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9 Paper Towel Alternatives To Ditch The Flimsy & Embrace The Eco-Friendly

Let’s face the not so eco-friendly facts: we make a lot of mess, making paper towel alternatives and reusable paper towels an essential for any zero waste kitchen and home.

Whether it’s cleaning up pasta sauce on the counter or toothpaste on the bathroom sink, it’s hard to avoid paper towels.

But one roll of conventional (AKA disposable) paper towels uses around 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water. 

Moreover, they’re often made with bleach and other harsh chemicals that can affect humans, animals, and sensitive ecosystems. 

Don’t throw in the towel just yet. 

By adopting a paper towel alternative, eco-friendly clean-up can become a cost-effective breeze.

Everything we recommend to you on Sustainable Jungle is independently researched and we ask all brands to confirm their claims. To avoid waste, we test products on an as needed basis. This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission. Learn more about why we do this here.

The Top Paper Towel Substitutes For Sustainable Spill Duty

We’ve tried SuperBee’s six-pack of Eco Kitchen Rolls made from 100% GOTS-certified cotton and can confirm they are highly absorbent and easy to wash.

Ecologie by Danica’s 100% compostable Swedish dishcloths, made from 70% plant cellulose and 30% cotton, can absorb 15 times more of their weight in liquid, making them a global staple. 

A washable alternative that gets better over time? 

Sign us up for Marley’s Monsters 100% cotton flannel paper towels that can fit on a standard paper towel holder.

Uncertain if these options can handle tough spills?

Look at our more detailed reviews of each of these brands in their write-ups (or watch our video on this topic below) and head to the bottom of the article to polish up on how we found the best paper towel replacements.

The Full List Of Not-Paper Towel Alternatives For Cleaning & More

1. SuperBee

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SuperBee’s Paper Towel Substitute

Another brand we know and love is SuperBee. The brand is known for its beeswax wraps and alternatives to Ziploc bags, but they also produce some of the best paper towel alternatives available. 

The Eco Kitchen Roll is made from 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton, machine washable, and comes in a pack of six.

The towel alternatives have a fun printed front with a highly absorbent toweling back, making them some of the best hand towels and cleaning towels alike.

We’ve personally tried these out and are genuinely impressed with how hard-wearing they are. The cotton cloth is thick to withstand tougher cleaning jobs, while still soft and flexible enough to work well on things like glass and mirrors.

About SuperBee

As a Certified B Corp, SuperBee ensures its employees receive respect and safe working conditions.

The woman-owned business bolsters women in Thailand even further by paying 20% more than the Fair Trade Association’s suggested local living wage.

2. Ecologie By Danica

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Ecologie By Danica’s Swedish Paper Towel Alternative

The Swedish paper towel alternatives from Ecologie by Danica are more than just cute printed dish towels. 

You can use this paper towel alternative for cleaning, dishes, or just mopping up liquid.

Made from 70% cellulose and 30% cotton, they absorb 15 times more of their weight in liquid and while we weren’t able to measure that exactly when testing them, we can say they hold a lot. 

We do recommend dampening before each use, which we found actually helps them absorb more.

Once you’re finished your eco-friendly cleaning of the dining table and have put away the zero waste dish soap, you can easily clean them with their machine washable and top-rack dishwasher-safe design.

About Ecologie By Danica

The fun patterns on the non-paper towels are thanks to the parent home decor company, Danica. 

Ecologie makes products in Sweden, including its other environmentally friendly kitchen items like beeswax wraps and bowl covers. Ecologie also donates some of their profits to Education Without Borders, providing educational opportunities and resources to communities in need.

3. Marley’s Monsters

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Marley’s Monster’s Washable Paper Towel Alternative

Marley’s Monsters makes some of the best Unpaper towels thanks to high-quality 100% cotton flannel fabric that increased in absorbency power over time. 

We’ve tried the reusable towels, and they stand up to the expectations set by hundreds of 5-star reviews. 

We especially like them for their roll-form, meaning they can be stored on a standard dispenser for paper towels, since each flannel sheet clings to the next one.

Each cloth is 12” x 10” and can be purchased in packs of 6, 12, or in a whole roll.

If you’re wondering, “What can I use instead of paper towels in the microwave?”, these work wonders. The cotton is totally microwave safe, so you can cover your leftovers as you reheat, then wash away any food splatters with your next load of zero waste laundry.

