Do you secretly love the decadent freshness of a crisp unused paper towel
? As it turns out, you are not alone. As a recent article in the Atlantic stated, Americans are weirdly obsessed with paper towels. Perhaps all those squeezably soft Charmin commercials have indeed subliminally penetrated the national psyche.
As Americans, we live in the paper towel capital of the world: According to the market-research firm Euromonitor International, global spending on paper towels for use at home came to about $12 billion in 2017. Of that, Americans accounted for about $5.7 billion, meaning “the U.S. spends nearly as much on paper towels as every other country in the world combined.” The rest of the world is ahead of us in terms of using reusable products such as brooms, mops and rags.
We have been indoctrinated to love the pristine hygiene they offer, especially if cross contamination is at stake. It’s a quick fix that belies a long-term problem, as according to the Sierra Club
, up to 110,000,000 trees per year are cut down for various goods, including single use paper towels. Clearly, the wastefulness of paper towels is not conscionable nor sustainable. Just like single use plastic water bottles and plastic straws, we need wean ourselves off of the instant gratification that they offer.
Enter reusable paper towels
, a concept I wasn’t even aware of prior to this article. I had simply eschewed paper towel use, without realizing how much I missed them.
What are reusable paper towels?
Reusable paper towels are somewhat reminiscent of the single-use ones most people are used to. But unlike traditional rolls, they can be used multiple times—some manufacturers vouch for 100 times—before being tossed in the trash, and in a few rare circumstances, the compost bin
Here's an overview of their benefits as well as best practices for using them.
What are the benefits of reusable paper towels?
If you can lessen your carbon footprint by reducing your household waste
, you will be making your small but essential contribution to a slightly less warm future. Paper and paperboard products comprise the largest percentage of all the materials Americans toss in a typical year, with food a close second. Why not try to make a dent in this onerous landfill fodder?
And it might be less of a sacrifice that you may imagine. Once you get used to the concept, you may appreciate how the sheets are thicker and more absorbent than traditional paper towels and they dry faster than cloth towels.
How are they more sustainable than paper?
Often made from cellulose (wood pulp), cotton, or bamboo, reusable paper towels require fewer raw materials to produce. Plus, the whole idea is that you use less of them. The impact of American households using three fewer rolls per year save 120,000 tons of waste.
How to use reusable paper towels
Although the proof of concept may take a learning curve, it’s worth it. Here are a few tips to flatten the curve.
- Rotate two or three towels in your kitchen at all times. If one is dirty or being washed, you’ll have spares.
- After you use a towel, rinse with water and dish soap, wring out, then place out to dry flat on a rack.
- To further disinfect between washes, put your towels in the microwave for a minute.
- Another good way to sanitize your towels: Pop them in the top rack of your dishwasher every time you run your machine (just make sure your towels are dishwasher safe).
- Adjust your calibrations of how many towels you need for a spill. Remember: They are more absorbent than a normal paper towel.
- Experiment with splashing a little water on your towels before use to help with absorption capacity.