This is what I grew up with: seeing my immigrant parents squeeze the life out of a rinsed paper towel sheet and hang drying it on the kitchen faucet. Legend has it, my parents are still on their first paper towel roll, ha-ha.
If there is one staple that we have at home, it’s our roll of paper towels. We used to use it for practically everything that called for a quick clean up and just about a zillion uses in the kitchen. We always catch it on sale and stock up – a big fat jumbo roll would cost us just a buck. Those were the good old days!
When we face health pandemics like the 2020 COVID-19 virus, proper hygiene is one of the best ways to protect ourselves. I never thought there would be a shortage of paper towels! This is probably why a lot of people felt the need to stock up on toilet paper and paper towels. It’s ridiculous, but one psychologist explained why it made sense. According to psychiatry professor Steven Taylor of the University of British Columbia, we think of toilet paper as our tool to avoid things that are disgusting. When there is a need to boost personal hygiene, it makes sense to hoard paper towels, right?
After I retired from Airbnb hosting (a month before the COVID pandemic hit actually! I have lucky timing) we only had 2 rolls of paper towels in our house left when the pandemic began.
(P.S. When I was an Airbnb host, I provided paper towels to all guests in the bedrooms because I don’t want to give anyone an excuse to not be clean hehe.)
We had to start weaning off our paper towels. There are tons of ways for you to make your roll of paper towel last longer. So if you are one of the unfortunate ones like us who were left with an empty paper towel stockpile, it’s a perfect time to wean, adapt, and learn how to try to live without.
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6 Simple Tips to Make Paper Towel Rolls Last Longer
Hopefully, these tips will help you save some cash and make those rolls of paper towels last longer. Here are effective tips that will make your paper towels last a lot longer than before.
1. Opt for high-quality rolls
Instead of buying the 1-ply, buy the 2-ply or 4-ply paper towels. That way, you don’t have to pull a lot of sheets every time. You can even buy both. Use the 4-ply for when you need a more absorbent paper towel and the 2-ply for the not so absorbent needs.
This will be a bit more expensive. But if you calculate it per sheet, you might be surprised that it will be worth it. A lot of times a thicker sheet could even be reused. You can REALLY push a nice, plush sheet of paper towel’s capacity. Challenge yourself with a high-quality sheet, it’s usually a lot more “worth your buck” when it’s good quality. We get our paper towel rolls from Costco, but Amazon also has good subscribe and save deals on paper towels (if you want it delivered to your door!)
Just make sure that you educate the people at home to save and push the capacity of new paper towels. That way, they will be careful not to pull the same number of sheets as they did before.
2. Pretend it’s your last roll
We usually buy these toilet or paper towels in bulk. It ends up cheaper if you do it that way. However, if you display all the extra rolls you have, it will make you careless about using it. This is why it is ideal for you to keep all the extras hidden. Don’t show it. Store it somewhere like in a cabinet or in separate storage space.
In an article published in Psychology Today, it explains the concept of scarcity and how it can affect how we think and how we feel. When both our thoughts and feelings are affected, it also influences our actions.
That being said, if we hide the extra rolls, it encourages scarcity mentality. Everyone will use the rolls sparingly.
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2. Buy absorbent materials
We’ll get into alternative ideas below but a quick guide to absorbent alternative fabrics include cotton, hemp, bamboo, flannel, microfiber, and wool. Wool is out due to the high cost of natural wool. But bamboo and microfiber are a great budget-friendly alternative fabric to replace your kitchen paper towel roll.
Your best bet for maximum absorption and speed is bamboo + microfiber blends and the classic 100% cotton fabrics (the denser the cotton fabric the better.)
3. Squash it
Make your roll of paper towel look flatter. Just squish one side to do this. So what’s the purpose of doing this? When you squash your roll, it becomes oval in shape. This makes it harder to rotate it. If it stays in its usual circular form, one pull and a lot of tissue slide off. Sometimes, we don’t want to roll the excess back. So we just pull off everything and use it.
If the roll has an oval shape, the rotation will be more controlled. You don’t have to worry about any paper towel being wasted.
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4. Fold it
When we pull the sheets, some of us usually wad it up. This will lead you to waste more of the toilet paper or paper towel. To maximize the absorbent feature, we need to use more of its surface area. So instead of wadding up the paper, fold it. It is neater and you will be more cautious about the thickness of the paper that you are using. It will make you pull out less of it every time you need to use it.
5. Rinse and hang dry them
Most people don’t take advantage of the strength of a top-quality paper towel. A quality paper towel sheet can be hand rinsed and hung up to air dry in the kitchen if it isn’t too dirty. When we wipe down or soak up a spill (example – spilling red wine, miso soup etc.) those sheets can be reused for another spill if they’re rinsed and air dried with a gentle hand. Yes, it will be a little stained, but the durability is still there – ready for another soak up.
