Pinching Pennies: Cloth Napkins and Wash Rags

Updated on April 30, 2020
Piggy bank
Piggy bank | Source

How Much Do Paper Napkins Cost?

There are really no studies that show how much the average person spends a year on paper towels and washcloths, but let's break it down like this.

If at each meal you use a paper napkin over a course of 30 days and you have 3 meals a day and restrict yourself to only one paper napkin no matter how messy the meal is, that is 30 times 3. That is 90 napkins a 30 day month. If there are two or more people in the household that doubles or more, but let's say it is just you, and there are 365 days in a year. Then by the end of the year, you alone have used 1095 napkins.

It doesn't seem like much, but not many of us use just one paper napkin especially during messy meals. More often than not there are also other people in the household, and paper napkins are never just used for meals, they are also used for cleaning messes. Raise your hand if you know someone who grabs about 10 napkins for a bit of spilled milk.

OK, now let's say there are 5 people in your household. Per year, if everyone in the house uses one paper napkin per meal 3 times a day, then by the end of the year that household has used 5475 a year. Again, this is sticking to using them for nothing else, but just meals. Now add all the extra napkins used for messy meals, cleaning the house, cleaning messes, using as a dish because you don't want to grab a plate, and so on.

How many sheets per roll? It depends on the brand. What is the cost per roll or package? It depends on what you buy.

Paper Towels and Washcloths

There are so many brands of paper towels and wash rags on the market. Picking the best products to clean your home or for the dinner table can get expensive even with coupons sales and discounts. It's wasteful too. Each paper towel or disposable wash rag ends up in the trash and the trash just piles up in some landfill or shipped off to a landfill in another country. Reusable washable napkins and wash rags are a great way to pinch pennies to save hundreds a year. In addition, they help reduce waste.

Washable Dinner Napkins

I began to use cloth napkins when I was married. My ex loved to go through a roll of napkins like paper grew on trees and he obviously didn't understand the story of The Giving Tree. His habits were so wasteful and it cost us a pretty penny. In those days every penny counted and I was looking to cut cost everywhere.

Today I still use cloth napkins. I have never actually counted how much money I have saved doing it, but to be honest I prefer cloth napkins anyways. My hands feel cleaner when I use them. I also only have to use one cloth napkin during a messy meal, rather than several paper napkins, because more often than not depending on the brand one paper napkin just won't suffice. When my cloth napkins become too discolored or raggedy for the dinner table I turn them into cleaning rags. I much prefer cloth rags to paper napkins for cleaning. Reusable cloth napkins are much sturdier and durable.

I still keep paper napkins around for just in case, but overall I think I get a package of paper napkins about 3 times a year. My reusable cloth dinner napkins get washed and used until they become rags and then they are rags until they are finally tossed.

Buying inexpensive washable cloth napkins is easy too. Any Walmart, Target, or grocery store carries a pack of six or so. They can also be found on Amazon. They don't need to be fancy for everyday use, and they can be used for any meal not just for dinner.

Cloth Napkins

Use cloth napkins instead of paper. These days they'e making paper napkins just like cloth napkins. Why not just use cloth instead.

Penny jar
Penny jar | Source

Pinch Pennies With DIY Cleaning Rags

You don't have to buy anything.You could spend several dollars a month buying dusting products, rags and so on to clean the house or you could cut up old shirts for polishing rags, turn a holy sock into a dusting glove, or rip up (cut up) old towels to use as cleaning rags. There isn't much to it. If your kids outgrew their clothes too fast and you can't consign it for more clothes because of stains and rips on it than cut up what you can to make rags to clean the house. Cotton t-shirts and socks are the best for this type of job. Old pillowcases are wonderful for dusting fans.

You could buy new cloth napkins from time to time to have presentable napkins at mealtime or if you have decent sewing skills you could cut and stitch some together out of outgrown clothes or maybe some cotton fabric you have stashed away in your sewing material. There are many options

Make Your Own Reusable Washcloths

Reusable Baby Diapers Clean So Well

For a really good wipe down cleaning buy a package or reusable washable baby diapers. My last kid out grew most of a packet and so I had an open packet with washable diapers left. Wow! Can they really do the job for drying dishes, cleaning counter tops, spills, windows, etc. They are so durable!

Speaking Of...

As I set up to take a picture of these baby diaper now wash rags I discovered my puppy peed. See how quickly they absorb. It was an easy clean up.
As I set up to take a picture of these baby diaper now wash rags I discovered my puppy peed. See how quickly they absorb. It was an easy clean up. | Source

Cloth Napkins

How often do you use cloth nakpins at the dinner table

See results
Pinching pennies
Pinching pennies | Source

Not That Expensive

If you are a savvy shopper and are good at finding deals on products you may find it really isn't all that expensive for you and your household to buy and use paper napkins. Ok, fair enough.

But if you would still like to reduce waste and reduce your use of paper napkins and disposable washcloths, consider washable, reusable washcloths for the environmental benefits. The less we use the less is wasted and the cleaner our world. Everyone ends up paying a pretty penny for waste clean up.

Avoid Cross Contamination: Tips to Follow

When it comes to cleaning, like anything else be careful not to cross-contaminate. Do not use the napkin you used to clean up raw chicken juice to dry dishes. This sounds like common sense, right? Well, when distracted or if all the rags are the same color and if the rags are laying around and not put away right away it can get confusing when or how a napkin was used. Don't leave used rags lying around.

  1. Cloth napkins for dinner are strictly for dinner.
  2. Cleaning rags for the kitchen are for the kitchen.
  3. Dish drying cloths only dry the dishes
  4. Cleaning rags for the restroom are only for the restroom.

Separate in the wash too. If you can't tell the napkins or rags apart stitch a small colored circle into one of the corners of each cloth. For example, green for kitchen, blue for floor, red for restroom, etc.

© 2017 Canela Ajena

Living Green Saving Green - How Easy Is It For You

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I always reuse everything!!! :)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Well, I was scanning your list of lens titles to land on a lens, this was my second pick after "not just a pretty face" which I'll come back and visit when you have finished with it. ;) So, raining pennies? Every penny adds up said my grandma and hubby surely proves that as he fills a variety of glass bowls throughout the house. But, dog-gone it if he didn't beat me to the redemption of those pennies the other day ... asking me where he can take them.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Speaking of pennies, I still pick them up when I find them.

      I know that they are not worth much these days, but I do

      it for the luck it's supposed to bring you.


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