About Marley’s Monsters

The women-owned brand offers more than the best Unpaper Towels. They also carry other common paper product replacements, like zero waste toilet paper, makeup wipes, biodegradable baby wipes, and more. 

Marley’s Monsters has a brick-and-mortar shop in Eugene, Oregon, where they also produce fabric and wooden products by hand. 

Marley’s is certified by BRING Re:think, with all products shipped in plastic-free and recyclable materials. 

4. Papaya Reusables

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Papaya Resusables’ Not-Paper Towels

Swedish dishcloths are one of the best paper towel replacements, and Papaya Reusables’ n soaks up the spotlight and up to 15 times its weight in water. 

Just one from their delightfully patterned collections (like our Fruit Salad or Lazy Sundays) can replace around 17 rolls of paper towels and save about 300 trees. 

The Swedish cloths are made from wood pulp cellulose and cotton, making them 100% biodegradable. They are easy to wash, whether you throw them in the washing machine or do it by hand. 

Each cloth comes with a hook, so you’re not left low and wet if you tend to lose things. 

When they look a bit too sad to use, toss them in your indoor compost bin.

If you’re not sure about the Scandinavian household staple, a quick skim through the thousands of 5-star reviews may change your mind. 

About Papaya Reusables 

The female-founded company only sells one product so they can give their green paper towel alternatives as much attention as possible. 

They offer subscriptions and wholesale partnerships, so anyone can save.

5. EcoRoots

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EcoRoots Paper Towel Alternative For Grease

EcoRoots offers green paper towel alternatives to complement their sizable collection of sustainably made home, kitchen, bath, and beauty products.

The Reusable Dishcloth comes in four designs, each made of 70% cellulose and 30% cotton. 

The paper towel substitutes can be thrown in the compost bin at the end of their lifespan, but ours are still holding strong, so we can only personally attest to their performance on clean-up duty, not decomposition.

Each cloth napkins can absorb up to 20 times its weight in water and (our favorite part of them) they don’t breed bacteria or develop a musty odor like sponges, despite their thin, sponge-like consistency.

About EcoRoots

The Colorado-based zero waste online store makes all its products in the US and ships each item in low-waste packaging.

EcoRoots’ catalog of other eco-friendly toiletries and cleaning products doesn’t contain any animal byproducts, toxic ingredients, or SLS. 

EcoRoots is also a member of 1% for the Planet and supports non-profit organizations like the Ocean Conservancy.

6. Earthly Co.

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Earthly Co. Cleaning Alternatives To Paper Towels

Do you love dancing around your terrazzo tile kitchen as you clean?

Then let the Dancing on terrazzo tile printed towels accompany you on your quest for clean.

It’s just one of the print sets available from Earthly Co. to help you ditch paper towels altogether—and not just a few rolls. Each pack of ten can save you over 80 rolls of regular paper towels. 

Consider one pack costs about as much as 20 conventional towel rolls, that’s a lot more money in your sustainable wallet, too.

The “not” paper towels are made from 100% cotton flannel that’s super absorbent and soft, as the fabric is double-brushed on both sides. 

They will shrink after the first few washes and spin cycles in your eco-friendly washing machine, so they come in a 13” x 10” size to compensate. 

About Earthly Co.

Earthly Co. set out to make an affordable, environmentally friendly option to eliminate the need for traditional paper towels. 

Earthly’s cloth paper towels can last more than 50 washes and are thrown in with another laundry, making them exceptionally long-lasting and convenient.

7. Package Free Shop

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Package Free Shop’s Swedish paper towel alternative

With two ingredients, and plastic-free packaging, what’s not to love about Package Free Shop’s washable paper towels?

Their Reusable Swedish Dishcloth uses similar designs to the previous options on our list, 70% cotton and 30% plant-based cellulose that can be used for cleaning, drying some of your safe food storage containers, or whatever you might need.

These dishcloths are soft, quick-drying, and super absorbent. You can leave one of the three-pack towels out to air dry without worrying about bacteria or odor. 

Each one is also compostable after roughly 200 cycles in the laundry.

About Package Free Shop

Package Free Shop stays true to its name by shipping all products in 100% plastic-free post-consumer cardboard. 

