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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. From composting to preparing earth-friendly meals, sustainable habits can more easily take root when in close proximity to where food is prepared. Minimizing waste and reducing harmful products are both 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.
Here are the best reusable paper towels.
Best Overall: Swedish Wholesale Dishcloth Cellulose Sponge Cloths
Money back guarantee
Not good for tough stains
Have no doubt that these Swedish dishcloths will live up to the hype about machine washable, European products made from recycled materials. 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.
What's Included: 10 8 x 7-inch cellulose and cotton towels
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. Repeat buyers are particularly drawn to the lightweight design and how effectively this product is at soaking up large spills in the refrigerator, bathroom, and crafting spaces.
What's Included: Five 10 x 19.8-inch polyester wipes
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.
Best Cotton: Marley’s Monsters Rolled Unpaper Towels
Comes with a roll
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 is 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.
What's Included: 24 12 x 10-inch cotton flannel towels
Best Bamboo: Eco Nuts Reusable Towels
Lasts for multiple washes
Help preserve the planet by using this Leaping Bunny-certified cruelty-free product that comes in recyclable packaging. Each roll of 25 wipes is 100 percent comprised of organic, rayon bamboo fibers, resulting in individual sheets strong enough to mop floors, scrub pans, and polish glass fixtures. According to the brand, these are even durable enough to be used as a pad for stick mops. As an added bonus, a portion of every purchase is donated to panda conservation efforts, making this an easy way to double one's positive impact on the environment.
What's Included: One roll of 25 perforated rayon/bamboo towels
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. Additional favorite features of repeat buyers include that they are effective at removing tough stains and grease from appliances; they can be used as napkins at mealtime and are super simple to sanitize.
What's Included: 10 10 x 12-inch organic cotton towels
Best Design: Lola Products Wowables Reusable and Biodegradable Paper Towels
Available in four colors
Does not stretch
Longevity is the “wow” factor of Wowables. The average life of each 30-count roll is reported to be at least two years, in addition to also fitting standard paper towel holders, so storing is a breeze when swapping these for traditional paper towels. Not only do they rinse well between uses, but these durable cloths are made out of unbleached, non-GMO cotton, allowing them to be put in the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer. Each color is also dyed using natural ink, so this nontoxic product is well suited for cleaning indoor and outdoor spaces, flooring, and windows.
What's Included: 1 roll of 30 wood pulp and unbleached, non-GMO cotton towels
The ability to try out Swedish Dishcloth Cellulose Sponge Cloths (view at Amazon) essentially “risk-free” in regard to upfront cost, makes these reusable paper towels the clear forerunner on this list. For those who value aesthetics as much as functionality, Marley's Monsters (view at Amazon) or Mioeco Unpaper Towels (view at Amazon) are likely a better investment.
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 non-toxic, 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.
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 a 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 no problem. For the best results, rip 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.