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13 Eco-Friendly Paper Towel Alternatives for Your Kitchen

Hand wearing purple rubber gloves seen wiping off a wooden countertop with the use of green microfiber washcloth.

Paper towels are convenient to use, but they’re not eco-friendly. Since they can’t be recycled, about 6 million pounds of paper towels end up in landfills each year. Paper towel production also requires an estimated 110 million trees and 130 billion gallons of water.

Sure, paper towels don’t cost that much, but when you consider how often you rely on them to dry your hands or for draining fried food and other kitchen uses, you realize that the ongoing cost adds up quickly and surpasses the initial cost. No wonder many homeowners are turning their backs on paper towels.

If you want to switch to an eco-friendly lifestyle and save money, check out these paper towel alternatives.

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1. Microfiber Cloths

Hand wearing pink rubber gloves cleaning off the surface of an oven with green microfiber cloth.

In addition to the environmental and financial benefits of switching to microfiber cloths, I feel that you’re likely to find that they’re better at cleaning up spills than paper towels. The reason for this is that the tiny fibers in them increase absorbency, and these are the advantages and disadvantages of the products:


  • They tend to be fairly cheap compared to many other ways of cleaning up a spill, and it’s possible to get a 25 pack for around 10 dollars.
  • Many people on Amazon and other e-commerce sites have given microfiber cloths excellent reviews, and they are extremely popular.


  • In some cases, microfiber cloths are not as effective as advertised.
  • Some of them are not durable.

2. Cotton Napkins

Folded beige cotton napkin on top of a white wooden coaster.Cotton is known for its high absorbency, and I feel that these napkins are more absorbent than paper towels. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of them:


  • They tend to be cheaper than many other things that can be used in place of paper towels, and you can get a 5 pack of them for the incredibly low price of only $1.50.
  • There are many different varieties of them that you can choose from.
  • There are many colors of them available.


  • They are not wrinkle resistant, and this can take away from their appearance.
  • The washing instructions of them vary from one product to another.

3. Unpaper Towels

Strips of fried bacon on top of white unpaper towels on a kitchen counter.Source: Etsy

Unpaper towels have a similar appearance to paper towels in that they are a series of towels strung together, and they’re wrapped around a tube. I feel that these are some of the most important advantages and disadvantages of them:


  • You can get handmade versions of the product, and there are many colors and styles of them available.
  • You can get them from many vendors, and this makes it possible to compare prices. You can get a pack of 16 for 40 dollars.


  • You will need to wash them frequently.
  • Some of them require special washing instructions.

4. Beeswax Food Wraps

Beeswax food wrap on white background.

Source: Amazon

Many people compare these products to cling wrap, and this makes them far more effective at keeping food fresh than paper towels. I feel that these are the most important pros and cons of beeswax food wraps:


  • While the product is likely to contain cotton, it is always organic cotton, and this keeps you from being exposed to potentially harmful pesticides.
  • These products can contain jojoba oil, and this can help to make them more effective.


  • It’s not as pliable as other types of food wrap.
  • It’s also more expensive than other types of food wrap, and a single wrap could be as much as 10 dollars or so.

They are for sale at this link.

5. Sponges

Hand cleaning a kitchen sink with a sponge.

There are many types of sponges available, and they have a high level of absorbency that tends to exceed that of paper towels. They have a porous structure that is designed to soak up spills, and many of them also have a scouring pad to clean up parts of the spill that dried up. I feel that these are some of the most important advantages and disadvantages of them:


  • While they can be made from a variety of materials, some of them are made from materials that are entirely natural.
  • They can be purchased from a variety of different vendors, and it’s possible to get them for less than a dollar each.


  • Sponges can collect bacteria.
  • While they are reusable, they don’t last anywhere near as long as some of the products on this list.

6. Linen Or Cotton Bowl Covers

Green fabric bowl cover on wooden background.Source: Etsy

These products have an elastic edge that is designed to stretch around the bowl, and this will make them a much more effective cover than a paper towel. While they’re one of the best alternatives to paper towels when you’re covering a bowl, I feel that these are some of the most important pros and cons of these products:


  • Due to the fact that they’re designed to be a decorative covering for bowls, they are often quite stylish, and they can even be multicolored and have designs on them.
  • They prevent splattering much more effectively than paper towels.


