How to Make Reusable Paper Towels with Fabric Scraps

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!

How to Make Reusable Paper Towels with Fabric Scraps. Use these DIY unpaper towels for everything from cleaning and spills to wiping any faces, etc. It won't even cost you any money to make them! #zerowaste #unpapertowels #diy #kitchen #dishcloths

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.

Use these DIY unpaper towels for everything from cleaning and spills to wiping any faces, etc. It won't even cost you any money to make them! Click through for the tutorial for a sewn option AND a no-sew option. #nosew #sewingproject #zerowaste #unpapertowels #diy #kitchen #dishcloths

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)
  • scissors
  • 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.

DIY unpaper towels! Use them for everything from cleaning and spills to wiping any faces, etc. It won't even cost you any money to make them! Click through for the tutorial for a sewn option AND a no-sew option. #sewingproject #zerowaste #unpapertowels #diy #kitchen #dishcloths

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!

DIY unpaper towels! Use them for everything from cleaning and spills to wiping any faces, etc. It won't even cost you any money to make them! Click through for the tutorial for a sewn option AND a no-sew option. #nosew #zerowaste #unpapertowels #diy #kitchen #dishcloths

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.

DIY unpaper towels! Use them for everything from cleaning and spills to wiping any faces, etc. It won't even cost you any money to make them! Click through for the tutorial for a sewn option AND a no-sew option. #sewingproject #zerowaste #unpapertowels #diy #kitchen #dishcloths #nosew

DIY unpaper towels! Use them for everything from cleaning and spills to wiping any faces, etc. It won't even cost you any money to make them! Click through for the tutorial for a sewn option AND a no-sew option. #sewingproject #zerowaste #unpapertowels #diy #kitchen #dishcloths #nosew

DIY unpaper towels! Use them for everything from cleaning and spills to wiping any faces, etc. It won't even cost you any money to make them! Click through for the tutorial for a sewn option AND a no-sew option. #sewingproject #zerowaste #unpapertowels #diy #kitchen #dishcloths #nosew

DIY unpaper towels! Use them for everything from cleaning and spills to wiping any faces, etc. It won't even cost you any money to make them! Click through for the tutorial for a sewn option AND a no-sew option. #sewingproject #zerowaste #unpapertowels #diy #kitchen #dishcloths #nosew

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.

23 comments | Click here to reply

I totally need to make these! I’m constantly running out of paper towels and it drives me crazy!

Paige
http://thehappyflammily.com

Paige Cassandra Flamm

Hope you make these. It’s a good cost savings to go the reusable route as well, Paige. 🙂

Brittni

We got lots of cloth napkins for our wedding and use them instead of paper towels. When we visit friends and family now I’m shocked how much they go through! Love this option too!

Diana L. Tisdale

Yes! Cloth napkins are a great option as well, Dianna. We have some that we use as well.

Brittni

Where do you put the used ones you use in the bathroom? Do you have a dedicated basket or something?

Karen

Hi Karen. Yep, I have a basket for used ones until I can bring them up to the laundry room.
-Brittni

Brittni

This could be s good wsybtomuse up old t-shirts as well. One side could be the t-shirt, the other the scrap fabric… hmmm.., you have me thinking.

Mary

Yes that would be a great option, Mary! Old t-shirts are great for rag use too with those really dirty or gross jobs.

Brittni

I love this idea but I’m not sure my family would . Esp mY grown daughter. THEY use so much at her home. If she comes here and I dont have any PAPER towels…she’d go buy them !

MaryAnn

It definitely has to be a group effort, MaryAnn. So I completely understand that it can be challenging to get your entire family onboard. Even if you’re the only one using the reusable option, that’s better than nothing, right?

Brittni

Ridiculous! If you must have reusable, buy terry washcloths by the dozen, at the dollar store. And absolutely no need to sew anything. But know, that if they don’t dry quickly, they get stinky moldy just like the dishcloths I already have in my kitchen. So now we need a “paper towel pail” just like the old fashioned diaper pail with vinegar or watered down borax (can you still buy it?) to kill the stink until they go into the washing machine. Or do you have a clothesline outside your kitchen door? Oh my goodness!

Helen

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Helen. The whole point of this project is to help reduce waste though, not to purchase additional items. If you’d rather not make something using items you already have, that’s okay too. But this DIY is for those that are interested in that kind of thing. 🙂
-Brittni

Brittni

My mother never bought paper towels, and cut up old clothes, towels and sheets for rags. There was a “floor rag” under the kitchen and bathroom sinks for wiping up spills or cleaning the bathroom. They were washed weekly, or put in the laundry basket if used for something yucky. Rags were used for cleaning cupboards, the fridge, the floor and for dusting. Washcloths were used for wiping dirty kids hands and faces. On a car trip, she would bring a wet washcloth in a plastic bag.

