How I eliminated paper from our kitchen (using cloth napkins and dish towels)

Since Mr. Bird and I first got married we have hardly ever kept paper towels or paper napkins in our home.  One of the biggest reasons we first started doing this was cost.  We didn’t have a ton of money, and I didn’t want to be spending money on something we were always throwing away!  We were lucky enough to have a moderate supply of cloth dish towels and cloth napkins.  We had received some as gifts for our wedding but also were given some hand me downs.  My aunt one year cleared out all her “holiday” dish towels that she didn’t want to store to use just one time a year.  We happily used these all year long to avoid buying paper towels.

I think the key to being able to successfully eliminate paper towels and paper napkins is to have enough cloth.  I only have to wash our kitchen laundry once a week.  I keep a milk crate easily accessible in the kitchen as a “hamper”.  I find that the cloth towels and washcloths do a better job than paper, and are much nicer for wiping and cleaning up Little Bird.


Here is a picture of my “stash”.  The OCD/minimalist part of me wishes everything was the same color, size and what not.  But the frugal part of me LOVES that most of collection was gifted to us or free hand me downs.  I store our cloth napkins in a bowl on our dining room table for easy access.  I store my cloth towels and dishcloths in a bin in our kitchen storage unit.  

Here is what a basic stash consists of:
24 microfiber cloths – $15 on amazon
5 flour sack towels – $8 at wal-mart
about 24 dish towels – 12 for $24 at amazon
12 wash/dish cloths -24 for $12 at amazon
24 cloth napkins – 12 for $13 at amazon24 cloth napkins – 12 for $13 at amazon
Total for the cloth kitchen stash = $109.
Ok, so while this might seem like a lot!  You can slowly build your stash over time, and I bet you might even have many of these things at home to begin with.  These cloth items will last you at LEAST 5 years, and you will see savings in the first year.  One of the biggest things I had to get over was “saving” something for a special occasion.  I now have enough cloth napkins that I do have some that I save for when we have company over (our everyday ones have seen better days).  I am often gifted patterned/seasonal dish towels.  For some reason I wanted to save them and keep them “looking nice”.  Once I got over the fact that they are meant to be used, and that might mean they get stained–things have been going smoothly.

Cost to use paper towels
2 rolls or paper towels per week (average $1.50 per roll) = $3/week or$156 per year
For 5 years that is $780!
(you can head on over to a post growinggreenfamily wrote a few years back with more details of costs savings)

The laundry is definitely something to consider.  I love doing laundry, and it fits easily into my schedule to do an extra load a week of our kitchen laundry.  I am able to use my soapnut laundry soap without any issues. In fact, I have actually found that my kitchen laundry is coming out CLEANER with the soapnuts than with traditional laundry soap.

A bonus to doing kitchen laundry is that folding towels is nice and easy for toddlers, and is a great way for them to learn to help out!


Moderation is the name of the game when it comes to saving money and maintaining sanity.  What are some ways that you save money that don’t feel like an extra burden?

**this post contains some affiliate links, I may recieve some compensaiton should you purchase from the link**




9 thoughts on “How I eliminated paper from our kitchen (using cloth napkins and dish towels)”

  1. Girl, I feel your pain! It is SO difficult to balance moderate OCD with minimalism and frugality! I have been really trying to get my husband on board with no paper towels. We’ve never used napkins regularly, but I’d like to not make paper towel use and everyday thing. It’s a little difficult with a toddler, but Kristen at The Frugal Girl has a great post on the topic. Maybe I’ll make this one of my April goals 🙂


    1. I am glad I am not alone in balancing OCD,minimalism and frugality! I have actually found the cloth towels and washcloths to be SUPER helpful with a toddler. They clean up so much quicker and are more gentle on his messy face (imo).


  2. I am huge on not being wasteful, being frugal and environmentally responsible but I do love paper towels. We probably use 2 rolls a week, 1 in the kitchen and 1 in the bathroom. You have me thinking about doing away with the kitchen ones.


    1. Getting rid of 1 roll a week would still add up to a huge amount of savings! And you might be surprised how much you like using cloth towels instead of paper. After so many years of not using paper towels, I actually would much rather use cloth towels. I think they absorb more and do a better job cleaning.


  3. We have been using cloth napkins for many years around here–it’s all my kids know, in fact! I’ve purchased several sets of flannel cocktail-sized napkins from Etsy (I wish I could sew) through the years and that’s what we use for every meal and snack. i’m a fanatic about using them! They were great when my kids were little and needed their faces thoroughly wiped after a meal–that flannel is so soft. I’d love to know how much we’ve saved on paper towels over the years.


    1. I am sure you save so much!! I honestly hadn’t even thought about how much we were saving until I was in BJs last week and saw the prices on bulk paper towels and napkins. Not to mention it’s better for the environment!

      The flannel napkins sound so nice-much softer than the cotton ones I use. I will keep that in mind when some need replacing.


  4. I am with you on this one! I love having a BIG stash of kitchen towels and rugs. I purchase probably 3-4 paper towels a year (for soaking up grease when I make potato latkes etc).
    Recently I was able to add very nice cotton rugs that I purchased on clearance 3 for $1. I for 15. Now I am all set 🙂


  5. Way to go on cutting paper out completely! We’ve used only cloth napkins for a long time, but have struggled to totally cut the paper towels. I don’t use them for much, but with six cats I find that there are some jobs I just don’t want to try to wash out of a rag! But for all other cleaning I use rags and towels.


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