Eco-Friendly Paper Towel Alternatives

Walk into any kitchen and you're bound to see a roll of paper towels somewhere on the counter.

Why are paper towels bad for the environment?

Before you reach for a paper towel to wipe up that spill, stop for a moment. Paper towels may be convenient, but they create a serious amount of waste. Now I know that switching off of one of the most convenient cleaning products on the market is tough. But before you do here are some quick facts:

  • To make one ton of paper towels 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water are polluted.
  • In the U.S. we currently use more than 13 billion pounds of paper towels each year and that number is growing steadily.
  • Globally, discarded paper towels result in 254 million tons of trash every year.
  • As many as 51,000 trees per day are required to replace the number of paper towels that are discarded every day.


Needless to say, the 'quicker picker upper' might make cleaning your counter easier, but it is putting a strain on the planet and contributes to the destruction of our best bet at fighting climate change: carbon-sucking trees.

Fortunately there are alternatives to paper towels, and lots of them.

From bamboo-based paper towels to cotton, you don't have to harm the environment for the sake of keeping your home clean. Here are our top picks for paper towel alternatives.

Why look for a green paper towel alternative?

If the above didn't convince you, here are some rock-solid reason to swap out paper towels in your kitchen for something a bit more environmentally friendly.

  • Cutting down on paper towel usage means saving trees which are our best defense against global warming and climate change
  • Using a zero-waste or low-waste option in place of paper towels cuts back on your personal waste creation and carbon footprint
  • Most paper towels are cheaply made causing you to use more and create more waste as a result
  • Zero-waste option save you money in the long run

Now you've got a lot of reasons to swap out paper towels but are there good eco-friendly alternatives? You bet, here are some of my favorites.

Different kinds of paper towel alternatives

No two paper towel alternatives are the same, there are different kinds of alternatives to consider.

While you may be used to pulling a pack of 8 rolls off the shelves, these green paper towel alternatives are a bit more complex. Let's break down the broad categories:

Bamboo "paper" towels

Bamboo "paper" towels look and function very much like your typical roll of traditional paper towels with one key difference: they're not made of paper. Instead these towels are made of bamboo, one of the fastest growing and most sustainable plants on the planet. Bamboo is a much more renewable resource than trees, which makes it an excellent alternative to traditional paper towels.

Cellulose dishcloths

Another excellent option is cellulose dishcloths. These super-absorbent cloths act like a sponge soaking up liquid and can be reused many times making them a long-lasting green paper towel alternative.

Cotton of Microfiber Cloths

Ditch the paper in favor of cotton! Classic cotton or microfiber towels make an excellent alternative to paper. These towels can be highly absorbent and washed so they are good as new.

The best eco-friendly paper towel alternatives

1) Grove Co. bamboo paper towels

Price: $12.99 for 1 roll

Grove Co. brings you 100% tree-free paper towels made from sustainably sourced bamboo. These can be used up to 1 week giving you plenty of mileage for each roll and are packed in plastic-free packaging making them eco-friendly and guilt-free from start to finish.

Bamboo is a sustainable resource, it grows like crazy and can be trimmed down and continue to grow, in fact it can grow back fully in 3 months (as opposed to 20 years for trees). Grove Co doesn't stop with their products though, they plant trees for every order and ship their products in plastic free packaging.

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2) Swedish dishcloths

Price: $6.95 for 1 cloth

Ah the old classic, the Swedish dishcloth.

You can replace up to 17 rolls of expensive, wasteful paper towels with just one of these ingenious Swedish dish towels. Each of these absorbent cloths can absorb 20 times its own weight in liquid, like a super efficient eco friendly cleaning sponge. That's a lot of spills, wet dishes, smudgy windows and messy counters you'll no longer need to use a paper towel for! And imagine the money you'll save over time.

These eco friendly cleaning towels are all-natural, completely machine washable, totally reusable and easily compostable. No compost pile? No problem! You can recycle used Swedish dish towels with your old newspapers. They print our towel designs with non-toxic, water based ink. Even the packaging is environmentally friendly!

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3) Who Gives a Crap Bamboo-Sugar cane blend paper towels

Price: $20 for 6 rolls

"Who Gives a Crap" brings you 'forest friendly' paper towels that help you clean messes without messing up the environment. Each roll is made of a blend of bamboo and sugarcane making these 'paper' towels paper-free. Who Gives a Crap offers carbon neutral shipping and donates 50% of their profits bringing water, hygiene, and sanitation to communities in need.

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4) Zero Waste Store Cotton Towels

Price: $24.99 for 12 towels

Save trees and reduce waste with reusable cotton towels from Zero Waste Store. Made with GOTS certified organic cotton, these 1-ply reusable paper towels are perfect for wiping hands, cleaning up household messes, or even having around the dinner table. Zero Waste Store offers three color options and sells these towels in packs of 12.

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5) The Original Biodegradable Towels

Price: $13.29 for 10 towels

The Original Kitchen Biodegradable Reusable Paper Towels are made from the same type of cellulose fibers that are used to make paper towels, but with a big difference! Whether or not paper towels are made from recycled paper, they still end up in the trash after a single use. From there, they end up in already crowded waste disposal sites. Also, cutting down trees for a single use, disposable product, such as paper towels, is not a sensible or a sustainable choice. These reuseable paper towels are machine washable, dishwasher safe, and equal to using up to 15 rolls of paper towels. It is the sensible, sustainable choice. Once discarded in the landfill or even buried in your garden, you will have the peace of mind that this product will decompose within 12 weeks under active microbial soil conditions.

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Why we like these green alternatives

We only include brands that walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

All of these brands are committed to cutting down on waste, preventing further destruction of our forests, and providing a great consumer product. Trees really are our best bet at combatting greenhouse gases, so one of the best things you can do is to help cut down on products which encourage the active deforestation going on across the globe. Sustainable resources like bamboo, cellulose, or even reusable cotton towels allow us to do our part without compromising on quality.