Author Topic: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins  (Read 7170 times)

HopefulMustache

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Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« on: August 10, 2015, 03:09:53 PM »
I'm curious for opinions here from anyone who's made the switch (or contemplated it). Has it been financially helpful? There's a clear environmental and classiness upgrade with reusable napkins over disposable paper, but from the financial side there's the up front cost as well as additional detergent/soap and labor required to clean them. They'd also need replacing every so often.

I know this is a pretty small difference overall - a bulk case of paper towels lasts us months and we'd probably be talking a few dollars each for moderately nice cloth napkins. The labor of throwing the napkins in the wash every week is not going to strain any muscles. Obviously personal preference will play a big role here. Just thinking about the idea and wondering if people in the mustachian community have some interesting pros/cons/other data to share? Thanks!

Money Mouse

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2015, 03:19:33 PM »
I made the switch maybe 8 years ago? Costco has (had? haven't looked lately) a 20 pack of really good quality wash cloths for about the same cost as one of their mega packs of Bounty. I use the cloths for cleaning (everything from washing dishes to dusting to cleaning bathrooms) rather than napkins, and they've held up really well. I think I've replaced them once in those 8 years. Savings depends on how many paper towels you were going through but I'd have to bet it more than covers the cost of an extra load of laundry each week.

I still keep paper towels on hand for "bio-hazard" messes and the occasional "I didn't wash the rags, I thought you did" situations where we run out of clean ones, but I use maybe six rolls a year now (and could probably get that down further if I really tried).

HopefulMustache

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2015, 03:32:18 PM »
Thanks for sharing that Money Mouse. I forgot to mention cleaning rags as a use case rather than paper towels, but it's definitely there too. We do dry dishes with cloth right now, but we'd need more if we wanted to use them for dusting/cleaning surfaces too, which is currently the domain of paper.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2015, 03:45:52 PM »
Depends on what you use, as well. Buying fine linens? Probably won't come out ahead. Using cut up sheets and T-shirts you would have thrown away, or sewing your own from fabric you purchase? Almost certainly will save $. Personally, I see throwing away paper as a wasteful endeavor both financially and environmentally, and try to reduce as much as possible.

Bonus: we can do the little trash can for pickup every other week, saving lots of $$.

2ndTimer

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2015, 03:53:07 PM »
I crossed the dividing line on using cloth for napkins and cleaning supplies when I got a washer.  It's so easy to toss a dirty cloth in there so it winds up going through with the next load.

Argyle

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2015, 03:58:49 PM »
You can get cloth napkins for pennies at estate sales and Good Will stores.  I've accumulated 40 or 50 for about $5.

Valetta

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2015, 04:58:23 PM »
I made the switch about a year ago. I actually asked for all different pretty cloth napkins for Christmas gifts. I got a huge variety of them (not using household funds, my husband and I don't exchange gifts - they were gifts from other family). So it didn't cost me anything to begin with.

For the wash, I just throw them in the same load with all the towels. It's just a load that I would be doing anyway every week and so far we've never had a volume that required me to do multiple loads. There are only two of us though. I do use them for dinner parties too and even then I didn't need an extra load.

mxt0133

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2015, 05:07:21 PM »
Event if cloth napkins were twice as expensive as paper towel I would still use cloth napkins.  The effort of buying, opening, disposing now annoys me.  I can use cloth many times over and can just rinse and re-use.  Thy don't rip and don't take up space in the trash.

Funny story, my mom was visiting and had to make a confession to me along the lines of, "I'm sorry,  I know you feel strongly about it but I had to get them."  She then showed me two rolls of paper towel.  I almost scolded her and then just laughed at the whole situation.

HopefulMustache

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2015, 05:30:18 PM »
Thanks everyone for the responses so far! I'm seeing pretty overwhelming support for cloth, even when it comes to convenience in some cases, a place where I thought paper would make its mark. I guess in hindsight I'm not all that surprised that cloth is winning, but it's nice to hear all your takes. I think this will help spur the cloth transition (unless there's any late-coming paper defenders?).

Dulcimina

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2015, 06:24:31 PM »
Do any pro-cloth folks use laundromats? That's the only reason I'm in favor of paper.

But on the other hand, I just checked - I have 7 rolls left in the package + 1 roll being used of a "12 Mega Rolls" Bounty that I purchased in January of 2014. I think it helps that they are the select-a-size type, and that it's just one person using them.  Also, I use sponges to clean up most spills, as sponges can be sanitized in the dishwasher or microwave.  No need to wait a week to lug them to the laundromat.

Rural

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2015, 06:52:25 PM »
I never made the switch, still use cloth for almost everything (not dog poo; I keep a paper roll around for that, or use toilet paper). But "napkin" is far to rarefied a term for most of the rags around here, and the only linen in the house is in the form of clothing.

MayDay

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2015, 07:08:06 PM »
We do keep paper towels around (go through maybe 1 roll a year).  But for the most part we use kitchen washclothes (generic from Target, replaced when they get extremely threadbare and/or disgusting, I am picky about texture of cleaning clothes, they must be waffle weave, so I do buy them specifically for that purpose) for messes, and cloth napkins for eating.

