home + garden

But Wait There’s More About Paper Towels

How to eliminate paper towels from Go Gingham

While Go Gingham is my platform for sharing my “Stylishly Frugal Ways” and how we live well on less, I’ve learned so much from reading the comments everyone else leaves. What you write has improved our methods and helped us realize there’s more to be done every day.

The comments readers wrote about “Eliminating Paper Towels” were so good, I had to share them with everyone. Thank you to everyone who left a comment. There’s so much we can learn from one another to improve our lives and the impact we have on the environment and our pocketbooks.

But Wait There’s More About Paper Towels

From Rita at “This Sorta Old Life”…

We went paper-free last spring, and I haven’t missed towels or napkins at all. We bought several packs of microfiber cloths to use instead of paper towels, and we just keep them in bins in our bathrooms and in a centrally-located closet off the kitchen. Having plenty is key to this working for us. I really like your basket idea–functional and cute!

Oh, Rita, is there anything better than functional and cute? I don’t think so!

Jill shared this….

I love the basket! It looks pretty and is useful, too – my 2 favorite qualities in an item. I eliminated paper towels and napkins years ago though it drives my mother crazy when she comes to visit! For Christmas one year my sister-in-law gave me a gift of cloth napkins made out of leftover holiday fabric for all the holidays which I still love. It was a great gift.

Jill, your sister -in-law is very clever! I have holiday fabric just begging for this to be done.

Erin from A Week or a Weekend…

We’ve been paper towel free for years, and it’s amazing how befuddles some people are when they spill something at our house. They have no idea what to do! We got new bath towels a few years ago – our old towels were wedding gifts, and after 20 + years, it was time – and we cut up a bunch of the old ones for spill/cleanup cloths. Otherwise we just use regular kitchen towels. The only time I really want paper towels is cleaning up cat puke, so I generally just make Jeff do that. Love the basket idea!

Erin, your husband is a saint! Great idea cutting up old towels when you got new ones. That is such a good way to keep using items when they don’t “look” good but are still useful.

Janna says….

Brilliant idea and the basket and the towels are beautiful!
We have a paper free kitchen and the only problem is bacon. What does everyone use to cook bacon instead of paper towels? I am a vegetarian but my husband still cooks bacon occasionally.

Janna, I freeze the bacon grease in a little cup in the freezer and use it to flavor with when cooking. My family gets tricked into thinking they’re having meat when really they’re not. Shhhhh…don’t tell.You can freeze the bacon grease and then put it in the garbage or share it with a neighbor if you’re not going to use. Don’t put it down the drain. It’s not good for pipes or the environment.

Read down below for more tips and excellent information on this topic, too.

Carolyn shares….

I made two sets of washcloths appliqued with letters corresponding to the days of the week. I use one set in the bathroom, and one in the kitchen. That way, I change the cloth each day in both rooms, wash them when I get a load of towels, and use very little paper in either bathroom or kitchen.

Carolyn, can you please send me a set of these adorable washcloths? They sound like they’re right up my alley! Or, let’s at least have a sewing bee and we can make more.

Heidi who writes the blog Lightly Crunchy says…

We are paper towel free too. I just use the dishcloth for clean-ups and tea towels to wipe up spills. Both can easily be washed with the weekly laundry. I knit the dishcloths, so there are always lots handy. Nasty spills can be cleaned with rags, which are kept in a box under the sinks, and also easily washed. And if the mess is too gross to put in the wash, we simply throw out the rag.

Here’s what Sarah of Live to List had to share…

Yep, whilst I own paper towels, I’ve had the two rolls packet for at least 2 years… I use it when there’s no other option, but I’ll happily ‘dirty’ a tea towel or a rag for most options. We don’t have dogs or kids, so I suppose that helps!

Like Heidi, I’ll through out a too soiled rag – there’s so many more. What’s even more amazing is my BF who is totally not into eco/zero waste etc stuff, just goes with all these changes. If rags (and hankies) are easy to access vs paper products, he’ll use them. Makes my heart sing!

Sarah, my heart is singing, too! It seems that without toss away products in reach, we can all use cloth instead. I use hankies, too, but can’t seem to convince my husband and kids to make the switch.

