Cloth {not paper} Towels



I am so pleased to have my dear friend Serafina of A Gypsy Herbal guest posting today. We spent 2 1/2 years living at the same ministry in Mexico. Today she is sharing with you tips on how to ditch paper towels and use cloth rags instead. Her ideas and story remind me of my own family growing up and what I do with my girls now.

When I heard that Nourishing Simplicity was hosting a series on cloth and it’s great uses in the home last year, I first thought of cloth -instead of paper- towels. My family always used cloth rags or even the kitchen sponge in lieu of paper towels. When I realized that wasn’t covered in her series, I asked if I could share my experience with using rags instead of rolls of paper towels.

Typical uses for paper towels

  • kitchen cleaning
  • wiping up spills
  • drying dishes (who does that? lol)
  • wiping off utensils before switching to other part of project
  • drying hands
  • cleaning the bathroom
  • cleaning mirrors
  • __________________ (you fill in the blank)

Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money to spend.ย Being a frugal family, we didn’t like to waste our resources on disposable items, nor did we like to just throw something out that could be used again.ย  (Another example would be saving glass peanut butter jars and using them instead of zip top bags for food storage.) We would use cloth napkins, used glass containers,ย cloth towels, stock up on sale items…

What to use instead

For our rags (that’s what we’ve always called those old cloths which we use instead of paper), we would use older washcloths, cut up old tee shirts, the odd socks who’s mate had gone AWAL. Sometimes we’d even cut up larger towels that were too worn to use as hand/bath towels any longer. But the old cloth diapers which were left over from a couple decades ago have stayed in my memory as being the best to wipe up spills!



  • worn washcloths
  • old large towels (bath or kitchen), cut to size
  • odd socks
  • worn out tee shirts, cut to size (or ripped, whatever works for you…a surger would make neat edging…you could even do that by hand–but who are we kidding? this is for the rag bag!)
  • worn old fashion cloth diapers
  • cloth for washing cars
  • ripped or worn cloth napkins
  • any unwanted old fabric (as long as it’s absorbent enough)
  • make your own lovely roll of Fabric Towels

Storage Options

As I mentioned, my family always used rags growing up. My mother would set aside a spot to keep old worn out clothing, napkins and towels, and later use a little bit of time to cut everything up. It was simple, fast and efficient. Usually, if there was a spill or something needed to be cleaned, the rags that were ready for use would be right on top of the pile of old fabric items.

Now,ย  I have my own collection of “rags” for cleaning and instead of paper for the kitchen. I compared my collection to my mothers, and they were pretty similar, except that I’d added a new set of cloth diapers to mine! (Mama’s babies have long since grown, and the old diapers which served a second lifetime as rags are no longer. But remembering how wonderful they had been, I splurged once to add them to my little kitchen – even though I’ve not yet had the joy of babies in my own home!)


Keep a basketful anywhere…

  • in the linen closet
  • in a kitchen window/cupboard
  • under bathroom sink

Or, make a bag with a loop from pretty fabric and hang…

  • in a utility closet or cupboard
  • by the bag of grocery sacks to reuse

You can keep a neat stack in the bathroom closet, or just make a messy pile, and don’t fuss over it! ๐Ÿ™‚

What do you use for cleaning up? Paper? Cloth? What else do you use cloth or rags for?

About Serafina

Serafina grew up in the mountains, always fascinated by edible plants growing all around her. When she realized how much God has planned for them to be helpful to people, she became fascinated! She now loves learning about herbs as much as she enjoys sharing what she learns!
Blogging every-now-and-then about herbal concoctions and creations at A Gypsy Herbal where she shares research & resources, recipes, and links.


  1. Great ideas. We keep our rag bin in the laundry room and are always running over there to clean up spills and such. Anytime a piece of clothing becomes unserviceable, it gets cut up for the rag bin ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing this post on the Art of Home-Making Mondays!

    • Serafina says:

      Thanks Jess! I like to keep my cleaning stuff on hand-it can be so easy to not clean otherwise. ๐Ÿ˜‰ When I moved recently, all my towels and rags were still in a stack of boxes in a tub. Then I found that basket in with some old things my parents weren’t using, and since it was just right for my kitchen, I brought it over for kitchen rags. Now I can just reach over, grab a rag, and clean up anything! Isn’t it fun finding useful things and ideas? ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hi Katie Mae {& Serafina} ~

    We, too, keep a rag bin in our storage area as a go to for clean up of dirty jobs or big spills. I love the link in your post today about making “a lovely roll of fabric towels”. Not only pretty on a countertop but practical, too.


    • Hello there Jarnette,
      Isn’t it nice? I hope I’ll find time to make a set like that. (But I’ll probably always want to keep the cloth diapers on hand-while moving in to my new kitchen, I recently spilled a very tall glass of water down between the cabinet and the fridge; I just sipped the floor in front with a towel, and then stuffed a cloth diaper under the edge of the fridge to soak up what I couldn’t reach. Worked great.) ๐Ÿ™‚
      Do you think you’ll make a set? If you do end up making some, please share a photo or a link so we can see it too!

  3. I grew up running to the rag bag when something was needed. I now have a box of rags myself. (with 3 kids and a husband, there is always a mess needing some cleaning.) I find worn out flannel pjs make great rags.

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