Unpaper Towels – A Good Way To Save On Paper Towels?

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unpaper towels - save on paper towels

Unpaper Towels – Do they Save Money and Time?

I couldn’t decide whether to name this article Unpaper Towels, Learning How to Think or “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?

I  discovered a  new thing yesterday called unpaper towels and I am still shaking my head over it and trying to decide what is this world coming to? But, before I get ahead of myself, let me explain what an unpaper towel is for those of you who like me hadn’t heard about them.

An unpaper towel is a rag to use in place of paper towels, which is supposed to save you time, money, energy and the environment.

Sounds like a winner, huh? Ahh, but read on. Like so many other  simple things and ideas of times past, leave it to this generation to make it as difficult, complicated and expensive as can be and then slap the phrase it will save the environment on to it to insure it’s success. With that “winning” combination, before you know it, everyone is jumping on the band wagon singing its praises.

One of the things I have always tried to do on this website is to help our readers to learn to think for yourselves and not to have a herd mentality.  I will often say, “Don’t do exactly like I do it but adjust or change it to fit your needs. Think about things. Ask yourself ‘Does this really make sense?’ before you do something.”

Let’s do this with unpaper towels and compare them to using rags as I suggest in our article on How to Save on Paper Towels.

“They” say you save money, time, energy and the environment by using unpaper towels. Let’s see what you think.

Saves money 

Regular rags – Zero expense because you use old clothing and linen that would be tossed in the trash anyway and, because of that, if you get something gooey or greasy on it you don’t mind just throwing it away as you would a paper towel.

When you need to replace rags it costs nothing because you just use more old clothes.

Unpaper towels – You buy 2 yards ($6-$10) of fabric for 9 of them and, of course, thread. Those who recommend unpaper towels also suggest you can buy snaps to put on them to hook them together and some people buy special items to make a cone to put them on. If you get something gooey or greasy on them, don’t worry! Use lots of hot water to rinse them before before washing. You now add gas and water costs to the expense.

After a certain period of time you have to replace them, which means you have to spend money again.


Saves Time

Regular rags –  60 seconds or less to cut up one t shirt into about 9 rags.

Unpaper towels – I don’t have an exact time on this but I think you will get the idea by the time I am through.

  • You make a trip to the fabric store to get fabric – for me this would take at least an hour with driving and everything.
  • Cutting and sewing – 45 minutes to an hour. Depending on your skill and different things.
  • Once the unpaper towels are sewed, you need to add in the time it takes for you to rinse grease out of them by hand after they are used and then wash them.

Saves Energy

After reading the above paragraphs I think you can see it takes way more energy to make and care for unpaper towels than rags. In fact, part of the reason for using regular paper towels was to save energy. If energy and less work is why you use paper towels then you may want to keep using paper towels or rags. Unpaper towels, themselves, make work for you.

Save the Environment

You know me when it comes to saving the environment. I don’t worry about it a bit but probably save it 10 times more than the most die hard environmentalist because I am careful with what I have and use up what I have on hand.

An environmentalist often reminds me of a little child who wants to make the play room clean and better for mom. He picks up each individual toy and makes trip after trip one toy at a time placing them in his toy basket instead of bringing the basket to the toys or carrying an armload at a time to make things easier. He takes the longest and hardest way to pick them up. He then stacks them so high without thinking that they all come crashing down and makes a bigger mess for mom to clean up than he started out with.

It seems that so many people come up with these great ideas to make things easier, to save money and the environment without thinking it through or looking at the long term and practicality of it.

Rags – You use items you already have on hand and will be throwing away anyway.

Unpaper towels – you use gas to go to the fabric store. Consider all of the energy the factories use to make the fabric and the energy the fabric store uses. I could go into more detail but I think you get the idea. 


In Closing

One of the reasons people like to use unpaper towels is that they look pretty, which is fine, but most of the time they are stored in a drawer out of sight so for the expense and work, is it really worth it? If you want something pretty, why go through all that work? Just go to the Dollar Tree and buy a package of washrags or something similar for just a few cents.

Let’s put our thinking caps on. If you have a lot of time on your hands or like fun craft projects then the unpaper towels may work for you but if your goal is to save time, energy, money and the environment, go with good old simple rags.

P.S. I may go back to using paper towels, though, if that handsome Paul Bunyan dude will show up at my door the way the commercials say he will.


