We just gave it up cold turkey one year ago. We haven’t missed it! We get a lot more done in the evenings. The kids get outside & play. They alsoget creative with other things. They like now to help me clean or cook. We’re quite satisfied with the decision we’ve made and the kids are healthier, too!

  • Jodi W says:

    I don’t use Jet Dry in my dishwasher. I add vinegar instead, and a drop of blue food coloring so I know when to refill it.

  • Val Frania says:

    We use rags and have never used paper towels unless I got a super deal on them. When I do, they usually sit on the cupboard spindle for months because we just don’t use them much even when we have them on hand – and I’ve raised 15 children over the past 27 years. If I can do it, anyone can do it!

  • criste says:

    I don’t buy paper towels, fabric softener, dryer sheets, napkins, plastic wrap, foil (I will get this if I can get it for free), or plastic bags. Truthfully, I have not missed any of these items.

  • Winifred says:

    We just eliminated them too, using cloth diapers made us realize how totally awesome cotton is. We actually already had enough dish towels, we just never used them. Now everything gets wiped up with a dish towel or rag (and we have an infant in the house).

    I might be in a minority, but I think using paper napkins at home is weird! They’re for picnics! I guess that’s just how I grew up.

  • Susannah says:

    Just wanted to say…me too! 🙂 I never bought them as a newlywed, and I haven’t bought them lately except really really cheap through a co-op. Otherwise, we do without pretty easily.

  • I don’t have a cell phone!
    or cable tv

    or use
    paper towels (except when draining fried potatoes)
    paper napkins
    paper plates
    paper/plastic disposable cups
    dryer sheets or fabric softener

    I don’t have pets so we don’t pay for food or shots or licensing.

    We don’t have a second car (that shocks a lot of people!)

    Caller id
    call waiting
    long distance

    We don’t go out to eat, period.
    We drink water, not soda or other drinks.
    We don’t pay for haircuts.

  • Lori says:

    I reserve the paper towels for bathroom cleaning and occasionally the babies room. I have five little kids…nuff said? After learning all about germs in nursing school, I’m afraid I just can’t handle the thought of reusing/washing something that has wiped up….um…certain types of messes. *shudder*

  • Corysmurf says:

    I always find a great deal on kitchen towels in the holiday clearance. We never pay full price and have more than enough!

  • Lisa B says:

    We don’t use paper towels in our home either. Quit buying them because they were too expensive and not very environmentally friendly. Towels/rags work best for us.

  • Lisa S says:

    I gave up paper towel when I noticed my husband’s addiction! That was more than 2 years ago and he fine now. We did it to add to our list of things we do to tread lightly. I bought a cute rectangle basket and some flour sacks and Old Time Pottery. Total investment= $12.99 for 2 sets of 5 and the basket!! I throw them in with whites or I have even hand washed them and they dry on the line in less than an hour!!

  • Brandy M. says:

    Great post. My family uses paper towels as napkins at our meals. Using cloth napkins is a great idea, but I tend to get behind on laundry, so they aren’t pratical. I buy only 100% recycled paper towels, so I don’t feel as bad about using them. When my kids get a little older we may try to eliminate them. They are expensive though and now my brain will be spinning thinking about what I can do without.

  • Mama K says:

    I am laughing to myself because we dont’ use paper towels either or paper napkins for that matter. It always throws me when I go to someone’s house and I can’t find a towel to wipe my hands on. It just becomes normal after awhile. I do still keep a roll of TP on hand for guests and the occasional cat vomit incident. 😛

  • Victoria says:

    We haven’t used paper towels for years either. That said we do buy a 12 pack every 2-3 years for the bottoms of our crisper drawers in the refrigerator and for the occasional use as a filter. We hide them though so that they are not easily accessible to eliminate the of their right here so why don’t I use them.

  • Kellie says:

    Sorry, can not give up the towels. I use them to wipe down my counters, table, etc, ever since I took a santizing class when I was in Quality Assurance for a major baking company and found out how much bacteria can develop in a “short” period of time on the rags/towels. Leaves less bacteria than a rag or towel. Now paper plates is something I need to tackle, my family is addicted:)

  • Joanna says:

    I’ve always been a no paper towel person- my mama wasn’t either. I’ve always bought big packs of dish rags for about $3 for 10 rags. Some people keep using paper towels for the pet messes, and worry about the germs in the wash. I have a doggie too- Gracie. She sometimes has a little accident in the house and I use the same towels that we use for everything else to clean them. Before you say I’m so super gross, to kill those little germs before they get to the wash, I use something similar to the “wet pail” method of cloth diapers. I have a big bubblegum pail (I got it from work. Someone donated it for craft time and we didn’t need it). It’s about 1 &1/2 gallons. I put in about 3/4 cup of color-safe, chlorine free bleach (on special at the Piggly-Wiggly) and half-way with water. Whenever Gracie has an “accident” I put the dirty cloth in the pail and snap the lid back in place. The bleach kills the germs and there isn’t any odor. When I wash a load of towels, I just dump the whole pail in the washer. Easy, clean, and cheap!

  • Ruth says:

    One thing that my family and I gave up almost a year ago is garbage bags!

    We used to buy the expensive garbage bags (because the cheap ones broke) and I shuddered whenever I put out the money for them.

    Once we got started on recycling, I realized that the less trash we had, the less we had to worry about bagging up!

    We have a compost pile and keep our rinsed recyclables in bins, until we take them into the recycling center. I either recycle, burn, or compost paper. After you pull all the recyclables, burnables, compostables, etc. from your garbage, there’s really not that much left. I reuse grocery bags and kitty litter bags to hold the little bit of trash that needs landfill disposal. My budget enjoys not having to put out money for garbage bags.

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