How to make your own unpaper towels by Ashes to Roots
Earth-Friendly Products,  Use

DIY Reusable Paper Towel Replacement to Save Money and the Planet!

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Make your own alternative to paper towels and have the freedom to choose sustainable fabric like bamboo, cotton or linen, AND save money.

Learn how to make your own reusable paper towels with a no-sew or machine method!

The whole point of unpaper towels is to reduce single-use paper towels, while still being biodegradable.

Reducing paper waste with reusable cloth napkins is all the trend right now. But instead of spending $40+ dollars on a roll, you can make your own for around 25 cents a sheet. 

Case and point here is an example:

Okay, I recently looked into reusable paper towels and found some suppliers from overseas that are selling paper towels for 20 cents per piece. Granted you have to buy them in bulk (200-500 pieces minimum) but the same exact paper towels are being resold for well over triple. I originally thought about buying and reselling them myself, and still plan to do so from a more ethical source, but I also want to empower people with instructions on how to do things for themselves. I love the freedom of getting to choose the patterns that match my kitchen or my passions or go completely crazy with comic book characters. Whether you decide to make your own or not, I would just like to caution that supporting small businesses who are hand making items is a great option to keep in mind. Supporting some small businesses is how you support ethical sourcing, make a difference with your purchase and get a great item that will serve your household for many years to come. Okay so that’s all I have to say on that matter! 

What type of fabric to use for absorbent paperless towels

If you are at all skeptical about how absorbent cloth napkins are let me assure you of a few things. 1) fabric matters. The absolute best fabric is going to be 100% cotton flannel or bamboo. I found tons of prints from Joann’s Fabric in the cotton flannel department. Plus if you use their sales, coupon and free shipping it was DIRT cheap! 2) reusable napkins can be made from old towels, sheets or 100% cotton flannel (which is what I used because it absorbs the best). 3) You can use any kind of fabric you have on hand to make reusable paper towels.

It really just comes down to whether you have the money to buy new fabric or want to repurpose curtains, sheets, baby flannel receiving blankets or flannel shirts. Another great and cheap source of fabric is tablecloths. So dust out your fabric scrap pile and see what’s in there.

This is also a great opportunity to make paper towels for each season on the cheap. Another thing to consider when choosing fabric is its ability to break down. Synthetic fabrics like polyester are horrible because of how long they take to break down. Whereas cotton or bamboo fabric only takes six months to decompose.

Related: Here’s where you can find just how long fabric takes to decompose

How to make your own reusable napkins that are way more cost effective

I have a few no sew options and s machine methods to make your own paper towels. We will explore spray adhesive, fabric glue, burning and zigzagging the edge with a sewing machine. 

Once you have your fabric you are going to cut your napkins to size. I know the most popular napkins from Marley’s monsters are 9×9. When I ordered my fabric it’s 42 in and to reduce waste I went ahead and folded it in half and then just cut. My finished squares ended up being about 10 and a half inches by 10 1/2 in. 

I did not wash my fabric first to allow for shrinking and to make sure any edges that would fray could be seen and fixed.

You can use an old book to create perfect lines. Just be sure to add a cutting board or cardboard underneath and you can use a razor blade to cut lines and avoid choppy ends. 

Once you have all the squares you want or even go rectangle, you are ready to try one of the methods below to seal the edges so the fabric does not fray.

Here’s the best way to make your own reusable paper towels

No-sew reusable paper towels

#1 spray adhesive – simply hold fabric in front of you and spray the sides as they hang. Be careful not to let any edges touch or you will seal them together. Hang dry on a clothesline or the back of a chair for 30 minutes and you are good to go. This method is washable and I found was the best at ceiling the edges of the fabric. 

#2 fabric glue – is another no-sew method for reusable paper towels. It was also the most messy and least effective at ceiling in the fraying edges. But sometimes are using up what you thought this method could certainly work. Again after letting it cure for an hour it is machine washable. 

#3 burning the edges of cotton fabric – is the most risky period I tried to hold the flame of my lighter for briefly one to two seconds going up and down the sides of the fabric. At one point a very free section did catch fire and I had to blow it out. So I don’t recommend this method at all! 

Using a sewing machine to keep the edges from fraying on your cotton reusable towels

The last method is the most common that you will see. Zigzagging using a basic sewing machine or getting fancy and using a serger machine it’s your best and most professional method. The zigzag keeps fabric from fraying and is the most long-lasting. Simply set your sewing machine dials to three on all dials. Change to the zigzag stitch. And so like normal. 

How to use reusable paper towels so they last 

Believe it or not this is not a new idea, reusable paper towels is just the new term for cloth napkins that are grandparents and parents have been using all the long. Using cloth napkins to clean up water or dirt spills, wipe your face while eating or drying dishes are always that you can increase the lifespan of your reusable paper towels. Avoid using it to soak up grease like bacon or other meat residue. Because once you wash the towel the grease just goes down the drain in your washer and creates a more serious problem. But cutting back paper towel usage on water or other liquids is a good start to creating less waste. 

Washing your reusable cloth napkins

Depending on the type of fabric you use, but for the most part you can wash your cloth napkin in lukewarm water with mild detergent. You can choose to drive in the dryer or on the line if you are looking to reduce. When using 100% cotton flannel they drive without that crusty feeling like towels for the bathroom. So it’s okay to hang them on the line. 

How to roll reusable napkins 

Probably the most satisfaction is learning how to roll paper towels so you can have the same feeling as unrolling single-use paper towels. You can either stack all of your fabric and roll from The edge closest to you and away. Staggering the seams as you roll. Or you can line up four to six at a time as staggered. Here some pictures to help

Shop these adorable napkins roll holders for easy reach 

So you made the swap and DIY your own reusable paper towels. Now why? Now it’s time to decide if you’ll store it in a cute wire basket, on the counter, or in an adorable wooden roller like this. For the first little bit you can reuse the paper towel roll as the base to roll your reusable paper towels. 

Go ahead and be extra, and add some snaps

A great additions to your less waste paper-free cleaning options is to add snaps! When you are rolling the sheets simply snap the edges and you are set for a much cleaner look!

Here’s the tool and kit that comes with metal snaps!

What all will cloth clean up 

We previously touched on liquids that are okay but I want to go a little bit more in depth. The list of liquids that are okay to clean up include: 

  • Milk
  • Water
  • Juice
  • Food off face/hands 
  • Drying hands 
  • Runny noses (great for tender ones)

What not to use them to clean 

  • Food drippings that are greasy
  • Grease 
  • Paint 

How to store used clothes napkins 

A wet bag is a common tool that mothers use who are into cloth diapers, the same concept is true for cloth napkins. A wet bag is a designated bag that hangs and is where you put all your used wet napkins. It’s best obviously to wash them every day or two to avoid mildewing. Juice especially will sour quickly and milk which are smalls you don’t want in your house.

Try this bag holder that will collect all the wet towels and can be thrown in the laundry along with the load.

In the end making the swap from single use to reusable cloth paper towels will far outweigh any of the small inconveniences. As long as you frequently wash any wet napkins, dry and fold them, you are well on your way too being more eco-friendly.

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