my paperless kitchen

Switching to paperless hasn’t been too hard for us. We used to use paper napkins and paper towels for the sake of convenience, but I haven’t found life without them any less convenient.

I had a drawer full of linen and cloth napkins that were only used when we had company for dinner. We just started using them every day. They don’t really take any extra time to wash, and I hang them up to dry and don’t iron them. The hanging works out most of the wrinkles. The rest I just ignore. Folding napkins is a great kid task – any kid can learn to fold a square in half a couple of times. It also makes the table look nice and we deserve something that looks nice.

Cloth napkins are cheap to pick up at thrift stores and yard sales. I’ve done both, inherited some, some were wedding shower gifts and some (I’m almost certain) just bred in the dark napkin drawer and produced more. We have more than enough napkins to keep us going for a couple of weeks if the laundry basket doesn’t make it all the way back upstairs in that time. Sometimes if we didn’t really get them dirty, we just fold them back up and leave them at our places at the table. Easy enough.

For drying hands, I have tea towels that always hang on the refrigerator door handle within easy reach of the sink.

For cleaning, I’ve always used rags. Every time a t-shirt gets too holey or a sheet gets ripped I cut it up into rags. I don’t sew or neatly serge the edges, just throw them in the rag drawer. They don’t need to be pretty, just functional. I use them for everything from cleaning dog barf to wiping chocolate out of 8 year old hair and ears. I wash them after use. Occasionally I have to use them for something so nasty that I just throw them out, but usually they just get washed.

The dad has noticed the lack of paper towels, but only when we cook bacon. I keep saying, “Oops, we must be out.” He copes.

Linking to Sorta Crunchy, White Wolf Summit Farmgirl, Frugally Sustainable

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43 thoughts on “my paperless kitchen

  1. ThriftyNut says:

    HILARIOUS!!!! I love it! I do that with my husband too, sometimes! lol

  2. We are the same at my house. I use a cloth for the bacon grease and it seems to work fine. My in-laws snuck a roll of paper towel into the house a few months ago. My husband was sooo happy. It’s all gone now though. It drove me crazy seeing it. I have told him I have no problem buying a roll or two just for gross bathroom jobs… but it’s been a few years since I remembered to pick some up ;) The biggest thing that helped us was designating a drawer for all the dish cloths and rags. I don’t remember having one as a kid.

    • Using rags for cleaning just seems normal to me. We didn’t buy paper towels when I was a kid. Seems easy enough to go back to that.

      • I think we didn’t use them either but that the rags and kitchen towels were kept in the hallway or something. I need the easy access :) Like you, I think it’s more respectful to use the cloth napkins etc… rather than just keeping them for a special event.

  3. I like the idea of using cloth napkins, but I don’t know, you do have to run the washing machine to wash them, not that that’s such a big deal, but I’m honestly wondering, 6 of one, half a dozen of the other? I’ve always used rags for washing floors, cleaning, etc. I have to laugh at the commercials for paper towels that are so strong you can rinse and re-use them–I’m like, why not just use a cloth rag? Like when they show how absorbent a paper towel is for wiping up spills–so silly. I use paper towels for wiping out greasy pans, and cleaning up stuff I’d never want to throw into my washing machine. I think paper products have their place and purpose, doubt if I would ever eliminate them completely. I do like your bowl of pretty and functional napkins. I’ve seen the cutest napkins made from just scrap fabric.

  4. HappyMrsBass says:

    Paperless kitchen for us too! Only I made my own cloth napkins ’cause I have this obession with everything-must-match! LOL! I must say that my house guests are often confused and almost unwilling to dirty up a cloth napkin during lunch or clean up a spill with a washcloth. They “just need a paper towel”! Goofy house guests! :P

    • I have a neighbour who used to make matching napkins and placemats for wedding and shower gifts. She did a beautiful job and I still have some of them. They made great gifts.

  5. We’ve used cloth napkins for years and love them. It’s funny, when we have people over, they comment about getting the “fancy” napkins out! hahhaha I have been hanging on to the paper towels…specifically for the dog vomit. I just can’t layer them enough when it does happen. A roll literally lasts us months. Great post.

  6. Sarah says:

    Your house sounds like our house, right down to Hubby looking for paper towels. I love cloth napkins, I’ve been known to make dozens of them out of whatever cotton or linen fabric looks good :) Your little basket of napkins is so cute!

  7. chefconnie says:

    We use a combination. Mostly cloth but when I am very very busy catering we switch to paper. Love using cloth and I get mine at the thrift store.

  8. Shira says:

    Awesome post! We are *mostly* paperless here too – using the tea towels whenever possible ans always rages for cleaning! I still keep a roll around for the ‘Dad’ when he’s cooking his *own* chicken though….otherwise I might have to cook it and THAT’s not going to happen!

