Friday, August 2, 2013

Let's revisit- Paper towels!

Wow, it's been almost a year since I started my experiment to stop using paper towels!  Aren't you just dying to know what happened?

First of all, I had opted to buy pre-made cloth diapers instead of trying to make my own from a bolt of fabric.   I'd have loved to go all "little house on the prarie" and make my own, but I realized pretty quick that just wasn't gonna happen!  I know my limits!  Our TV friend, Martha likes to say "It's a good thing!" I'm much more prone to the phrase "Scr*w it, close enough!"

So I bought the diapers and little baskets and set up a little system for myself.  It took a few days for the kids to stop asking where the paper towels were. I found a few dried up spills on the kitchen table and when I asked "Why didn't you wipe this up?" got back "because we're out of paper towels and you said not to use your good bath towels to wipe up spills."  OK, I did say that, good to know that actually got through! It's hard to be upset about that!  I reminded them a few times about the new system and eventually they got in the habit.

What worked?  We still have the 3 basket system, one for clean, one for dirty and one to catch the orphans that appear in the wash outside of the big towel washing day.  The only thing that's changed about that is the location of the dirty towel basket.  I had it next to the trash can but it now lives either on the counter, or, if I don't want to look at it, in a lower cabinet.  I found out the hard way that leaving them by the trash made them too enticing for the dog.  Since we'd use them to mop up food spills and hubby cooks a lot of meat in the crock pot, the towels smelled yummy and the dog tried to eat a few!  Luckily, the dog is fine and only a couple of towels have chew holes in them!  They've held up quite well in the wash and I can foresee getting several more years out of most of the towels.  The chewed ones may not survive but the rest look fine.  Some are stained but I really don't care about that.

What didn't work?  My belief that they'd get washed in the regular laundry and not add to my laundry load went out the window pretty fast.  I do sometimes wash them with socks and underwear, and occasionally one gets in with the regular laundry because it was used for some non-kitchen purpose, but about the same time I started this system, I also started a laundry basket system where the kids do their own laundry.  I no longer have a big basket of socks and underwear to wash on a near daily basis.  Also, because they tend to be pretty grubby, I like to wash them with bleach on the sanitize setting on my washer. Now I just wait until they are almost all dirty and do one big towel wash.  All together they make a decent sized load of laundry!  The good news though, is that 36 towels can last us several weeks so I'm only doing that wash every once in a while.  Typically, we have 2 or 3 towels in rotation at any time.  One clean one by the sink for hand and dish drying. It's not really dirty so much as damp. We hang it on the edge of a drawer to dry.  Another, probably an old dish dryer, used for wiping the counters and wiping the splashed water from around the sink. Not super dirty, but not clean enough to dry dishes.  Then possibly another near the table, slightly more used, that's used for cleaning the table with spray cleaner, or mopping up spilled milk at breakfast (do they ever stop spilling that?) Big spills still call for a handful of  towels out of the dirty pile. Who cares if they get more dirty on the floor?  So one rag might be in use for a few days, advancing to more and more dirty duty before retiring to the dirty basket. 

I admit, I do still have a roll of real paper towels stashed in a cabinet!  There are just some things that require paper. Draining bacon is one. Scraping dog vomit off the carpet is another.  I have to keep them hidden because if anyone sees them, they immediately reach for them instead of a towel!  Keeping them hidden allows for occasional use without wasting them.

All in all, I'd say it's a great system and it's working well.  We've gone from using about a roll a week, 52 a year, to using maybe 2 or 3 rolls a year?  How many trees are in 50 rolls of paper towels?

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