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Being eco-conscious is more than a state of mind, and a good place to start when upgrading one’s home in terms of green living is in the kitchen. Beyond composting and preparing earth-friendly meals, minimizing waste and reducing harmful products are achieved by using more environmentally sound décor, cookware, and cleaning supplies—the latter especially having the capacity to decrease an individual household’s carbon footprint.
Even the Environmental Protection Agency asserts that paper and cardboard waste, including paper towels, make up the largest percentage of waste materials in the U.S. Restocking your cabinets with reusable paper towels will lighten landfill accumulation, thwart deforestation, and save you money long-term. Plus, you won't have to take out the garbage as often, and that's a win in everyone's book.
To help you find the best reusable paper towels for your kitchen, we tested them side by side and rated each on its material, absorbency, versatility, ease of cleaning, and overall value. Our tester used them to pick up spills, wipe down glassware and dishware, clean mirrors and countertops, and dry their hands. They were also washed by hand and/or by washing machine and air dried and/or sent through the dryer.
Here are the best reusable paper towels, according to our tests.
Best Overall: Marley’s Monsters Rolled Unpaper Towels
Comes with a roll
Easy to clean with other laundry
Who else recommends it? Apartment Therapy also picked the Marley’s Monsters Rolled Unpaper Towels.
What do buyers say? 91% of 700+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
Handmade in Oregon, quality and care are funneled into every stack of Unpaper Towels this family-owned brand produces. Marley’s Monsters is a Bring Rethink sustainable business, meaning it's certified as a true zero-waste company and committed to commercial composting, but the buzz about these cloths is bigger than their mega eco-friendly factor. The array of colors is a slam dunk in terms of elevating any kitchen’s decorative scheme. Also, be prepared for these to stay in good condition after repeated use thanks to the edges being trimmed and enclosed to prevent fraying. Better yet, the brand says absorbency increases after the first few washes. In addition, each one can be tossed into the washer and dryer. Then will come out looking nearly brand new.
Although they are a little pricier than others on this list, our tester said it's totally worth the investment because of how stylish and easy to clean they are. She does wish they were a little thicker with slightly better absorbency, but other than that, she wouldn't change a thing.
What's Included: (24) 12 x 10-inch cotton flannel towels
"I really appreciate how easy these can be stored in just about any area of the house or stashed inside purses, lunchboxes, computer bags, and more."
Best Budget: Scotch-Brite Reusable Wipes
Sold as a multipack
If looking to test out a paper-product-free cleaning regimen before investing in high-end cloth replacements, these kitchen wipes are an affordable alternative. Each wipe is easy to clean, either by hand or in the washing machine, and is odor-resistant from drying quickly. Our tester was particularly drawn to the lightweight design and how effective this product is at soaking up large spills in the refrigerator, bathroom, and crafting spaces. This makes it an ideal choice when looking for an easy-to-pack option that can be put in a suitcase, backpack, or glove compartment of a car.
What's Included: (5) 10 x 19.8-inch polyester wipes
"I was pleasantly surprised with how well these cleaned up in the washer. Upon first sight, the first one I used also didn't seem sturdy enough to survive a load in the dryer with other laundry, but it came out just fine."
Best Swedish: Swedish Wholesale Dishcloth Cellulose Sponge Cloths
Not good for tough stains
Have no doubt that these Swedish dishcloths will live up to the hype about incredibly fast dry time—just ask our tester. Manufactured from cellulose and natural cotton, the individual absorbency per cloth is 20 times that of its original weight. Plus, each can hold up for more than 50 uses on dishes, glassware, tile, and countertops. Here are some other perks: They're biodegradable, sold in bulk packs, and come in a variety of colors. On average, one pack of 10 should last approximately one year, which is long enough to replace 150 regular paper towel rolls. You can also sleep easy knowing these won't scratch pans, dishes, or countertops, no matter how much elbow grease you use. They do air dry quickly, and the absorbency is decent. Our tester also appreciated that these are compostable, so you can feel good about where they go when they no longer serve you.
What's Included: (10) 8 x 7-inch cellulose and cotton towels
"You can feel comfortable using these to clean dishes, pans and counter surfaces without having to worry about scratching anything—even if you have to scrub hard."
Best Organic: Mioeco Reusable Unpaper Towels
Full paper towel size
May shrink if put in dryer
If minimizing negative effects on the environment is the main goal behind replacing outdated cleaning methods, snag an affordable bundle of these Global Organic Textile Standard-certified kitchen cloths. Produced with carbon-neutral manufacturing, the absorbent cotton is long-lasting, machine washable, and not dyed or bleached. These are effective at removing tough stains and grease from appliances, and our tester said they can also be used as napkins at mealtime and are super simple to sanitize. Plus, if the majority of your kitchen decor is neutral or earth tones, they look quite chic next to the sink and hanging on towel racks.
What's Included: (10) 10 x 12-inch organic cotton towels
"I like this product a lot—so much so that sometimes we used them as napkins, too. The only minor suggestion I have is to make them available in other colors and prints."
