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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!


( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
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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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(no subject) - heinleinfan - Feb. 9th, 2008 06:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pqowlaks - Feb. 9th, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
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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!
(no subject) - heartsarts - Feb. 9th, 2008 06:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
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 :)
(no subject) - arborolatria - Feb. 9th, 2008 06:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pqowlaks - Feb. 9th, 2008 06:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - arborolatria - Feb. 9th, 2008 06:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
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.
(no subject) - jennifleur - Feb. 9th, 2008 06:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pqowlaks - Feb. 9th, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - melisjesus - Feb. 9th, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
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.
(no subject) - squid_ink - Feb. 9th, 2008 06:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - temptress - Feb. 9th, 2008 06:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thebarkingdog - Feb. 10th, 2008 07:26 am (UTC) - Expand
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.
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