Cleaning Finances Tips + Tricks

QUICK TIP: THROWING IN THE [PAPER] TOWEL

real simple flour sacks

Whoever invented paper towels should have a monument built in their honor. I love paper towels. To the point where if you asked me three things I would want with me on a deserted island, a roll of paper towels would be one of the three. Once in a while, we buy a bulk pack from Sam’s, but in most cases we pick up a triple-pack from the grocery store or even Walgreen’s. So,  yeah, around here, we go through them a lot. Well, this used to be the case…

Every few months, Greg and I have a little pow wow where we sit down and talk about places in our budget where we can save a little more money. Not only does it keep us on track, but it helps us keep the lines of communication open when it comes to the nickels and dimes. After all, the more money we save, the more money we can set aside for fun stuff (vacations, etc). Back in December, we decided to try pairing down on the number of cleaning products we I buy. My relationship with cleaning supplies is much like my relationship with lip gloss – if it looks cool, I buy it “to try it out”. On the top of the list of things to pair down were my beloved paper towels. We “guestimated” that we use at least 3 rolls a week – which,  yeah, seems like a lot considering it’s just us and Bentley.

To curb our my enthusiasm, we decided to challenge ourselves to use flour sacks rather then paper towels. They are affordable, you can find them pretty much anywhere (at Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and even the Dollar Store) and after four months of using them, I am officially converted.

real simple flour sacks

I have a small bin in the laundry room closet that’s specifically for dirty flour sacks. When one gets dirty, I rinse it out, toss it in the bin and once the bin is full, it’s time for a wash (and in reality, they are so affordable that if one gets super grimy, I can just toss it). They are durable and super absorbent – perfect for drying dishes, wiping down the countertops, or cleaning up small spills. Oh, and when you go to wash them, don’t use fabric softener. If you do, they won’t be as absorbent.

By adding flour sacks to my arsenal, we’re now down to 1 roll a week – sometimes less! That my friends, is a miracle. Not only have we successfully met the challenge, but we’ve saved money (around $352 a year to be exact), and a few trees in the process. It’s a win win!

Are you a flour sack convert too? Have any helpful, easy money saving tips? We’re all ears!

Paper towel image from here. Money image from here.

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29 Comments

  • Reply
    annabelvita
    April 10, 2012 at 9:53 am

    We have a similar set up for spills and stuff, but I also keep old tshirts and other things for cleaning up things for real nasties that I know I’m going to want to chuck in the bin rather than wash.

  • Reply
    Ammy Belle
    April 10, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Flour sacks? Like … actual flour sacks? I think I need more background …

    • Reply
      Ashley
      April 10, 2012 at 10:08 am

      Well, it’s a type of material, not actual sacks of flour. Like these: http://bit.ly/IfxmF2

  • Reply
    Jen
    April 10, 2012 at 10:02 am

    We have converted to Microfiber towels for the kitchen spills, rinsings, drying, etc and regular dish clothes that we don’t use since we have a dishwasher for cleaning around the other parts of the house. I buy a 12 pack of paper towels every January and it lasts until December. It saves money and is GREEN, too!

    • Reply
      Tamara
      April 11, 2012 at 4:05 am

      A pack of 12 lasts you untill December?! Wow! That’s impressive!

  • Reply
    Ammy Belle
    April 10, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Really cool! thanks for the link! 🙂

  • Reply
    VTMamateurs
    April 10, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Good for you! Not to mention, this is so much more earth-friendly 🙂 As a parent of messy toddlers, we are always looking for ways to save a buck, and help the planet: http://vtmamateurs.com/2012/02/21/the-many-shades-of-going-green/

  • Reply
    Jac
    April 10, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Been using dish towels and fabric napkins for years. My napkins are way cooler than anything paper, and saves trees. Go through a few dish towels a day….but they’re quickly in the wash. Easy.

  • Reply
    Christin
    April 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    3 rolls a week?? Yikes, that’s a lot. Although we probably go through a lot too though. I buy a 6 pack of paper towels at Target about once every 5-8 weeks. But recently my hubby encouraged us to start using dish cloths for not so nasty clean ups and spills and it has really cut down on how many paper towels we use. Now I just want to get more dish cloths. I know you said you can find flour sacks everywhere – but where exactly in the stores? What dept or area? I would like to try them out too.

    • Reply
      Ashley
      April 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      They are normally next to the kitchen dish towels. Hope that helps! : )

  • Reply
    Caitlin C.
    April 10, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    At my house I started the rule that we are allowed to use one roll of paper towels a month! I got my husband and I down to four a day. I try to be super conscious by also buying 100% recycled paper towels! I use one almost every morning for tofu/quick drying vegetables. And then three or less act as napkins/quick clean up. I designate a towel for drying hands, one for wiping counters, one for drying vegetables, and one for wiping the floors. When we run out paper towels, it’s just tough luck and we end up using a lot of regular towels!

    Lucky for me I used to work at a gym so I have a TON of white towels. And a husband that has learned to love my crazy anal retentive ways.