Best Design: Lola Products Wowables Reusable and Biodegradable Paper Towels
Available in four colors
Lasts two years
Does not stretch
What's Included: 1 roll of 30 wood pulp and unbleached, non-GMO cotton towels
"These hold an incredible amount of moisture, and a single towel does the job in terms of cleaning up spills, drying dishes, and more. My favorite feature by far is how quickly they dry between uses."
Best Bamboo: Ecozoi Extra Thick Eco-Friendly Zero Waste Bamboo Kitchen Paper Towels
Takes a while to air dry
Help preserve the planet by using a product that is designed to fully replace the need to buy standard paper towels. Each roll of 20 is 100 percent comprised of organic bamboo fiber, resulting in individual sheets strong enough to mop floors, scrub pans, and polish glass fixtures. The overall design earns an additional win for how simple these are to store, especially for anyone who already has a traditional paper towel holder or stand. And if cute motifs are your jam, the print on each roll is another big bonus. Our tester said these shrunk a smidge when she put them in the dryer, but that's definitely the better option after washing, as these do take a while to air dry.
What’s included: 4 rolls with 20 sheets each
"The cute print on each roll is an added bonus to an already stellar product."
How We Tested
We sent all of the reusable paper towels on this roundup to our experienced product tester, who used them side-by-side to pick up spills, wipe down glassware and dishware, clean mirrors and countertops, and dry their hands. They were also washed by hand and/or by washing machine and air-dried and/or sent through the dryer. Each reusable paper towel was rated on material, absorbency, versatility, ease of cleaning, and overall value. Our tester then offered additional insights on each reusable paper towel's strengths and weaknesses.
What to Look for in Reusable Paper Towels
Information to look out for on product packaging and manufacturer websites include: if the reusable paper towels are compostable, biodegradable, and nontoxic and whether they feature green product certification labels, like Green Seal, Rainforest Alliance Certified, and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). These certifications will let you know for sure that the product was made with Mother Earth in mind.
How absorbent a particular non-paper towel will be is mainly attributable to the materials it is made out of. Microfiber tends to soak up water better than cotton, and hemp usually retains moisture better than bamboo. It is also not uncommon for bamboo fibers to be used in combination with cotton in order to strike a balance between the strengths of both textiles.
To sanitize reusable paper towels between uses, many can be microwaved or boiled for a short amount of time and laid flat or draped over a faucet to air dry. Check with the manufacturer for proper guidance.
How do you clean reusable paper towels?
It is important to read the specified care instructions. At the very least, most reusable paper cloths can be rinsed by hand using water and a mild dish detergent before squeezing out excess water. Then allow to dry flat either on a dish rack or sink edge.
To further disinfect between washes, check the original packaging to see if the type you own can be microwaved for a minute. And if the towels are flagged as dishwasher safe (which most are), it's best to place them in the machine’s top rack to avoid oversaturation. Machine washable towels reportedly do best in cold or warm rinse cycles with gentle laundry soap, although some can be bleached. Most users also seem to have a strong preference for air drying rather than placing them in a standard dryer, as this may cause shrinkage over time. As previously mentioned, it's best to check the manufacturer's instructions for specific guidance.
How do you store reusable paper towels?
Several types (like Marley's Monsters Unpaper Towels) come with their own rolls they are designed to cling to. Reusable paper towel holders can also be purchased separately, such as these cloth hand towel dispensers (view at Amazon), which can be conveniently refilled again and again. A low-cost way to keep them easily within arm’s reach is by repurposing an empty tissue box as a holder.
How long do reusable paper towels last?
Longevity varies by brand. On average, with proper care, the minimum time frame clocks in around two months, with more durable designs touted as functional for a year or longer.
Can't you just compost regular paper towels?
You can compost regular paper towels as long as they haven't been contaminated by pet waste, anything greasy, or chemical-based cleaning products. If they're relatively unsoiled and have only been used to clean dirt, water, or plant-based foods, they should break down with no problem. For the best results, rip them into small pieces before you add them to your compost pile.
Just like paper, common reusable non-paper towel materials, such as bamboo and cotton, are also extracted from the environment. On the contrary, fewer raw materials typically go into these products, and since you don't have to throw them away after each use, it alleviates the burden we place on trees and, for those who don't compost, nixes added waste in landfills.
Aren't reusable paper towels inconvenient?
It certainly takes time adjusting to something you're not accustomed to, but it will become easier with time—and Mother Nature will thank you. To make the transition as seamless as possible, get in the habit of washing and drying your towel in the sink or dishwasher shortly after you use it, so you don't need to go reaching into the hamper for a dirty one. Having multiple non-paper towels on hand at all times will guarantee you aren't left without when there's a mess to clean.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Rachel Werner is a consumer expert who models for sustainable fashion brand Fair Indigo and has been interviewed by PopSugar for ethical shopping advice. A passion for educating others on holistic wellness and eco-friendly living inspired her to start freelance writing as a side hustle in 2013. She continues to write for several print and digital publications while also teaching for The Loft Literary Center, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, and Hugo House. Rachel personally tested all reusable paper towels on this roundup.
10 Best Paper Towel Alternatives for Less Waste. Apartment Therapy. https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/paper-towel-alt-2-25875