For lots of easy cleaning, laundry and homemaking tips to make your life easier, check out our Keeping It Clean e-books.


 photo by: faungg


  1. says

    I aam a paper towel junkie. Use them for everything BUT that being said I have started cutting up old Tshirts for rags. Did it to keep my husband from wearing them.
    Actually made him use his knife to cut them since that was easier for me.
    I also use happy foot socks that get a hole in the ankle or heel. Haven’t figured out a way to stitch them up without a lump so out they go.
    I rarely use them twice since I am cleaning up cat messes from both ends so they go right into the garbage.
    Anyway thanks for the tips. The only thing I would buy to purposely buy for rags would be a dozen cloth diapers. Had them for years until they fell apart.

  2. kristi says

    “PS. I may go back to using paper towels though if that handsome Paul Bunyan dude will show up at my door the way the commercials say he will.”

    I must be the luckiest girl in the world! When my husband grows out his beard and puts on his black & red plaid flannel he looks JUST LIKE the paper towel guy! And, is it me, or has that guy gone on a diet and shaved his beard? I feel like years ago he was “brawny-er” and wore a beard….

    Anyway, I digress. This was a great post. Personally, I use a combo of rags and paper towels. We re-purpose “holy” socks into sock puppets and the kids have fun filling them with toys, rocks, dirt, whatever they can get their little paws on.

  3. Bea says

    It’s so true that people nowadays don’t have old-fashioned common sense and end up making simple things harder and more complicated. I see it every day in numerous ways. I don’t believe most people are smarter. Just because you know how to use Facebook, download music, and play games on a computer, and use a cell phone doesn’t make you smarter. People don’t have everyday life skills so therefore in my opinion aren’t smarter.

  4. Donna B. says

    “Unpaper towels”? Seriously???? What a hoot! We only spend time hemming rags when they are old bath towels being remade into hand/dish towels or washcloths!!!

  5. says

    This is a new one for me also. I guess that I can now say that I have heard it all. I agree with you on this one. Just not seeing the savings of money, energy one even time on the unpaper towels. Thanks for this article. I also use rags and paper towels and think that I will stick with what I have. :-)

  6. rose says

    i thought my eyes were plyaing tricks on me again when i was in the paper towel aisle at walmart .. but they have something similar to this (at least i think its similar) .. its a box of these “napkins/towels” from the people with the tissues (i cant think of the name) and it comes in a pretty box and u can just pull out this towel and wipe things clean!..
    is this the same thing? .. all i know is that when i was in hte store last week, 2 ladies were getting them .. one of the ladies suggested to the other lady to get them bc they are new and its so easy to use..
    and i thought to myself, well .. if u want paper towels just get a roll and pull at the perforated eges .. save lots of money and well if u want hand towels, do to the towel section of the store and save even more money .. or like jill suggests, rip up old t shirts and make rags (they even have bags of rags for sale in the auto section!) ..
    what will they think of next! ..
    and yes kristi.. i think ur right . that bunyyan guy on the roll of paper towels looks like he is on a diet!~ .. hehehee 😀 ..
    and bea .. u r soooo right .. where has the common sense gone these days? ..

  7. says

    Our hospital volunteers make money for the hospital extras by taking in old clothes and turning them into rags.
    They sold them to the mines and the pulp mill here in town. The only type they wouldn’t take were jeans and baby clothes.
    So even the big companies were trying to keep from using paper towels.

  8. rose says

    awww thank u bea .. i appreciate the compliment .. thank u … i love coming to the site and well, i dont always post but i still come to visit ..
    i love ur posts too .. 😀 ..

    yes, i told my daughter about this, the unpaper towels, and she was quite surprised but wasnt at all shocked ..
    she said “well mom, just goes to show you that ‘snowflake’ has to keep up with the ‘jones’ and not be like the ordinary people with common sense” ..
    snowflake is her name for anyone/anything that she is making reference to…
    the only thing she uses paper towels for is when she is walking her dog, tippy, and has to pik up his ‘doodies’ .. in her apt complex .. its a rule there but not everyone follows it ..
    she got a bunch of what looks like washcloths from walmart for a cheap price, for rags, and if she does her mirrors and windows, she uses newspaper ..

    just wanted to share ..