I sew, and I sewed them from fabric scraps, so they were essentially free.  Even if you have to buy them, some kind of square or rectangular cotton fabric shouldn't cost more than 5 or 10 rolls of paper towels. 

bsmith

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2015, 07:12:44 PM »
We just started using cloth napkins. It's an easy adjustment to make. I use mine more than once before washing, but other people are pickier about that.

I don't know the cost savings yet. I can tell you that I WAS glad we had some paper towels left onhand for when I knocked a glass jar of molasses out of the cabinet, which then shattered/oozed onto the granite counter and onto the floor. Glass shards in a thick sticky goo is not easy to clean up.

birdie55

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2015, 07:23:41 PM »
I bought a couple of packages of white washcloths at Walmart when I switched to cleaning cloths.  I keep paper towels on hand but a roll lasts me months.  For cloth napkins, I bought a few half yards of cotton fabric I liked and cut 16 in squares.  Then I frayed the edges by pulling the threads off the ends.  It made a fringe hem without sewing. 

As others do, I just wash my napkins and cleaning cloths with the towels.  I keep a plastic container on a shelf over my washer and toss them in as I use them. 

N

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2015, 08:51:10 PM »
we use about 3 rolls of paper towel a year.
I have a drawer full of cloth napkins that we use.
I dislike buying disposable items, especially one use items.

I also have a fairly large supply of wash clothes and slightly larger towels  (handtowel size) for cleaning.

my husband likes dish sponges though, so I get those from aldi, we probably change it out every month or every other month? for washing dishes.

Sloeginfizz

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #15 on: August 10, 2015, 10:29:15 PM »
The only thing we use paper towels for in my house is draining bacon. We don't use napkins much, but if we're eating something messy, we'll grab a clean dish towel. I've got about two drawers of varying kinds of rags/towels that have been acquired slowly, a few at a time. I have some micro fiber towels for general cleaning, picked those up cheap at TJ max. Same for the bunches of washcloths I use for dishwashing. I don't dry, but lay things out to drip dry on the big dishcloths. The shabby, old stained ones are kept around for cleaning up cat vomit and other gross messes. If I was cleaning up a sticky sharp mess like a broken molasses bottle, I would just throw the towel away, knowing that it had already served me many years.

I have a washer/dryer now, but we have done cloth only while limited to a laundromat. Like someone else mentioned, they just go in with the bath towels. I like to wash both hot and tumble dry. This is the only thing I wash in hot though.

MsPeacock

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #16 on: August 11, 2015, 04:28:29 AM »
I've used cloth napkins for 20+ years. Most are from when I got married and another 8 or so from Ikea (a few dollars for all of them in total). They haven't needed replacing - I just needed more napkins once the minions came along. Paper napkins are reserved for when we have a big party - like an open house type party with 40 or 50 people.

I also used cloth dishrags. Paper towels are reserved for cleaning up the really gross stuff - pet poo, vomit, etc. and for soaking up oil if I fry something. I think paper towels are far most costly and wasteful than cloth. I am horrified at how much a roll of paper towels cost and how long that roll doesn't last if you are cleaning up a really big mess. I've used the same cloth dish towels for 20 years also, occasionally supplemented by a few new towels (most recently a pack of 10 or 20 microfiber cloths from Home Depot for $10) because I like to have plenty on hand.

I doubt all this cloth, in total, equals even one load of laundry per month - not even 1/2 a load. It just gets washed w/ all the other stuff and put away and hardly takes any time in the grand scheme of things.

LouLou

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #17 on: August 11, 2015, 07:31:04 AM »
I made this switch a few months ago and I love it. I bought 24 microfiber towels on Amazon and use them in place of paper towels and napkins.  They have not added any additional loads to the wash.  I used to buy paper towels in bulk from Costco, and I still have about 10 rolls left.  I use the paper towels for things like raw meat juices, bacon fat, et cetera.

I like having one less thing to (forget to) buy. They are more absorbent than any paper towel.  I will pick up some cloth napkins if I come across them for cheap at some point.

Kaspian

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #18 on: August 11, 2015, 10:38:32 AM »
I found cloth napkins at the back of my cupboard this year and thought, "Hell, I'm never going to use these for anything fancy, so might as well use 'em day-to-day instead of a paper towel."    My thought was the same as yours--the savings would be very close to negligible.  However, what I enjoy is that now a roll of paper towels seems to last me forever.  It's really nice to not have to pick those up at the grocery store every few weeks.  Yellow mustard and spaghetti sauce seem to stain the cloth badly, but a little bleach in the wash and they're passible.  When I buy them next (probably 2 or 3 for $1 at Dollarama) I'll definitely buy darker colours.  :)

ABC123

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Re: Paper Towels vs Cloth Napkins
« Reply #19 on: August 11, 2015, 01:41:08 PM »
The cloth napkins, towels, and dish rags I have last forever, so I rarely need more.  The last time I needed some, I put them on my Christmas list and MIL loaded me up.  It would be a bit strange to put paper towels on my Christmas wish list :)  In the past, when I would buy a roll of paper towels DH would have it gone within a day or two.  What a waste.  I love using cloth.  And it doesn't increase my laundry at all -- I'm doing a load several days a week anyway, so I just toss in the used ones.  I do have some paper stuff on hand for the really icky stuff, so I don't see any reason to not just put used cloth in with the clothes.