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Paper Towels Vs. Washcloths

My boyfriend loves to argue with me about everything I say (especially about the environment or veganism. even when he knows I'm right.. but that's another issue...) and he has been complaining the past few days because I haven't bought paper towels and it's "my turn".. well I don't wanna! I told him I just want to keep using washcloths (which we've been doing the past week or so) and just wash them myself instead of wasting all the money and paper. So now he's arguing with me that using paper towels is not bad for the environment, trees are easily sustainable and it's actually better for the environment to use paper towels than to waste water/soap to wash the cloths. It's really not something I thought much about because I really just want to save money, so now I'm wondering which is better. I mean, it's always been my thought that anything you are reusing is better than making waste. So, I tried googling and looking through the memories, but couldn't come up with an answer... any thoughts/help is appreciated!


( 45 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 9th, 2008 05:45 pm (UTC)
I broke my paper towel habit six months ago and have been using washcloths since.

It's not just the costs and resources that go into *making* something disposable that should be considered when comparing reusable to disposable. Also think of all the manpower, fuel, pollution, packaging etc. that it takes to transport those paper towels over and over again.

I wish I had some actual figures for you. If I come across anything I'll let you know.

Feb. 9th, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC)
Good points.. I didn't even think of that.
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Feb. 9th, 2008 06:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, this.

It also saves money. Not much, but hey, that's $2 I don't spend every trip the grocery store and the "burden" on my laundry is neglible.

I keep using my kichen towels until they're actually dirty, I don't throw them in the wash after cleaning up just one spill (unless it's raw meat or egg, or a hairball from the cats, I'm cleaning up after.) And there's always "the clean towel" that's on the fridge, that's just for drying hands, so it doesn't really get that dirty. So I usually only have 2 or 3 towels to toss in the wash about every 2 weeks.

Feb. 9th, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!!
Feb. 9th, 2008 05:46 pm (UTC)
I don't think they waste water. They're so little that they just fit in with the regular laundry. If you wash them separately, then I can see his point.
Feb. 9th, 2008 05:54 pm (UTC)
That's true.
Feb. 9th, 2008 05:46 pm (UTC)
Hey, I just happened to think...I'll bet you could google something about cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers and get some idea of the cost of washing vs the impact of producing, marketing and transporting something disposable.
Feb. 9th, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Feb. 9th, 2008 06:49 pm (UTC)
this is a good idea, you can also google cloth menstrual pads :) There are SO many reusable things cloth related that cut down on waste :)
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Feb. 9th, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC)
The energy we use to wash our clothes at home is nothing like the energy required to manufacture and distribute paper products, especially if we use A rated appliances and environmentally friendly detergents. You can just shove your towels in any old load of wash going, too, to make up the load.

At work (flower shop), we use old towels that I have torn into smaller pieces for 'paper towels'. When they get dirty we rinse and wring them, and set them over the radiator to dry, or hang them on the edge of the counter to dry before we go home at night. We only machine wash them when they really need it. If you use J cloths/Handi wipes at home, they rinse really clean easily and dry in no time.
Feb. 9th, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've just been rinsing them out with a little tiny bit of soap and hanging them to dry, but only because I haven't had to do any laundry yet.. I only do like 2 loads a month.
Feb. 9th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
don't they have to "wash", and probably even bleach, the pulp used to make the paper towels? probably more environmentally-un-friendly chemicals than the soap and water you use. 'specially if you can put your "grey water" to good use (though i'm no expert on grey water uses....)
Feb. 9th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you!!
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Feb. 9th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
That's the thing too... he says he cares about the environment all the time, but does absolutely nothing whatsoever to back it up. Yeah, I am pretty new to living more naturally, but I am making the best effort I can to learn and try new things. Anytime I bring something up it's always, "Well, I don't think..." as if I am idiot and he knows everything when really he is talking out of his ass and just wants to argue! Okay sorry for the rant and thanks for the comment :)
Feb. 9th, 2008 06:25 pm (UTC)
*hugs* I am so sorry you have to deal with that, I know exactaly how you feel...my ex-fiance was hot-headed like that, and also had the habit of arguing just to argue, not liking to be "wrong" (read, disagreed with) and continuing to fight even when he knows full and well he had no grounds. It's very frustrating and I commend you for being patient with him :)

I understand the whole argument of "well that uses resources too!", and its a valid point. Most topics come down to a trade-off...this way you have this detriment, this way you ahve this one, and it just becomes a "lesser evil" kind of thing. From the other comments I am guessing that when you add it all up, the amount of resource you are using to wash cloth is far less than all that goes into the paper towels. Sometimes it takes cold hard numbers to convince someone though...and then sometimes not even LOL.

