Sustainable Apartment Life: How to Replace Paper Towels with Reusable Cloths

In our Sustainable Apartment Life series, we look at how tenants and homeowners are changing to their apartments to be more sustainable.

If you want to be environmentally friendly and take steps to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle, using reusable napkins, dishcloths, and cleaning rags instead of paper towels is a good way to start. You can make washable rags, also known as “unpaper towels,” using your old clothes, or you can buy them online. Below, learn all about why and how you should replace paper towels with reusable cloths.

Why are reusable rags good for sustainability?

Many people have become accustomed to single-use paper towels. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States uses more paper towels than any other country. The EPA found that paper towels and other tissue materials, like toilet paper, account for an estimated 7.4 billion pounds of waste per year. In other countries as wealthy as the U.S., people use cloth towels, sponges, scrubbing brushes, and mops instead. To play your part in decreasing waste in landfills, avoid single-use towels.

Sustainable Apartment Life How to Replace Paper Towels with Reusable Cloths

What activities require paper towels?

Different activities require different kinds of towels. Towels used for cleaning dishes and disinfecting surfaces should be more abrasive than the reusable towels you use to dry your face and hands. After determining which of your daily activities require towels, break the wasteful habit of paper towel use by committing to washable cloths instead.

How many reusable towels will you need?

If you use many paper towels, you will need many reusable cloths and dishcloths to ease your transition away from single-use towels. If you have enough storage space, having more washcloths means you’ll almost always have a proper reusable towel for your needs. If you have easy access to a washer and dryer, you will pretty much always have access to clean washable towels.

What to know when you buy washable towels 

Various brands offer reusable rags on many online marketplaces. Some companies sell washable clothes made from bamboo and other environmentally-friendly materials, and since bamboo plants grow faster than trees, bamboo cloths are more sustainable than those made from paper. Bamboo cloths are popular in part because many bamboo cloths look similar to regular paper towels. 

Many people also turn to reusable cotton cloths for multi-purpose use. Reusable cotton cloths can be dish towels, cloth napkins, and hand towels. 

Some people like to use microfiber cloths, which have many fibers and a rougher surface than other cloths, for deep cleaning. Microfibers can attach themselves to small, microscopic dirt particles. With regular cleaning of high-quality microfiber cloths, you can rely on these fibers to effectively fight not just dust, but microbes.

Divide towels by their task

It’s vital to use cloths for specific tasks to avoid the unnecessary spread of bacteria. For kitchen cleaning, many people keep their reusable rags underneath their kitchen sink or in a pantry. For bathroom cleaning, many people store cloths underneath their sink. If you have a laundry room in your apartment, you may store them there. Some people may store rags in one designated area but organize them by color or section. As long as you have a system to determine which reusable cloths serve which function, you should have no problem safely, efficiently using reusable towels in your apartment.

Switching to a zero-waste lifestyle can be awkward at first—especially when it comes to the kitchen. But, using the above steps, you can slowly swap your paper towels for more eco-friendly alternatives to make the transition easier. Reusable cloths are a great start for your journey toward a more sustainable apartment.

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