Unpaper Towels: How to Make Reusable Paper Towels with Fabric Scraps (Two Ways)

By Brittni • Updated on 08/12/2023

Thinking of making the swap to unpaper towels? Honestly, it’s easier than you think and you can make your own reusable paper towels in 15 minutes! 

A stack of unpaper towels made of fabric scraps in 15 minutes or less.

I made the switch to unpaper towels in 2018 and it has been WAY easier to keep up with then I thought it would be. Here’s what happened…

One day, I woke up one day and was suddenly 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 used 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, 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 handy 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 scraps to 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.

A stack of DIY unpaper towels for everything from cleaning and spills to wiping any faces, etc.

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 snap 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 the 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.

Steps for making DIY unpaper towels. Use them for everything from cleaning and spills to wiping any faces, etc.

How to Make Reusable Paper Towels (Sewn version)

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!

Also! It’s been suggested in the comments that you can sew a button hole on the end of each cloth, if you have a hook for it to hang from. Or add a little string that can be tied to cabinet handles, etc.

Love those ideas! Makes the possibility of using unpaper towels even higher, which is the whole point.

No-sew steps for making DIY unpaper towels.

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.

Cleaning table with DIY unpaper towels, made of fabric scraps.

FAQ on Unpaper Towels

Why switch to unpaper towels?

There are a couple of reasons to switch to unpaper towels that I can think of off the top of my head.

1) The first is eliminating the use of single-use items whenever possible is better for the environment. And yes, that includes paper towels.

Every little bit helps! So, if you can switch to the reusable paper towels instead, that is a helpful choice for the environment.

In relation to the environmental aspect, I also try to be mindful of the amount of water I am using with using unpaper towels.

And do my best to not run loads of laundry too frequently, which is why I have so many of these reusable paper towels on hand in my kitchen. I’ll touch on how many I have in just a minute.

2) The second reason to use unpaper towels like these is the cost savings.

The average American family spends $180-250 per year on paper towels.

So, if you’re able to continue using the same reusable paper towels like these for at least a year, that is what you can expect to save. And in some cases, even more, if you were a heavy paper towel user.

How long do reusable paper towels last?

At the time that I’m writing this update (4/22/2021), I’ve been using some of the same unpaper towels for almost three years now, and they are all just as usable now as they were the day they were first made.

Some of them don’t look as great at this point. *The no-sew ones haven’t held up quite as well as the sewn versions.*

I think they just don’t hold up as well to being washed over and over again? But the sewn ones are still being used, for sure. 

I only had a couple of no-sew towels anyway, at the start, because the sewn ones were faster and easier.

But the sewn ones and all of the store-bought towels I already had (and have continued adding to over the years) are still in great shape as well.

Is switching to unpaper towels hard?

No! Well, at least it wasn’t for our family of three. And honestly, before we made the switch we were using a lot of paper towels.

So, if we can do it, I think anyone can! Truly.

I think the biggest thing that helped us move away from regular paper towels is how accessible the unpaper towels were for us. Meaning we have a lot! And speaking of which…

How many unpaper towels do I need?

It’s worth noting that we have 40+ of these reusable paper towels at home (that’s total between the DIY ones and store-bought dishcloths) that we use for everything.

I 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.

If you have a large number, like I do, you will be far less likely to run out when you need it. Which will make keeping up with the no paper towels thing MUCH easier to sustain over time.

Do you use these as napkins for meals as well?

Yes! We use unpaper towels for everything you would normally use paper towels for. 

So, when we sit down to eat a meal, we each have our own reusable paper towel to use (and I usually share mine with our kiddo).

Once we’ve used those for the meal, if they’re dirty, we’ll rinse them and reuse for cleaning the counters before they go into the basket for laundry.

And if they’re relatively clean, we’ll continue using them as dry cloths for whatever else we need.

How do I clean reusable paper towels like these?

You clean them just like you would any of your other towels or laundry.

I usually use each reusable paper towel multiple time before tossing it in a basket to be washed with all of our other laundry.

You can also rinse them out with hot water and maybe even a little dish soap if you’re reusing after spills or tabletop cleanup, which I also do frequently to cut down on the number of cloths I’m going through each day.

Another tip

We keep one or two handy, tucked over one of our kitchen cabinet handles or the stove, that is for drying only. So, after we wash out hands, we use those to dry off, etc.

It works well and is super easy to remember when its right there next to the sink.

Stacked DIY unpaper towels using colorful fabric scraps and terrycloth.

Cleaning up spills with simple DIY unpaper towels made of colorful fabric scraps.

DIY unpaper towels! Use them for everything from cleaning and spills to wiping any faces, etc.

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How to Make Reusable Paper Towels with Fabric Scraps

Create unpaper towels (also known as reusable paper towels) with fabric scrapps you already have in your home. It's a great way to make an eco-friendly swap and I'm sharing two different ways to make them as well: a no-sew version and a sewn version. Both are super easy and only take minutes to make.
Total Time15 minutes
Keyword: diy, eco-friendly, kitchen, no-sew, reusable, sewing, unpaper towels
Author: Brittni
Cost: free


  • fabric scraps*
  • thread pins and a sewing machine (for a no-sew option, use hemming tape)
  • scissors
  • iron ruler


  • 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.
  • 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!
  • Cut the corners.
  • Cut the corners so that when you flip the towel inside out, the corners lay nice and flat.
  • 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!
Tried this recipe?Mention @paperandstitch or tag #paperandstitch!

Sewing by Casey Harper

Think you’ll give this DIY a try? I’d love to know your thoughts on ‘reusable paper towels’ like this.

Looking for more eco-friendly ideas like this one? Try my natural dish scrubber tutorial (that’s also compostable).

43 comments | Click here to reply

This is a very good post! I love “green” ideas and hope the world can be more sustainable! Personally, I am dedicated to getting rid of plastics from daily life and encourage people to use “green” products instead. My team designs and manufactures bamboo wood products for home and commercial started in 2013. Our website is cozee-bay.com if you would like to take a quick look!

Cozee Bay

Such a great project! Thank you for the idea of backing the towel with old “terry toweling”. It makes the towels much more absorbent. I keep a supply handy in a small basket on the
kitchen counter and also in in the bathrooms.

I use my husband old button down shirts, old sheets, towels, etc anything that is a natural fiber such as cotton as these tend to be most absorbent.

I’ve shared your link to this site with my Simple Living group on MeWe.com and have provided you with the link to my post.


All the tutorials I had see had that snap method, thanks for this one!

(And wow Teri person is a real C U Next Tuesday amirite? Dont come to a diy blog if youre just going to complain about how hard it is to do it yourself.)


I wash my reusable paper towels with a pinch of my homemade laundry detergent and a pinch of Dawn in hot water. I then sanitize it with boiling water. Hang to dry.


How do you store yours for everyday easy use


Hi, do you use these to clean the bins in the kitchen or what do you use?


Goodness, that was interesting to read all of the comments.
Congratulations to you and your family on the paperless towels.
I live in the prairie, midwest NE., and first lived in a home with no running water, outhouse for a bathroom, washtub in the middle of the kitchen floor for weekly baths. We are so spoiled today.
A few germs won’t hurt us and actually they help us build immunity, you know that thing that helps us not get Covid, etc.?
As a quilter I have tons of scraps and use them for anything and everything except I have yet to make the paperless towels which I will be doing as soon as I finish the quilt now on my frame.
I use old rags, t-shirts, etc. with vinegar/coconut oil to clean and polish furniture. No sprays in this house with respiratory problems. Then toss in wash with other rags. No problem.
Listen up people, life goes on and thousands of people existed for years without all of the paper products produced today.
Thank you for an interesting topic and good luck to you and yours.


