How to Save Money on Paper Towels

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Using a lot of paper towels can get expensive, but it’s easy to save money on paper towels. Learn to save money and clean better with fewer paper towels!

How To Save Money On Paper Towels

How to Save on Paper Towels – Paper Towels vs. Rags

Tawra just emailed me and asked if I would write something concerning rags vs. paper towels. I have not spent a whole lot of time deeply contemplating the issue of paper towels vs. rags so, at first, I wasn’t sure what to write.

I do love paper towels and totally believe in using them, but I only use them rarely. I had a friend once who used nothing but paper towels. Not only did she use them exclusively, but she would think nothing of yanking off three or four of them at a time to use for just a small job. She definitely needed to learn how to save money on paper towels

I remember watching her once and thinking that, some day when I am rich, one of the luxuries I was going to allow myself was to use nothing but paper towels and lots of them. Well I haven’t arrived at that point yet but now I find that, in most cases, a rag seems to do a better job.

I do use paper towels sometimes as I said because I have found nothing that works better for things like draining my bacon or lining my fruit and veggie drawer in the fridge. In the fridge, when the bins become dirty I can just throw out the paper towels and quickly wipe them down. I also like to set them under my spices and things that will create spills because it makes for easier clean up.

I have often wondered if others don’t use paper towels the way I do, especially after seeing shopping carts piled high with them and seeing so many people buying them in bulk. Then when I saw a show where a woman had a shower stall filled with them, I knew something was very different.

Since I use only one to two rolls of paper towels per year, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what people were doing with all these paper towels. Just then, I realized that many people not only don’t use rags, but a lot of people don’t know how to use them or even that you can. Hopefully the next few paragraphs will change all of that and maybe help you save money on paper towels.


My Background

Yes strange as it may seem, I do have a background in rags. Not many people can say that. On the other hand I’m not sure whether this is something one should be proud of or not. : ) You might say my grandmother was an expert in rags and rags were her business. Now before you wonder what kind of a strange family I come from, let me explain.

My grandmother wove rag rugs for a living. She did it all of her life and her mom did it before that. They made unbelievably beautiful rugs, completely different from the ones you see sold now. The colors and designs she used would make any artist break down and weep and she made them all with rags.

I remember as a child going to her house where she would have huge appliance boxes full of carpet balls. These were balls of fabric (from rags) that had been torn into strips, sewn together and rolled into balls. My brother and I had great fun rolling and playing with all of those fabric balls!

Nothing was thrown away. Every button, zipper and piece of trim was cut off and saved. I guess frugality must be in my blood. : ) Needless to say, I did learn some things about rags that I hope will help you to look at rags in a whole new light.


How To Save Money On Paper Towels

Cleaning Rags – A Great Way to Save Money On Paper Towels

One of the main complaints we get against using cleaning rags to save money on paper towels is that people don’t like to wash them because they get so nasty sometimes. I don’t like to wash them either, so I don’t. My cleaning rags fall into two categories: rags to toss and rags to wash.


Rags to Toss

paper towels on a roll

The cleaning rags I toss are the ones I use for the nasty jobs:

By the time a rag gets to my “use and throw” pile, it is already pretty far gone. I have probably used it for many other “clean” jobs and it is on its last leg, so I have no qualms about tossing it. I use it just like I would a paper towel.


Rags to Wash

These are my studier cleaning rags. They are usually old tea towels, wash rags, etc. I use them to:

  • Wipe fingerprints off of the wall
  • Wipe mildly sticky things from furniture
  • Wipe the spray starch off of my ironing board
  • Shine my mirrors
  • Wash the insides of my windows
  • Wipe my bathroom faucets and wipe dry everything in the bathroom


Now here’s part 2, we’ll look at where to get cleaning rags and ways to make the most of them to make your life easier and save money on paper towels and cleaning in general.

For even more tip to save money on organizing, cleaning and laundry, take a look at our Keeping It Clean e-books.



  1. Leann Duncan says

    Yes I too use paper towels – more than 2 rolls a year, but I try to use them carefully. I’ve recently discovered all the other wonderful things to do with rags – old clothes, tshirts, jeans, etc. Tshirts can be cut in strips & used to crochet in place of yarn, the same with the strips of rags that are also used to make the rugs. Denim is harder on the hands to crochet with, but is great for making purses, diaper bags, braided for rugs & used for making quilt squares & more. You might even be surprised to see the projects crocheted from plastic store bags & bread bags! I’m starting to save the bread bags now. :) Thanks for always sharing & helping others! Blessings ~ Leann

  2. says

    Thanks for the article on rags. I thought I was the only one that did this. I used to run a used clothing shop with my church and we were given so many donations that should have been rags… i guess people thought that we wouldn’t mind selling the clothing that was soiled or ripped. Indeed, we couldn’t sell the donation as clothing but we could sell the items by the bagful to local garages. Definitely not the kind of sale we intended, however, we recycle, reuse and make new!!!
    thanks for the great newsletter.

  3. Ann says

    Hi I am an artist and I use rags to wipe off my paint brushes. I get my rags from my old clothes I don’t want. Funny I used to burn through paper towels not thinking about rags like you do. My dad used to get so upset seeing me pull though paper towels. Thanks for the insight. I would never use paper towels for my paint brushes why waste at home. My view on rags has changed forever!

  4. Boni Lowry says

    I keep all of my old rags for misc cleaning jobs too but what has helped even more is cloth napkins. I found them for $0.50 a piece when a store was going out of business about 6 years ago. I’ve been using the same napkins ever since and they still have lots of life left. When we have dinner we usually have one or two that are hardly touch and haven’t even been unfolded. I leave these on the table and the next morning open them up and lay under my children’s cereal bowls to catch their mess which makes for a really easy cleanup. I also unfold them and use the clean side for making sandwiches. With three children we do laundry often and I just throw them in with whatever I’m washing. This has drastically cut down on my papertowel use as well as my paper napkin use. We only use paper when we’re camping and then they are recycled into firestarter.

  5. Jann Messer says

    I love your newsletter. We are fairly well off, but in my young life, I was poor.My mother in law had 7 kids and she taught me many of the money and labor saving tips that you help others to learn. I still use them because I think its a sin to waste what God has given. Its sooo neat to see you addressing the “rag” tip. Rags are much better than paper towels for most things you’d use a pt for. They hold more spill, wont tear and have already been usefull in another “life”. Plus its “green”. When your clothes become rags, or your better towels, you are extending your budget, too. We NEVER throw away or donate any towel of any sort here. I keep a pile of neatly washed and folded towels of various sizes in my pantry, hall closet and garage. If they are handy people will use them, if they are sorted and neatly folded they look intentional and not sloppy or messy. One might consider a pre-used and nice looking basket for the BR. Keep up the good work of helping others save money.

  6. says

    Good article today!I have always like using paper towels for bacon. but never thought of the uses you mentioned in the veggie drawer in the fridge. Thanks for the helpful hint. I also like using rags. I seem to have an abundance of them and will continue.
    Thanks for t he the continual reminders to be frugal and to be a good steward of what we do have! I’m amazed at alllllll the recources we have in our own homes tucked away in a cupboard.
    Have a great Day!
    God Bless

  7. says

    I thought I was the only one who saved rags anymore! I wish I knew how to make rag rugs; that sounds beautiful when you describe it! Can you share how to do that? I also do not use paper napkins; we have a fun variety of cloth napkins folded on our dining table. I find these VERY cheap at resale shops — 4/$1 or even 6/$1. They’re also easy to make, especially if you have a serger. I love this newsletter, by the way. I’m a very frugal person, too, and I love adding to my repertoire of frugality!!! Thanks, and may the Lord Jesus bless you!!

    debbie in Texas

    • Ann Allen says

      I love rag rugs, too. My mother made them when I was small,and I remember her folding long strips and sewing them at the fold so they would not ravel. Took forever since we did not have a sewing machine. I prefer the square or rectangular woven ones, rather than the sewn together braided ovals. I did see, at one time, a website with complete instructions. Could not find it today, but I bet it is there and I’m just missing it. Thrift shops get more clothes than they can sell, and are good sites for bulk buying of future rags. I plan some rag shopping next time I get to a town We don’t always use napkins. The guys say that’s what jeans are for!

  8. Barb says

    My husband and I have raised 7 kids, now ages 15-30, with the 15yo and 2 recent high school graduates still living at home. My dh has been laid off since 2008. His unemployment is finished. I don’t/can’t work b/c of undiagnosed fibromyalgia. One daughter brings home $200-240 weekly, the other is babysitting for her brother and his wife, making $75 cash biweekly. We have a mobile home mortgage with 10 years to go, living on a rented lot. Our van is 12yo but paid for. Most of our past debts are paid; what remains are medical bills unpaid by insurance, either large hospital co-pays or ER bills when we had no insurance. We get some foodstamps and it’s summer so nobody eats much; my problem there is only providing foods that are interesting to teens–I have the first “Living on a Dime” cookbook to help. : ) DH has heart and lung problems which can’t be treated for lack of insurance in the last year and have gotten much worse, and he has applied for SS Disability, but that could take 120 days. What else can we do? What else can we cut?

  9. says

    I am so glad you all are liking the article on rags. It was a little bit different subject and wasn’t sure if you would like this type of thing. I hope you enjoy the next couple of weeks too because I tried to go into great detail on what to use and how to use them. So much detail we had to divide it into 3 or 4 articles. : ) I admit I can get long winded.

    I should have maybe waited and just let you all write it because you all have some really good ideas.


  10. Stephany Miller says

    I was fortunate enough that my Mother in law got me a big bunch of car detail rags (the microfiber ones) 5 years ago. I still have EVERYONE of those rags! I buy paper towels, (like 1 roll) maybe twice a year, for dog poop and also for shortening (something I learned from my Great Grandma), but I use the detail rags for EVERYTHING else! I now buy them for friends and suggest they do the same! I LOVE them! I use them constantly, and then wash them when they get bad! And the washer seems to clean them up nicely no matter what was on there! I HIGHLY recommend them! Ours came from Sam’s Club but I am sure they sell them everywhere. And mine are bright orange and yellow so I can keep track of where I set them down easily! But they do come in other colors!

    • says

      Recycled plastic bags are great for the dog poop. We keep some in the truck for when we are traveling too. Put it on your hand like a glove, pick up the poop, then pull the outside up and around. It’s bagged and you didn’t have to touch it.

  11. Penny says

    My rags are on a rotation schedule. For example: my dishrags always start out with dishes only, when I am done doing my dishes I ring out the dishes rag and drape it over the faucet to dry. I can do this for 2-7 days depending on the loads of dishes that need to be cleaned. Once the rag is ready to retire from dishes it moves to counters, stove and maybe table, again depending on the condition of the rag. once it is ready to move on, it goes to cleaning the floor nad then moves to the laundry room. Another trick I will share is when the dishes are done, most of the time I can add a quarter cup of bleach to the water and soak my dirtiest rags before I take them to the laundry room. My rags can always move forward, but they can never move backwards- If I use a dishrag for the stove and counter, it doesn’t get to go back to dishes. Same with my floor rag, once it cleans the floor, it doesn’t get to go back to counters. Hope this can help a few people out there.