Good luck hun!
Feb. 9th, 2008 06:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you :D Luckily, I am moving out in a few months and I cannot wait!!
Feb. 9th, 2008 06:52 pm (UTC)
Oh good, I am glad you are taking the steps to make your world around you the environment that supports who you are and what you want to be! Best of luck! <3
Feb. 9th, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC)
I hate to play devils advocate here - I'm not saying that paper is better than a wash cloth - *but* from someone who works in the apparel industry and having seen all the chemicals and toxins and waste that's generated from garment manufacturing I can only image it would be quite similar for a cloth towel. White towels are still bleached, it still takes gas/oil in the transportation, they're wrapped in plastic when bulk shipped to the store, etc. etc. The good news? It only happens once as opposed to over and over (as w/ the paper towels). Plus they don't cut down trees to do it. However unless the towel is made from a high percentage of organic cotton, cotton crops are *notorious* polluters relying heavily on copious amounts of pesticides that get washed into our ground water.

So my suggestion is to try and buy the most environmentally friendly cloth towels you can and ditch the paper for all but the dirtiest of jobs. (I think someone mentioned cat poop - yick! lol)
Feb. 9th, 2008 06:30 pm (UTC)
Good points. Thanks, I'll definitely look into more environmentally friendly towels since I need to get some more anyway.
Feb. 9th, 2008 06:32 pm (UTC)
One other thought - try not to buy out of China - they're very lax when it comes to pollution standards... Oh the things I've seen! ::cries::
Feb. 9th, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
Definitely, thanks!
Feb. 9th, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC)
It shouldn't even be legal imo!

Checking labels helps a lot, but sometimes that "Made in China" is so so SO tiny or in such an odd place...
Feb. 9th, 2008 06:41 pm (UTC)
It's cool you can at least discuss these things.. even though you're right all the time ;) it's nice to at least visit the other side of the argument.

I've gotten really cheap in my old age and made a bunch of washcloths out of old flannel sheets that I had (I just got a sewing machine and wanted to try out the different stitching, for the edges) but I'm a little extreme

I still do use paper towels on occasion, for the really nasty stuff. I tend to toss those into the wood stove (unless heavy chemicals are involved)
Feb. 9th, 2008 06:45 pm (UTC)
I actually have a ton of old material my grandmother gave me years ago that I never used because I cannot sew for my life and the fabric is really ugly (Christmas Smurfs, for example) and I didn't know what to use it for, but this sounds like a good idea! Thanks.
Feb. 9th, 2008 06:54 pm (UTC)
as long as it's cottony/ absorbent, it's good in my book! Besides, Smurfs scare me
Feb. 9th, 2008 06:59 pm (UTC)
Christmas Smurfs! Hahahaaaa.

In other news, You could probably sell some of that on ebay or similar ;-)

I use old socks for cleaning floors and such. Kitchen towels that are threadbare etc get used like paper towels - cleaning up staining things and then sort of washed out in the sink, hung over the shower rod to dry and if needed, thrown into the next laundry - although sometimes that hand wash is enough and they can just be reused from there.
Feb. 10th, 2008 07:26 am (UTC)
socks also work well for waxing a car, just put them over your hand and buff up a nice shine. Throw them in the laundry, wash and wear them...
Feb. 9th, 2008 06:51 pm (UTC)
lol, sounds like my ex-boyfriend. key prefix there 'ex'

i'd say he'll live. if he wants them badly enough, he'll buy them. being a guy and probably low maintenence, probably not.
Feb. 9th, 2008 07:05 pm (UTC)
Maybe you could compromise and use papertowels that are made to be better for the environment, made with recycled paper perhaps?
Feb. 9th, 2008 07:20 pm (UTC)
i just want you to know that my boyfriend and i, even though we are in love, going to get married, etc., have the EXACT same paper towel problem!!!
Feb. 9th, 2008 08:33 pm (UTC)
Also, no one has yet mentioned the cost of creating waste in general (Granted, paper towels tend to be small but they could add up): waste collection, transportation, landfilling/incinerating...