  9. Shawna says

    Unpaper towels… hmmmm. I think I heard about this on Pinterest, with a cute picture of cloth towels with buttons sewed on them to link them together and wrap around a paper towel holder. I repinned it when I first saw it because it was cute, but now, I think I’m much happier the way I do things now. My family used to go through about one large pack of paper towels each month, if not more. We used paper towels for napkins, wiping up messes, makeshift plates on pizza nights, the list goes on and on. I decided I wanted to save money, reduce the amount of trash we throw out each week, and a number of other things, but mostly save money! I paid for a handful of cloth napkins, and hid the remaining paper towels from the family about two months ago. I’ll admit, some of my nicer kitchen towels have been stained by a teenager who decided to wipe up spilled koolaid with whatever was closest, and my 10 year old has semi-reverted back to wiping hands on shirts… it’s definitely a work in progress, but we have made progress! I now only use paper towels for greasing my pans when cooking. I’m sure there is some other task that will be a job for paper towels, so I haven’t completely stopped buying them, but I am still on a roll that I bought over two months ago! I have old wash cloths, bath towels and different types of clothing that are used for cleaning anything and everything around the house- I don’t throw any rags away until they are beyond use. I have store-bought dish cloths that become cleaning rags once they are grungy enough, and I have towels in my kitchen specifically for drying the dishes I wash by hand and another for drying hands. I just recently found your site thanks to Pinterest, and am loving the new tidbits of info! Thanks for creating such useful and entertaining posts for us!

  10. K B says

    I use the unpaper towels that I made myself. I did by fabric at first to try them out, but I noticed that using old item in my house is actually better. I recycled old clothing and towels to make the rest of my cloth paper towe. Before I through anything out, I try to find a use for it in my house somewhere. We stop using paper towels about a year ago and we haven’t regreted it. I have had the same 6 rolls of paper towels in my closet for about 4-5 months. We use paper toewls when we have a party, but lately our guess has jumped on the cloth napkin and towels bandwagon with us and they normally use our cloth products now.

  11. AlishaR says

    Hahaha….I never post, but read EVERYTHING you write! LOL I did this, and used those cotton bar towels, and cut them into forths. But I have to tell you they don’t stay clean long enough to justify using a surger for all those seams. Now it could just be me. But I think next time I do this it will be with a microfiber cloth, and only when I can find it on sale, AND I have a coupon.

  12. Doris says

    I have never heard of anything so silly! Time, money, energy are all wasted, plus common sense. I will stick with the two of you, Tawra and Jill. You always seem to make sense and pass on great ideas. Keep up your great work.

    • Judi says

      I use old t shirts for all sorts of things. Facial wipes, dusting, cleaning windows and cleaning in general. I never waste time or thread sewing around the edges. Guess when the said, Common sense, someone thought it was common dense!!! Some people will buy anything. Me I’d rather save my $$. I have had the same roll of paper towels on the holder for over a year.

  13. Mary S says

    This new generation thinks they have invented everything environmentally friendly.I didn’t know there were such things as paper towels until we moved to town and stayed with my aunt for 2 weeks.Everybody we knew just used rags for cleaning.My husband was a city boy and he is amazed when I do something frugal that I remember from my childhood and he has never heard of.If something broke,his family just threw it away and bought a new one,my family always used it up,wore it out,made do or did without and usually found a way to re-purpose it when it did wear out.

  14. Deb Vaughn says

    The unpaper towels is a marketing ploy and people are going to fall for it in the name of the environment. I do use papertowels, but only for grease and I’m open for suggestions on that. I fry a lot of bacon so I like to drain the bacon on pt’s and then wipe my pan out with them so the grease doesn’t go down my drain. I’ve considered newspapers to drain the bacon but am concerned with the ink and even how many people have handled the paper before I got it.

    We have a bag of towels in the garage kept for all those messes and a bag of my hubbies old undies and tshirts for automotive greasy work. I began buying cloth napkins at thrift stores and that is all we’ve used for years. Papertowels have their place, but they don’t need to move in and take over. They are too expensive for that! Great post ladies!

  15. Glenda S. says

    I have never under the need to have pretty cleaning rags or wash clothes. HELLO! I am cleaning something. Let’s use what’s available and get it over with. I have been paperless in my kitchen for about 2 years now and I don’t think I could ever go back. I have seen these at craft shows and thought that is way too much fussy for me. I keep my cloth napkins in basket on the dining room table and the cleaning rags under the sink. My mother-in-law came for a visit last summer and bought a roll of paper towels because she said I out. Its still on the roll 8 months later!

  16. AJ says

    REALLY??? 😉 If someone wants to sew and make something pretty for use in their kitchen and save some dollars… make cloth napkins! I decided in 1997 to stop buying paper ones and found some nice cotton ones in the clearance bin at Walmart 4/ .99 – I bought 3 dozen (we are a family of 6) Now 17 years later some are just wearing out. I figured I was already doing laundry so a few napkins didn’t take up much more space and they do a better job than the cheap paper ones! Wonder how much I saved over the years??? :)

  17. Laura Clark says

    I want to make them because I think it would be cool to have them ready to go on the paper towel holder and easier for the rest of the family that is not so much into saving like me. I would Not buy fabric, though. I would use whatever I had and old towels for the backing. It would cost me the thread and snaps, which are only a buck and some change. I also thought about making them for gifts for my sister and mother. I just like to sew and I like to make practical things! I totally get what you are saying, though, because I feel the same about rags – easier. I use cloth napkins, too, but have gotten most on super clearance or at yard sales. I just don’t like to buy stuff that I’m going to throw away.