  12. susan says


    Love your article on using rags! I have been doing the same thing for years. I do use paper towels for bacon in the microwave etc. I was at the goodwill store last fall and someone had given up there cloth diapers and I got a whole bag full to use for rags for $1.00! I bet there was three dozens in there. I also throw rags away after messy cleaning but for dusting and things like that I just wash them. Rags are also great for wiping off cat paws when they run in after a rain! I only buy papertowels in the economy pasckage when they are on sale and if I have a coupon. The last ones I bought were last year

    • says

      Susan old diapers are my favorite rags in the whole world. I was panicky because the diapers I had used for rags from my kids were almost 20 years old and I didn’t think they could last much longer but thank goodness the grandkids came along and I started having a fresh supply of rags!!

  13. Bea says

    Jill, I like it when you’re “long-winded” so continue to be. I rarely buy paper towels because I feel like I’m throwing my money away. I do buy them once in awhile. I prefer to use rags because they are stronger and don’t fall apart. When you spill something on a carpet or rug you can scrub with a rag, you can’t with a paper towel. The paper gets into the rug and makes more of a mess. So I appreciate this info on rags. Also, I like rag rugs. I’ve seen homemade ones made by craft people and they are beautiful.

  14. Hana Becker says

    Excellent article about the use of rags. I learned it from my mother since we were not well off when I was young. It helps us save a good amount of money. It also helps us teach our children to reuse and recycle pretty much anything we can. I wash my old t-shirts and use those for cleaning up bathroom and then throw them out. I use old towels for cleaning the wood floors or the kitchen floors or any other spilling messes the kids make because towels sop up all the liquid and I can rinse and reuse.
    To The Author of the article: When we make bacon or anything that might require using a paper towels for grease I use a cookies sheet and a cooling rack. Grease from bacon drips in the cookie sheet and I can reuse it to start stews or anything else that would require bacon fat.
    Mum of two girls in Chicago

  15. says

    I have a slightly different approach. I became concerned that I was throwing too much money away with my favorite paper towels just to wipe up water spills on the counter and dry my hands, so I began to use ‘bar wipes’. These are fairly inexpensive white terry cloth towels which come a dozen to a package. They are lighter in weight than most wash cloths and slightly larger in size. They also do a good job of polishing stainless steel and cabinets. I tend to use a fresh one or two every day depending on my kitchen chores, using one to wipe my hands. As the day progresses, the use changes from water spills to grease, coffee, tea, or whatever and no longer is used to clean, just to get up the mess. I wash them with bleach or oxiclean. I have used the same dozen for almost 7 years. When they become too worn, they will end up in my other rag bag and be used for really sloppy messes like painting or staining wood. I just love the ‘moppability’ of these cloths plus they save my favorite dish towels (for drying dishes) and cute terry cloth towels (for others to wipe their hands on) from getting badly stained, bleached and worn out quickly. I, too,love your newsletters/website. PTL. Anne

  16. Diana says

    I totally agree with this article. Rags are the way to go. Of course, just like everyone else I do use paper towels, but I try to use them carefully. I do use more than 1-2 rolls per year, but I buy them in bulk when I am running low. My husband is diabetic, so I watch his socks very carefully. When a hole or weak spot shows up, they are rags. And what wonderful rags they make. I use them for dusting at first, but when they get dirty I throw them away. Reuse!

  17. soccermamaof3 says

    I haven’t bought paper towels for several years until recently. I used old kitchen towels for everything I used to use paper towels. At first I did it to help cut my grocery bill and truly never missed them. I buy them now because I have a dog who is 14 and having bladder problems so I’m buying paper towels to clean up her accidents. Luckily it’s less than 1 roll a month right now.

    • Pam Rymanowicz says

      You can still use rags for the urine. Just wash separately on hot & a touch of bleach. If you use rags you can keep them in a covered bucket with water & bleach inside, just dump the whole bucket in the washer, it already has the bleach. Just run an extra rinse cycle. Still should be less expensive than the paper towels (and more absorbent as well)

      • says

        You could do this but part of the idea of using paper towels is the convince of being about to throw them away and you loose the whole point of using rags if you can’t just toss them when they are nasty. I have so many rags from worn clothing and linens that I rarely wash them when I use them for something nasty and I still have piles to use up. Plus this may save a little buy by the time you add in the detergent, bleach, water and electricity to wash them you have more expense then if you just tossed them.

      • Tina says

        Never mix bleach with urine! However, Borax is a great alternative. If you need an additional rinse agent (and a fantastic fabric softener) remember the vinegar.

        • says

          There are many that say that this is a myth because urine is not ammonia. What they get confused with is thinking that it is and you definitely should not ever mix bleach and ammonia. Another mistake people make is using bleach to clean where their pets have had an accident. Bleach really isn’t as good at neutralizing urine odor as vinegar is so you should soak up as much as you can, let some vinegar soak on the spot for a bit, clean it up then if it is someplace you want germ free them wipe down with a little bleach water.
          I have heard of people having a strong ammonia smell in their urine and are worried about using a toilet with bleach in it but as happens so often we get hung up on the worrying and being afraid of the wrong things. If someones urine has that strong of a smell they have bigger issues to deal with then whether to use vinegar or bleach and that is why is your urine smelling that strong. That is usually a sign there is something wrong in your body like you aren’t drinking enough water, may have a bladder or urinary tract infection or something like that. Which is what I would be taking care of.

  18. Jodee says

    I love the article because I rarely buy paper towels and most of my friends think I’m crazy. I stopped buying them when I realized that I was budgeting $15 a month, $180 a year, for something that I was going to throw away. Now, once a year or so, I buy a package of white washcloths from WalMart (18 for $4 where I live) and use them until they fall apart. Certain ones go in the kitchen, certain ones are used in bathrooms, and the rest are multi-ourpose for house and cars. They go into a hot wash with bleach and are good to use again. I also buy flour sack towels very cheaply at IKEA, maybe 4 a year, and use them when I need lint-free drying, like drying dishes. Even including water, detergent, and bleach for washing, I figure I’m now spending in a year what I used to spend in a month.

  19. Kristen says

    I love using cloth diapers for cleaning rags. I was given a case of cloth diapers for my first child and didn’t use all of them, so I use the ones that never touched a bottom for cleaning and the ones that did were soaked in Borax and bleached and get used for the floors. They are very absorbent so they work well on spills and I’ve used them often to get crayon off our walls, since I have a budding artist on my hands :)

  20. Karen Ewald says

    Great artice. I need to see about finding instructions on doing rag rugs. I have alot of old sheets, etc that no one else would want to use, but hate to just pitch them. Does anyone recycle rags anymore? They used to use it for good quality paper (rag content). Did your Grandma dye the cloth to get the colors? I haven’t had much luck with Rite dye, it bleeds everytime it gets wet for years. Would be great to add color to faded rags instead of the faded look.

    • says

      Karen in the next few articles I will talk about recycling rags mostly for cleaning but will mention some other things to use them for. As far as dying goes my grandmother never dyed things because she had such a variety of different colored clothes, sheets etc. which she used she didn’t need to but one thing even if the fabric looks faded more times then not when they are worked into rugs you can’t tell they are faded. They look completely different when woven, braided or crocheted.

      My grandmother had a large loom she wove her rugs on. My mom has crocheted me several beautiful rag rugs with old sheets. To start with any of these including braiding they would tear strips of fabric about 1 – 1 1/2 inches wide, sew the ends of the strips together and roll in tight balls. My grandmother’s was different because she folded her strips in half (like you would a binding for a quilt) and then roll them into balls. She did this because it gave the rug a neater more finished look where most of the time you can see the fraying on the rug which is fine too especially if you are going for the country look.

      My mom just used single crochet and worked long strips then laid them into a square, oval or circle and sewed the rows together. For braiding a rug you use not to long of strips and attach the ends to a chair or with a clamp or something and then just braid. When you get to the end sew more strips together and braid some more until you have the size you want. Lay it down and sew the rows together.

    • says

      check around your community for drop boxes for used clothes etc. If it has a phone number, call and see if they also take rags. One company (when we lived in California) came to our school and told us that they re-use everything, including stained rags. The good stuff goes to a thrift shop, The rags were sorted by rags that could be sold bulk to places that used a lot of rags, and the remainder were actually sorted by fiber and somehow broken down and recycled. I know places like Salvation Army don’t like rags – they think they are junk, but there are some places around that will use and recycle everything. (Ours was a red box placed by the school. Some businesses could also have them placed free. A portion of the weight in donations was supposed to come back to the school or business. I don’t know if that ever happened, but at least things weren’t ending up in the landfill)

  21. Patty says

    Three cheers for rags! We save them in kitty litter containers, washed out of course. I also do the rags for toss and rags for wash routine. Great subject to explore and use

  22. Stacey Weiss says

    I’m also amazed at how much money people waste on paper towels. Like you, I do use them for draining bacon and other occasional jobs, but I’ve always preferred to use rags when possible. My very frugal grandmother always kept a rag bag,and so do I. Worn out tee shirts, socks, anything flannel and old sheets are great for cleaning, along with old cloth diapers. After each use, I just toss ’em in the washing machine and wash along with our sheets and towels in hot water. If they’re really gross, I just toss ’em out. They don’t fall apart like paper towels, and are much better for the environment!

  23. Candy says

    Jill, my grandmother had a rag collection too. Her old dresses and mine went into it and she pieced quilts from them. I would like to hear more about how your grandmother made rugs.
    Thanks for all the common sense advise. I guess these paper towel addicts weren’t around in the days before there was ever such a thing! LOL!!

    • says

      In the next newsletters I will be covering everything you need to know about rags, what to use where, how to cut them up, different types and on and on so hopefully I can answer your questions on many other things with those. I mostly dealt with “cleaning rags” vs paper towels in these articles because in times past I have talked about all the different things you can use old clothes and linens like quilts, making pillow cases out of old sheets etc. but will try to do more of that type of thing if you guys want. The big question we were addressing here was how to save money on paper towels.

  24. says

    I am diligently trying to wean my family off of paper towels. I rarely used them until I married, and now it seems like I’m buying them at least once a month, and that’s the 6 roll package. When I moved into my apartment in the town where I met my husband, I bought the big box bulk package. I lived in that apartment for over a year, and then moved in with my husband when we married. I still had 9 of the twelve rolls I started with. Within a month of moving in w/my husband, all 9 rolls were gone and he put more on the list. Wha?

    Now, almost 13 years later, I am grateful for create-a-size and me being in charge of the grocery shopping ;). I have the kids trained to reach for a rag to wipe up spills, and have eliminated about half of the paper towel usage of our hey-day, but my goal is one roll a month. If I don’t advertise the fact that I’ve just purchased paper towels, they don’t seemed to be used in such a haphazard fashion. It’s within reach, I know it is!