I generally follow her example, although I do buy paper towels – maybe 4 or 5 rolls per year. I like your idea for sewing them. It makes them more attractive, and hopefully more inviting to use. You are also right to put your paper towels away in a cupboard. Out of sight, out of mind.

Colleen

I have been doing this for ages and highly recommend it! I have made stronger ones with denim on one side for my husband who uses them in his shop and to wipe down his kayaks. Currently, we rinse then hang them over the bike rack. I’m sure we’ll be using the covered pail method as the weather changes. I heard that baking soda and tea tree oil can keep the odors down between washes.

NancyG

I understand why sewing these together makes them prettier and a bit more absorbent, but could you explain a bit more about why it would be necessary? Why not just use fabric towels or rags cut from t-shirts and other soft fabrics? If they are for cleaning and spills, and grime, they aren’t really going to stay pretty for very long. I gave up paper towels many years ago, and just use rags. I could sew them into pretty squares, but I have plenty of vintage kitchen towels for nice clean uses, and rags for sloppy messes. Please elaborate!

Ann Marie Prochowicz

Fun way to use up scraps and recycle. There was a time when even if I wanted, I could not afford paper towels. Rags were the go to. There are things that I would not use re-useable rags for such as, animal waste, flu clean up, things like that unless you were throwing it away after. My mother used rags and we still use them, just not the pretty version. Thanks for sharing this ‘pretty’ option Brittni.

fairyrocks

We went on a cruise to Alaska on the Holland America line and they used terry washcloths as hand drying towels in the “public” bathrooms on board. Ever since, I have done the same at home as it is almost impossible to find the small terry guests towels that used to be available. I use one color for the bathrooms. Family members can hang their “towel” up on a towel rack for the day if they want to. I like that guests can have a one-use “hand towel” when they visit and drop them into a plastic open hamper tote. I use dark tan colored washcloths for general house cleaning cloths and now I am inspired to just use white ones in place of paper towels which we still have been using in the kitchen. At our local TJ Maxx store they sell ribbon tied sets of 6 or 8 washcloths very cheaply. As long as they are the color I want I pick up sets of them whenever I shop there in order to accumulate lots of them. The different weaves and textures just add to the display. We just throw them in the laundry hamper and wash them with regular laundry unless they require special handling for some reason. They serve up easily when folded into a clear plastic narrow refrigerator bin of the appropriate size.

Sandra Hathaway

Um….. isn’t that called a dishcloth?

Judy

Lots of people don’t know that peroxide is a great stain, bacteria, & odor killer. If you want to soak something, put it in a container with water & some peroxide. It works wonders for blood stains too!

Joy Blevins

Strike 1) Ok, I sew a lot and. I don’t have ANY absorbent fabric laying around, much less scraps. So I’d have to purchase that. Strike 2) while using cloth is great SOME of the time, these would need to be washed frequently because you are creating a breeding ground for bacteria and have to be careful to not use the one you just wiped the dirty counter down with to wash your coffee mug out with meaning you need to make a LOT of them and then you are doing laundry when you run out of these. If you are going to do this, have different colors for different tasks. Say, blue for dishes, red to clean up after handling meat, yellow for cleaning up after handling poultry and green for general clean up.

And, before someone jumps on me for killing trees, I do use Swedish dish cloths. A fresh one daily. I have 10 so I only need to toss them in with my laundry once a week when I wash towels (as I do those in hot water to kill bacteria). I do have some paper towels for some cleanups but I do buy those made from recycled paper.

Strike 3) your instructions are never printable. Is it really too much to ask that you make a link from instructions to a printer-friendly page?

Teri

Wow Brittni, these are beautiful! I love the idea of having a good use for all the fabric scraps lying around. And each towel can be used double-sided, the absorbent side can wipe up spills or be used with cleaner, and the fabric side for dusting, drying, polishing, etc. This is so nice for people who want functional, daily-use objects to be prettier (me!), and who enjoy having a craft project too. I’ve been wanting to switch to cloth towels for a while, but living with roommates it can be tough. However your comment to another reader about how reducing your own waste, even if it’s not the whole household, has inspired me! Thank you!

Marlene @ Idle Hands Awake

I have done something similar with face cloths. They get so worn, so I attached a piece of scrap cotton to them in a similar manner. I like to machine quilt, so I did that to hold the two layers together. I was wondering about the best fabric to use because quilt cotton seems too slick to me. I have lots of linen scraps, so I’ll try that! Thanks for the ideas.

Martha

Drawer space is limited so I will make another of those “plastic bag dispensers” and these will be 1derful!
Thanks for a great tute!

Maggie

Maggie Martin
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