Throwing In The {Paper} Towel . . . Again.

Back in January of this year I wrote about how in 2012 I was going to attempt to break the paper towel habit…and believe it or not…here we are 6 months later and I’m still doing it! I had no idea I would like this system so much….but it really has worked out well for us…so I thought it might be time for an update.

I KNOW it’s time for an update of my towels.

When I first started this journey, I decided cut up flour sack towels would be a great paper towel alternative for us. And I was RIGHT!

I LOVE using these things. They’re soft, they’re absorbent…they wash up well and dry quickly.

The one thing I wish I had done, but didn’t, is finish the edges. At the time I figured the time and effort it would take to do so wasn’t worth it….but I have since changed my tune on that one.

Here is my current batch of alternative paper towels…still clean…still very much usable…but I’ve finally HAD it with the frayed edges.

Every time I wash and dry them (I wash them all at the same time without any other items so I can use my Miracle Laundry Whitening Formula on them)…they come out in one big knotted mess that takes me way too much time to unravel. (This pile probably took me 20 to 30 minutes to untangle and fold!)

A couple of weeks ago I finally got fed-up enough to go out and buy a new batch of flour sack towels.

One towel (of the 5) ended up going into my DIY First Aid Kit as a “sling”, but the rest of them got cut up into fourths using my handy dandy rotary cutter! I just love that little thing. I can’t believe I didn’t buy one LONG ago.

All I did was fold each flour sack towel into fourths (this is MUCH easier if your iron them first) and then cut off the two sides with folded edges. After these quick cuts I had 16 beautiful cloths ready and waiting for finishing.  And waiting….and waiting….

For over a week my nicely cut pile of cloths sat next to my sewing machine. I kept procrastinating because frankly sewing a zigzag edge on all those cloths is a lot of boring sewing. But then today it hit me!  Each cut cloth only had to be sewed on TWO of the sides….because the OTHER two were already finished!  DUH!

So tonight I FINALLY tackled the pile and finished it in under an hour (while watching the Oklahoma City Thunder come back to beat the San Antonio Spurs in a fairly dramatic fashion!)

Moral of the story:  don’t procrastinate like me. lol. If I’d started the sewing portion of this project right away….I would have discovered this “revelation” a lot sooner!

paper towel alternative

paper towel alternative

And here is my new batch of alternative paper towels all ready for use…and more importantly ready to be washed and dried without fear of major knottage! I am inordinately excited about this. :-)

To read more about my paper towel journey you can click on either of these past posts:

Throwing In The {Paper} Towels

Kicking The Paper Towel Habit


Print Friendly
Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter8Pin on Pinterest11,016Google+0

Enjoy This Post? Never Miss Another!

Subscribe to Jillee's FREE email newsletter and receive more great tips and ideas!



  1. laurie says

    I really love your site and the time you take to fine and test things. I have gone to almost no paper towels (one cheap roll a month) and I really like it. For people who don’t have a machine or don’t sew they could always use the iron on hem tape. Just make sure what you buy is washable. No excuses to not be paperless.

  2. says

    Not to be ignorant, but where do you find flour sack towels? I live in Canada and am not sure we have them here.

    Thank you,

    • Michelle says


      Being from Canada it is sooo frustrating to see a great idea and not be able to follow through with it because we can’t get the said product but you can get them at our Walmarts too!!…..they are with the tea towels and dish cloths and they are even labelled Flour Sack Towels……Yeah for WalMart!!

      • Kimmer says

        Great to know Walmart has the flour sack towels. I too am from Canada (Sask – which is all about wheat and flour) and maybe once have seen actual flour in flour sack material (calico?) at the Co-op. My grandma used to make pillowcases, tea towels, aprons, table cloths, little curtains for my childhood “china” cabinet with it. This stuff lasted for decades. Maybe as consumers we should start demanding again, unless it’s a safety (mice/mould) thing. Likely a cost thing. Who knows?

    • says

      Not ignorant at all Tina. I should have been more specific about where I purchased them. Michelle is right…Walmart! I think they always carry them.
      I’ve also seen “premade” cloth napkins/towels made out of similar material on

  3. says

    Oi Jillee! I am Brazilian, and love you ideas and blog! I tryed some of your recipes, like Grated Homemade Laundry Soap (I use Coconut grated soap), Homemade Body Wash (with Dove) and now I’ll try your Simple Moisturizing Lotion. I loved all these.
    I have a million of this “towels paper”, because I prefer work with real fabric for all kind of cleaning. Yours are great! Tks for share your effort.

    • says

      Wow Sueli! That is terrific you have tried all those ideas and liked them. Makes my day. :-) Thanks for sharing! How is the coconut grated soap for the laundry? That sounds delightful! :-)

  4. says

    We kicked the paper towel habit many years ago and LOVE it! I started when my babies were smaller and using cloth diapers. I am not a sewing machine person though so most of our “towels” are simply old towels that have been cut into manageable squares. I also stock up on cloth napkins from thrift stores, cheap and easy!

  5. Alisha says

    Jillee, I did this, and my husband is thrilled with saving the extra money. The problem is he doesn’t see these as to dry his hands, he wants to use them as napkins, the way to wash the counter tops, etc. Training him for new tricks is always fun! LOL Have a blessed day and thanks for all the great money saving ideas!

    • Ayshela says

      *giggle* well, whatever he’s using them for, he’s USING them, eh? so much better than having him kicking and fighting about it. very cool that he’s on board with it!

  6. Robin-Taine says

    My mom always cut up old towels and tshirts for cleaning and I have followed suit. While we occassionally purchase paper towels/napkins (usually for kids birthday parties), we rarely have them in the house otherwise. It’s amazing how much life an old towel/tshirt still has in it. It isn’t anymore work to launder them (I usually toss them into the one hot, bleachy load I do a week), and if one is really icky, I don’t feel too bad about eventually throwing it out. Even if you need to purchase some cloth (and those bar towels from WalMart work great!), this is one of those easy ways to go a little greener.

    I think it’s so easy to just use what’s convenient or what we’re in the habit of doing. Thanks for a great website that at least gives us some options/food for thought about some our everyday choices.

  7. Rachelle says

    I did these when you first posted about them. I have a serger, so I serged the seams. They still fray a little after a round through the washer/dryer, but not so bad that they tangle together.

  8. Mary Malone says

    Another great post. We already use cloth napkins. And I have a bag of cut up old towels and shirts under the sink for any messy accidents that sometimes occur. These are single use- throw away. But I am going to try this new “paper towel” trick. I love to sew and quilt. Mindless sewing is fun for me so thanks for another great tip!

  9. Belle says

    Love the idea, just wondering if you would use these to clean up real big messes. I have 2 toddlers and a dog that are sometimes unsure of where they need to do there pee pees! Do you keep a roll of paper towels handy for special messes?

    • Georgann G says

      I have three dogs and have used old t-shirts as rags for years. Two rags—one I step on for the wet mess, another for the spray carpet cleaner. The top of my dryer is where I stash dirty rags, waiting for a full load. The old towels I use to cover the car seats when the dogs travel, or wipe up muddy paws before they sprint into the house go in the same load of wash. Also, the rags I use for cleaning are done in the same load. I use Jillee’s No Grate Laundry Soap and it takes care of it all. It’s a rare occasion that I use a rag and toss it (vomit does it for me). They usually disintegrate first.

  10. Becky says

    I went paperless in my kitchen several months ago and am loving it! I took the time to finish the edges of my towels at the start and I’m soooo glad I did :-) They still frayed a bit the first couple of washes but I just took the time right from the dryer to trim off all the frayed bits. Now they don’t fray anymore and they’re holding up great!