  25. bo peep says

    These are all wonderful tips! My grandchildren were grabbing a paper towel to dry their hands until I corrected them. A new product is being advertised to dispense paper towels in your bathroom because “you don’t want to use the same towel to dry your hands”. What a gimmick and waste of money and paper, not to mention making your bathroom look like something in a gas station. When I do use paper towels, I buy blue shop towels–they’re the same price as other paper towels, but last a lot longer.

  26. says

    My wife sent me this article. It’s a good one. We can probably get a lot of rags just from cutting up some old clothes – you know those ones that are so worn out you can’t even donate or sell? Plus, we can always buy some like one lady who posted on here does. I’ve always used old socks for rags that I use for things like polishing my shoes. I have some cut-off sleeves from sweat tops that I keep for wiping down my guitar when I’m through playing it. Some of those are more than 20 years old! Rags are worth their weight in gold for greasy messes and for washing your cars. They’re better and cheaper than store-bought sponges. If you’re short on rags, you can also use old newspaper to wipe down your windows.

  27. Amy says

    We save the socks that are worn out or have holes. We use them as dust rags or cleaning mitts for little hands. Their own socks fit over like a mitten, and work better than a rag for them. Throw them in the wash and reuse.

  28. rannysraggs says

    Wow!! I am a paper towel user and want to be frugal since I am on a fixed income now. Thank you all for all the tips and Tawra for your newsletter. If anyone has a pattern for rag rugs, I would love that too. Thank you all for all the tips. My paper towel days are over!!!!!

  29. Kristi says

    My huge concern with using rags over paper towels is the health issue. If you are cleaning up meat liquids or eggs or any other type of food that might harbor dangerous germs then you don’t have any guarantee that you are not spreading it with the rags. I was taught to use only paper towels in the kitchen for this reason. I’m too frugal to follow it that closely. So for general cleaning I go ahead and use a rag but for raw food cleanup I go for the paper towels.

    • says

      That was the type of “messy” jobs I was talking about when I say I use a paper towel or if I use a rag for something like that the rag gets thrown out and then I wipe over it with hot soapy water and a little clorox.

    • judy says

      Paper towels are a relitively recent invention. Grannie used rags for everything. Surely, if a rag was used for cleaning up raw meat mess, it went into the wash. Personally, I just toss my dishcloth and towels into the laundry almost every day. I also clean houses for a living and don’t use paper towels for anything but cleaning ovens. All the rags add up to enough to do a couple of loads a week. A regular wash and dry and off we go again. We are getting to be a nation of germiphobes. Where do I get my rags? Just from Costco…they have cleaning rags in the auto section. They need to have finished edges as they are washed so often.
      Yes I do use paper towels at home for bacon, then toss, and sometimes for wrapping lettuce in but at least that goes in the compost. I think we get at least a couple of moths out of a roll. Washcloths make good everyday napkins

      • says

        You are right Judy. Paper goods period were rare – napkins, Kleenex, paper plates, toilet paper and paper used for writing or school. My mom to this day is very careful of these things because she remembers the rarity of them so it hasn’t been as long ago as we think. Even when I was in school paper was still expensive enough that I had to be careful of it and make sure I used “scratch” paper for most things even in school. Once again even though we holler about how much more expensive things are now here is another thing that is so much cheaper then it ever has been although I still use rags because these things can add up.

  30. Katie says

    What a waste of rags – just throwing them out because you don’t like what you cleaned up with them. Go to the dollar store, get a big lingerie bag, and put that in a plastic trash bag. When you get done with a rag, put it in the lingerie bag. Sprinkle some baking soda in it to control odor. Keep it in the laundry room. When a week goes by, throw the laundry bag, rags and all, in the washer on cold with bleach and the rags will be fine for another go round. Most people don’t generate enough old material to have rags at the asking on a monthly basis. Plus cleaning them recycles the fabric longer.

    The economy’s bad – time to live on a nickle! :)

    • says

      You maybe didn’t see the part where I said the rags I throw have been washed and used for so many different things by the time I start using them as my throw away rags which means they are thread bare and can’t be washed again. On average I throw out 5 rags a month. I have boxes and boxes of rags because I recycle so well.

  31. Regina says

    I am enjoying this article about paper towels vs. rags, however my particular dilemma is that I live in an apt. and since the coin-op laundry strains my budget, I shudder from using rags which would be costly for me to wash. However, I have discovered an in-between measure. The local dollar store sells rolls of towels that are made of a sturdy material that can be used many times. They are sort of similar to the handiwipes. I use one section and keep washing it in the sink and letting it dry. By the time it is used up and ready to toss, it has been quite a while. This way I don’t have to add rags to my laundry load, nor am I throwing away towels after one use. And if I clean up something really yucky, I have no qualms about throwing it away.

  32. K Word says

    Recently, I found that the disinfecting wipes, which I believe I must use at times, have an accumulation of liquid in the bottom of the container. Instead of throwing it out, I poured it into the next container. When that container had no more wipes, I put the clean but soiled rags into the liquid and use them before I decide I have used them “to death” and out they go. Now I feel even more frugal.

  33. Christina says

    Thanks for the great tips — looking forward to “part 2″.

    Your article reminded me of a wonderful children’s book, “The Rag Coat”, by Lauren Mills. It tells the story of a very special coat made from scraps for a little girl who needed it in order to go to school. Thanks for bringing up a great memory!

  34. Liz says

    I buy a package of cloth baby diapers when the rags get so dirty they must be thrown out. They work very well and wash well in hot water; I add a little bleach as needed. There are still things that I prefer to clean with paper towels but I have cut down.

  35. Jackie says

    This was really helpful…rather than just scold us for using paper towels you are educating us on what to use instead. I have read articles about re-using paper towels-drying them, which does not seem very feasible. I am looking forward to your next post!

  36. Tammy says

    A previous pastor contacted me for our church newsletter to ask if our ladies would be interested in using t-shirts to make cloth diapers. I don’t happen to have that pattern, but she does. I certainly wish I had known how to do that when my girls were babies! I looked and looked and NOWHERE around could I find cloth diapers or cloth training pants, so I was left with disposables. (I did not know where to look for the train your child to use the restroom by 6 months-old at the time.) If anyone is interested in knowing how to make these, I would be happy to ask for the pattern. She also recommended sending these in kits to folks who have endured a disaster or providing to shelters or food banks for needy families. I know that is one area that could have helped me and neighbors when I only had disposable diapers that I could give to needy families who needed a couple of diapers to get them by until the store opened or until payday. A few cloth diapers would have gone further.

    I do like the idea of using rags to clean the floors. That would do a much better job than my current solution as our home has 40-year-old tile throughout.

  37. Liz says

    I switched to rags about two years ago and I found it very useful to have small laundry basket in the kitchen. I found a very small one at the dollar store, so not a big investment. I like to use the plastic grocery bag despensers with my rags to dispense them in an easy to reach way. I have two, one for cleaning and one with cheap washcloths for wiping up the baby’s face, hands and high chair. I don’t like the idea of wiping up the baby with something that’s been used on the floor. I do also chuck rags if I use them on pet messes. I even recycle old worn out underware into rags! Men’s undershirts, such as the A shirt makes nice rags when they wear out. I cut them down the center of the front and back to make two long rags with a loop at the top, and I can loop it around the oven handle. Instead of using paper towels for bacon and other greasy cooking situations, I bought a package of mens cloth hankies for use in the kitchen. They do a better job than cheese cloth, and I can even drain and squeez out the frozen spinage with them.

  38. Elaine says

    Hi–what a great article! I really appreciate all of these frugal tips. Our family has really started going through paper towels and baby wipes like crazy since our little one started eating ‘regular’ food a year ago. At first I used nice microfiber cloths to clean off her hands and face, but they started to smell after a day or two. Even after washing, they still smell bad (same thing with my washrags, which I gave up on years ago). How do I get rid of the smell? Thanks! (and I love the rag rug idea–I might have to go dig a few items out of our giveaway bags!) :-)

    • says

      We use white cloth diapers for this and throw them in with the whites and bleach them. Here in Kansas the mold and mildew grow like crazy so washrags and towels don’t last but a day or two in the summer. BTW, I get a fresh washrag out every day and use only white rags I can bleach.

      • Tina says

        Come on Tawra – Vinegar cuts the mold and mildew but bleach only changes it’s color. If you don’t believe me, check out your local microscope :-) Keep it coming though – love all of the tips.

        • says

          Vinegar only kills 82-88% of mold or bacteria compared to bleach which kills 99.9%. That is a fact that everyone agrees on. It is the other 18% that is left that I worry about that can reproduce and multiply. If I was in the hospital on the infectious disease ward I would want them to use bleach and not vinegar to make sure that room was safe for me to be in. Also people used vinegar for years for cleaning. If it was so great and wonderful why did they change over to bleach? Because they had seen family members die because of bacterial diseases, food poisonings etc. that their vinegar didn’t kill. Bleach itself is not bad it is the way people use it – not using it properly and too much.

    • says

      Elaine, I took old faded t shirts that family members couldn’t wear any more, cut the sleeves off and cut them up the sides and these worked so good for our toddlers to use for bibs. Because they are bigger they slip over their heads easily and fall down on to their lap to catch the spills. Because they are old anyway we would just toss them in with the bleach things and wash. I also could use a clean corner to wet and wipe their mouths with.

      PS I have the worst time too with micro fiber cloths which I will address in the rest of the rag articles.

  39. Glenda in Little Rock says

    Hey Jill,

    I would like to respond to Barb who sent in a comment on the “rags” page and whose husband is ill and so is she. Barb, I have no idea where you are, but here we have several free medical clinics available in the community thru the big hospitals that are competing with each other for folks with insurance, but still mindful of the people in the community that don’t have any insurance. I hope you have looked into free medical clinics for your family’s needs. They can also assist with getting medications for little to no cost as almost all the big pharmaceutical companies have indigent patient programs for free meds. Also, I have worked with one of these big hospitals in years gone past, and found they had an “indigent patient” category in their billing department. You shouldn’t wait too long after you get a bill to ask about this. Sometimes just talking with someone in the billing department about your situation enables them to work with you about the possibility of doing away with some or all of the medical charges. They do this by using a sliding fee scale to determine how much you will owe based on your household income. Be sure everyone is taking care of their teeth every day by brushing and flossing in order to avoid pain, losing their teeth early, or incurring dental bills on top of the medical expenses. It is much harder to find free dental clinics or discounts for dental care. Also, if you or sweetie have high blood pressure, make it a priority to get meds and take them consistently. Nothing can be worth the tragedy of a heart attack or stroke by one of the parents. Another thing, if folks are over weight in the family, encourage each other to go for a 20 minute walk as often as possible. Walking can benefit by managing undiagnosed diabetes, and a plethora of other physical health problems. The next time someone in the family makes use of an ER, free medical clinic, school where there is a social worker, or any organization with any connection to having a social worker – ask to talk with them about getting your hands on any kind of booklet that gives names, addresses and/or phone numbers for community resources. You could really benefit from that. I am concerned there are resources available to help you and your family that you are not aware of. Don’t give up. You have faced harder things than this, and sometimes just being persistant will win the day. Good luck to you.

