It's Time To Upgrade This Home Cleaning Staple For The Sake Of The Planet

mbg Senior Sustainability Editor By Emma Loewe
mbg Senior Sustainability Editor
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care."
It's Time To Upgrade This Home Cleaning Staple For The Sake Of The Planet

When it comes to cleaning up around the house, few tools are as convenient as the trusty paper towel roll. But, like most things we use once and then throw away, these aren't the most eco-friendly.

Made from wood fibers that are broken down and dyed with bleach, paper towels require a lot of water and energy to make. And when you consider the fact that Americans go through an estimated 3.7 million tons of them a year, the numbers become even more daunting. Plus, they are not typically recyclable.

While we still have a long way to go to make the home cleaning space more sustainable, there are now a few paper towel alternatives that are super absorbent (more so than, say, a dish towel) and either reusable or made from recycled material. Try 'em out during your next tragic matcha spill, and pat yourself on the back for taking a small action to help out the planet. After all, small steps are what eventually ladder up to sweeping change.

Seventh Generation

If you're not quite ready to commit to reusable paper towels just yet, you can feel slightly better about using these recycled ones from green cleaning company Seventh Generation. They're unbleached, made of 100 percent recycled paper, and don't use any added dyes or inks, so you can throw them into your home compost after use.

Seventh Generation 100% Recycled Paper Towel Rolls ($12.49 for 8 rolls)


If You Care

If You Care has been churning out more sustainable versions of popular home products since 1990. Think: unbleached coffee filters and recycled aluminum foil. Their reusable paper towels are made using a combination of wood fiber, cotton, and a special type of salt to help out with absorption. According to the If You Care website, they can absorb up to 16 times their weight in water. I didn't do the math, but they certainly did manage to soak up some pretty sizable countertop spills.

If You Care Reusable Paper Towels ($8.92/ roll)


Besides just being incredibly fun to say, Bambooee reusable towels are super strong and machine washable. They come out as good as new, and one sheet can supposedly withstand up to 100 washes. The Shark Tank–approved product is made from organic bamboo, which has become a popular paper and fabric alternative in the eco-space because it regrows quickly after being harvested.

Bambooee Reusable Bamboo Towels ($12/roll of 12 sheets)

Three Blue Birds

These feel more like a crossover between a sponge and a paper towel, and I personally use them exclusively in my kitchen. They're made from a mix of wood fiber and cotton, so they're flexible but have a little bit of weight to them. Like Bambooee, they're machine washable—I just throw them in the dishwasher and then leave them out to dry. When they start to break down (which, by the way, hasn't happened to mine yet and I've washed them dozens of times), you can throw them in your home compost.

Three Blue Birds Swedish Dishcloth ($6.95)

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