Michelle writes…

I dry my cast iron skillet by putting it on the burner and heating it up. I still use a few paper towels – the half-sheet size!

Michelle, brilliant! As soon as I read this about your cast iron skillet, I began doing it. We’ve also been quick to get it in the still-warm-oven to dry without paper towels. Thank you!

Auntie M says…

Thanks for reminding me to give up the paper towel habit…something I’ve been meaning to do.
I’ve been wondering about cooking bacon, too. We use paper towels to absorb the grease. I’m wondering what our great-grandmothers did? Wire rack? That would still retain a lot of fat wouldn’t it?

Auntie M, an excellent question! You know our great-grandmothers did not get rid of anything that could be used again. Please read above and below for ideas and information.

Karen G shares this…

We’ve been paper towel/paper napkin free for years. About bacon grease….. You can use the heels from your loaf of bread for draining bacon on. That’s what we used before paper towels were a “common” household item. If it would have been during the 1930′s and ’40′s, you would have cubed the heels with bacon grease on them and fried them to use later in a casserole or meatloaf or meatballs.

How many of you save unused paper napkins from a restaurant? Some places toss more napkins on the table than 2 people can possibly use and they get thrown away if you don’t use them. Or the time we went through the drive-thru at McDonald’s for an ice cream cone and they handed us 25 paper napkins. I pocket those unused paper napkins and take them home and put them in a nice old holder. You can think of all the uses for them…. I especially like them if I drop an egg on the floor. That’s one time I miss a paper towel, so an absconded paper napkin to the rescue.

I put the clean “saved” paper napkins in hubby’s lunch and he brings them back home after lightly using them. We use the “used” paper napkins to scour our stainless steel pans with cleanser when we do dishes. THEN they get tossed into the trash. If there aren’t any “used” paper napkins, we use a wad of newspaper or a hunk out of a brown paper bag. For wiping out greasy pans I use newspaper or a wadded up sheet out of a catalog. BTW, the only newspaper we get is the free community paper once a week, so I guard it and use it wisely (garden, homemade paper, gift wrap, etc.). In fact, I turn much of the waste paper (junk mail) into hand-made paper, and there are hundreds of uses for it.

Karen, as always, your experience and methods are awesome and inspiring! We should all ask ourselves, “What would Karen do?” I truly appreciate you regularly contributed thoughts and comments. Well done and thank you.

Mary writes this about paper towel free…

We too, have been “paper towel free” for years. I noticed someone posted a question about bacon. I don’t own a microwave, and I think that may be where the question about not having paper towels for cooking bacon may stem from. Here’s what I do; I cook bacon in the oven on a metal rack placed in a jelly roll pan. I have a large family, so this allows me to cook a quantity all at once, and doesn’t splatter grease all over the stove top. For cleanup, I either scrape the fat into a jar (for larger amounts) or simply lay a paper sack in the pan to absorb the grease residue before washing the pan. Keeps the mess down and doesn’t send grease down my kitchen sink…

Mary, your family is lucky to have their bacon down all at the same time! I hadn’t thought about bacon getting cooked in the microwave – we don’t have one either – and your method of cooking and cleaning up sounds like an excellent alternative.

Hazel had this to say…

I know this will make some people cringe, but I can prove that the claim I’m about to make about bacon fat (and other natural fat) is true, so here goes…

What did our very healthy ancestors do with bacon fat, chicken fat, duck fat, pork fat? They ate it. They used it to cook with. They were healthy because this was the fat they ate regularly. Back to my great-great-great grandparents and yours, they probably raised their own food animals or bought animals that had been raised down the road, and any extra fat that the animals carried and the fat from cooking was saved in glass jars for use in stove-top cooking or baking (yum, chicken fat in biscuits!!!).

There was a time before “vegetable oils” when our ancestors were healthy and lived healthy lives without prescription drugs. The rise in heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, and high blood pressure coincide with the introduction and use of “vegetable oils” and their subsequent hydrogenation and our increasing consumption thereof. Why were the oils hydrogenated? Because if they weren’t they went rancid, another word for oxidation, which means they are chemical unstable. Oxidation makes oils dangerous, which is why all the warnings about high heat and not exposing for long periods to air.