  40. Millie says

    I don’t use rags because I think you can carry a lot of germs especially if you use them in the kitchen or bathroom.

    I also don’t really have very many.

  41. Sabita says

    Dear Tawra,

    I am from India and since time immemorial, I remember my mother (and now me) never throwing out any cloth. Old clothes went to Vincent de Paul in Church, for kitchen rags – I cut up old towels that no longer have any turkish in them and use them for wiping wet dishes. Sheets that have tears in them – I cut around the tear, bigger pieces go to make rugs (doubling the material) and smaller pieces for wiping counters.

    Regarding rag rugs, my wonderful mother used to even use the material after stitching an item of clothing like the sides. She used to cut them into uniform length (about 4″), cut burlap (the kind in which foodgrains are transported – we call it gunny sack here in India)to the size you want the rug to be, serge the edges of the burlap. Put a strip into a bobby pin and then thread this through each weave of the burlap depending on how dense you want the rug. Knot the strip so that it doesn’t come out. These rugs are so colourful, last for years and can be put into the washing machine.

    Now for Barb – here my husband and I rely more on naturapathy than allopathy. My husband had just crossed the normal cholessterol level so each night, both of us have two pods of fresh garlic each. Presto – in a month his cholesterol level had come to normal. For thinning of blood, we each have half a raw onion. The warm drinking water we have with our meals have a 1/4 tsp. of turmeric powder (for infection) and 1/4 tsp. of cumminseed powder (to settle the stomach) stirred into it.

    I can honestly say that all the above work. Do forgive me for such a long winded ‘comment’ but I do owe you a favour in response to all the tips you send each day.


    Sabita Tellis from Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India.

  42. Kimberly Russell says

    If you subscribe to the newspaper when you are done reading it use it to wash windows or mirrors. These work great and give a real shine without any streaks.

  43. Deb says

    I love the rag idea but wanted to comment that paper napkins are extremely wasteful too. We use cloth napkins and it has been a very easy transition. I bought them all second hand from the Goodwill store and after washing they are folded and kept in a basket on our kitchen table. When they are only slightly used I open them to the “good” side and flip them over the back of that person’s chair to be used again (my kids have assigned seats at the table). If they are all used or have a sauce of any type on them they get thrown right in the washer, which is off the kitchen. I even pack them in my son’s lunch box and take them on picnics :)

  44. says

    Here is a site about crocheting with rags. Also, my Grandma used to do this with bread bags. I’m so sorry I threw it away when it needed repair!

    We use rags the same way Jill does, but I learned a few tricks from this, too. Thanks, Jill and Tawra.

  45. says

    It’s funny all this talk about Grandma’s rag rugs. I was thinking the other day I might like to try one. I just love them and have used mom’s old ones at different houses.

  46. Irene says

    Your suggestions to Barb were amazing. You offered so many avenues that could also help other readers too.

    I hope you and your husband are able to get the assistance you need. We’ll be thinking of you.

  47. Anna P. says

    Jill, I am also very frugal when it comes to paper towel use. I crochet a lot and have made myself lots of kitchen cloths and find that the nubby roughness of these cloths does a great job of cleaning counters, stovetop, small appliances, and even areas such as refrigerator doors/handles, light switches, and hand prints around door knobs. I use paper towels for yucky spills and cleanups and only buy a roll a couple of times a year.

    Blessings to you and Tawra! You have a wonderful newsletter!

    • says

      I love the dish cloths you are talking about too, Anna. As Tawra said my mom (her grandmother) makes us these. For those of you who may wonder what we are talking about you take cotton crochet thread, cotton string or you could even try thin strips of cotton fabric and crochet or knit a square and they make great dish rags.

      Like Anna said the texture helps them clean better and also what some people don’t realize many germs are killed from the rough rubbing action of the cloth which makes them great for that.

  48. Carol says

    Loved the article on Paper towel vs rags as I’m a rag user myself. Especially love athletic socks. Whenever we get a hole in ours, after I wash it, I cut the toe off and split it for an absolutely great absorbent rag.

  49. says

    I use a lot of paper towels. They are handy and tossing them is easier when I can’t get down to the washing machine some weeks.
    But I have started using bar towels. they are white and smaller than towels and the perfect size for most jobs. Also they are absorbent and work better than the tea towels they make now. They are also white so they get lots of bleach when they are washed.
    My husband wears happy foot socks which do not make good rags so I keep them around for cat messes. Two old cats 20 and 23 have accidents and the socks get the mess with not too much work. Since they are rags I toss them in the garbage when done. I also use them to clean the toilet and the bowl. They get tossed then as well.
    to use less PT’s when draining bacon or greasy stuff place a couple sheets of newspaper then top with a sheet of PT the towel keeps the ink print covered and the news paper absorbs the grease.

  50. says


  51. Cindy Haskell says

    Thank you Tawra for another way to save money…and I see that you reuse your rags when wiping spray starch off your ironing board. I don’t know if you knew this or not…but if you put a teaspoon of corn starch in a spray bottle filled with warm water…it works awesome as a spray starch. You just have to continue shaking it between uses. Alot cheaper than buying spray starch!

    • says

      Yes that is good to use for starch. I also besides using the steam setting on my iron mist my clothes along with that and it does almost as good as using starch. This works especially well for dark things which even if you rub the starch into them can sometimes flake.
      I use regular starch mostly because I don’t have to pay for it. I get cans of it for free at our recycling center along with many other things. I don’t think many people like using it because I find cans of it there every time I go.

  52. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    Because I try to “buy for life” iI haven’t used paper towels in years. On a show where British housekeepers/nannies inspected idsgustingly kept U.S. homes they explained that your husbands’ old t shirts made the best dust cloths because htey absorb the dust rather than just push it around as a feather duster does. (Horrific for those with allergies like me.) I use microfiber towels because I have an old leaky dog. Not only do these items do a better job than paper towels, reducing, reusing and recycling saves me money I can spend on other things, eliminates the trash I produce and the waste products manufacturers produce.

  53. Icia says

    I would really like more info regarding the carpet balls and rag rugs. Would love to know how to make them!!

    • says

      Icia, I will try to do a short thing on how to make them etc. and get it posted in the next couple of days. Will let you know when it is done.

  54. Sheri says

    I haven’t bought paper towels in over ten years… When my last two babies got too big for diapers, but still needed them, I bought the Martex hand towels at Costco for about $1 each, in a package of 24. I have also bought the microfiber towels for just a bit more. We don’t need them as diapers anymore. Now they work in the kitchen. They have no stains, so no one’s the wiser! I had also bought washrags for a very good price as diaper doublers. They also serve me again in the kitchen for everything!!! I don’t throw my rags or towels away. I think they just gradually leave the house as lint from the dryer… ; ]

    My rags and towels clean everything! They still clean little children bottoms when we have accidents. My disgusting things all get washed together. It all comes out clean again! The only paper product I haven’t figured out how to do without is toilet paper. I know you can buy recycled toilet paper, but I know of no way to recycle it… ; ]

    For a family of six, our garbage can only needs to go to the curb once a month. Even when we had two in diapers and eight at home! Not bad!

  55. icia says

    Thanks Jill. I will eagerly await any info you can give me. I’ve been wanting to do a project like this for years. I even have staches of fabric remnents just waiting to be used. Keep up the great work. I’ve been reading your suggestions and enewsletter for several years now.

  56. icia says

    I eagerly await any info you have. Keep up the great work. I’ve been reading your enewsletter for years. It’s fabulous. You are a Godsend.

  57. Judy C says

    I bought a cheep bunble of wash cloths. I use the colored ones in the kitchen and white in the bathroom . When the white one get badly stained then I will use them in kitchen. I use a laundry rack to dry them, so all it cost is to wash and bleach them . I also save and use worn out socks to do the messy jobs in the house and garage then they can be thrown a way .

  58. Tammy says

    I am new to these posts and am trying to remember everything I am reading! I am a stay at home mom of 6 and need to learn to be even more frugal than I amI am wondering does anyone have a cheap alternative for a 2.5 year old for diapers? She is not interested in the potty (trust me we’ve tried) I don’t want to buy cloth at this point as they are so expensive to begin with.I just need a solution for a few months hopefully.

    Thanks for any advice,

    • says

      If you don’t want to buy cloth, and I wouldn’t at this age the only other thing I know is regular diapers. You could make some cloth out of old flannel blankets and just buy the plastic pants. You would only need 2 or 3 pairs of plastic pants if you did that.

  59. barb~ says

    I would like to know how to crochet trivets from old t-shirts. I have a ton(!) of dark ones that are my son’s. They would be great as hot pads or trivets. I have friends, who have everything!, that would appreciate these as Christmas gifts. Plus, the price is right:)!



      • says

        Just a note to add to Tawra’s post. If you make something scrubby (like a dish rag) try using a combination of yarn or thread and stripes of mesh bags (like the ones potatoes come in) or tulle together. The mesh bags are messy to cut so you could use the tulle.

    • says

      Barb, I didn’t know if you know how to crochet already or not if you do you just would crochet them like you would making any round circle or even something like a granny square. The only difference would be is you are using the t shirts in place of the thread or yarn.

      If you don’t know how to crochet then just do like they are showing with the rugs but make them smaller. I would suggest everyone try a small project like a trivet first anyway to practice before you start a large rug.

      One thing though make sure the t shirts are 100% cotton because if they aren’t and they are used under a hot pan they can melt. Don’t ask me how I know all these things (maybe from experience????? : )

  60. says

    to knit the trivets here is a simple pattern.
    cast on 3 sts.
    knit across.
    increase one stitch in first stitch knit to last stitch increase one st.
    repeat this row until it is half the size you want.
    then next row
    decrease one stitch in first stitch knit to last stitch decrease one st.
    continue back to the original 3sts cast off.

  61. Michele says

    Here’s another frugal idea Jill….

    I don’t like using dish cloths in the kitchen because of the odor they get after a few uses. So, I buy J-Cloths. I use them in the kitchen until they start to show a bit of wear or get a little thin. Then I wash them. After they are cleaned again, I use them as rags. Reduce, recycle, reuse!!!!

    I definitely get my money’s worth out of them (sometimes I buy a no-name type brand) and I buy the large 40 cloth pack for $5.00 – $6.00. So, 40 dish cloths and 40 rags for that price!! Look out environment! Here I come!! :)

  62. JudyL says

    I agree on rags versus paper towels, but I do have a question. Why spend money on paper towels to line your refrigerator bins, when you can use newspaper? That’s what I’ve used for years, they absorb odors & also absorb spills better than a paper towel! I even line the refrigerator floor UNDER the bins with newspaper.