Each piece of shipping material is recyclable and compostable—including paper labels, wraps, and tape.

PFS is dedicated to supporting diversity on their team and in the brands they stock, and supports other organizations like Surfrider and the Trans Disaster Relief Fund.

8. Gina’s Soft Cloth Shop

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Images by Gina’s Soft Cloth Shop

Gina’s Soft Cloth Shop Paperless Towels

If you need bulk paper towel substitutes, Gina’s Soft Cloth Shop is your one-stop, well, cloth shop. 

They have a huge range of Paperless Towels in one-ply to two-ply options and packs of up to 30 and 

The unpaper towels are made from GOTS-certified 100% organic cotton, grown without any harmful chemicals or pesticides. 

The Birdeye line utilizes fabric from a certified Fair Trade Factory. 

About Gina’s Soft Cloth Shop

Based out of Romney, West Virginia, Gina’s Soft Cloth Shop carries several eco-friendly alternatives, like bamboo towels, organic baby wipes, and organic cotton facial rounds.

The small batch manufacturer is women-owned and operated and registered with the CPSC. 

9. generationMe

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generationMe Best Hand Towels

The handmade, non-paper towels from generationME come in packs of 12 and 1–2 ply options.

They’re made from absorbent birds-eye cotton that gets more absorbent after washing.

Each towel measures roughly 11” x 11” but may shrink after the first few washes. 

About generationMe

Meg Smith started generationME in an effort to remove chemicals from her home and live a more sustainable lifestyle.

She now offers menstrual care products, accessories, and cloth diaper products. 

All products are shipped in 100% recycled, recyclable and reusable mailers.

10. DIY Paper Towel Alternatives

Knowing the options above, you can even craft your own DIY paper towel substitute. These projects are a fast, fun, and cost-effective way to say goodbye to traditional paper towels. 

You’ll need the following materials:

  • Fabric scraps (a double solution for those wondering what to do with old clothes)
  • Threads, pins, and a sewing needle or machine
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Ruler

Old towels or cotton and flannel t-shirts are excellent as fabric scraps. Most materials will work as long as they have decent absorbency. 

It’s better to repurpose old fabric scraps, as it saves money and reduces the amount of waste you’re creating in the process. 

1. Measure and trim the fabric

First, you’ll need to measure two pieces of fabric. You can select any size you like, but the standard washcloth is around 13” x 13”. 

The size doesn’t matter that much; just make sure both sides are the same size. 

2. Pin the fabric and sew

Now, put your two pieces of fabric together and place pins around the edges. 

Sew all the sides about a quarter inch from the edge. You’ll want to leave a small space to turn the towel inside out later on. 

3. Trim the corners

Snip off the corners so that they lay flat when you turn the towel inside out. 

4. Flip inside out and sew

Finally, flip the towel inside out and iron along the edges. You can sew the hole shut; just be sure to get as close to the edge as you can. 

Keep in mind there are other methods for making DIY paper towel substitutes, and this is only one method. It’s best to wash and dry your new towels before using them to ensure cleanliness.

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Why Learn How To Go Paper Towel Free?

Do paper towel replacements really make an impact?


In 2017, the United States spent over $5.7 billion on single-use disposable paper towels alone (almost half of the global $12 billion in paper towel spending)

And while you can (usually) compost paper towels, many people don’t and you can’t recycle paper towels, which means most of them end up in the landfill.

The EPA states the combined total for all tissue waste in America amounted to over 7.4 billion pounds

Not only does this contribute to deforestation and related biodiversity loss, but manufacturing practices use loads of water, chemicals, and plastic. 

How Do I Stop Using Paper Towels?

Look, we won’t deny the convenience of paper towels and how hard it can be to break the paper towel habit—but single-use towels are unsustainable and contribute to the degradation of the environment. 

So, how do you make the swap to no paper towels?

1. Assess your current paper towel usage.

First, make a note of how often and in what situations you reach for a paper towel. Maybe you use them when you’re eating dinner or cleaning up quick spills. 

Either way, this will help you identify the areas where you can improve and need an alternative solution.

For example, if you mostly use them for wiping grease from your cast iron pan, you can then ask, “How do you absorb grease without a paper towel?

The answer, by the way, is cloth. Swedish dishcloths don’t quite cut it for this use, but a simple cotton cloth (ideally a couple dedicated exclusively to grease use) works best to absorb grease. 