What about natural saturated fats? Don’t they oxidize? The answer is, not easily. They’re chemically stable, so they can be used safely at higher temps than vegetable oils can (including olive oil), and because they’re chemically stable they don’t oxidize easily. They can be stored in glass for months and won’t go rancid.

Are they safe? Yes, our bodies use natural animals fats to manufacture our (natural) hormones. Cells cannot be healthy (permeable) without cholesterol.

For more about this, go to:

So, the answer to the question of what to do with meat fat is, eat it, cook with it, discover goodness (and deliciousness) in its most natural form.

Hazel, thank you for this. Our bodies do know what’s best for them and all of the “fake” food we give them isn’t agreeable. Thank you for sharing the links about canola oil, too. We’re working to use only olive oil in our cooking.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear readers, for sharing all of these tips, tricks, and methods for living well on less. I appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences and best practices.

What would you add to this list?

Go Gingham related links:

Natural rinse aid alternative for the dishwasher – it’s in your pantry already
Sort of homemade dishwasher detergent – 2 ingredients make up the new mix!
The mop cover is a re-purposed t-shirt: how to make a mop cover
Rethinking our cleaning and laundry detergents – feeling duped
Cleaning and laundry detergent – progress on our switch over!
Green and natural laundry detergents – what to use and why
Cute and clean for the kitchen: make a baking soda shaker for soaking those stubborn pots and pans

5 thoughts on “But Wait There’s More About Paper Towels

  1. Great post. I use approx 1 roll/paper towels a year. Often less and they are reserved for really gross stuff, cat barf, etc. Re: bacon grease, which I do save and refrigerate for pan frying. I save the paper bags from flour/sugar and use that, folded in half, to drain residual fat off of cooked bacon. Simply fold it up, and toss when done. Simple way to repurpose something.


  2. my family would die if i took away paper towels. 😦 They are so bad…one day I will get them on board though. I wok on them constantly. They just give me this look…That said, I do save napkins from fast food places and use them in my car also.
    Karen is the woman! What an inspiration! ALL of these ideas are awesome! Great post!


  3. We also cook our bacon on a wire rack in the oven and save the fat in a jar in the fridge for cooking.

    Also, for the cast iron, I have always saved the wax wrappers from butter in a bag in the fridge. I dry the pans over a stove element and use a dab of oil and a quick swipe with the butter wrapper to keep my cast iron lightly oiled between uses.


  4. Wow, love this post (I guess follow-up post really)! I abandoned paper napkins back in college more out of frugality than anything else. My thought process was “I’m goign to do laundry regardless, might as well use thpse ‘fancy’ cloth napkins mom gave me, and then I’ll have more money to spend on win…err…books!” I still use those same “fancy” napkins, which aren’t fancy at all but just a nice solid navy blue cotton. They were actually hand-me-downs from my mom and they’re well over 30 years old, but still going strong! There is only one roll of paper towels in my house, but it’s shoved under my kitchen sink somewhere (I think…) and we use dishcloths, kitchen towels and sometimes old bath towels for most messes anyways. My dad thinks it’s practically un-American not to use paper towels, he never knows what to do at my house when something gets spilled, bless his heart! But, to be fair, I’m always confused at my parent’s house because I immediately start looking cloth when something gets knocked over.

    My main reason for commenting was to say that, like Karen G, I also swipe napkins from restaurants. It’s ridiculous the amount of napkins a server will plop on the table for two people sometimes. I keep my loot tucked away in ziploc bags in the glove compartment of mine and my hubby’s cars. They come in super handy, especially on road trips!


  5. I have not gone completely paper towel free in my house, but I do hide it under the sink. My household uses dish cloths and fabric napkins every day.

    As for the bacon comment, use newspaper! I was taught this buy my mother-in-law who every Christmas cooks the bacon on newspaper-lined baking sheets. The bacon comes out crisp, delicious, and grease free. I love this idea- reuse. Hope this helps.


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