top of page

The Disposables

My social media accounts are on to me. The advertisements streaming along my scroll alternate between clothes and ingenious products to save the planet. (Scary how effective tracking has become) These planet-saving goods offer ways to eradicate plastic laundry containers, dispose of a baggie practice, or get your glam on with jewelry made from ocean waste. This is how my friends and family ended up with reusable silicone baggies for their holiday gifts—albeit with treats inside.

The advertisement currently invading my consciousness features paper towels. Apparently people in the US use about a gazillion more paper towels than folks in other places where they use sponges, mops, and rags. I hate sponges—like when you pick one up from the sink and then your fingers smell like nasty sponge funk; I can't be the only one this happens to. But I do believe we overuse disposable towels.

So what is with us and the disposable stuff? I see those little plastic floss sticks littering sidewalks, and it drives me insane. Use regular floss people! Sorry.

Okay, I live with a paper towel addict. If you have one of those in your house, I'd love to hear how you deal with the trauma, but be warned, you may find some of my methods a little gross.

At the dining-room table we've replaced paper towels with cloth napkins. We use them for several sittings, which helps avoid unsustainable laundry situations. We do try to stick with our own. Nobody wants mine because I use it until it's visibly groddy.

We use rags for dusting and the weekly cleanings. But my husband, the clean freak, insists on paper towels for kitchen and bathroom surfaces, and I give in. It seems a decent compromise because pressing my point would be useless. (I'm sure other marrieds out there recognize the dilemma; you've got to choose your battles.)

To make up for my compromising nature, I regularly delve into the kitchen trash and retrieve used paper towels for certain kinds of cleaning: wiping up the floors after the dogs have traipsed in with muddy paws or slurped water everywhere; also for getting gunk off the bottoms of my shoes, and finally, for wiping food particles out of containers before I place them in the recycling, but I do wash my hands after all of that.

Sometimes, if I'm the one cleaning the kitchen counter with a paper towel, I hide it in a little cubby under the sink for future gnarly messes. According to a 2018 article in The Atlantic, I am not the only one. In other countries many people wash and reuse paper towels until they disintegrate.

So, thanks to the advertisements peppering my social media feed, it is possible everyone will get reusable bamboo paper towels for their birthdays this year. Woohoo! What disposable items have you managed to eradicate from your life? Share your stories in the comments at the bottom of the page. Thank you!

58 views5 comments

Recent Posts

See All


I moved to the US in 1993, and I remember I had never used paper towels before. So we learned to use them here, unfortunately. But today, some in my family regularly cut each paper towel at least in half, or in 4 parts, and use the individual parts one by one: that way, they last much longer

We're from South America originally, and in those years, and even now, many people back home just use cotton rags, wash them and reuse them. So what if they don't look pristine? They're clean as long as you wash them thoroughly: you can use bleach or whatever powerful cleaning agent you like. Every little bit helps

I like this blog because it…

Jan 28, 2022
Replying to

Thank you for your comments and for sharing your research! I like the link a lot. I may have to do a trial run. I think the ideal product would be easy to clean and reuse. I'll post if I use any of these. Thanks again!


Jan 21, 2022

Never thought of reusing paper towels. I do not like rags. Many rags do not soak up the fluids one intends to clean up.

Do not mind sponges. If one does not like using them, consider putting on gloves. If you purchase latex gloves, buy a size bigger to have them slip on and off your hands easier with a minimal amount of 'finger implosion' of the glove.

Perhaps a recycling bin for paper towels?

Jan 22, 2022
Replying to

So in thinking more about your comment on recycling paper towels, it got me wondering. Why don't we recycle paper towels? Apparently there's something about how they're made that doesn't allow for this, but we can still reuse them. Here's the link if you want to know more:

Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page