If you find your regular natural laundry detergent isn’t quite getting all the grease out

2. Invest in reusable alternatives.

After you assess your paper towel usage, it’s time to invest in sustainable options. There are countless options listed above that you can purchase or make yourself. 

Selecting a brand or product with a subscription-based model can help ensure you don’t have to grab traditional towels when you run out. You can also set monthly reminders on your phone or calendar to purchase new sets. 

And remember, the paper towel alternative is one you already own, like a washcloth or rag. 

3. Organize your new alternatives.

It’s important to create easy access to your new sustainable habit. 

Keep the paper towel substitutes visible and in a convenient location, so you continuously reach for them instead of paper products. 

Swedish dishcloths often hang on a little hook by the sink while the best Unpaper towels can fit on a traditional paper towel holder,

4. Establish a system

You’ll need a system to ensure your new habit sticks.

The system may include subscription services or creating a designated area for dirty towels, like a laundry basket or reusable bag.

Establishing a washing routine will ensure you’re not caught in between a spill and a damp place. This may look like selecting a designated laundry day and making notes on your calendar. 

5. Educate household members

If you live with others, make sure everyone in your household is aware of the switch to reusable alternatives. Encourage their participation and explain the environmental benefits.

6. Be prepared for different situations.

Anticipate scenarios where you might reach for a paper towel out of habit. Prepare alternatives in advance, such as keeping a small cloth towel in your bag or car for unexpected spills.

Remember, transitioning away from paper towels may take some time and adjustment. Be patient with yourself and celebrate every effort you make toward a more sustainable lifestyle.

How We Chose The Best Paper Towel Alternatives

The best paper towel alternatives are the ones you already own, like old clothes, towels, and scrap materials. 

If you’re looking to purchase new disposable towels, here are the criteria we used to select these options.


If you’re making the swap to green living, you may not be aware of all the paper towel substitutes you can choose from. So, what are the alternatives to paper towels?

  • Cloth “unpaper” towels: Absorbent, reusable cloths, like organic cotton and bamboo fabric are ideal for looking for a good alternative for paper towels for food and grease. They also have more delicate zero waste cleaning applications, like wiping mirrors. Alternatively, microfiber paper towel replacements are highly effective at trapping dirt and can be used dry or slightly dampened with water.
  • Sponge cloths: Sponge or Swedish dishcloths are made from natural materials like cellulose and cotton, and they can absorb liquids and clean surfaces effectively. They are durable and can be washed in the dishwasher or washing machine.
  • Old T-shirts or towels: Instead of throwing away old T-shirts or towels, repurpose them as cleaning rags. Cut them into smaller pieces and use them for cleaning, dusting, or other household tasks.

We always look for reusable towels that can be washed and reused, reducing waste and the need for single-use paper napkins and towels.

No matter which you choose, the materials need to come from sustainably managed sources, which is why it’s best to go tree-free to prevent deforestation. 

Those made from post-consumer recycled paper can be an excellent disposable option, but look for sustainable forestry certifications to avoid greenwashing (though these certifications aren’t infallible).

Supply chain, carbon commitments, & green practices:

We also made sure the brands on our list use ethical manufacturing practices, aim to reduce their emissions through carbon offset programs, and use compostable or recycled packaging when applicable. 

Final Thoughts On What To Use Instead Of Paper Towels

So what can we use instead of paper towels?

Pretty much anything and everything!

Switching to sustainable options is a cost-effective way to cut down on waste in your home. If you can’t purchase new products, you can always buy recycled paper towels or make DIY replacements out of old t-shirts and rags. 

Know someone trying to kick the paper towel habit?

Send them this list of paper towel substitutes, so they can clean up spills sustainably. 

Pin these:
9 Paper Towel Alternatives To Ditch The Flimsy & Embrace Eco-Friendly Image by Earthly Co #papertowelalternatives #papertowelreplacements #bestpapertowelalternative #whattouseinsteadofpapertowels #swedishpapertowelalternative #sustainablejungle
9 Paper Towel Alternatives To Ditch The Flimsy & Embrace Eco-Friendly Image by Package Free Shop #papertowelalternatives #papertowelreplacements #bestpapertowelalternative #whattouseinsteadofpapertowels #swedishpapertowelalternative #sustainablejungle

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