Paper towels and our society’s gross overuse of them is a topic I have written about before. And my loyal readers know that my preferred method for avoiding paper towels is to keep a ready and robust supply of cloth towels in my kitchen to stand in for most any job a paper towel might do. My favorite towel is a reclaimed terry cloth washcloth. The thin ones, not the plush ones, are the best. I could always find used washcloths at my local Value Village in Spokane, WA, but I moved to Portland, OR last year and Goodwill is the predominant thrift retailer here, and when it comes to those oh-so-perfect washcloths, what my beloved Value Village had in abundance, Goodwill seems to be deliberately avoiding. I’ve never seen a one on the sales floor. Goodwill obviously gets donations of old washcloths, but what they do with them, I don’t know. So as my current inventory of used washcloths ages, I had to come up with a plan “B.” I decided to try out some of the paper towel substitutes for sale on the internet. I rounded up some samples from three companies and tested their products for two weeks in my home. Here’s my review:
Natural Linen’s Organic Eco Towel (http://naturallinensboutique.com)
Material: 100% certified organic unbleached cotton
Dimensions after washing: 9 ½ x 10 ½ inches
The Good Stuff: This towel “handles” most like a high-end paper towel in size and weight, so it feels quite natural to reach for them over and over again to tackle any job formerly assigned to a paper towel. The Eco Towel is very versatile and I used it all around the kitchen, as a napkin, dishcloth, hand towel and more! Another highlight of this lighter weight towel is that it dries quickly.
Nitpicky Stuff: In our absorbency test, this towel came in third.
Material: 100% certified organic Fair Trade cotton with eco-friendly dyes
Dimensions after washing: 8 ½ x 8 ½ inches
The Good Stuff: The bright, fun-themed graphics and modest sizing make these mini hand towels a kid-friendly replacement for paper napkins. Pack one in the kid’s lunch box and keep several in the minivan glove box! Add water and you have an exceptional wet-nap which kids and parents can use to really scrub sticky hands and faces. Try that with a flimsy paper napkin!
Nitpicky Stuff: I found the size a bit small for my larger hands when it came to using them for chores around the house.
The Willow Store’s Organic Mini Forever Cloth (http://www.willowpads.com)
Material: Organic hemp and cotton blend
Dimensions after washing: 8 ¾ x 9 ½ inches
The Good Stuff: This is a heavier-weight towel that is soft fleece on one side and terry on the reverse. It’s brawny and absorbent (terry side best on both counts) and handled big spills and cleaning jobs extremely well. The fleece side is great for dusting.
Nitpicky Stuff: The two layers that make up this towel are only sewn together at the perimeter, so those two layers slip around independently if only one side is wet. The fleece shed a bit the first time I used it, but a single wash cycle put a stop to that.
As I wrote in a previous post, the ideal set of reusable rags will include several of different sizes, thicknesses, textures and absorbencies. Each towel tested for this review has its strengths and weaknesses, but that is precisely why you may decide you need several of each—to cover all the bases. Remember to skip the fabric softener when washing reusable towels to maintain their absorbency.
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