Tag Archives: Sustainable

Thrifty Living: Cloth Cleaning Rags

23 Jun

Before I was able to amass my cloth napkin stash, I began to cut back on my paper towel consumption by stockpiling my rags in kitchen and bathrooms specifically for cleaning. I’d read about how you can make your own out of a large bolt of cotton flannel fabric and a sewing machine, but we did not have enough money at the time to buy fabric, and I didn’t have the time to cut them out and sew them. And to be honest, what I ended up doing was way easier.

Although this post isn’t a Thrift Store Score, you could easily do this with towels picked up while thrifting. We’ve saved a lot of money by switching to cloth rags.

I noticed that some of my white bath towels didn’t look as pristine as they once did. Actually, Anthony noticed this and he alerted me to the fact that they were, in his words, “gross.” So I cut up the towels that had lost their bloom with some very sharp scissors, and portioned them out two sizes for rags. Those are the towels you see on the right.

The ends are very frayed because I never bothered to go back and hem them with some bias tape. It doesn’t affect their absorbance or performance, but it does make them look shabby. It was never really a problem till we had a kid and started using cloth diapers. When we threw these guys in the wash with the diapers all the little strings would attach themselves to the velcro and a nightly part of our diaper-folding tradition involved pulling cotton threads from the tabs. It was annoying, and if we didn’t do it, the tabs lost their grip. But if you don’t use cloth diapers or wear lots and lots of velcro, this won’t be a problem for you.

We keep them in the skinny cupboard next to the sink, and as I went to take this picture I realized that most of them were in the dryer, waiting to be folded, but here’s the two that are left. Normally this shelf is stuffed with rags, but since Isobel came along, I’ve considered doubling our supply. We go through them now at an alarming rate.

In the beginning the rags still looked like nice hand towels, so I wrote “kitchen” on them with a sharpie to easily identify them as rags. Now, however, what with the stains of wear and use and the giant frayed edges, the label is a bit unnecessary. My rags have stains like this on them even after they are laundered, but they are rags so I don’t care. If I did I could bleach them or lay them out in the sun for awhile.

The smaller of the two piles are bathroom rags. These are wash cloths that I bought a huge stack of for cheap at a dollar store. They are the kind of washcloths that get really stiff and rough with use, but are perfect for wiping the water your daughter spilled all over the counter by “washing her hands,” or for wiping the mirror of tiny, yet numerous, fingerprints. I split the stack I bought into two and keep half of them under the sink in the front bathroom and half under the sink in our bathroom. (I took a photo but my bathroom cupboards are kind of a mess so I’m not going to post them.)

If you don’t sew or just don’t have the time or inclination to make cleaning rags, it’s certainly easy enough to find thrifted towels to do the job. It’s saved us money over the years and it’s much nicer to clean with cloth rather than paper.

Thrift Store Score: Cloth Napkins

20 Jun

One of the things I totally love about thrift stores is that if you look long enough and at enough places, you’ll eventually find anything you could possibly need. This is true, and I’m sure there’s some mathematical theorem out there that could prove it. Case in point for me would be these cloth napkins.

I grew up with a cloth napkin hero. I mean, technically I was already an adult when I found this hero, but at 18 you’re really just a kid with permission to stay out late. My cloth napkin hero is named Gretchen, and she’s my friend Zack’s mom. She always had a basket on her counter filled with mismatched (but still, somehow, perfectly matched) cloth napkins, ready for use. I always wanted a basket like that on my counter or in my cupboards but cloth napkins can be expensive to buy new. Thanks to thrifting, I know have both the napkins and the basket in my cupboard.

I was able to pick up a few here and there while thrifting, but I scored the motherlode one day while out with my friend Stef, and purchased what was probably someone’s recently donated stash of cloth napkins. I keep a stash in the kitchen, but I also keep one in my purse for those times when Isobel eats a store sample of yogurt and ends up wearing half of it on her face. Oh, and if you have a cold? Using two or thee of these babies is way nicer on the skin than going through a thousand tissues. It’s also neater, because there comes that shameful part of the cold where you are too tired to even think about disposing of your used kleenex responsibly and you end up making disgusting nest in the used tissue. But I digress.

I am only showing you a small fraction of the cloth napkins I have amassed in these photos. I seriously have a large box that is nothing but cloth napkins. I rotate through the stack I have because I don’t have enough room to store them all in my kitchen, and because if I leave them out Isobel likes to cover half the house in cloth napkins and throws a fit when I try to pick them up because “Shh! Vacuum is sleeping!”

I probably don’t have to mention what a boon cloth napkins can be for a household budget. Especially with a toddler, I could potentially go through paper towels like crazy, and even though we buy them in bulk, it adds up. Plus the fact that cloth napkins are way easier on the environment–everybody wins. I am always especially thrilled when cute + thrifty + environmentally sustainable collide. Achieving two is the goal. Achieving all three is extra credit.

Typically I use one cloth napkin a day, and I share it between myself and Isobel. (Larger messes are handled by the cleaning rags, which I’ll talk about later.) Napkins used at one meal usually aren’t soiled enough to be washed, so I keep the same one for both of us around all day and toss it into the hamper after dinner.