  18. says

    The points you gave, Jill, are really thought provoking, and for messy messes I’d prefer the throw away rags or real paper towels! And, I like the way you go through the whole reasoning process. People so need to learn how to think.

    Having said that, though, I have have good news for those who happen to like to sew their own stuff anyway but aren’t eager to fill the pockets of the fabric companies: You can make unpaper towels as a way to upcycle your worn out bath towels, washcloths or even old style baby diapers. If you have some scrap fabric or old t-shirts in your stash it’s really easy to line them as well. This lady shows how she made hers from old bath towels.
    These would make “cute” dishcloths if you changed them out regularly. Using them only as dishcloths would take care of the hot soapy water part too. :-) And, why mess with snaps? Store them in a bag sock (which are cheap at the grocery store or easy to make if you have a few sewing supplies in the house already).

    Also, I think that old flannel pajamas and nightgowns would make good dust cloths. Hemming them or lining the back with cotton fabric would probably make them last longer in the wash. I prefer a feather duster at this point.

    Jill, speaking of thinking about what works, we had a bad drought here and when it was near its worst it occurred to me that putting a little more paper in the landfill was a better option for us than washing more clothes with our disappearing water! So, I switched back to paper towels and paper napkins and still haven’t gotten back to using more cloth again. If our rains come more regularly this year I’ll think about it. :-)

    • says

      There is a logic of using paper towels to save on water but in a case like that you just throw the rags away and don’t wash them. I so rarely wash any rags I toss them like paper towels and for some reason people have a hard time understanding that you throw the rags in the trash they way you throw out a paper towel and the rag is free. You don’t need to wash them so the saving of water and/or soap isn’t even an issue. The 2-3 rags that are special ones only get washed once in a great while and then they are tossed in with my load of whites.

      Also for any of you who want more info on what to use for rags and rags in general check out our article on How to Save on Paper Towels

  19. Deanna says

    I use some old kitchen towels and some dollar store washcloths as rags, along with some microfiber cloths I got @ Goodwill. (I had to buy because I left a LOT of things behind when I got divorced.) In my kitchen, I now use black towels and dishrags. No bleach and no stains since they are black. :-) I want to get some black fabric napkins so I can totally ditch the paper napkins/paper towels.

  20. Theresa says

    I have used homemade napkins for years so it wasn’t a big step when a year ago I made homemade quick towels as I call them. I keep them displayed by buttoning them together and have them on a dowel under the cabinet. I used scraps and terry cloth leftovers from projects I had. I didn’t spend anything extra to make them. My family is very happy as I banned paper towels quite some time ago and they really missed them. I don’t see any problem with making things pretty and frugal at the same time.

  21. JAMES R. says

    And these are supposed to be easier?
    Save Energy??

    May I ask how long this person, or persons been sitting in the Mojave sun??
    A homemade rag will always be cheaper, easier, save more energy, AND, AND better for the environment than any Unpaper towel one would buy at a Joann fabrics type store.

    I prefer cloth towels, but I am not above using paper towels, nor will I say anything against someone who uses paper towels.
    The bottom line is, you want to clean up a mess that you and/or someone else just made…
    Cloth towels & paper towels can do that for very little energy & very little money(usually).

  22. Sandi P says

    It all looks a bit fussy to me, so I guess it just matters how fussy you want to be. I use paper towels when needed, but I prefer the select a size. Half a towel is all I need for most things. I’ve cut up and hemmed old towels to make dishtowels when I needed them, and I use old rags when they make sense. And I’ve found a new use for all those old socks I didn’t darn. When it turned really cold here recently and my DH had to work in the cold, I cut the toes off the holey socks and cut a hole in the heel for his thumb, and instant fingerless gloves that I didn’t mind that they got greasy and dirty. The first pair I hemmed the edges, and then found that too fussy for throw away gloves. It made a big difference in the cold, and he didn’t have to wreck his good gloves. This was something I had seen as a craft to buy cheap dollar store socks and make cute gloves for little girls, but it sure worked as a quick and dirty time and money saver for us.


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