In our home we made a few changes to help us not waste materials and save money — so we have more to spend on fun things like hiking.
Here are some simple changes you can make to help the environment, save some cold hard cash, and still have a clean kitchen.
Just Say No to Paper Towels
I know this is going to sound odd, but when we first switched to cotton towels, we got a fair amount of backlash over not using paper towels.
Friends would come over and need something to wipe down little Jimmy’s hands.
I would hand them a white cloth hand towel.
They would look at me perplexed, “Oh, no we couldn’t use this! Don’t you have paper towels?”
Words unspoken: What is wrong with you?
I’d smile, “Um, we don’t use paper towels except in extreme cases.”
In our house, paper towels are reserved for messes you can’t wash away or really wouldn’t want to ever worry about getting infected by like the dog taking a crap on the floor, the kid barfing all over the hallway wall, or someone’s bleeding knee or in my case — cut thumb. (Yes, that was my voice of experience.)
We simply don’t use paper towels for everyday clean-ups.
It started when the kids we’re very little, we bought a massive pack of white terry cloth towels instead of burp clothes because it was far cheaper.
And, at heart the idea of doing multiple loads of tiny burp towels a week in addition to the mountain of laundry a small baby can produce, plus the litany of chores, and stress of having a newborn — well — it was too much and I was desperate to cut any corner I could find.
Before then, we used fancy kitchen towels with pictures of pears or chickens on them but they were expensive and touchy about how they were washed.
Too hot and they became misshaped lumps of cotton.
Too cold and the needed to be washed again.
After nearly 12 years of using white cotton towels, we now have two categories of white towels.
One is for general clean-up and one is for the dining table.
The only difference being which towels are whiter versus which ones are a bit thread bare and stained by coffee, paint, permanent makers, etc.
Not only does this save us money but it also means we are not cutting down trees just so we have a disposable towel to wipe up a spill.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in and support sustainable timber harvesting. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have a nice home made of two-by-fours. two-by-sixes, and some version of plywood.
But the idea of cutting down trees, just so I can wipe the counter top off seems a little ridiculous to me.
Granted we do a load of these towels about once a week, so there are the costs of the laundering them but I try to save by not drying them in the dryer but by hanging them outside to dry.
From the Counter to the Floor
Next, tackling cleaning the floor.
Which is a big deal in our house of two outdoorsy adults, two mud loving kids, and two dogs that find mud even when it is in late July.
We bought a mop that has refillable reservoir and replaceable pads on the bottom.
A couple drops of Dawn, a splash of vinegar, and a few drops of essential oils such as orange or lemon with lavender added to hot water in the reservoir and the cleaning solution is ready and I know exactly what is in it.
(I like the NOW Foods brand of essential oils. Just remember you only need a drop or two.)
When we’re done mopping, the reusable cleaning pad comes off and gets tossed in the laundry with the other reusable cleaning pads that I use on the hard surface vacuum head. Rather than paying $5-$10 per reusable cleaning pad, I bought some towels and made heads to fit both the vacuum cleaner and the mop.
I’m crafty like that but if you aren’t check-out Esty for someone who can make them for you.
Changing the Way You Think is Easy
I admit it. My day job is as a marketer. I dream up ways of making people want to buy things. So, I’m a bit more jaded than the average bear.
Here is what I see… all the companies that sell cleaning equipment have one goal – to sell you more cleaning equipment and a constant stream of resupplies.
Just watch a television show and there is bound to be some commercial for a cleaning tool that has dust-magnet fibers that when it gets gross you just toss it into the trash.
More crap to get tossed in the trash and make its way to the landfill or into the environment.
You can keep your house clean without all the disposables.
You really don’t know what all is in the cleaners you use.
But, white vinegar, a drop of two of Dawn, and a drop of an essential oil will do a fantastic job of keeping your counters and your floors clean.
Save your money for important things like backpacking gear or a new pair of boots.
You can make small changes that have a big impact over time and keep the fingerprints cleaned off the walls, the nose and mouth prints off the windows, and the constant stream of little kid dirt off the floors.