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6 smart tips to conserve your paper towel supply at home

Paper towels are in high demand and low in stock these days. These smart ideas help you stretch your supply or avoid using them altogether.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
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Katie Teague
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If you run out of paper towels, clean with these things instead.


Running through your paper towel supply at an unprecedented rate? Good luck finding more. Along with toilet paper, Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer, they're in short supply in most stores, at least for the time being. (Here are alternative stores to find household goods.)

If you don't want to fret about when you store will restock (some do offer alerts), it might be time to change your habits. There are easy ways to ration your existing paper towel rolls, and other, more readily available items that you can use instead of reaching for the kitchen roll. You might even find that these new techniques save you money over time.

Read on for more tips to cut down your paper towel usage and let us know about any of your additional suggestions in the comments.

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Cut your paper towel sheets into smaller pieces

If your paper towels aren't the kind that tear off into smaller portions, you can use less by cutting them into smaller pieces. Grab a pair of scissors and cut each sheet into four squares. Then you can stack them on your counter or in a napkin folder and grab one when you need it.

Rinse and reuse them

If your paper towels are lightly used, try rinsing them and letting them dry out. Most paper towels are sturdy enough for you to add a few drops of soap and squeeze out several times under running water without tearing.

This doesn't mean it's OK to use one after it's touched raw meat -- but if you just cleaned up a few crumbs with it or wiped down a cutting board, it's safe enough to use again for a similar purpose. Rinsed paper towels are convenient for cleaning up messes on your kitchen floor and even dusting your baseboards. However, it's best to only reuse it once if the paper towel starts to shred.


Reusable paper towels are machine washable.

Screenshot by Katie Conner/CNET

Buy paper towels that are made to be reused

Did you know there are paper towels that are meant to be used multiple times? Most are made from bamboo, so they may be more eco-friendly than the traditional variety, which comes from trees. Bamboo towels are also machine washable, so you can use them multiple times. One roll could last you months.

Use kitchen towels, microfiber cloths or cloth napkins instead


Use microfiber cloths instead of paper towels.


Rather than filling up your trash can with a ton of barely used paper towels, grab the cotton towels instead. Cloth towels work well for patting washed vegetables and herbs dry, absorbing spills and cleaning your hands during dinner. 

Besides, cloth napkins make the dinner table look more presentable than a wrinkled paper towel if you're a mostly napkin-free household.

You can easily launder them in the washing machine and reuse them daily. Plus, you'll save money and stress from not having to stock up on paper towels.

Use sponges more often

Instead of wiping your counters down with paper towels each time you make a mess, use a sponge. If washed effectively, you can get up to three weeks of use from one sponge. You can clean sponges in the dishwasher or microwave (warning, it gets a little smelly) when they need to be sanitized. You'll know it's time to toss it when it starts falling apart.


Sponges can do more than scrub your dishes.

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Use the Shake & Fold method

The Shake & Fold method is a campaign to help reduce paper towel usage. The goal is to shake your hands to remove excess water from dishes or hand-washing before grabbing one paper towel, folding it in half and drying your hands. 

The Shake & Fold organization says that when you fold the paper towel in half, no matter how thick it is, the trapped air makes the paper towel stronger and much more absorbent, so you don't have to use as many to dry your hands or pat a piece of washed fruit.

Now that you've found a way to stretch your paper towel supply, here's how to get in-stock alerts for hard-to-find items like Clorox wipes, 9 tips for grocery shopping during the coronavirus pandemic and 12 tips to help you avoid coronavirus when you leave the house.

Watch this: Coronavirus lockdown: Why social distancing saves lives

Originally published Apr. 1.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.