One of the best green cleaning tips is to clean with cloth, not paper towels. There’s many reasons for this such as money savings, tree savings, manufacturing energy savings and more. In the last three or so years I’ve owned exactly two rolls of paper towels, but only because they were sent to me. Those paper towels were 100% recycled, but still, in my opinion, they’re unnecessary.
However, paper towel advocates will usually bring up the following, “Paper towels are so much more hygienic than cloth towels for cleaning.”
Is this a fact or an or has the paper towel industry simply been really good at selling people on fighting scary germs with paper towels?
Fact: Paper towels may be cleaner in a very general sense. They’re one-time use products. You clean the mess, toss it and there you go. With a cloth or sponge you do spread around germs to a point IF you don’t clean correctly.
However, on the flip side you can clean very well with cloth. In fact, cloth cleaning towels can work just as well as paper towels, when used correctly, only without the cost and paper use.
HOW TO CLEAN CORRECTLY WITH CLOTH TOWELS:
For general cleaning like wiping down a counter covered with bread crumbs or for things like apple juice and baby food spills or other non-bacteria spills you can use a cloth to death for the mess. Wipe up the juice, wring out the towel, get it wet, and wipe again. It’s all good.
For spills such as blood from meat, raw eggs, cake batter and any other spills that may carry bacteria or to wipe down cutting boards or to clean when people have been sick you need to take a different approach, but that doesn’t necessarily mean reaching for the paper towels.
FOR BACTERIAL SPILLS:
1. Use one cloth to wipe up the liquid part of the spill.
2. Use a second cloth drenched in hot soapy water to wipe down the area.
3. Use a third cloth to dry the area.
4. Toss it in the laundry bag, basket, what have you.
FOR SICK-TIME CLEANING:
When people are healthy you can wipe down various areas with a cloth and homemade cleaner and then even reuse that same cloth later in the day. When people are sick, I’d use a towel once for one area, then toss it into the laundry and use another cloth for a different area.
THE NO GOOD WATER ARGUMENT:
For messy or sick spills it can seem like you’re going through many cloths. Another major argument for paper towels is the water needed to wash cloth. However, first of all it takes quite a few cloths to make a full load of laundry. At my house we have a bunch of generic washcloths, old cut up rags and cloth diapers and some smaller fiber dishcloths (all in small sizes) that we use exclusively for cleaning. We only end up washing about one or two loads of cleaning cloths a week. It’s not a big deal.
Secondly it takes a lot of water to manufacture paper towels too. And think about the water it takes to grow the trees from which we get paper. Hardly anything on earth is free from water use. What’s different about paper towels vs. cloth is the reuse and packaging toll.
If you clean smart and correctly, using plain old common sense, you can still ditch the paper towels, cut costs and over time save some trees.
Do you use paper towels still or cloth only? What’s your rational behind your decision?