I love the idea of un-paper towels. I have begun using cloth napkins for myself and toss them into the laundry each day. By adding an absorbent fabric, I can duplicate your pattern. I also have a serger, so assembling them will go quickly. thanks for the idea!

Jean K

Love your tutorial, putting together old towels and fabric is a great idea. I don’t use paper towel either about one roll a year. Sorry I don’t understand the snarky comments either. You are providing great information and instructions, keep up the great job!


I am down to using one roll of paper towels every six months. I only use one if my cat throws up! I get while you are using two fabrics and I think it is a great idea because doubling the thickness of linen for washing mirrors and glass would allow one to switch over to a clean side for polishing. Actually, I am just wondering if toweling used as an absorbent between two pieces of old linen wouldn’t work great. Personally, I am totally into cleaning cloths. I have a six microfiber cloths, and I cut up every cotton or linen old piece of clothing. They are all folded “Marie Kondo” and filed in a box. I like going to pick one out – flannel for polishing, linen for glass, microfiber for the floor because it dries so fast and cotton for everything else. I wash them over and over again unless I used something that would stain the washing machine. I have such a great cleaning cloth collection that I let the used ones dry after wring them out and then wash them all at one time. My grandmother always told me that paper towels were a waste of money and I can still hear her saying that in my mind. She was from the era that hung the wash out on the line and ironed the sheets, underwear, everything. She was Bavarian German and very proud of her housekeeping skills. Having gone through the Depression, that generation considered having the house paid off as the single biggest goal and unnessessary purchases weren’t indulged in. They were so proud of accomplishing things that don’t mean much to us now. Makes me kind of sad.


Put a 2″ loop in the center or at one corner for hanging on a hook!I I quit buying and using plastic bags and paper towels 2 years ago and glad I did. I make all sizes of drawstring bags to give away with gifts or everyday things to others and hope they catch on to the idea that we don’t need to hand everything over in a plastic bag. Have a great Spring 2021 from Peggy in Madison


Your work seems to be great. Continue the great effort!!


I have 2 old ratty bath towels I’m planning on using but I like how soft yours look. I’m thinking of cutting the bath towel into pieces and getting another fabric to sew together. What type of material would you recommend? I’m going to need to buy from Walmart fabric department. Thanks!


Love this! Thanks for sharing! My daughter and I are going to sew up some pretty paperless towels this weekend using the scraps that we have. Thanks for such a positive, economical, and encouraging post to go paperless! Bless you!


Suggestion: sew a large buttonhole at one end – makes it easy to hang in a hook 👍🏻

Amber Murray

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Brittni, hi! What a fun, great tutorial for a neat project that saves on paper towels! I am intrigued by this and love the idea of doing away with PT for different reasons. Plus you’re using something you already have, using your fabric scraps rather than tossing. I am posting in support of your article and also to call out “Helen” on her comments… and a few others.. Why? Why be a critical hater? If you can’t say something nice or if this isn’t your thing or a great idea in your opinion, why not just move on? Why post a rude, snotty comment on here, criticizing? What have you created? Do you have the guts to come up with your own idea and post it on here? I’d guess not as you know there are people like you sitting on the sidelines, watching and waiting for a chance to jump in and attack needlessly… Sorry, not sorry. I hate that expression but it fits here. Go do your own thing. Put yourself out there and see how it feels to be on the other side of your “ridiculous” comments. Great job, Brittni, and I hope to make some of these!! Keep doing your thing! <3


This seems like a lot of unnecessary trouble! I just cut up pieces of old t-shirts and towels and keep them in a drawer in the kitchen to use for various spills. We still keep paper towels on hand but they are ONLY for very oily (bacon grease) or cat-related spills so we go through them very, very slowly.


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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 Martin

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.


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

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?


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

Um….. isn’t that called a dishcloth?


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

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.


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

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.


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.


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. 🙂


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!


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?


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 !


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


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.


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


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


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


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

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


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


Paige Cassandra Flamm
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