If you’ve been toying around with the idea of reusable paper towels (or unpaper towels) in your household, this eco-friendly DIY idea is a must-try!
One day, not that long ago, I woke up, went downstairs, and was suddenly kinda grossed out by all the paper towels we were using in our family. I’m not sure what it was, but that day something clicked and I realized that (at least for us) cutting down on paper towel usage OR eliminating it all together was a small thing we could do in our home to help reduce waste.
So, I mentioned it to Jeff and put the paper towels we already had under the sink for the weekend, just to see if we could actually do it. I mean, it didn’t seem like it would be that hard. BUT at the same time, paper towels are so convenient and we really use them out of habit for pretty much everything from cleaning and spills to wiping down Hayes’ face after meals.
Long story short, we tried it that weekend and never looked back. It was honestly WAY easier than I thought it would be to make the switch. And one of the key reasons why it was so easy was because we already had what we needed to get started: dishcloths, and lots of them.
But then I got to thinking, what if you don’t have any dishcloths already (or you only have a couple) to make the switch easier. And that’s how these DIY reusable paper towels came about. I say ‘paper towels’, but they’re actually made of fabric – no paper at all. Even better than being made of fabric though, they’re made of fabric scrapsto further eliminate waste AND help anyone who’s interested, get started right now…in 15 minutes (or less)!
Did I mention there are two version of these DIY reusable paper towels as well – a sewn version AND a no-sew version! Click through for both tutorials and let me know what you think.
While I was putting this post together, I noticed a handful of tutorials out there for DIY unpaper towels that snap together and take the shape of a regular paper towel roll that you can put on an actual paper towel holder, etc.
When it comes to a project like this, that really just needs to be functional, I personally gravitate towards the easiest option. And that’s what today’s tutorial is. But if you like the idea of a snapped roll, there are some great tutorials out there. Wanted to mention that in case you’re looking for different option.
That said, let’s get to tutorials…
Reusable Paper Towels DIY Materials Needed
- fabric scraps*
- thread, pins and a sewing machine (for a no-sew option, use hemming tape)
- iron ruler
*Towel fabric from ratty old hand towels and old cotton or flannel t-shirts are great options if you’re looking to create super absorbent towels for big spills, etc. But if you don’t have any absorbent scrap fabric like this, simply use whatever scraps you have.
I used scrap linen from a previous project for the backing to balance out the absorbency on one side and something good for glass cleaning, etc on the other side. But you can use pretty much any fabric you have on hand – as long as it absorbs liquids in some capacity.
In this case, it’s better to use any fabric scraps you have available than going out and buying more fabric. It saves money to use scraps and cuts down on the waste you are creating by reusing something you already have.
Instructions for Sewn Reusable Paper Towels
1. Measure and cut. Measure two pieces of 10” x 15” fabric (this can be an absorbent piece and a linen, two absorbent fabrics, etc – again, just use whatever you have on hand). Then cut. If you don’t have enough, you can do different measurements. Just make sure your two sides are the same size. I’ve found 10 inch squares are a great size too.
2. Pin the two fabric pieces together and sew. Put your sides face to face and pin along the edge. Sew all sides 1/4” from the the edge but be sure to leave a small gap to turn the towel inside out!
3. Cut the corners. Cut the corners so that when you flip the towel inside out, the corners lay nice and flat.
4, Flip inside out and sew the hole closed. Flip the towel inside out and iron along the edges. Now, you can sew the hole closed. Be sure to get as close to the edge as possible.
For a cleaner look, you can hand stitch this closed.
Additional Ideas: For one of my towels, I sewed two straight lines about an inch in on the top and bottom to prevent the towel from getting bunched up in the wash or during use. This is totally optional, but I actually didn’t mind the way it turned out!
Instructions for No-Sew Reusable Paper Towels
1. Measure and cut fabric scraps. Just like the sewn option, measure two pieces of 10” x 15” fabric, then cut. And again, if you don’t have enough fabric to make that particular size, you can switch up the measurements to whatever works for you. Just make sure your two sides are the same size.
2. Cut hemming tape to size. Cut 3 pieces of hemming tape long enough for each side. Put your pieces face to face with the hemming tape just on the edge.
3. Iron and apply hemming tape. Iron the pieces together on only 3 of the sides leaving a smaller side open. Check the instructions that come with your hemming tape.
For mine, I applied a lot of heat and waited until it cooled to check if the two pieces were bonded well. Instructions may vary, so just be aware.
4. Let cool and flip inside out. Once cooled, trim the corners so that they lay flat when you flip the towel inside out. Flip the towel inside out and iron along the edges.
5. Fold in and complete with hemming tape. Fold in the bottom side that was left open and put hemming tape between the two pieces of fabric. Iron to close. Allow to cool completely before using!
And that’s it! Pretty easy, right?
Once they’ve been used several times (maybe more depending on how dirty they get), toss them into a laundry basket and throw them in the washing machine when you have a full load to wash.
Sewing by Casey Harper
One last thing… It’s worth noting that we have 35-50 of these at home (total between the DIY ones and store-bought dishcloths) that we use for everything. And have different types of towels (and colors) for different jobs, so we don’t get the counter towels mixed up with the unpaper towels we use to clean up cat messes, for example.
I realize that probably sounds like a lot, BUT the reason we have so many is so we don’t have to run new loads of laundry all the time (which saves a little bit on water usage as well). And I keep all of my towels in a drawer in the kitchen, so they’re super easy to grab but aren’t in plain sight taking up space on the counter.
Think you’ll give this DIY a try? I’d love to know your thoughts on ‘reusable paper towels’ like this.