    I have all kinds of rags,including old towels & tshirts theat we’ve worn out, but I think the best rags I’ve ever had are old diapers! My youngest 2 kids are 13 & 16, and I am still using old diapers from them as rags-those things last forever! They are nearly lint-free & very absorbant. I like them so much, that about 6 years ago,I bought a package that was on sale at a baby store, just so I could have more!

    I crochet & I love the crochet dishcloth patters, however I have nust not been able to bring myself to ‘ruin’ them by using them for heavy cleaning, silly of me I guess,LOL!

    • says

      Judy I don’t use newspapers because our newspaper is way to expensive. One day’s newspaper cost me more then to buy a whole roll of paper towels and since I usually use about 1 roll of paper towels a year it isn’t like I am throwing tons of money away.

      I have to agree with you on diapers. I don’t know if you read part 2 of this article but at the end I write a whole thing on diapers about how they are my all time favorite rag. I was so glad when Tawra started having kids because my 25 plus year old diapers were getting soooo thread bare so that gave me a new supply. I don’t think it is silly at all about not wanting to use them for heavy cleaning. I am the same way with my diapers.

  63. clean house says

    I cleaned houses for 10 years and hardly ever used paper towels. I hit yard sales and friends for old bath towels and cut them into 1 ft. by 2 ft. strips. I then sewed the ends so I had a tube. When folded I had several clean sides with which to scrub. I washed them with detergent and bleach to sanitize.

    When cleaning nasty places such as toilet seat and bathroom floors I used windex and toliet paper. I just flushed away the germs.

    T Shirts make good dusting rags. Cotton sheets clean mirrors and windows.

  64. rose says

    are the micro fiber towels the same as those handy wipes ? the handy wipes that i am thinking about are blue and white or another color and wipe and they have little holes in them? .. just curious ..
    i dont buy paper towels either .. i use rags or if i have a cat mess or the dogs did something then i use napkins or toilet paper …
    i saw a cute craft idea to make cheap trivets .. take a piece of cardboard (cut into a circle of the size u want) then take either rope or twine (that has been twisted or braided), circle it around and around on the top (as u circle it to make the design, glue with either tacky glue or something that is strong) and do the same for the sides of the cardboard ..
    i saw this in a book at the library for kids to make homemade xmas gifts .. thought i would share .. 😀

    • says

      Like Tawra said they are different from handy wipes. Micro fiber is every where now and the biggest sells pitch for them is you can use them without having to use chemicals to clean.

      I am a little concerned people are falling for this pitch. I was watching a thing on a mop which used micro fiber pads for cleaning and of course the first thing out of his mouth was you don’t have to use chemicals. He then proceeded to show where he had put salt water on the floor and let it dry and said “See all I need to do is dampen this with water and it wipes right up. No chemicals are needed” I don’t have to use chemicals to wipe up dried salt water either when I use my “rags” and I use very little chemicals with my rags too.

      I worry too because no you don’t have to use chemicals but if you are just using water how really clean is your floor and other places if you are just using water to clean.

      They show people washing a window using micro fiber rags and saying “No chemicals needed just water” I’m sorry I don’t need to use any chemicals to wipe my windows either. Please be careful everyone and don’t be duped or fall for these sales pitches. Don’t let your fear of chemicals or pesticides rule your life and buy unnecessary things just because the label and sales pitch sounds so wonderful.

  65. Kasey says


    I am familiar with the microfiber cloths. There is a company with ANTIBACTERIAL microfiber cloths and the “magic” with them is that there is a silver agent embedded into the cloths… not added after the cloth, but actually, during the process of making the cloth. The bacteria is trapped in the cloth & after a period of time the silver breaks down the bacteria causing the cloth & what you’ve cleaned to be 99.9% clean! This is why a person only needs water with the cloths to clean.

    In general, microfiber cloths produce an electrostatic charge that removes dirt, germs and bacteria, leaving a clean, polished surface, unlike many other types of cloths that smear dirt across the surface being cleaned.
    Please, please ask the guy you are referring to for more information!

  66. Jeniver says

    I just was reading this and wanted to comment about Microfiber towels. I hate touching them when they are new, but they make wonderful stuffers for our pocket cloth diapers. Once they are pretty old, they become cleaning rags. Not my favorite, but after using them for 3 years on a daily basis, getting a little more use out of them is worth it. We use about 3 rolls of paper towels a year here, and between 6 of us, that is uaually for greasy foods or for when we are out and I forget cloth napkins.

    Love your website. Going to go and pare down my clothing supply now so I don’t have to keep keeping up with all those clothes I never wear.

    Blessing from a fellow mother with FM and four blessings running around my home.


    • says

      Thank you Jeniver. Tawra will appreciate you sweet words especially today. She has had to show the house twice in three days, again today with all the kids home, Jack sick and her in laws coming in tonight. I don’t know how she is even standing at this point. But with four yourself you know how that goes.

  67. Yolanda Geier says

    My tip on saving on paper towels
    Sometimes we use paper towels for drying hands or under a spoon or lay a food etc. If the paper towel is not really dirty it can be saved and reused to wipe up spills from the floor or to put peelings etc,.

  68. Fran D. says

    I also save and use my rags..They’re the best! They come in pretty handy for cleaning around and in back of the faucets where it’s hard to reach. Nothing better in my humble opinion. I also use paper towels but am aware of how wasteful using them can be.

    I get newspapers from my mother in law and put them on top of the refrigerator and other hard to reach places where dusts collects. Every other month I just change the newspaper!

  69. says

    We don’t use paper towels here, either. My last hold out was draining bacon and sausage. I’ve started using a piece or two of bread to drain it. While not neccessarily cheaper, the bread can then be toasted (yum) or if you don’t like the sound of that, then you can toss it in the yard for the birds. But at least it isn’t ending up in a land fill.

  70. Lynn C. says

    I love to use rags, especially old gym socks that I can slip my hand into. I sometimes use paper towels, but use the ones that are advertised as sturdy. They really are! I can clean with one paper towel all afternoon. If I’m cleaning something with a paper towel that’s not yucky dirty, I save it under the sink for another job. And that’s such a good tip to put newspaper under a paper towel to absorb grease!

  71. Shannon says

    Gabi, I have a few washcloths I keep in the kitchen just for draining greasy foods. When I’m done I wash them with everything else. Works for us.

  72. Michelle says

    The main reason I use Paper towels is for the dogs… They have accidents and cleaning up is better.. Other than that I use a rag and wash them ,,, I am looking into making some with a scrubbie surface if I can find a pattern or a How to .

  73. bea says





  74. Candice says

    I’m new to this site and I just read everything posted! Wow, and I thought I was really creative. I didn’t grow up having paper towels. This past year has been my first year married and my husband uses paper towels for everything and tosses them when they aren’t even dirty (I cringe and shudder every time). I hope I can change him over to rags before the paper towels bankrupt us! Thanks for all these tips, I love the 2ond layer of newspaper for bacon grease, we get the newspaper every day (he can’t live without it). I’m going to revamp my kitchen and move the paper towels out of sight (hopefully out of mind-at least to start) Thank you everyone!

  75. Sylvia says

    I probably use more paper towels than I should but I spread them out to dry and then use them to clean up cat barf and “accidents”. Still can’t figure out why one cat seems to not want to use the liter box. Vet can’t find anything wrong with her. She probably should be an outdoor cat. Now that I am staying at home, I let her out most of the day. So far, she has not strayed from the fenced back yard.

  76. Joelle says

    I grew up using rags. My mom never had a paper towel in the house. I cannot recall using paper towels when my girls were growing up but now I do have a roll or two on hand. they are mostly used when my girls come home. My favorite rags are terry towels and woe to the husband who comes in looking for grease rags and takes off with these. With the economy the way it is today we need to use and reuse things instead of just throwing things away. I also have a basket of cloth napkins on my table. These can easily be made out of old table cloths that have been stained and seen better days.

  77. Beth says

    It isn’t exactly a “rag”, but I use cloth napkins all the time. I had 7 children and tried to economize where possible, especially with something disposable like paper napkins. So I took a piece of 54″ fabric, 54″ long, cut it into 9 squares and made 9 napkins. My youngest child is 44, and long gone from home, but I still have 4 of the old napkins left, and I use them every day.

  78. says

    I have found those sham wow products great, the rags you cut to size and the mop heads all of which wash out great. As for bacon, I’ve found cooking it in the oven slow makes it non greasy and crisp… need to drain anymore.

  79. LauraLou says

    We use white rags for simple everyday cleaning and colored rags for messes that are not so easy. We use alot of lemon and baking soda and bleach if needed. Instead of chunking the really nasty rags we simply drop them in the bucket of bleach to marinate for awhile. We get the buckets for free in the mornings at various grocery store bakeries. They get their icing in them and just toss them when they are done. As far as draining grease from bacon and absorbing excess water from fruits, veggies, and protecting your produce drawer I have found that cheesecloth makes an INCREDIBLE substitute and can be easily soaked in the bleach bucket and later use lime and baking soda to eliminate anything else. I used to be fanatical about clorox wipes and paper towels until we had 3 kids. Now i’m on a budget. I hope this helps someone else!

  80. rose says

    when i had my window cleaning service, (another one of my work at home jobs), i used to use newspaper to wipe the windows with ..
    those windows were so clean and shiny .. that i oftened wondered if any birds did fly into them (like the commercial) .. hehehehe 😀 ..

  81. Lynda Treen says

    I use paper towels seldom. I have cotton tea towels that are gorgeous but not practicle for drying dishes. So I line my crisper drawers in my fridge with them. When they get dirty I just wipe the drawer out with it and throw it in the wash. I also line my lazy susan where I keep my spices with the washable rubber non-slip shelf liner. Easy to wipe a spill when it happens. Love your newsletter. Thanks so much.

  82. Lucy says

    Plastic grocery bags to the rescue – I put my hand inside a plastic grocery bag and pick up the biggest part of a mess (like a dropped egg) and then use a rag for the remainder of the clean-up.

    I have even used wadded up plastic grocery bags to scrub/wash the dog’s food and water bowls, patio furniture, etc.

    This has really cut down on my paper towel use and washing rags!

  83. CarolAnn says

    I always use rags. Cloth diapers make the best ones, of course those are not used for the dirty messes, I use old worn out washclothes or towels. In my opinion, for me to use papertowels is just laziness. It’s so easy to throw them in the wash. We too have a container for rags that get washed separately from other pieces of laundry, and who cares if they stained…they are for cleaning, not for wiping your face with.

  84. Jackie says

    One idea for draining bacon that restraunts use is to save the ends of bread that no one wants to eat and put the bacon on those to drain. You could use them 3 or 4 times, then feed them to the dog. It is a smart idea puppy gets a treat and you save paper towels.

  85. deborah B says

    I spend 10.00 a month on paper towels, I use them for all my cleaning jobs, including dishes, dusting, windows. I have found two brands that live up to their promise, Bounty and Viva. I like pt because you can throw them away, and not be wiping up germs with them. I feel if you use reusable rags, you are just wiping the germs from one area to the next, even if you clean them. I think you would have to use clorox in-between every use. That’s not safe, and would be a pain in the bottom. I have pets, and and do my best not to carry germs from one area to the next. Though it costs me 10.00 a month for pt, I feel it is a very small price to pay to not spread germs. I think this goes for children too.
    Just my opinion.