  • Some products can be on the expensive side, and certain ones are as much as 10 dollars a piece.
  • Some of the products come with special washing instructions.

It’s possible to buy them here.

7. Chambray Napkins

Folded pink chambray napkins on a white background.

Source: Amazon

Chambray napkins are known for their elegance, and they’re often even more absorbent than paper towels! This has made them quite popular. Despite their elegance, they are less expensive than you would think, and I feel that these are a few of the most important advantages and disadvantages of them:


  • There are many different colors of chambray cloths, and they often have elaborate designs on them.
  • The yarn that is used to weave them makes the products highly durable.
  • Some of them have a fringe on the edges that greatly adds to their stylistic appeal.


  • Chambray can be somewhat more expensive than other cotton fabrics, and they are usually at least a few dollars each.
  • They are not wrinkle resistant.

Buy them here!

8. Linen Bread Bags

Linen bread bags with dried lavender on top.Source: Etsy

They also can keep bread fresher for much longer than simply wrapping it in a paper towel, and I feel that these are also important advantages and disadvantages of this type of product:


  • There are many colors of them available, and some of them have stylish designs on them.
  • A lot of them come with a handle, and this can make it much easier to carry them.
  • It’s possible to get them for a few dollars a piece.


  • While they are great for storing bread, they can’t be used for cleaning up spills.
  • You have to be cautious when you’re washing them in order to avoid damaging them.

9. Huck Towels

White huck towel on yellow dessert plate on polished wooden background.Source: Etsy

They are made out of cotton, and they have a high level of absorbency. Huck Towels are designed to produce minimal amounts of lint, and this can make cleaning them far more convenient. They are quite sturdy, and they have a tendency to last longer than many other types of towels. I also feel that you should consider these advantages and disadvantages of them:


  • There are many vendors that sell huck towels, and they are available for an affordable price. In fact, a five-pound bag of them is available for about 10 dollars.
  • The products are made to a high standard of quality, and they are actually commonly used in surgical instrument sterilization. While this is the main use of the product, it’s easy to order them online through e-commerce sites, such as Amazon.


  • Huck towels often aren’t as stylish as some of the other options on this list.
  • Due to the fact that they are typically made out of cotton, they are not wrinkle resistant.

They are available here.

10. Linen Cocktail Napkins

Folded checkered linen napkins on white background.Cocktail napkins can be used instead of paper towels, and many of them can absorb significantly more of a spill. There are many different colors of linen cocktail cloths to choose from, and I feel that it’s important to be aware of these advantages and disadvantages of the products:


  • They tend to have an exceptionally stylish and elegant appearance, and many of them have unique patterns and designs on them.
  • Some of them can be machine washed.
  • It’s possible to get them for slightly more than a dollar a piece.


  • In some cases, they aren’t machine washable.
  • They also can become frayed over time.

They’re available at this link.

11. Cotton Kitchen Cloths

Hand tightly holding a large pink cotton towel.

Cotton kitchen cloths are reusable and highly absorbent, and many people feel that they’re one of the best paper towel alternatives. In addition, these products are machine washable, and this makes it easy to maintain your collection of them. Here are some other things that I feel you need to be aware of:


  • They are available in a 24 pack, and this means that a set of them is likely to last for many years.
  • It’s possible to get them for around 3-4 dollars a piece.
  • There are many color and style options to choose from.


  • Some kitchen cloths easily become frayed.
  • The wash cycle that you’ll need varies somewhat from one product to another.

12. Newspaper

Back view of two women wiping the glass window with newspaper.

Wondering what to do with those piles of old newspaper collecting dust? Use them as paper towel alternatives to cleaning up small spills on the coffee table. They’re best used on glass surfaces such as windows or mirrors for a streak-free shine. Spray with a vinegar solution in a bottle.


  • It’s free.
  • You get to recycle the old newspaper before throwing them in trash.


  • Not convenient for cleaning up non-glass surfaces.

13. Cloth diaper

Hand reaching out to one of the colorful cloth diapers stacked on an open shelving.

When your baby has outgrown the cloth diaper, the next best thing to do is to use it for wiping the wet mess on tables or kitchen counters. Cloth diapers are designed to be absorbent so they can hold up to the job. Just degrease with dish soap and then stow them in the kitchen or pantry.


  • It’s free.
  • It’s absorbent.


  • You have to clean up and sanitize the cloth diaper after each use.

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