Retro Saturday: Kitchen Towels vs Paper Towels

Retro Saturdays give Heather and Ivy a chance to spend time with their family. It also gives new readers a peek into the Home Ec 101 archives. Sit back and enjoy this blast from the Home-Ec 101 past.

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I use way too many paper towels and kitchen wipes.  Part of the problem is that it drives me crazy to have to wash all the kitchen towels separately! Do I have to wash them separately, or can I wash them with everything else?



retrochick.JPGIvy says:

Paper towel and wipe companies have a lot invested in making you think that you really need their products, but you don’t, I promise. I mean, yeah, there are some times when a paper towel is the best choice (like cleaning up kitty diarrhea or greasy messes) but you can use your kitchen towels or rags to clean up just about everything.

Now, if you’re using your kitchen towel to wipe your hands or counters after handling raw meat – put that immediately in the laundry pile. Don’t reuse those. But you don’t have to wash them separately. If you’re really concerned, you can always wash them with your whites and use bleach accordingly, but mine just go in with the towels and underwear and I wash it on hot.

So, no, you don’t have to wash your kitchen towels separately- go ahead and wash them with the towels or whites and it’ll all be fine.

Send your household questions to


  1. deneicer1 on September 13, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    I know this is an old post…but here’s my two cents to anyone who may end up reading it. I hate washing the kitchen towels with other clothes of any kind. The kitchen towels tend to have a greasy feeling that just doesn’t ever go and can end up with a bit of a smell. I know I wash them well (which means I wash them in hot water, use a bit of de-greaser, use bleach and even Tide washing soap.)

    I just can’t stand to wash them with anything else. I usually toss them in the laundry every day and consequently I have a ton of them.

    I wash bath towels together and only with bath towels as well. But, then again; I am very picky and wash everything like with like. My husband calls me the Laundry Queen LOL!

  2. Beverly on October 12, 2010 at 10:02 am

    I think bath room and toilet cleaning towels should Definetly be washed separate from face towels ,this is nasty and dish towels should also be washed separately.

  3. Debbie on April 28, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    I can’t believe that people wash dishtowels with underwear and bath towels! I’ve been keeping house for 32 years and always wash dishtowels separately. I wait until I have enough for a load and use hot water. Thanks goodness with dishwashers dishes aren’t usually dried with those towels.

  4. Susan on March 24, 2009 at 10:02 am

    I too am a big cloth user. Unless I missed it, no one mentions using paper towels made from recycled paper. Also, using paper coffee filters is cheaper than paper towels as spatter covers in the microwave (you can buy them recycled too!)

  5. Holly Fisher on March 24, 2009 at 9:50 am

    I’ve really tried to cut back on my paper towel usage. I just wash my kitchen towels in with regular towels on hot water. I save paper towels for wiping up the counter or my hands after handling something like raw chicken.

    I use baby washclothes to wipe my daughter’s hands and face after her always messy mealtime.

    I also have two dogs and often need to wipe their paws when they come in the house after it has rained or if it’s damp outside. I use an old towel that I can wash instead of paper towels.

  6. Heather on March 24, 2009 at 9:36 am

    It takes a lot of water and energy to make paper, then you have the bleaching process, plus the impact of logging to get the trees, all of this adds to the environmental impact of choosing paper over reusable cloth. I’m fairly certain cloth is the lesser of two evils.

  7. Anna on March 23, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    I love my dish towels. I use paper towels for use in the micro and raw food clean ups but that’s about it.

    I was them every week or so and replace them each day. (I have a lot.) No need to use bleach, IMO because I use hot water and dry them in a hot dryer. But this begs the question- does all the energy used to heat the water and dryier effect the environment more or less than using paper towels? Anyone know? It just bugs me.


  8. Mary on March 23, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    I have a bunch of kitchen towels that I have bought cheaply over the years. I keep one for drying hands on a magnetic bar on the fridge, we use the smaller ones at dinner as napkins, and I use one when I am cooking. It goes into the laundry basket EVERY day.

    The clean ones are kept in a drawer in the kitchen. I just throw the dish towels in with the sheets or bath towels when I have a load.

    As the towels get older, holey, stained, etc., they go into the rag stash in the laundry room for cleaning up messes on the floor, clean up anything really disgusting, cleaning anything in general, etc. Sometimes I throw them away if they are really nasty, but I don’t feel bad because they have been used for years.