  86. Marian says

    …So wise of you to spread wise information, to use ‘rags’ or pieces of fabric, not only helps to stretch the $$ but it keeps the garbage down & that is very important. As far as the germs, a few of them help keep our immune system primed!! A Doctor friend said, “Everyone should have a pig in the house to keep their immune system up to pare.”
    Professional Cleaning for someone else, may be a bit different than in your own home. Love your ideas & blog brings warm memories of wonderful days, that we can apply to our lives today! Hugs, Marian

    • says

      Marian I love your doctors way of thinking. Too funny. I always think of a family member who was germ crazy wanting the kids to keep washing their hands and then I remember the different times my kids have picked up dog poop or helped to clean the cat box out when they weren’t suppose too. Now of course I don’t recommend this but life happens especially when you have kids.

      I think of things too like people careful scrub their hands and then touch them to the car door handle to get in the car. They they touch the steering wheel and next pull a mint out of their purse to eat. Do you know how many germs are on places like that that don’t get cleaned often. My point is clean the best you can then chill.

  87. Donna Friend says

    I NEVER buy paper towels. I realized one day that too much of my grocery budget was dedicated to items that we didn’t eat, so in an effort to cut back on waste & unneccessary things, paper towels had to go.I drain my bacon on a slice of bread,(then this bread becomes a treat for my dogs when the bacons gone).Love staying at home & finding ways to economically & sensibly save!

  88. Linda says

    Old flannel nightgowns, your hubby’s old t-shirts make awesome rags. You can get lots of rags out of one shirt!Just cut them up and if they get too gross, chuck them out. Paper towels are just handier at times, especially when you have them sitting on your counter.

  89. says

    I use both rags and paper towels. I like a roll of paper towels in the bathroom for guests and friends to use after they wash their hands. Easy peasy. I also have a roll on the kitchen counter. But we use rags for many things. I don’t really use a lot of disposable items. I use crocheted scrubbies for dishes. And I use rags for just about everything. So much easier and they do a better job than paper towels.

  90. Leslie says

    You mentioned that you had not found anything better to drain the bacon grease better than paper towels, well I have, …. coffee filters. They soak up so much more than paper towels and allot more economical. Where you would use several paper towels, one coffee filter does the job.

  91. Jeanene says

    Speaking of coffee filters, I like to use them in the bottom of a flower pot before the dirt goes in. they keep the dirt from going out the drain holes but allow the water to flow through freely.

  92. chel says

    oh my gosh i so ashamed to say i use about 3 to 4 roles of paper towels a week well that is over with Rags from now on THANKS for this info really you guys i am through with the paper towels that is such a waste of money!!!!!

  93. vp says

    I use pt when my dogs (3) have messes in the house. It is not often, more in rainy season, and I use them in the kitchen when preparing chicken, etc. Any ideas on what to use for dogs messes (liquid)? I don’t see newspaper as absorbant and rags would honestly just be too messy for me to wash. Thanks!

    • says

      What I use to do was I would lay two paper towels down, then a thick stack of newspaper and would then weight it all down with something heavy like a gallon of something in a plastic jug or something heavy in plastic and let it sit for an hour or so.
      I used the paper towels first because I didn’t want the newspaper print to get on the carpet. Then I would pick it all up toss and pour a lot (at least a cup) of vinegar on the spot and repeat with the paper towels, newspaper weighted down and let sit.

      If it is on tile or something then do the same thing but you then only need to of course wipe with soapy water after everything is soaked up. By placing the heavy object on them and letting it sit it helps the newspapers to wick it up.

  94. Lynne says

    I actually use real (not paper) towels in the fridge produce drawer and then toss them in the wash when they’re dirty.

    I agree I only use paper towels on items that I absolutely would not want to put in my washing machine like greasy messes. I always just use rags and wash wash wash those rags. There is no reason to waste so many trees and spend so much $ and I’m doing piles of laundry anyway :)

  95. Jennifer Marks says

    old burp towels make good rags too — I am still a papertowel addict but do not buy paper napkins. I also stopped buying the swiffer dry clothes. Intead I dust the wood/laminate floors & the cobwebs with a wash cloth. I just poke it into the holes of the same swifer-pole. I learned it from an old roomate that stopped buying sponge mop replacements & instead banded a wash cloth over the top of the sponge mop (use hair ties not rubber bands) With a baby & cat I clean the floors all the time & just throw it in the wash.

  96. Barbara says

    I use paper towels all the time…the way I save on them is to cut the roll in half using an electric knife…one half goes in my bathroom for drying hands and one in my kitchen…I use the type with select-a-size. The ones I use just for drying a surface, I spread out and let it dry and use it over. I also do not buy paper napkins unless it’s for a special occasion…

  97. says

    All the things you write about. I did as a child. My mother organized everything. She saved every piece of string, elastics, buttons, rags, paper bags, etc.

    Today, you find a lot of what my mother did when I was a child, resurfacing. I try to follow her ways.

    The only problem is with rags. I LOVE paper towels. I can’t get into using rags, and then washing them out after.

    I even took my lunch paper bag and wax papered sandwiches to school…and returned them home all folded up for the next day.

    • says

      I would probably not use rags myself if I washed the iky ones out. I toss my rags like paper towels. Many people don’t use rags because like you they don’t like to and think they have to wash them. Just toss like you would a paper towel. There are no rag police who are going to come and say “did you wash out your rags?” : ) I say that because I had to over come that thinking myself.

      When you run out of rags then use paper towels but at least you saved a bit. The thing is I for some reason have an over abundance of rags and never seem to run out even tossing them.

      Now that being said there are a handful of rags which I do wash but those are my special ones that I use for shining my mirrors or wiping down my faucets but they don’t get gooey just damp so I wash them with the whites I bleach and are no big deal. I usually have one rag a week if that much to wash because if I am using them for the things I mentioned I can let them dry and use them again.

      But anything that dusts, mops the floor or wipes up something gooey goes into the trash.

  98. Debbie Grigsby Lynch says

    Rags, they have always been part of our lives….as soon as some piece of cloth is considered worn, then I choose to finish wearing it out, by finding a new use for it. Either cleaning with it or using some “chosen rags” to wipe my paint brushes on while enjoying one of my favorite pastimes, painting gifts for other’s. Let me know if you need some ideas or might need some help with a gift.
    Debbie Grigsby Lynch

  99. julia says

    I use rags all the time. Mostly old T-shirts. I use them to wash dishes, wipe the counters, on the swiffer, to dust with. I do wash and re-use them. I rinse them out in the sink them put them in the washer. I use rags for several resons: to save money, to reuse things that otherwise would end up on the trash and to cut down on using paper towels which cost money and clog the landfills. My mother used rags and still rarely uses paper towels. I do use a few rolls for things like draining bacon, but I try to use rags as often as possible

  100. lisa says

    I use rags for just about all cleaning, however, I don’t use paper towels for draining bacon, instead I use brown paper bags . I simply. Cut it up and use the inside .

  101. says

    I don’t buy paper towels or napkins. I used to buy paper towels to use sparingly, but my husband will go through a roll in a week if they are in the house, so I stopped buying them. I made cloth napkins out of clearance fabric remnants, which I also use for some kitchen clean up. Other than that, I use rags for everything. Also, I don’t use many chemicals in the house. I use a Shark Steamer to clean my floors, a special rag that allows you to clean glass without windex, and Shaklee Basic H for all other cleaning.

  102. Candace Keane says

    I am a devout rag user. I have a basket of rags on every level of my house. I use them for everything like the old towels I use to wipe up spills on the floor. I do not throw my rags away unless they are used to clean something extremely dirty or greasy. After I use a rag, I hang it on the edge of the basement sink to dry and when I have enough for a load, I wash them in hot water, dry them without fabric softener, fold them, and put them back in their baskets. Not a big deal at all. I use cloth for everything from dust mops and floor cleaners to napkins.

  103. Lillie says

    I ask my children for terry clothe rags from the Low’s or Home Depot for gifts at mother’s day and my birthday.(They use to think I was crazy).
    They buy big bags of them and I use them for so many things.
    Hand towels in the kitchen, dish clothes, and I put them on a paddle mop I bought from CVS years ago and use them to clean the floors. They last for literal years and when they are really bad I simply toss them in the trash.
    Oh yea get a mess bag and put them in it and wash them. they hag on the clothes line easier that way too.

  104. says

    My mom used to weave rag rugs all the time. I have placemats she wove on her loom from an old set of sheets. I remember the pretty flower pattern on the sheets still and she made the placemats over 20 yrs ago, they still look like new, but more absorbent. Great to use to soak up spilled drinks on the dining table.
    I have a small laundry basket full of cloth diapers from my 2 sons that I now use as rags. They are great for over sized napkins on picnics, polish glass and mirrors great, more worn ones get cut down (I have a serger so I serge the edges to keep them from fraying) then use them for dusting, washing out the bath, wiping down the table/counter top, even for wiping runny noses (I only use 1 small box of kleenex a year), the list goes on and on.
    I bought a 2 roll pack of paper towel when I moved in over a year and a half ago, I started the 2nd roll last week. I might need to buy another 2 pack soon, just in case I have guests who don’t understand the house rules of using rags for everything.
    As for the bacon draining, I buy chicken or turkey bacon so it doesn’t need draining, it’s healthier and the kids love the fact it doesn’t get bits stuck between their teeth.

  105. Sandra says

    Due to the fact that I have rental properties I am provided with all the rags I will ever need. I have a washer just for my rental misc. and cleaning rags so I am not concerned with washing the yucky ones. I prefer cloth to paper any day of the week and have been known to cut up sheets and make napkins for everyday use. If they get stained or stop looking presentable I use them one last time as a dusting rag and then toss them. My neighbor says I should donate them to Good Will or some other charity but most of the items I get from rentals aren’t nice enough or they wouldn’t leave them behind in the first place. I just work around the bad spots when making rags, napkins, etc. I can afford to buy paper towels but why not save a tree and a little landfill space if I can.

    My daughter wanted to learn to braid so she is making a braid rug for her room using a pattern I found that is in the shape of a butterfly. It was her idea to make the strips from her favorite clothes that she outgrew but didn’t want to part with. She will learn to braid, make something useful out of something that is just taking up space and have a remembrance too. Can’t do that with paper towels.

  106. says

    Hello. I ran across your blog and wanted to ask if you have posted any pictures on the rag rugs or rag towels your grandmother made and maybe some how to’s ? Seems very interesting. Btw, you are not the only one with a “forever” pile of walmart things to go back. I am a mother of 5 .

