In my opinion, going paperless in the kitchen is one of the most important green steps you can take in your home. People in the US (and I assume the stats would be similar for those of us in other Western countries) use 55 pounds of tissue paper a year (which included paper towels and toilet paper). While I don’t think I will ever be ready to give up toilet paper, giving up paper towels has been totally painless.
So, how do you go paperless when as mums we are constantly cleaning up messes? Aren’t paper towels more convenient, and more importantly, more hygienic? The answer is a hefty stack of cloth! If you try and do this with 2 or 3 cloths on hand, this is probably not going to work for you. I have about 20 cleaning cloths, and about the same number of tea towels.
For general cleaning of counter tops, I use a damp cleaning cloth (old cloth baby washcloths) with or without some all-purpose spray. For drying our hands, drying dishes or wiping down faces and hands, I use our stash of tea towels. There is always one tea towel hanging on the dishwasher handle for drying dishes. The rest are in the drawer for faces and hands or to use in place of napkins at dinner. For a deep cleaning of the stove or really sticky messes (like spilt juice that I didn’t notice) out come the microfibre cloths. I only have 3 of these since they are not used very often. I also have some nicer napkins for the rare times we have guests. I use my cleaning cloths the way I used to use the paper towels. So once I use it to wipe down a bench or table I leave it to dry and then it gets thrown into one of my sorted laundry baskets labelled “kitchen towels”. The tea towel for dishes get replaced once a week, while those used for cleaning up the kids get put in the basket at the end of the day. Once a week, I throw all the cloths in together in a single hot load, with some eco-friendly bleach (Ecover Non-Chlorine Bleach).
To counter the convenience issue, make using cloth as easy as possible for everyone, I have them all within easy reach. The tea towels are in a bottom drawer so that both of the kids can reach them if they spill their drink or got yoghurt on their faces. The cleaning cloths are in the top drawer of the kitchen bench. The cloth napkins are in the top drawer of the buffet in the dining room make them easy to get for everyone, not just you. Don’t get caught up in having a million different types of cloths for different jobs. If you go and look at the range at the grocery store, you will see colour-coded cloths for all the different jobs in the kitchen. I have three simple categories: cleaning cloths, tea towels and microfibre. This keeps it simple, we are not constantly trying to figure what cloth is for what, and saves money.
Before running out and buying cleaning cloths, have a look around and see what you can re-purpose. I had a whole stack of organic cotton baby washcloths, which are now my everyday cleaning cloths. They are super absorbent and don’t drop lint so I can use them to clean benches, wipe down the chrome taps or clean the glass splashback. A lot of people don’t use tea towels now days, so I inherited a huge stash from my MIL. Fat quarters are the perfect size for tea towels and are a great use for the one or two you may have lying around after a quilting project.
Making the switch to a paperless kitchen has been really easy and you will not only help the planet, you will also save money, big time. I’ve probably saved about $200 a year, based on using 2 rolls a week. So make the switch today, and stay tuned for more Going Green in the Kitchen tips.