6. Buy half sheet varieties
Regular paper towels traditionally came off as a big 6×12 inch sheet. Smart paper towel brands adapt to adding more tear-offs per roll in response to frugal consumers who learned to only tear off what they need. I found that using half sheets in our household made each roll last about almost 20% to 30% longer (your miles may vary of course.) We used to go through a roll of paper towels every 2 weeks but using half sheet paper towel rolls lasted us almost 3 weeks.
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7. Buy in bulk
Everyone should be buying their paper towels in bulk if they can. When the sale is good, stores often put up purchasing limits to 1 or 2 transactions per customer. In this case, my husband and I divide up into separate transactions and check out separately.
Reuseable Paper Towel Alternatives
The best trick to make paper towels last longer is simply trying to find other alternative materials that are reusable. Paper towels should only use for something you definitely want to throw away or is unsanitary enough you don’t want it even near the dirty laundry. Otherwise, for most things, you can invest in a bundle of extra absorbent cloths as an alternative.
These different varieties of cloths will save you more money in the end. Plus, they’re great for the environment because you simply have to throw them in the laundry once in a while, and bam, clean towels ready to be reused!
I highly suggest going to your local thrift store and locate secondhand cloths in the linens section. We go to our local Goodwill every weekend and have always seen a good selection of materials from cotton to hemp to terry cloth. Here are some options you can look into:
Buy a set of non-abrasive super-absorbent sponges and always have them handy. A good kitchen sponge made from bamboo are super absorbent and ideal for dishes, stove tops, pet messes, countertops. They’re versatile and reusable.
These can be easily cleaned and are made of really absorbent material. You want to make sure that you keep a couple for specific purposes around the kitchen. Like you have a dishcloth for drying dishes and a different one for pots and pans. It’s best to have a different cloth for cleaning spills on the counter and table surfaces for extra sanitation.
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Kitchen towels are more absorbent and thicker than dishcloths. You can use these to dry your hands while working in the kitchen. If there is a huge spill on the floor, you can also use this. But make sure that if you used it on the floor, don’t use it on your countertops anymore. At least, not unless you have washed and sanitized it.
These can be used to wipe the dirty, messy, and sweaty hands and faces of your kids. If you have old face towels, you can feel free to use these as dishcloths or kitchen towels.
We just had to include this here because some people actually use paper towels in place of napkins while eating. That’s a huge waste! Buy some cloth napkins instead. You can forget about paper napkins too. Have a couple of napkins that you can use repeatedly and just wash when they are dirty.
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Utilize Rags Instead
Any combination of alternatives listed below would really help you make your roll of paper towel last longer. But what about the gross stuff? That’s what rags are for!
See what’s great about using paper towels is being able to wipe away gross stuff then throw it away. But if you want to save money by making your paper towels last longer, you need to equip your home with a lot of rags.
You probably have a lot of these lying around. Instead of donating them or throwing them away, leave a few for you to use around the house. If the material is 100% cotton it’ll make for extra absorbency. You can also cut up your old t-shirts – preferably the plain ones without any prints. Thrift stores like Goodwill will stock secondhand men’s t-shirts for 99 cents. Just take those home, trim it up with scissors and you’ll have a stack of rags ready to go.
If your kiddos are all grown up, you can use the cloth diapers that they used. These are made of absorbent materials because, well, they were originally meant as diapers. Use these to wipe the gross spills or clean around the house and in the bathroom.
Cloth diapers aren’t exactly “cheap” especially not the fancy all-in-ones so don’t go out of your way to find cloth diapers. But do know that they are definitely highly absorbent since parents use it for…well yeah. 🙂
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Flannel shirts or sheets
Flannel, as a material, is very soft and also quite absorbent. If you have old cotton flannel sheets that you don’t mind repurposing, then use these as rags for around the house. Old flannel shirts will also work. You only have to sacrifice one and you can end up with a lot of rags when you cut it into pieces.
No matter how soft and fluffy they are, these will wear out over time. So if you have worn out bath towels, don’t throw them out. These can also be cut up and used as rags. Since these were meant to be towels, you can trust that these will be very absorbent.
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So funny you wrote this – my roommate was obsessed with paper towels but they had to be Bounty. We always bought the cheap kind but I did realize you go through them much faster and use more paper. However, he used to use them for everything which really bugged me. Wiping his hands and face after a meal, cleaning things up etc. I now live on my own and one roll will sometimes last me over a month. I buy bulk and I rarely use them. I use microfiber cleaning cloths to clean with and then I use a towel after I wash my hands.