  107. elizabeth says

    just when i thought i had it figured out, I read your article, the responses, and learned even more! thank you!
    I’d like to respectfully respond to Sandra, who posted on march 16th. I have to agree with your daughter’s suggestion, to donate those worst rags to the goodwill/thrift store. what fabrics aren’t sale worthy or usable, is actually sold to recycling companies, that turn the unusable into usable. and, the thrift store gets to use that as a tax write off. win. win. win. i didn’t know this, myself, until recently and was glad to find that out. they say, one mans trash is another mans treasure… i donate to Humane Thrift, which supports the local animal shelter.
    as far as paper towels are concerned, i have had the same fret about buying and using them. infact, i’m one of those that if i go through a drive-thru, i won’t even throw away the unused napkins. i keep them in my glove box for emergencies or bring them into the house to use. my napkin basket is full. we use them for wiping grease out of the pans to keep the grease out of the water supply. where i live, there are cities that don’t allow grease in their landfills. even that is being collected in special bags and recycled. grease is a big problem for the environment.
    but oh what i think about the cons of recycling! i cringe at the fact that we buy products, recycle them either for free or pay to recycle and then have those products sold back to us over and over again. don’t get me wrong, i believe in recycling, but, in the last couple of years, i also have come to believe, that buying less is best. simplify, “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” don’t you find it odd that simply buying and using paper towels can be a literal status symbol? it’s like having money to burn. literally, paper and ink. anyways, i probably sound like a nut of some sort. i apologize if i do.
    but, i have to give my testament. maybe this could help someone else. there was a time when i cleaned my home, and others, using rags, but to the point of what i now call “chemically toxic”. what most people think of as clean, is actually more “dirty”. It took myself, and my children, becoming constantly ill, and my learning that with all of those chemicals, i was killing all of the good germs with the bad. my immune system literally broke down to the point that i was sick, at times, for 6 months, and still couldn’t shake the illness, which at times would turn into pneumonia. my health now is better, but will never be what it was before.
    to this day, i don’t buy cleaning chemicals, such as most buy to “clean” their home, with exception of dish soap and laundry detergent, which i use sparingly, and am searching for a way to remove that all together. i haven’t had good luck with making my own, but i’ll get it figured out. until then, less is more.
    i remembered a conversation i had with someone years ago, who told me, “there’s nothing like good old soap and water, and only when soap is warranted.” really, we don’t even need soap to wash our bodies, unless after washing with water and a cloth, something doesn’t wash away. my children even developed skin rashes, and after many, many changes in products, we made the change to only use soap in places that might need a little extra care. hands, elbows, feet. and wouldn’t you know it, the skin problems went away! recently, i’ve given up shampoo. the difference in my home, my skin, hair, my health and the health of my children is absolutely nothing more than miraculous. i had spent many years going to dr’s and specialists, trying to find what my illness and illnesses were. not one dr. asked how i was cleaning my home. i had to almost die from bacterial infection to figure out what was wrong.
    i have found, that dusting with a damp cloth is all i need. hot water and a cotton wring mop is usually enough for the hard floors. every now and then i might add a little bleach or a touch of soap. i actually have less dust accumulate because there’s nothing for the dust to stick to. for my bathroom, soap and water. for the toilet, i use some toilet paper to wipe around and under, and then use a cloth with soap and water. the inside of the bowl, the same, or baking soda, and the toilet brush. of course, if we have all been sick with the flu, which we haven’t in a long time, i will use some bleach in the the bathroom.
    i dilulte some dr. bronners with water and that’s what i use to clean my house. the leftover cleaning chemicals that i have are lasting forever and are only used if all else fails.
    i hate that our water, our food, our soil, our air is all so polluted. i believe that most illness is caused by this, as i know, myself, that using chemicals in my home made me sick. yes, your home can be clean without using chemicals. or at the very least, using quite sparingly and only when absolutely needed. and remember to protect yourself and your family when doing so.
    i have to pass on a cleaning tip, that some might like.
    when cleaning windows, if needing more than water, or soap and water, or, if you want to stretch your windex,
    use rubbing alcohol. i have had a bottle of windex for over 3 years, as i keep adding alcohol to it. i have absolutely no streaks on the glass when i use it. and, if you clean your windows, it’s better to clean them either in the very early morning or later evening, when the sun isn’t so bright. that helps with not having streaking too. i know, many will say to use newspaper, but, the ink does transfer to your window. and over time, it does build up. i found this out using newspaper on my car windows. i strongly suggest you don’t.
    thank you for all of your helpful information.
    i hope to learn more from you and your readers.
    have a wonderful day!

  108. Cindy says

    I don’t use many paper towels, either. I love to take my old towels that get raggedy and cut them into squares and then fold the edges over just a little and use my yarn to do a blanket stitch around the cloth. I use them for everything and have even given them to family members to enjoy. I have different colors and love using the bright colored yarns to make them pretty. They can be bleached and reused over and over and I love knowing I made them myself!

  109. Judy in Ky says

    I have retrained my self to use rags or washloths. I buy two packages cost less then $10.00.A white set for bathroom and color for the Kitchen. As they get stained or worn I will use to clean with and then use in the garage . I have to wear steeltoe shoes at work so I wear wholes in toes of my socks and footies. So I use them for the dirty jobs and in the garage to clean and detail my car,mowers and tools then throw away .

  110. says

    I have had the same roll of paper towels that I bought 2 1/2 years ago. I was having a group of friends over for a messy craft project, so did buy that one roll. It’ll take another year or so to finish it off.
    I use rags for almost everything else (except draining bacon). We have 3 levels of rags. The good rags are what I use to clean up the kitchen daily — there’s one for the sink and one for the counter. When I was younger I worked in restaurants, we had what we called bar mops. These were rags for wiping up spills. So I use my counter rag to clean up spills on counters and floors (once used on the floor it goes directly into the wash). Both sink and counter rags get tossed into the wash daily, after dinner cleanup.
    Then there’s the 2nd level of rags. These are the old, dingy kitchen rags, when I replace them with fresh, new ones (once every 3 years or so). These we use for all basic household cleaning, and get washed and reused.
    Then there’s the 3rd level of rags. These are the too-far-gone t-shirts, sweatshirts, etc. These are the rags that are used when painting, and for automobile grease. These get thrown out after use. We could afford to just use paper towels, but I don’t want to use them. To me, it’s just wasteful.

  111. Joanne says

    I just LOVE your newsletter. I am the most frugal person I know who lives very well and has the finest of everything. Therefore, I didn’t really think I could learn anything from your newsletter, even though I love reading about money and money saving tips. Boy, was I wrong!

    Because of your newsletter, I stopped using paper towels (okay, maybe one roll a year, for draining bacon, etc.). What a concept! I buy stacks of old wash cloths at yard sales for a few bucks, and that’s what we’ve been using. I can’t even IMAGINE going back to paper towels now! Thank you for the wonderful tip.

    Also, thank to your site, I now can fold a fitted sheet! I really find your web site to be valuable. Thank you!

  112. Veronica Tidd says

    I just want to respond to lady and her ill husband. i know she posted some time ago and I hope their luck has changed.
    SSI disability seems to take about 2 years in NYS. Fodd the health needs has she aplied for Medicaid? It sounds as though she would qualify as she has food stamps. Some states have free school lunches and breakfasts. There may also be food banks in her area often run by churches. Also churches frequently offer free or low cost meals. One local chuch in our area offers free soup and sandwich every Tuesday evening.
    One young woman I know works the late shift at the famous fried chicken place and as they close up any remaining food has to be disposed of. Instead of the dumpster she takes it home.
    As far as needed medications are concerned Barb should ask a dr to prescribe meds from the generic list of one of the big stores that offers this cheap service. Of course with Medicaid these are all free. I take anumber of heart related drugs and they are all $4 a month.
    Tawra and Jill I love your ideas. I grew up during WW11 in the UK some already continue to use thes old standbys. A favorit thrifty christmay gift was to cup up an old bathtowel into wash cloths crochet round the raw edges and wrap it round a bar of soap and embroider a face on the front! When we took walks we never came home empty handed.
    We picked blackberries, dragged home fallen branches for the fire or gleaned grain from the freshly harvested fields to feed the chickens and some fresh dandilion leaves for the rabbits.

  113. Ravsisha says


    Everyone be nice.:)

    Has anyone tried using cloths instead of toilet tissue? I have been reading about it on line and it seems to be a growing trend.

    • says

      Actually Ravsisha we have had others post on using cloths too and the seem to like it so we aren’t shocked with your question. Me I probably wouldn’t just because I am sick and the small amount I spend on toilet paper (I use less then a roll a week) would not be worth the extra work for me. I would rather try saving money in other areas then there.

  114. Heidi says

    I have a friend with small children, who realized her cloth napkins were unnecessarily large for them. She cut them into quarters and serged the edges. Much more appropriate for little hands and faces. She carries a few damp ones in a zip lock bag for wiping hands and faces when they are out.

    • says

      When your babies are older don’t get rid of all of those baby wash rags. They are the perfect size to dampen, put in a baggie and use too when you are in the car or going some place.

  115. Donna B. says

    for summer fun, you can take really beat up T shirts, cut off the sleeves, I used to put one on my granddaughter and let her help us wash the car, the front porch, scrub the siding, etc. It was nice wet fun for a small child, and she was so happy to be helping with the work!!

    (and don’t leave them alone with a turned on water hose, grandma can get soaked that way!!!:)

  116. says

    I’m glad you wrote something about paper towels. I stopped using paper towels, believe it or not, when my daughter was born. I bought re-usuable wipes to try them out since we cloth diaper (another post you could mention) but I didn’t care for the wipes, unfortunately. Anyways, the wipes were made of organic cotton flannel and we started using them as napkins. I’m happy to have joined the cloth revolution and they work great for napkins in place of paper towels. There are a few instances where a paper towel would be helpful like checking my engine oil. But I have jumped on the rag bandwagon as well and am happy to have used up a lot of old clothes to make rags I can throw away after particularly dirty jobs. Baby burp clothes and wash rags also make great napkins when you’re done with them.

    • says

      Sherry, here’s the website for J-cloths. When you see the striped clothes you will probably know exactly what they are. They are stronger than a paper towel but not as thick as a regular towel or rag. They’re somewhere in between. The website also says that now they make biodegradable J-cloths. Thats great for the environment.

      I remember my mother would use these to make dolls for Scouting craft projects. She would fold them acordian style, like a fan. Then fold them in half and use them as the body of the dolls. They were very cute. I’m sure she got the idea from a book somewhere so you might be able to find a pattern for the dolls on the internet somewhere, if you are interested.

  117. Deb Vaughn says

    I think one way I’ve saved money is by using cloth napkins instead of papertowels at dinner. I began by using cheap washcloths as napkins until I started finding nicer cloth napkins here and there on clearance. Now I have quite a combo of colors lol, but they are so much nicer than papertowels and when they get stained hey go into the rag bag!

