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12 Things You Shouldn’t Be Cleaning with Paper Towels

If you stop to think about it, you realize most things can be cleaned with a reusable sponge or cloth. Save paper with these expert tips.

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Cutting board over towel on wooden kitchen table.Evgeny Karandaev/Shutterstock

Cutting boards

“When cleaning up stains such as meat juices on a wooden surface like a cutting board, do not use a paper towel as it will not thoroughly soak up all of the liquid,” recommends Lisa Sorensen, Crew Leader, Housekeeping Associates. Instead, use one of these 6 easy (and effective) methods for cleaning wooden cutting boards.

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Chopping veggies and putting them into a potPinkyone/Shutterstock

Wiping your hands while cooking

It’s easy to just grab a sheet off the roll to dry your greasy, sticky fingers, but try to resist. Try using an apron instead. You’ll not only save paper as you cook, but you’ll also protect your clothing in the process. Just wipe your hands on the apron after washing them, and move on to the next step in your cooking process. Then you can just toss the apron in your washing machine when done.

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Empty plateragophotos/Shutterstock

Dinner plates

Wiping kitchen plates and cups with paper towels because they’ve been sitting unused in the cupboard for a while is a bad idea, says Olivia Monash of Fantastic Services Group in Australia. “This would be anything but nature-friendly, not to mention that tiny particles might stick to dishes and later on end up in your digestive system.” Use a rag or damp cloth instead to wipe off those plates or mugs.

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Home kitchen interior. Cooking utensils on a railing system and shelf with dishes above a window.; Shutterstock ID 698380921Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

Mirrors and windows

When cleaning windows and mirrors, use microfiber cloths—a favorite of professional cleaners—instead of paper towels. “I used to be a firm believer in Windex and paper towels to get my windows and mirrors sparkling, but I’ve since converted,” says Lifestyle expert Ayn-Monique Klahre. Microfiber cloths, explains Klahre, work just as well (if not better) and they’re reusable. “If you don’t have cloth, newspaper or even a paper bag will also work. And the best part: None of them leave lint behind the way a paper towel can.”

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GroutDuntrune Studios/Shutterstock


Use a spare toothbrush instead! Paper towels won’t be able to get deep down into the grout’s groves. Plus, they can’t hold up to the harsh scrubbing that’s needed to clean grout. Something stronger, like a toothbrush or scrub brush, would work much better. Or you could clean your grout with vinegar—it’s just one of 32 household uses for vinegar.

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Rug on hard floorJuly Prokopiv/Shutterstock

Carpets and rugs

Accidentally spill soda on the rug? Don’t reach for the paper towel. “Wiping up spills or scrubbing stains with a paper towel will leave paper residue on carpeting, and it does not do a thorough job of wiping up,” says Deretta Richards, Crew Leader, Housekeeping Associates of Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Instead, use a clean dry cloth to soak up spills, let it dry, then vacuum.”

There’s another problem with using paper towels, warns professional cleaner Olivia Monash. “Scrubbing the stain will make the lint to go deep into the fiber and it will be difficult to vacuum afterward. Use a sponge instead.”

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Close Up Of Person At Laptop Using Mobile Phone; Shutterstock ID 243438799Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Electronic screens

Keep paper towels far away from your TV screen, laptop and cell phone. “We would never recommend using paper towels on delicate glass surfaces like LCD or plasma TV screens,” says Carol Smith, Owner of Toronto-based HireaMaid. “The fibers can cause permanent etching of the screen. Instead, use a product and microfiber cloth designed specifically for these surfaces.” Adds Smith: “It’s also important to not apply too much pressure when cleaning these screens, because it may cause damage to the crystals inside an LCD.”

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The tub

Think twice before reaching for the paper towel to remove that icky residue from your sink, shower or bathtub. According to Sara Hernandez, Crew Leader, Housekeeping Associates of Ann Arbor, Michigan, the best way to remove soap scum (residue) from your bathroom is to use a mixture of vinegar with Dawn dish soap to cut through the grime and then wipe dry with a clean cloth.

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The toilet

“Paper towels are not effective in cleaning toilets,” says professional cleaner Carolyn Osborne, Crew Leader, Housekeeping Associates. “Instead, use Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner or Comet Toilet Bowl Cleaner with bleach and a toilet bowl brush to make your toilet bowl sparkle.” Make sure you’re avoiding these 7 common mistakes almost everyone makes when cleaning their bathroom.

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Shopping for glassesVadym Wedmov/Shutterstock


“Raw paper can be hard enough to scratch your lenses, and it will leave lint,” says Olivia Monash of Fantastic Services Group in Australia. “Instead, always use microfiber cloths as it cuts the oils that cause smudges and wipes them away.”

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Leather car interiorVolha-Hanna Kanashyts/Shutterstock

Car interiors

Avoid using paper towels when cleaning the car, says Jennifer Gregory, Brand Manager of Molly Maid. “Don’t dust your dashboard with a paper towel. Again, microfiber is ideal as it removes the dust versus moving it around. A dry paper towel never seems to fully remove the dust and applying a cleaning product leaves a sticky residue that attracts more dust! The grooves in microfiber capture and remove the mess.”

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Paper towel rollIgor Normann/Shutterstock

Most things

According to Jeri Fritz, founder and owner of Highland Park Housekeeping, her housekeepers have swapped out paper towels for microfiber cloths to clean almost everything. It’s a must-have product in their cleaning arsenal of products. “Cloth works perfectly with a multi-purpose product. Microfiber is better than paper towels, which leave streaks and create waste.”

Gregory of Molly Maid is also a big fan of microfiber cloths. “It’s ideal to use something sustainable like microfiber whenever possible! Microfiber cloths can be reused and laundered—though don’t use dryer sheets or fabric softener.” Now, learn even more cleaning tips from the pros you’ll wish you knew all along.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest