General Question

tinyfaery's avatar

What is really better for the enviornment, paper towels or washable rags?

Asked by tinyfaery (42866points) October 25th, 2008

Here in L.A. it seems like we are always in a drought, and in need of rainfall and water. I use a lot of paper towels in my everyday cleaning, and they are not the ones made of recycled paper. I was just wondering if it would be better for me to use rags and other washable materials to do my cleaning, even though I’d have to wash them, which obviously, uses water. Plus, I think I’d have to use a lot of rags, because they are not very sanitary. What is your opinion?

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12 Answers

laureth's avatar

It seems like the very best might be to use the recycled kind, with friendly cleaners (like vinegar, baking soda, diluted ammonia, or even soap that isn’t a detergent) and then compost them.

Not everyone has that kind of wherewithal, though.

DandyDear711's avatar

I am using washable rags… I wash them with the whites load that either gets vinegar or bleach to make them sanitary… I don’t think they are adding much to my laundry. I also dry my laundry on racks so I save electricity there. You should see my family room when I can’t put them outside!

tinyfaery's avatar

I live in an urban area. I have no land or place to compost. My recyclables take up space in my home until I have time to take them to someone who has a blue bin. I pay 2.25 for one load of laundry in my complex’s laundry facility. And recycled paper towels actually cost more. I buy in bulk at Costco and I end up paying about .79ยข for a role of Bounty. I’m very torn.

hoosier_banana's avatar

Making paper towels uses water, although they were probably produced somewhere other than CA. I hate paper towels, and it bugs me that people these days are addicted to them. Ever watch someone freak when the roll runs out? Aside from all the money you will save by not using them you will be doing the environment a favor by reducing pollution and forest destruction. Cloth towels work better too, give them a shot.

tinyfaery's avatar

hoosier…Unfortunately, I can’t be guilted into changing; I just don’t work like that. I want to know what would be better in my particular situation. My city is talking about rationing our water as soon as next year. I’m interested in what my personal impact.

jvgr's avatar

@DandyDear: “I wash them with the whites load that either gets vinegar or bleach to make them sanitary…”

FYI, pathogenic bacteria are either gram negative or gram positive. Acidic sanitizers only effect gram positive bacteria and even at a concentration of 50% v/v will only have a bactericidal effect on one common food related bacteria and an inhibitory effect on a second common food related bacteria. Gram negative bacteria will actually thrive in an acidic environment

asmonet's avatar

My family didn’t touch paper towels until I was 12 or so… hippie mom.

But honestly, when we did have them all ten times or so… we just ran out and went right back to rags and towels. They clean better, last longer and in the long run are more energy efficient.

Do you have any idea how many paper towels I would have to use while I’m painting?!

augustlan's avatar

I am a proponent of paper towels and paper plates. I did some research (years ago) that seemed to indicate it’s a toss-up environmentally. Yes paper production is bad…but so is using the dishwasher or washing machine, requiring water, energy and detergent. Paper towels are way more sanitary than sponges or dishrags.

DandyDear711's avatar

@ivgr – so how do you suggest sanitizing fabric? Is bleach acidic?

deaddolly's avatar

i use paper.

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