  118. carols. song says

    Can’t give up the paper towels….
    I live in a household of 6 adults, 4 of which have some kind of handicap, and none were raised with what I call “normal” hygiene habits, so I have replaced their “reusable” cloth hankies, and hand towels with paper. I no longer have to wash a hankie that weighs more than the gold in fort knox, nor do I have to look at a hand towel in the bathroom that is dirtier than the floor itself….paper towels have brought cleanliness to our family and peace to my OCD mind.

  119. Carmen says

    I mostly use very cheap color coded washcloths in the kitchen, green for wiping and blue for drying hands. I buy the paper towel that come in half sheets (only one brand because they are the stongest). I use them for messy clean up, cat hair balls and for wiping left over canned cat food from the plates. I take the half sheets and rip them into 1-1 1/2 inch strips, since that’s all I need for that use. A roll lasts a very long time. I also cut the half sheets in half and put one half in my bread “box”. Since I home bake, the loafs release humidity as the cool down, the paper absorbs the humidity and the bread lasts longer (I live alone). I use toilet paper for wiping around the toilet and microfiber wipes for everything else in the bathroom and the rest of the house. Those I wash together with the bathroom rugs and shower curtains. The ones I use in the kitchen go with the regular wash.

  120. Joanne says

    I have learned some valuable things from this web site – one of which is, we don’t use paper towels anymore. When I first gave up paper towels, I bought cheap wash cloths in bulk from Walmart, but found they were not good because they made SO MUCH LINT it was beyond annoying. I won’t buy those again. Then I started buying old wash clothes from yard sales. I love the size of the wash cloth for everything. We have completely given up paper towels in our home because of your web site.

    Today, after reading some more of these comments, I am going to cut up old tee-shirts into wash-cloth-sized rags, and have a “throw away rag” basket (we keep our rags in metal locker baskets). This way my husband won’t throw really gross rags in the laundry pile – instead he can throw them away without guilt!

    Thank you for this web site. From you I learned to not use paper towels, and how to fold a fitted sheet! I never really thought anyone could teach me anything new about saving money (I’m BEYOND frugal) but I was wrong. I love your web site. Thank you.

  121. April says

    I use brown grocery bags for bacon grease, it works as well as paper towels and you can use less. I also place mats that you would use to line your cabinets in the fridge.

  122. Melody says

    I am so glad to find out that I am not one of the only ones. My friend introduced me to the idea of using rags instead of paper towels. i thought this was a brilliant idea. i had been looking for a way that i could help save the earth. Dont get me wrong, I still use some paper towels but i have been decreasing all the time. at first i questioned myself whether i would be able to do it because i was a crazy paper towel nazi. let me tell you, you dont have to go cold turkey without your papertowels; actually a slow gravitation is desired because it it easier to create a new habit as you go than to lay down something you are used to and never pick it ip again. I wish that so many more people would discover the rag trail. My “rag trail” goes as follows: it begins as a towel or wash cloth; any will do I am not picky. We first use the towels and rags for the bathroom: baths, showers, hand washing etc. When they become ratty looking they get recycled to the kitchen where they are used to wash and dry dishes and clean up kitchen messes ( and along with most other posters I throw away if I clean something really nasty. When they get so laden with oiliness that they no longer soak up anything they get cleaned with my homemade degreasing cleaner and they get recycled once again into two different piles; either the pile that goes to the shop/ barn for clean up rags or they go to the pile to clean up after my animals have an accident on the floor. I keep using them for this last reason and sanitize them when washing until they completely fall apart. Then, and only then do I throw them away. I have become delighted recently to find out that someone has come up with a homemade rag towel holder. You use an ordinary paper towel holder, you apply metal or plastic snaps to the corners of your rags and you snap them together and roll them around the holder. You put them in the kitchen, bathroom etc. and use them like paper towels. Beautiful idea.

  123. says

    Your Comments I love, as well as appreciate the work that goes into your site. I slightly disagree, though, on the topic of paper towels. To clarify first, I absolutely agree with reuse and recycle – most everything, xcept paper towels and would never thick of cleaning with paper towels. I, too, have lots of “rags” and old soft worn clothes- strictly for this purpose just waiting to be cut into cloth size remnants. So, that said. I use paper towels as napkins, always have them and purchase in bulk. Do not feel they are a luxury or necessity, I just use them. Oh, and after I use the cloth rags, they are tossed into the trash can.

  124. Theresa says

    I use baby diapers all the time and very rarely use paper towels except when I cook Sausages or bacon.

    Not the ones with the padding. But the old style. They come in packages of 24 or 12. You can get them at Walmart or any department store.

    When they get dirty I wash them. If they are really bad I soak them in a half full bucket of hot water. With some Oxyclean and detergent. Rinse and put them in the dryer..

    I use them for everything, they are great for windows, cleaning the counters, definitely dusting, the mirrors. I have one that I use for the cast iron frying pan. When I use the pan I use a spray oil to clean it. Spray the pan then take a spatula and scrape the pan and then use the diaper and wipe it out. It usually lasts a month or week depending how much I use the pan. When it gets to nasty I wash it.

    • says

      My diapers are my treasures when it comes to cleaning too. For years I used my kids old ones and about when I was down to my last couple and they weren’t going to last much longer I got grand kids thank goodness and I was able to use their old diapers to restock mine. Now I hope the ones I have now will hold out until the great grand kids come along. :) :)

  125. Monica says

    Some of you are lucky. My previous husband grew to literally hate me for trying to get him to use paper towels wisely (and electricity and water). My friends laugh at me for caring about paper towels. And my new husband is getting seriously annoyed with me too about my trying to conserve paper towels. Folks just don’t like you hassling them about what they perceive as a “small cheap thing”. So to avoid ruining my marriage, I am trying to get past that “cringe” I feel when 2-3 paper towels are wasted to sop up a few drops of clean water.
    It’s really hard for me though, I hate using (wasting) paper towels. I only use them for the rare filthy-liquid spills and sometimes glass table cleaning when I don’t have newspaper.

    • Tina says

      It is certainly not worth ruining a marriage over, but there may be ways to get him to change. It might help if you wait a while and then ask him for ways to help be more sensible and not spend money unnecessarily so you will have more to save for fun expenses or something that he wants to do. Also if you leave a towel conveniently in the areas where spills are likely to happen you may find him reaching for it because of the convenience. Just make sure to keep an eye out for times he uses it on the floor so you can change it out. I know it took a LOOONG time to convince my hubby not to put towels or rags on the counter that had been on nasty surfaces or on the floor. YUCK!!! He never has to know that you are really satisfying the need to be less wasteful and thereby providing for your family in ways of which he would have never have dreamed.

  126. Jan says

    I use Bounty Select-a-Size and feel I use them wisely. But, I would use more rags if I could solve the problem of where to keep the wet messy dirty rags till wash day, It is just my husband and myself. I wash our cloths and sheets with bath & kitchen towels once a week. I do not use bleach for these loads. I do a bleach load of underwear & white shirts about once a month. I would want to bleach the rags. We live in a very humid climate and if I waited a month to wash wet dirty rags, they would smell TERRIBLE!!!!!

    • says

      You could do a couple of things Jan. Put up a rod or one of those arm things that fold in and out to let them dry then put them in a hamper. I though personal just throw my smell yucky rags out. I use and toss them in the same way I would a paper towel. We think nothing of tossing a paper towel we have to pay for but for some reason don’t like to just toss a rag which we pretty much get for free. I don’t seem to run out of them either doing this. I guess in my mind by the time you spend time, money for soap and water it wash a rag you may as well use a paper towel which cost only a few pennies so I almost always toss them.

      The only ones I keep are my special “clean” rags that I use to wipe dry my sink or wipe a mirror (I don’t use glass cleaner on it so it has only water on it) etc. I can’t stand to touch dirty used rags let alone wash them with my clothes so I give myself permission just to toss.

    • Tina says

      Borax in water to soak those rags if you have to let them sit – and I recommend a covered container. Personally my rags get washed a lot more often but I grew up using rags so maybe I use more rags than most.

      • says

        So many seem to be missing the point of this post and that is using rags can be as convenient as paper towels but if you mess with soaking and washing them all the time then they are not and second they cast less to use then paper towels. If you are messing with products, water and electricity to wash them they aren’t free any more. Sometimes if I have a rag that isn’t too icky and can be tossed in with a regular load of laundry I wash it but other wise you don’t really get them for free if you wash them separate and a bunch of them.

  127. Sharon says

    Great Article, Although when it comes to the vegie bins in the bottom of the fridge, I use Newspaper or butchers paper in preference to paper towel, then put it in my worm farm when I clean the bins out once a week.

  128. Lori says

    My grandmother was a young woman during the depression. I wish she were still around to guide me on her frugal ways. I do recycle and reuse everything that comes my way. I do make crocheted rugs from old sheets. I also make T-shirt rugs. I have found that if you have a sewing machine and can turn a T-shirt inside out sew across the bottom, cut the sleeves off and have a very very sturdy reusable shopping bag. They do stretch when you over load them but a large or medium would work well for canned items. I try to pick up tank tops for this purpose at yard sales. The sewing around the handles is already done.When I’m done using them I put them inside each other and put them back in my car. I have spent about .25 a piece or less and I haven’t had to mend or replace any about a year. Total cost about 3.00 or less. When they get dirty I just throw them in the wash. I’m thinking about making these for Christmas gifts. I am known as the most frugal person in the family. That’s okay with me, I’m living almost debt free except for a mortgage.

  129. Linda says

    Our grandparents & great grandparents didn’t even have the use of them they survived. I bought several microfiber cloths 2 yrs ago still using them. For spills I have a stack of rags made from old towels & t-shirts I cut up.
    Peroxide is a cheap way to make them germ free . Peroxide & baking soda makes oxy at a tenth the price. A bucket set under the sink or in the laundryroom gets dumped in washer never retouching the rags

  130. Tina says

    I use few paper towels. I found two dozen regular wash clothes at Wal-Mart a couple of years ago in my house decor colors for $4.00. I folded them in quarters, rolled them up and stood them vertically in a decorative basket on my kitchen table. We use those at all meals instead of paper towels. They are so much more absorbent, take up little room in the washer, and save us a ton of money on paper towels. Also, I bought two oversized bath towels last night at a thrift store in great shape with no stains for $1.99 each. They were in neutral colors, so I saved easily $5-6 per towel that size. I buy nice sheets at thrift stores not only for my beds, but make pillowcases out of them too. A pair of standard size pillow cases can run $10-15 each even at Wal-Mart. A $2 sheet from a thrift store can make two or three pair. Hope these ideas help. Love you site. Thanks!

  131. Marcia says

    I haven’t taken the time to go through all the posts here on paper towels vs. rags…I personally have to get some paper towels because hubby uses them to dry his hands at the kitchen sink, but I prefer rags to clean with because they hold up better overall than paper towels, even the thick expensive ones. Draining bacon? I don’t know about you but I almost always have a bunch of coffee filters that somehow get flattened before I can use them in the coffee maker. The ones I get are about 1.25 for 100. I save those to drain the bacon on and they work great!! I never can fit them into the coffee maker once they flatten out so that’s a way to use them and save a paper towel.


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