    I just finished off the last of an 8-pack of cheapo paper towels that I bought over 1-1/12 years ago. I also have had to hide the paper towels from my hubby.

    When I drain bacon I use newspaper with ONE paper towel on top. We use newspaper to clean the windows.


  9. Heather Solos on March 23, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Judith, the FDA recommends you wash kitchen towels on hot.

  10. Diaper cakes Becca on March 23, 2009 at 3:00 am

    Judith……If you are using a good detergent you should be fine on warm water. I never ues hot water in the wash, either……and am fairly certain (97.5%) that hot water is not needed to wash these items (because the soap will kill bacteria). Just make sure the wash isn’t overloaded so the detergent can do its job!


    On another note….my husband saw this site bookmarked on our computer and, then, saw my post about the paper towels (where i hid them). He thought it was funny but then went and got them from behind the pots. Grrrr. So, tomorrow whilst he is at work I shall have to find another place to hide them.

  11. Judith on March 22, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    I’m in agreement about using aas few paper towels as possible. I have LOTS of kitchen towels (probably 24) and a big stack of washcloths (from Walmart and dollar store). They get used one day (or less) and go in the wash.
    I must admit I usually wash towels, wash cloths, underwear on warm; I only use hot on occasion. Do you think that’s a problem? Do I need to use hot water?

  12. Keter on March 22, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    I bought two bulk packs of washcloths in the baby department of Ikea last year (something like $2 for 10 plain white cloths, each with a fabric loop on one corner), and have yet to open the second pack. I rotate through the cloths during the week, and as they get too dirty, I toss them into a plastic container I keep under the sink which is filled with detergent and mild bleach solution. On the weekend, I dump them into the sink, wash them with fresh detergent, wring out thoroughly, and hang by the loops to dry on curtain clips hanging from the towel bars I installed inside my sink cabinet doors. As I need a fresh cloth, I just grab one off a clip.

    My husband is the paper towel offender in my household, too, but I foil him somewhat by purchasing only paper towels that are cut in half-sheets. Shop towels are another issue entirely: I’ve banned red shop rags from the house after one wound up in the laundry.

  13. caryn verell on March 22, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    i use paper towels as splash covers in the microwave an for greasy spills.. i have a basket full of clean rags for the cleaning bathrooms, and dusting etc.. and then i have a drawer full of cotton dish towels/hand towels for the drying of dishes and clean wet hands. everything goes into the washer…i do not use bleach very often and i rarely if ever use hot water cycle. all soaps/detergents are antibacterial….

  14. dani on March 21, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Our kitchen towels are washed with the bathroom towels every two weeks or so (or when someone remembers). My mom is very particular about germs, so raw food is cleaned up with papertowels, as are messed on counters that involve food. Everything else is cleaned up with a dish towel.

    I do have to say, clorox wipes are nice to clean up cat puke and other unsavory things that happen on carpet. It is also nice to clean up spills in the fridge that you don’t know what they are. They are also good at quickly disinfecting areas when people are sick. Disinfecting is pretty much all we use them for in my house.

  15. Rebekka on March 21, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    I agree, too. Any clothing or linen that suffers even potential bacterial contamination should be washed on hot/60*C – towels, sheets, underpants and cloth menstrual pads, tea towels, and especially the bacteria bombs above all: kitchen dishrags (which should also be changed every day!1!!). If you sleep in pyjamas without underwear, your pyjama bottoms should also be washed in hot water.

    But since the whole point of washing on hot is to kill ALL the germs things don’t need to be separated – by the time the wash is done your underpants should be just as “safe” as your tea towel.

  16. Diaper cakes Becca on March 21, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with Ivy! Kitchen towels are the way to go….cost effective and good for our environment. I keep three on my oven handle at all times. One is for hand washing (adults, only, wash hands in kitchen)….one is for wiping up counters with venegar/water cleaner (general….non-raw meat clean ups)…..the 3rd is the one that gets rotated out after raw-meat drip cleanups.

    My husband buys papertowels….and I hide them behind the pots and pans. These only come out when the boys are cleaning their bathroom (which only happens every six weeks or so….I usually just clean it when they are at school!). I hate papertowels…..hate the expense, the space they take up in the garbage cans and the space they take up on my counter.

    Here is another tip: Go grap a stack of colorful washcloths at WalMart or Ross or Dollar General and have that stack in a drawer. Enough for every day of the week!

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