Monday, July 28, 2008

One Small (re)Style: Kitchen Towels

Hey, you! Paper towel user!

Do you go through paper towels like they weren't made of precious trees, manufactured on machines powered by fossil fuels that spit out all kinds of bad stuff (greenhouse gas emissions, toxins, local air pollutants), and didn't cost an arm and a leg? If you do, consider switching to some colorful kitchen towels.

Things you could easily use kitchen towels for instead of paper towels:

  • wiping your hands after washing them;
  • wiping down the counter after cooking;
  • random spills;
  • wiping down the top of the range.

Plus, they are convenient for when you need to pull something hot out of the oven and can't find the oven mitt. And, you can just throw them in the wash when they get stinky.

In our kitchen, we have "nice" towels specifically to wipe justwashed hands (they are the really pretty ones) and then other towels to wipe up spills or wipe off the counter/table. If I use a towel to clean up the counter or tables, I will rinse it (or rinse any bits and pieces off of it) and hang it outside on my back porch to dry (but hanging it on a hook on the wall will work just as well). When they are too stinky (stinky=bacteria), I throw them in a bag near the washing machine for laundry day. However, if you can hang your towel in the sun to dry, it will kill a lot of the bacteria for you - but you should still probably launder it.

Sure, there are times when a paper towel comes in handy (pet accidents, for instance), but there are just so many opportunities to use a cloth towel instead.

And you don't need to buy anything new either. If you have old bath towels that have stains, just cut them up for use in the kitchen. There are also often plenty of vintage towels at thift stores - so check it out. Or, I have been fortunate to find plenty at yard sales.

But, if you must purchase some, here are some suggestions (these are all hand-made or made from sustainable materials):

Eco-Cloth microfiber towel. Microfiber towels are great because they are super-absorbent (no myth) and last almost forever (more info here). Yep, they are the ones that car washes have used for years because they work so well. They also are great for cleaning without chemicals. Buy them and read more here. $17.98 for 2.

Organic Cotton kitchen towels. Come in 4 colors. Find them at EcoKitchen. Towels are $7.99.

Super cute Swedish motif towel. Find it on Etsy. $8.

How can you not love these little tractors? Hand printed on linen towels (def. the "clean" hand towel). Find it on Etsy. $12.

Not just for the holidays! Choose a different colored thread and let the world (or at least your housemate and cats) know what kind of mood you're in today. Handmade in Atlanta. Find them here on Etsy. $20.

Look at is as an opportunity to up the style quotient in your kitchen.

(first pic of towels and basket from here.)



Alison Santighian said...

You know, this is one of my biggest in-my-head debates. I love good, cool, kitchen towels. They're easy, breezy, fun, and not wasteful. But...

a) I have a 1-year-old who "feeds herself"
b) Germs from wet towels not drying well and wiping bacteria
c) At the rate we use cloth towels, I feel like I probably use more resources washing them.


Righteous (re)Style said...

Hmm . . . interesting point. First, I think that if you are using cloth towels for even a part of your cleaning, you are moving in the right direction (some people only use paper towels!!). I find that one thing that makes a big dent in paper towel use is using a kitchen towel to dry CLEAN hands after washing or to dry clean dishes (if you ever do that). We def. have towels just for that (the pretty ones!). Esp. if you have a child, you are most likely washing your (and her) hands all the time. But, if you feel more comfortable using towels to clean up after cooking (esp. if meat is prepared!), buy recycled paper towels. They are a little more expensive, but are a good choice. Or, just be conservative. Don't use a paper towel to wipe up water, etc. Don't use 10 towels when 3 will do.

As for the resources you use, I am sure your small family's kitchen towel washing does not compare with the life cycle impacts of the production of paper towels: the cutting of trees, the processing of the paper, the packaging, the transportation throughout the supply chain, etc. The emissions from running your washer a few times a week are minimal compared to paper towels (esp. if you have a newer washer and you run full loads always). Those towels were manufactured once and if you take care of them, they could last years and years - just think about how many paper towel rolls you might save.

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