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How We Ditched Paper Towels and Switched to Cloth Instead

Kristi, Hike it Baby friend and mom to her 15-month old wike baby, enjoys exploring new places while enjoying great food and drink along the way. She loves spending time outdoors, especially visiting the lakes in New Hampshire and Maine that she grew up on. She also loves spending time in the kitchen making delicious food to share with friends and family. That's why she chose to make a change in the kitchen to help planet Earth, which she tells you all about here!

We recently made a pretty big change in our kitchen. In an effort to reduce the amount of trash we create as a family, while saving money in the long run, we stopped using disposable paper towels and switched instead to reusable cloth wipes and napkins. It was truthfully a long overdue decision for us since we already use cloth diapers and baby wipes. Even so, the switch from paper to cloth couldn't have been easier and is a wonderful way to reduce waste for the benefit of our environment!

The Switch

In order to effectively ditch paper towels, we needed a replacement for napkins at mealtime and something to use for cleaning up spills, etc. Since we were already using cotton dish towels to dry our hands, dishes and freshly rinsed produce, we built from there. As a family of three, where only two of us use a napkin with meals and our cutest member wears a bib, we purchased 20 linen napkins. Which is enough for weeknight dinners and weekends of multiple meals and even guests, while only running linen laundry once or twice a week. We also purchased a good amount of square, cloth wipes that we use for everything else-- like disinfecting the high chair, cleaning cute baby faces after meals, and wiping up spills or thrown food off the counter and floor. They're so much more absorbent and durable than paper towels. We’ve even started using them as face wipes for our toddler while we're out of the house. Oh my goodness, we fly through those wipes!

The Convenience Factor

In order to make cloth just as convenient and accessible as paper towels were, we organized everything into a drawer in the kitchen. And we put out a cute woven basket at the base of our stairs as an easy place to drop dirty wipes and napkins until laundry day.

The Cost to Switch

Here is a quick breakdown of how much it cost to ditch paper towels:

$0 8 Large Dish Towels we already had on hand

$50 20 Linen Napkins

$57 96 Small Square Wipes

$107 Total Cost

To be super inclusive of cost, I also did a little research to see how much we will pay each year to launder everything. According to the financial website Money Crashers, the cost to use a high efficiency washing machine can range from $0.21 per load when using cold water, cheaper detergent, and line-drying, or up to $1.22 per load with hot water, pricey detergent, and electric drying. So while washing twice weekly, I can expect an annual cost of anywhere from $21.84 to $126.88. A year supply of paper towels for the average family will cost $150.

**Just as a side note, you could always add your linen laundry to another load you're already washing, such as the towels. Even at high quantity, these linens don't take up much space in the washer and will dry much more efficiently when tumbling with larger items. It's also a great way to conserve water and consume less energy!

The Suds

For laundry detergent, we found that Tide Free and Gentle powder works really well. It effectively breaks down the oils found in food, and it’s gentle enough for our sensitive skin.

We still have a supply of paper towels we’re working through, albeit very slowly, for tasks that include raw meat and pet accidents. Though I'm sure down the line we will have a linen replacement for those too!

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Which change will you make to help the earth this month? We challenge you to make just one change! Read the rest of the "Make Just One Change" series here.

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