    • Completely understandable. I might have to make some concessions to bacon cooking around the house once he reads this and figures out that we didn’t really “just run out”. He misses the paper towels for patting down meat before he cooks it too, but we started using linen tea towels instead – they don’t leave behind any lint and wash up just fine. With two muddy kids and dogs and cats (oh my!) we always seem to be doing laundry anyway.

  9. EcoCatLady says:

    Ha! I’m totally laughing at all the comments about men and their paper towels. I pretty much only use cloth… but I still keep a roll of paper towels around for CatMan and his buttery popcorn. It’s not total lunacy… with 4 cats the cloth napkins are never really “fur free” and when your fingers are covered with butter… well it can get ugly.

    Plus, I do still use them for cat barf… don’t have enough rags to toss them with the regularity that we clean up cat barf!

    But I do have a question for all of you cloth napkin users out there. Do you ever have problems with grease stains on the napkins? It’s funny… I have several different varieties of napkins, and some never show grease, but others I just can’t seem to get clean. Any advice?

    • I put a little liquid laundry soap on them when I notice the grease and let it sit until I get around to washing them. If I missed it and they come out of the laundry still stained, I’ve squirted them with cheap pump style hairspray until the stain is soaked and then wash them. Definitely not the most chemical free option though. Lately, I just ignore the stains and carry on. Eventually they come out or fade enough that I don’t care anymore.

      • EcoCatLady says:

        Just wanted to let you know that I did some research last night and the consensus seems to be liquid dish soap & hot water for getting out grease stains. So I tried hand washing all of the grease stained napkins in dish soap and REALLY hot water (actually boiling… which was probably overkill) but it totally worked! Hooray!!!

        I’m sort of afraid to put dish soap in my laundry machine because it’s the fancy HE variety with all sorts of dire warnings about using the wrong sort of detergent. So maybe next time I’ll try rubbing some of the HE detergent right into the stains and see what happens. But at least I know they CAN be cleaned! It actually doubles the number of napkins in regular rotation… which makes me very happy!

  10. I keep a covered bucket in the laundry room and all of the very soiled, greasy cloth napkins go in there. It is full of water and 2 scoops of oxygen bleach and 3 soap nuts. When the bucket is full I throw the contents, and the water into the machine and add any other whites I find laying around the house and do a wash.

  11. wow, you could have been writing about my father and I. I’m trying to transition from not using any paper products in the kitchen…I use lots of rags etc and I’m very happy to wash them. My father is the one who “loves” paper towels…and he’s not real keen on the idea of giving them up yet Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :) :) :)

    p.s. I found your blog post via the Your Green Resource link-up this week :)

  12. Very Cool… You are also inspiring me to put a little basket of cloth napkins on my table!

  13. Sharon says:

    Right on! I’m so glad to see you and so many of your commenters thinking about this–and acting. Some people don’t want to use “nice” things to wipe up spills, etc., but I think one sign of a truly rich household–one where quality of life and respect for each other and the environment are uppermost in people’s minds–is the beauty of everyday objects, including rags. Your household wins an award in that category!

  14. Jennifer says:

    Us too. I’ve had the same paper towel roll for over a year now. I just don’t use it. And I don’t buy anymore. Your napkins are really pretty.
    Thank you for doing your part to save the trees!

  15. elleadi says:

    Paperless kitchen for me too. I also use my old t-shirt as rags. Charity shops are great places for cheap & nice cloth napkins – I got 12 very nice cloth napkins for €5 last month. I have also stopped using disposal rounds and replace them by reusable cotton rounds (so easy to make!).

  16. Gabe says:

    Ha! The same thing happens with my husband. I bought some paper towels at his request, it takes a couple of months to go through a roll since everyone else uses the cloth.

    I grew up using cloth napkins and rags and remembered my mom using cloth diapers for my little brothers. I started out married life using cloth napkins and rags and switched to cloth diapers eventually (and I love using them).

    We use washcloths as napkins because with 7 kids we end up having spills often, the washcloths are handy to have at the table and work well as napkins.

  17. introvertedblogger says:

    Goodness, I have along way to go to get where you are. I am mightly impressed and somewhat intimidated.

    • I’ve never been called initmidating before.. Believe me, Martha Stewart I’m not. Cheap, somewhat lazy, yes. Paper towels weren’t something we ever used much anyway and we already had the cloth napkins – just started to actually use them. It was a pretty easy change, really.

  18. Roar Sweetly says:

    This is very inspiring, I would love to be completely paperless in the kitchen one day. I think the best rags in the world are made from old flannelette pyjamas!

  19. […] towels – we don’t use them. We use cloth napkins at the table and rags for […]

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