Some can be composted, but I'm not sure exactly which ones can and can't. Part of it does depend on what you're putting on the paper towel.
Feb. 9th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC)
My mum uses old cut up clothes for cloths. They do the job!
Feb. 9th, 2008 09:54 pm (UTC)
Hmm, we switched off paper towels about a year or so ago. We just throw them in with a load of regular towels and it makes a full load. The only thing I use paper towels for is in my cleaning service. I do not want to wipe a toilet and throw that in with rags I use in the kitchen, even though I disinfect thoroughly. And washing them separately would not be practical.
Feb. 10th, 2008 07:40 am (UTC)
I'm a cleaner too and I wash my rags with my dust mops but the rags used for dusting desks and tables get washed separate when I have enough for a load. I use jay cloths to wash dishes and clean the kitchen. You can get a lot of use out of a jay cloth but I'd rather use a dish cloth that would last much longer. The place I clean supplies the jay clothes, it's not my decision.
At home we do have paper towel but I mainly use them as napkins when I'm eating so 6 rolls last a long time. I use a dish cloth to wipe counters, dust and wash dishes with. I have different rags that are used to clean the bath room and clean up pet messes.
Feb. 9th, 2008 10:08 pm (UTC)
I switched from paper towels to kitchen rags & from paper napkins to cloth ones about 6 months ago, and haven't looked back. I save $ at the store, and only wash them with the regular loads of laundry, so I'm not creating an extra water-use that way.

I found this tip on IdealBite.com for some numbers. And heck, I just feel more responsible this way.
Feb. 10th, 2008 01:42 am (UTC)
Big box stores will love you if you listen.
Feb. 10th, 2008 03:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Paper TOWELS
Feb. 10th, 2008 06:41 am (UTC)
I haven't bought paper towels for 3 or 4 years. I just got tired of buying something I kept throwing away! I used cloth diapers, cloth mama pads, WHY would I buy PAPER towels?

Your boyfriend will get used to it, just like my husband did. We *really* don't miss them and I don't feel guilty about buying a pack of new cloth kitchen towels once a year. ($5 for a pack of 7)

Our mothers have never gotten used to it. They still bring me a roll every time they come to visit. I think that they think it's a money thing or something. As soon as the moms are gone, I put the roll under the sink and save them for pet messes.
Feb. 10th, 2008 07:55 am (UTC)
All the years growing up on the farm we never used paper towel, I didn't even know such a thing existed until the early 80's and it seemed like a luxury item at the time, if we were eating something messy we just used a wash cloth. And for general cleaning around the house we used rags some times made from old clothes and for dishes Mom had cloth dish clothes.
Feb. 10th, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC)
I have sorta the same issue, only for my SO, it is a hygiene thing: it squicks him that I would *gasp* use a cloth to wipe down the counter that isn't perfectly sterile. (Can you hear my eyes rolling? Lovingly, of course.) So I use a cloth when I wipe down the counter, and he uses paper towels. Perhaps some day I will convince him that he/I/we are not going to die of some horrible infectious disease due to mildly dirty towels.

Really, I just wanted an excuse to say your icon makes me very happy :) I [heart] chickens.
Feb. 10th, 2008 03:53 pm (UTC)
My boyfriend is the most disgusting slob in the world and doesn't even clean anything so he really has no reason to complain.

And thanks!! :)
Feb. 10th, 2008 11:04 pm (UTC)
What ??????????????
Feb. 10th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)
Re: What?
That's what I want to know, tedo. What?
Feb. 11th, 2008 12:28 am (UTC)
Re: What?
You said this butt head of a boy friend wanted you to use paper instead of reusable cloths, and I said IF You Listen to Him the big box stores, Wal-Mart, Publix, where ever you shop will love you for it, If you listened to him, they would like for you to take the easy, lazy route with your money. Purchase them paper towels, that's only half a tree! maybe 1/4th of a tree. If I was a women I'd kick the disgusting slob out on his a--, or tell him to grow up and smell the roses. Its not unmanly to work in the house, I scrub my own bathroom out, clean all counters and anything else I might soil up or make a mess at. you make it, you clean it up, and I use cloth and wash it out. I hope no offense taken, I just feel there is no excuse for waste of our resources, or lazy people .
( 45 comments — Leave a comment )

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