You Should Be Using This Product Instead of Paper Towels—And It’s Not a Sponge

Paper towels have become a staple in most kitchens and homes for quickly cleaning up spills and messes. However, using paper towels regularly can be quite wasteful and damaging to the environment. There are other more eco-friendly and cost-effective options to consider using instead of paper towels for most cleaning tasks.

Why You Should Replace Paper Towels

There are several good reasons to replace paper towels in your home:

Paper Towels Are Not Sustainable

  • Paper towels are made from trees and require a lot of resources like water and energy to produce.
  • It takes about 17 trees and over 20,000 gallons of water to produce 1 ton of paper towels.
  • Most paper towels end up in landfills and take years to decompose.

Paper Towels Are Expensive

  • Buying paper towels regularly adds up over time. The average American household spends over $100 per year just on paper towels.
  • Reusable cleaning cloths can save you a lot of money in the long run. The upfront investment pays for itself within a few months.

Paper Towels Are Not as Absorbent

  • Paper towels are meant for quick, lightweight cleaning jobs. For heavier spills and messes, they often fall apart and disintegrate when wet.
  • Reusable microfiber cloths and other alternatives are more durable and absorbent for heavy-duty cleaning tasks.

Paper Towels Spread Germs

  • When you use the same paper towel to clean multiple surfaces, it can spread germs and bacteria around your home.
  • Reusable cloths can be washed regularly to eliminate germs without cross-contaminating.

Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Paper Towels

There are a variety of reusable, washable and biodegradable options that make great paper towel replacements:

Microfiber Cloths

Microfiber cloths are one of the most popular reusable paper towel alternatives. They are made from ultra-fine synthetic fibers that are exceptionally absorbent and quick-drying.


  • Highly absorbent – can soak up 8 times their weight in liquid
  • Durable and lint-free – can be washed and reused hundreds of times
  • Pick up dirt and grease easily from surfaces
  • Available in different sizes – great for all cleaning tasks

Cotton Cloths or Rags

Plain cotton cloths or cut-up old t-shirts also work great for replacing paper towels. They are absorbent, soft, and inexpensive.


  • 100% natural and biodegradable
  • Wash and reuse many times over
  • Gentle on hands and surfaces
  • Easy to find and affordable

Bamboo Towels

Bamboo towels have become popular due to their sustainability and durability. They are made from renewable bamboo fibers.


  • Highly sustainable material – bamboo grows quickly without pesticides
  • Naturally antibacterial and odor resistant
  • Absorbent and dries quickly
  • Washable and reusable over time

Swedish Dishcloths

Swedish dishcloths are reusable, highly absorbent cellulose and cotton cloths.


  • Made from sustainable materials – cotton and cellulose
  • Exceptional absorbing capacity – can replace multiple paper towels
  • Durable and long-lasting – can be washed and reused
  • Biodegradable when finally disposed after months of use

Beeswax Food Wraps

Reusable beeswax wraps can replace paper towels for covering food items and leftovers.


  • Made from cotton fabric coated with beeswax
  • Natural, biodegradable and compostable
  • Reusable and washable
  • Creates air-tight seal to contain food
  • Eco-friendly alternative to plastic wrap

Tips for Using Reusable Cleaning Cloths Effectively

Follow these simple tips to get the most out of your reusable cleaning cloths and replacements for paper towels:

Have a Dedicated Set for Each Task

Keep separate sets of cloths for different areas – kitchen, bathroom, dusting, floors etc. This prevents cross-contamination.

Wash and Rotate Frequently

Wash cloths regularly, especially after heavy-duty cleaning. Let some air dry while using others. Frequent washing keeps them fresh.

Use a Drying Rack or Line

Hang cloths to dry fully after washing so they don’t get musty. Dry on a rack or clothesline rather than the dryer.

Stick to Gentle Laundry Detergent

Harsh detergents can degrade microfiber over time. Use a gentle, fragrance-free detergent.

Don’t Overload the Washer

Wash cloths in smaller loads so they can get fully clean. Overcrowding can prevent proper cleaning.

Store Properly

Keep cloths in a dry spot. Storing while damp encourages bacterial growth.

Pros and Cons of Paper Towel Alternatives

Here is a quick look at some of the key pros and cons when comparing reusable options vs. paper towels:

Microfiber Cloths


  • Extremely absorbent and durable
  • Clean surfaces quickly and effectively
  • Can be washed hundreds of times


  • Prone to odors if not washed frequently
  • Not biodegradable like cotton

Cotton Cloths/Rags


  • 100% natural and biodegradable
  • Inexpensive and accessible
  • Soft and gentle for cleaning


  • Not as absorbent or durable as microfiber
  • Can leave lint behind on surfaces

Bamboo Towels


  • Made from fast-growing renewable bamboo
  • Naturally antibacterial
  • Very absorbent and quick drying


  • More expensive than basic cotton cloths
  • Can retain odors if left damp

Swedish Dishcloths


  • Excellent absorbency
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Made from sustainable materials


  • Not as soft as cotton on hands
  • Require specific laundry care

Beeswax Wraps


  • Reusable and washable natural wax wraps
  • Sustainable alternative to plastic wrap
  • Seals in freshness effectively


  • Can melt if exposed to high heat
  • Need to take care not to tear or puncture

Frequently Asked Questions About Replacing Paper Towels

Are microfiber cloths safe to use on different surfaces?

Yes, microfiber cloths are safe for use on all types of hard surfaces. They are gentle and will not scratch even delicate materials like stainless steel, granite or glass. They can be used for dusting, cleaning floors, windows, bathrooms, and kitchen surfaces.

How do you disinfect reusable cleaning cloths?

To disinfect reusable cloths, first wash them with hot water and laundry detergent. Then soak them for 5-10 minutes in a dilute bleach solution (1/2 cup bleach per 1 gallon of water). Rinse thoroughly and air dry.

How often should you replace reusable cleaning cloths?

With proper care, microfiber and other reusable cloths can be used for up to a few years. Cotton cloths may need replacing more often. Retire any cloths that become worn out, develop odors or stains that won’t come out with washing, or have broken fibers.

What’s the best way to clean microfiber cloths?

Wash microfiber cloths separately with other lint-free items using a gentle laundry detergent, either in the machine or by hand. Avoid fabric softeners and bleach. Tumble dry on low or hang to air dry. High heat can damage the microfibers.

How do you clean beeswax food wraps?

Rinse beeswax wraps gently in cool water. Use a small amount of mild soap if needed. Do not place in washer/dryer. Pat dry with a towel and allow to air dry fully before reusing. Avoid soaking for long periods.

Can you put bamboo towels in the dryer?

It’s best to air dry bamboo towels to help preserve their absorbency and antimicrobial properties. However, occasional machine drying on a low or no heat setting should not damage them. Avoid high heat dryer settings.

What’s the best way to store reusable cleaning cloths?

Keep cloths in a cool, dry spot in between uses. Fold or hang them individually so air can circulate. Storing damp cloths promotes bacterial growth. Use breathable bins or baskets, not sealed plastic containers.

How long do Swedish dishcloths last?

With proper care, Swedish dishcloths can maintain their absorbency and durability for several months of regular use. Replace when they become worn out, develop odors, or lose their absorbency. Avoid abrasive scrubs that can damage the woven texture.

The Bottom Line

Paper towels may be convenient, but they are costly, wasteful and not as eco-friendly or effective as reusable cleaning cloths for most household cleaning tasks. Microfiber cloths, cotton rags, bamboo towels, Swedish dishcloths and beeswax wraps all provide excellent absorbency and durability over repeated uses.

With a little planning, reusable cloths are just as easy to incorporate into your cleaning routines. Having dedicated sets for different areas, washing frequently, and proper storage will maximize their lifespan and effectiveness. Going reusable can save you money while reducing waste! It is one easy swap that can make a real difference for your budget and the environment.

You Should Be Using This Product Instead of Paper Towels—And It’s Not a Sponge

Replacing paper towels with more eco-friendly reusable options is an easy way to reduce waste and save money. While sponges are a common paper towel alternative, they have some downsides. There is a better, more sustainable product to use instead – microfiber cloths.

Why Microfiber Cloths Are Superior to Sponges

Microfiber cloths have unique properties that make them better for most cleaning purposes compared to sponges:

More Absorbent

The ultra-fine fibers in microfiber are split many times thinner than human hair. This creates a huge surface area for lifting and trapping dirt and liquid. Microfiber can absorb up to 8 times its weight.


Microfiber cloths wick moisture away quickly, causing them to dry out faster than sponges. This resistance to remaining damp helps control bacterial growth.

Reusable and Durable

High-quality microfiber cloths retain their absorbency and cleaning power with proper care. They can be washed and reused hundreds of times before needing replacement.


Microfiber cloths do not produce lint like cotton towels or paper products. They leave surfaces shiny and streak-free after wiping down.

Environmentally Friendly

Microfiber cloths are reusable and recyclable. They promote less waste than constantly using and discarding paper towels or sponges.

Downsides of Using Sponges for Cleaning

While certainly reusable, sponges do have some disadvantages compared to microfiber:

Hold More Germs

Sponges’ porous, moist texture makes it easy for bacteria to rapidly multiply. They can harbor harmful microbes between uses.

Less Durable

Sponges tend to fall apart and disintegrate over time. They generally need replacing more frequently than microfiber.

Not as Absorbent

The absorption capacity in sponges pales in comparison to the exceptional wicking ability of microfiber cloths.

Can Scratch Delicate Surfaces

Sponges can sometimes damage fragile surfaces if used to scrub aggressively. Microfiber is gentler.

Odors Build Up

Sponges are notorious for developing unpleasant mildew odors relatively quickly from remaining damp.

Tips for Using Microfiber Cloths Effectively

Follow these simple guidelines to get the most out of microfiber cleaning cloths:

  • Have designated cloths for different areas and tasks. Avoid cross-contamination.
  • Wash cloths frequently in gentle, fragrance-free detergent.
  • Air or line dry fully after washing. Avoid high heat.
  • Do not overload the washing machine.
  • Store in a cool, dry area.
  • Retire any cloths that are worn, torn, or developing odors.
  • Do not use fabric softeners which can coat microfibers.
  • Pre-wash new cloths once before first use.

The Bottom Line

Microfiber cloths are hands-down the better choice compared to paper towels or sponges for most daily cleaning tasks. Their superior absorbency, durability, and eco-friendliness make them worth the small upfront investment. With proper care, microfiber cloths will save you money and hassle in the long run while keeping your home sparkling clean in an environmentally responsible way. The switch from paper towels to microfiber is an easy first step on the journey to a more sustainable, zero-waste lifestyle.