  • Reply
    Allison
    April 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    If you have an Ikea nearby they have some towels that are a really good value, 79 cents each! I always pick up a few when I’m there. They wash out well and when they get too grubby for the kitchen I move them to the garage or laundry room.

    http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/10100909/

  • Reply
    Amanda
    April 10, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    I love this! We’re awful about using paper towels too and I’d love to start using something like this – thanks for the tip!

  • Reply
    Katie @ explanationrequired
    April 10, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    I haven’t gone for flour sacks, but we have made a conscious effort to use less paper towels around the house. So much so that I made some cloth napkins to use during meals (blogged about them – http://bit.ly/HvkJQD). Definitely a money saver and better looking!

  • Reply
    Tamara
    April 11, 2012 at 4:06 am

    Love 7th House! You guys rock.

  • Reply
    Jeanette @ This Dusty House
    April 11, 2012 at 11:44 am

    I’m intrigued. I’ll admit, I had never even heard of this option called ‘flour sacks’ before… I’m the opposite of you. I never use paper towels, never buy them. But, believe it or not, there are things you kind of need paper towels for… like bacon. Would flour sacks soak up bacon grease in the same way paper towel would? I might very well have to try them out…

    • Reply
      Ashley
      April 11, 2012 at 12:17 pm

      When it comes to bacon, I think it’s be a lot easier to go with a paper towel just so you can throw it away when you’re done. However, I don’t think it would dry it out any more than a paper towel would.

    • Reply
      Sharon
      April 13, 2012 at 9:26 am

      You could also try coffee filters in a pinch to drain your bacon :o) But, paper towels are certainly cheaper. Mom used to use a cardboard from an empty cereal box or what have you.

  • Reply
    Caroline @ Between Your Ears
    April 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    This is such a great idea!! I’m definitely going to do this!

  • Reply
    Faye
    April 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Thanks for such an earth friendly idea! I am down to my last two rolls of paper towels and although I do have dish towels, they get a lot less use… Hmmm… I am going to go bulk on the flour sack towels and see what happens!
    BTW – What’s your Pinterest name? I would love to follow you guys!

  • Reply
    Faye
    April 11, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Looked to the right and found you! (Duhonmybehalf!) Thanks!

  • Reply
    Kei
    April 12, 2012 at 1:12 am

    Wow, a full roll of paper towels every week? I would have thought that was pre-flour sack switching. I’d be interested in knowing what you use them all for. I would suggest using a mop to clean floors (not the ones with disposable sheets), a sponge for spills (or rags for the nasty ones), towels for drying hands, cloth napkins during meals, and as a last resort use paper towels when you can’t help it (patting down raw chicken, for instance).

    • Reply
      Ashley
      April 12, 2012 at 1:16 am

      You know, I haven’t really paid much attention on what I use them on. I do know I wipe down the countertops and the kitchen sink at least twice a day. It’s a work in progress ; )

  • Reply
    Kim
    April 13, 2012 at 11:47 am

    We recently made the switch from paper towels to dish towels too! We have 2 sets, I even embroidered a M, T, W, Th, F, S, & Su on each towel for its own day. We also have a dish towel connected to our oven – that towel is only for drying off clean hands, it gets washed once a week.

  • Reply
    Kristy Tillman
    April 18, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    We LOVE using cloth for everything around here. I don’t remember the last time I bought paper towels. I use colorful/durable washcloths & flat diapers (NOT gerber, those are junk). They are similar to flour sack towels though. I cut some down and made kitchen clothes for making dishes and made some scrubbers with microfiber. I save the pretty holy ones for super yucky throw away jobs.
    Kristy

  • Reply
    Victoria
    April 25, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    I LOVE flour sacks!! I need to buy some more soon! Once mine get too dingy to keep out, I rip them into fourths and use them to “major clean” with. they’re perfect for that! I do a load of laundry that is only cleaning towels and sponges. It works out great!

  • Reply
    Elizabeth
    June 26, 2012 at 11:06 am

    About a year and a half ago We switched to microfiber towels for all spills/cleaning in the house. I have several dozen…even ones that fit the swiffer so I can easilycleanthe kitchen floor with vinegar spray. The dirt goes away and there’s no paper waste. I’ve been thinking about flour sack towels as well…

  • Reply
    Carla
    March 8, 2014 at 1:14 am

    Hurray for flour sacks 😀 My husband, daughter and myself uses 1 roll or less of paper towel a month!
    I grew up using flour sacks – in my mother and my grandmother’s house – and then in my own home. In my Bridal Shower I get over 30 flours sack decorated with crochet, hand painted and also without any decoration for daily cleaning. On each visit I made to my homeland – Brazil – I bought a dozen of it to bring with me.

    However I never found something similar here (I didn’t know where to find it). I tried to buy the ‘fabric’ to make the flour sacks but didn’t find it. I found something similar 3 years ago at IKEA ($ .75) and bought several for myself and also to decorate with bright ruffles.

    So imagine my joy today to find a package with 4 flour sacks at Target ($ 3.99). I bought two packs, and the sacks are bigger than I thought – I’ll cut them in half (a bargain: total of 16 flour sacks)… more than enough for myself, and also to give it as a gift for any occasion 😀

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