I’ve noticed a lot of people are making efforts to ‘go green’ this year, so I thought I would share one way we have!
We are about just about a year into this ‘unpaper towel’ journey, and I’ve had lots of questions! So I thought I would do a little blog on what shape/materials/uses/etc I have found work best for unpaper towels and cloth wipes!
It all started with these puppies: cloth wipes for my oldest! You can check out my cloth diapering post to find out more about how I use and wash these. I made them with two layers of cheap flannel baby blankets cut into squares about 5inx5in. They are turned and top-stitched because at the time I did not have a serger. You can google videos on how to do this, but basically you take two pieces of fabric, put them right-sides together, stitch all around the outsides leaving a 2in opening in the middle of one side. You clip the corners and pull the two fabrics inside out. You should now have the right-sides of the fabrics facing out and no visible raw edges. Now you sew all along the outside (fairly close to the edge) and close up the opening you used to flip inside out. Need more? Send me an email or google for a video!
After those cloth wipes saw much use, I decided to branch out into cloth paper towels, or unpaper towels. I used the same turn and topstitch method and two layers of flannel (this time bought by the yard) but I made 9×10 rectangles. I made 30 of these.
I use these just like paper towels- single use only. I wipe up a mess or clean the counters and then toss it in the dirty bin. They get washed with our clothes whenever we are running near empty. I use them as hand wipes, counter cleaning, dish drying, holding a quick snack, covering food when reheating, basically everything. I use them for everything when cleaning the bathroom except for the toilet, where I use harsher cleaners- for that I use regular paper towels. I also use regular paper towels for anything involving large amounts of grease (draining bacon, etc) because it is not safe to put anything that was soaked in grease in the dryer! If it’s just greasyish cleanup on the stovetop, these have worked fine.
They are VERY absorbent and have held up very well to lots of repeat use and washing. I have only had one fray and develop holes, and that was because my husband used it to wipe up bleach. Don’t do that :) They are stained from various things like finger paint and food. We have tried vinegar washes and other natural things, but none of the stains have really come out. It doesn’t bother me that much because I KNOW they are clean, but if you want to avoid that, use a darker fabric.
After making my set, I made my mom a set. We picked out Monk’s cloth, which look absorbent but it did not work out very well! It wasn’t very absorbent and the open weave of the cotton hasn’t held up too well to frequent use. I don’t recommend it.
On a related note, we made the switch to cloth tissues as well. I did not make these but purchased them off of etsy. They are made from birds eye cotton and serged. If you wish to make your own of these, I highly recommend a serger as the single ply functions better as tissues than a double ply would! I purchased 50 of these, and that ended up being a bit excessive. I would say a normal household would be good with 30. I keep them stacked in a couple of areas around the house and the dirty ones go in the dirty unpaper towels basket. (I still keep a box or two around for company, but I find I rarely buy them!)
Shortly before the twins were born, we found we were in need of more cloth wipes. This time I made a double ply wipe with one piece of flannel and one piece of minky. We have really liked this combination for cloth wipes. The minky is soft and washes very well and the combination of the two allows for an excellent cleaning option depending on what you need them for! haha!
We have been using the blue flannel set of unpaper towels for a while and I decided to use some fabric I had laying around to make a new set! This time I went with canvas and minky. I like the absorbency of the minky and the canvas has some awesome scrubbing power! I chose NOT to serge these because I like the double layer and I feel turning and topstiching is the most durable for lots of washing. However, you could serge if you would like!
As far as our system goes, we keep a one wire basket with clean cloths and another next to it where we put the dirty ones. I have tried an enclosed bin but I found that they tended to get mildewed in there. An open basket prevents this.
So the big question, is this worth it?? Depending on your household, your paper towel consumption, and the type of paper towels you buy, this will likely only save you $50-$150 a year. That may or may not be worth it to you. However if you factor in the plastic the paper towels are packaged in, by products as a result of production and waste created or tossed from production, you have to consider the impact on the earth and not just a financial impact.
Now before I go and get all hippy on you, going green to me is most importantly about sustainability. And in my mind, the more waste we create and pack into plastic bags that aren’t biodegradable and pile onto usable farm land, the less land we have to create food. It’s simple. We have not been able to get rid of all of our waste, and unfortunately recycling is oftentimes inefficient, but this is one easy way for me to reduce the amount I toss into a trash bag! (Another way- composting! But that’s another post on it’s own! coming soon!)
So to recap, what you will use the unpaper towels for primarily will determine the fabrics you choose. We use ours for wiping little hands and faces as well as counters, so for now, minky and canvas are working out very well!
Need absorbent and budget friendy? Go with flannel
Need softness and absorbency? Go with minky
Need an ability to scrub? Go with terry cloth or canvas
Need them all? Try a triple layer with canvas, flannel in the middle and minky
Need something thin and flexible but absorbent? Go with birds eye cotton
Or grab any fabrics you have hanging around and give them a water test! Remember, all fabrics come out of production with a certain amount of chemicals and need to be ‘conditioned’ so give them a couple of washes before you expect to see full absorbency.
Any questions?? Best of luck going green!