3 Ways to Replace Disposable Products

by contributing writer Dawn

There are several reasons I have always hated disposable paper products such as plates, napkins and cups. Among my top reasons, is that most disposables are only used once and then discarded. That means by using disposables I’m literally throwing money away! What a waste of my (husband’s) hard earned paycheck!

Here are a few ways we have adopted over the years to avoid disposable paper products in our kitchen.

3 Ways to Replace Disposable Products

Wipe-Up Towels

My husband and I quit buying paper towels after the birth of our first child and instead used, what we called, wipe-up towels. These weren’t really towels, but cheap, white washcloths purchased in bulk from the local big box discount store. They cleaned sticky fingers and spills much better than flimsy paper towels and were a cinch to throw in the same load as my kitchen towels.

An even cheaper way to furnish your kitchen with wipe-up towels is to re-purpose old towels into smaller rags. There are some adorable ways to dress them up. I’ve even seen directions on Pinterest for rolling them up like disposable paper towels and pulling them out from the paper towel holder!

Cloth Napkins

I grew up with paper towels used as napkins. But when we had company, my mother brought out cloth napkins. She made me some cloth napkins of my own shortly after I left home. A few years ago, in my quest to lower my household budget, I began using cloth napkins again. Our everyday napkins are simple, unhemmed gingham napkins in a variety of colors. Gingham doesn’t fray and is easily replaced when they get stained and dingy.  Or try this easy tutorial to make Upcycled T-Shirt Napkins!

Cleaning Wipes

Disposable cleaning wipes are such a time saver, but they reek havoc on the budget. Making your own cleaning wipes from old tee shirts and a vinegar solution is a frugal and green way to replace those disposable cleaning wipes. Simply cut up old tee shirts and place in a container with equal parts vinegar and water. Add some essential oils if desired.

Ridding your budget of disposable paper products is simple and fun and so much easier on the budget. It is also a great way to re-purpose those old towels and tee shirts!

Other frugal articles you might like:

More frugal posts from Dawn

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.


  1. I’ve used cloth napkins for years but haven’t figured out how to completely get away from paper towels. I love the idea of using cheap wash clothes in their place. What do you use to cover food in the microwave?

  2. I agree that it’s pretty wasteful to use paper products a lot. My family uses paper plates sometimes, but I try to keep from it or at least get two uses out of the plates before tossing them. I do however, use old t-shirts for cleaning rags as I hate spending the extra money on those wet wipes! Great post!

  3. Ditto on all of these in our home although I do buy one package of each of the paper products every 6 months or so. Some clean-ups are so messy or greasy that I wouldn’t want to throw a cloth towel with that in the washing machine! Great tips, especially putting cloth towels on the paper towel dispenser. I have to see that one!

  4. Kimberly says:

    I use coffee filters to put over food in the microwave and use paper towels only for oily spills or dog urine cleanup.

  5. we started using cheap washcloths in different colors for napkins a couple of years ago. we still have some paper napkins around for company.
    i agree with Kimberly, we only use paper towels for dog messes really. i bought some handiwipes a long time ago at bj’s and we use those for wiping up messes and wash, until they are shredded. haven’t thrown many away over the years, still have a large pile brand new ones. i hate using sponges for too much. they get so gross.

    jaime- have you ever seen those plastic covers that fit over a dish in the microwave? those are great. i have seen them at walmart, but my favorite one that i have had is from ikea.

  6. I started using cloth napkins awhile back and still have a package of paper napkins in the cupboard that I haven’t used because my mother insisted that I have some in the house. We also use rags which we have a pile under the sink and a bucket in the basement to clean up and do other messy tasks. We use baby wash cloths to clean up my son after meals. I use less than one roll of paper towels a month which is a nice change. Every day we cut back a little more but I still use them to drain meat and other things that come out of oil. My husband likes to use them to clean the bathroom because the germs creep him out going in the laundry. I love the cleaning wipe idea and I think that I might try that soon! We have a bunch of huggies plastic bins and they would be perfect for holding and dispensing!!

  7. I’m trying to get rid of the paper towel habit. I’ve been using shop cloths but the white washcloths are a great idea. Its been easy using cloth napkins but paper towels are so handy in the kitchen! I’m trying though. I’m down to less than 2 rolls a m
    onth. Every little bit helps.

  8. Just this morning I put down the paper towels and grabbed an old dish cloth to wipe up spilled coffee. I hope to cut my paper use in half in 2015.

  9. I have never heard of covering food to be reheated in a microwave with a paper towel. It is to contain splattering? I would then suggest reheating the food in shorter time increments and testing the temperature as you go. I either just put it on the plate to reheat (then do shorter increments), or the item is already in a dish that comes with a lid that I just crack that would capture any splattering.

  10. Great tips! I personally use old tees w/ vinegar solution too for my cleaning needs at home. There are a lot of ways to save money and minimize exploiting our natural resources.

  11. I use a microwave splatter cover ($2) on my dish in microwave. I figured out how much it was costing me for paper towels. I buy 8 pk giant rolls, pick a size at $7.97. I’m only using 1 roll a month so that’s $1 a month. I’m perfectly fine with that. I never buy paper plates or cups.

  12. I have used white washclothes and kitchen bar towels in place of paper towels for years. Instead of paper napkins I use cloth napkins. I have also stopped using ziplock bags. I use plastic storage containters in place of plastic bags.

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