Six Simple Steps to a Paperless Kitchen

1. Switch to cloth napkins.

Not ready to commit to a paperless kitchen? Still in love with paper towels? Just try switching to cloth napkins. You'll feel like you are eating in a fancy high-end restaurant every night! We use a mish-mash of cloth napkins at my house. I like cotton napkins that are somewhat absorbent best, because then they can soak up a spill in a pinch. We use our cloth napkins for a full day (sometimes longer) before washing. We just leave them on the table between meals. You can get different napkin rings if you want to make sure each family member reuses the same napkin.

We store our cloth napkins in a drawer not far from the table.
You could also use a basket that you could move onto the table for meals.

2. Get some really great sponges. 

Since cleaning up spills of all kinds was the main thing I used to use paper towels for, finding a really great sponge was key to my success in transitioning to a paperless kitchen. I'm in love with our Skoy sponges, which I first learned about on Plastic-free Beth's blog. Thinner than standard sponges and just larger than your hand, they dry very quickly and are great for cleaning off large surfaces and soaking up spills. I have six and try to remember to use a new one each day. I wash them in the washing machine and then microwave for a couple of minutes out of the washer (while still damp) to kill any lingering bacteria before using again. They have held up really well to multiple washings, especially compared to other cheaper brands (see photo below). We also have a set of washcloths (cloth wipes, actually) for wiping off little hands and faces that also work extremely well for wiping up spills.

Skoy sponge (left) has held up well to multiple washings,
especially compared to cheaper brand (right).

3. Stock up on hand towels and rags.

If you want to be extra green, you can troll your local thrift stores to build up your collection of kitchen towels. I personally bought a set at Costco. Theoretically, we use new kitchen towels each day, but in practice, a kitchen towel usually hits the laundry after wiping chocolate off a face or wiping up a mess off the floor.

4. Store your kitchen towels and rags in a very convenient location. 

We keep ours in an upper drawer right in a central location. Make it super easy to grab a towel when you need to dry dishes, dry hands, wipe up drips, and mop up spills.

Towels conveniently located in drawer next to sink.

5. Put your paper towels in a place that is slightly annoying to access.  

You don't need to give up paper towels entirely. But you do want to retrain yourself to reach for a kitchen towel or sponge whenever possible. So put your paper towels in an inconvenient location to avoid mindlessly using them when you could be using a reusable towel. I store mine up high in a cabinet where they are out of sight and out of mind. When I was first trying to retrain myself, I made using paper towels even more difficult by putting the paper towels in the garage. I now reserve paper towels for very special occasions like oil spills and vomit. I probably use about two rolls a year.

Paper towels not-so-conveniently located
on upper shelf of over-the-counter cabinet.

6. Create a convenient place to stash dirty kitchen napkins and towels, and wash them every week or so.

After about a week, those dirty kitchen rags can start to smell. We wipe up a lot of spilt milk at my house and we've found that a towel with milk or yogurt on it really stinks after just a few days. So here's a tip: use a sponge (or washcloth) to wipe up milk and yogurt and then rinse and wring it out thoroughly before sending it to the laundry. Also, don't toss wet towels and sponges in your dirty laundry container. Let them dry separately somewhere else (we put ours on top of the washer) first.

What are your best tips for switching to a paperless kitchen?

Related Posts

Green Cleaning - Kitchen
Green Cleaning - Laundry
Green Gifts for Adults: Reusables
Plastic-Free Cookware and Bakeware
Goodbye, Teflon. Hello, Le Creuset.

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  1. Thanks for the ideas. We already use most of them but need a new sponge.

  2. Great ideas! I love the Skor wipes as well. I keep all my dirty reusable kitchen towels in a wet bag in my kitchen and wash it every few days.

    1. Yes! If you wash more often, you don't have to be as careful about rinsing out any dairy products and letting towels dry before tossing them in the laundry.

  3. Recycling paper products that are used (plates, napkins, towels, etc.) is a good idea. Instead of getting a big, easy to use trash can, I keep an open-lid small can (vintage too!) in my kitchen. My recycling receptacles are nearby and much MUCH bigger. If I were on top of things, I'd be emptying it every week. That includes other paper (junk mail, miscellaneous crud). The point is I have it and I eventually do get to it.

    1. In my area, at least, you can't recycle paper products that are soiled with food. But I'm guessing you could compost them!


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