A napkin alternative


Admittedly, this is more of a green thing than a frugal thing since napkins aren’t terribly expensive. But, they’re not free and so using less of them will save money. Plus, you can feel good about saving some trees by cutting down on your napkin usage(personally, I’d much rather give up napkins than toilet paper!).

A lot of frugal books and blogs that I read suggest using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. That is certainly a cheap and green alternative, but my preference is to use damp washcloths. My children, dear though they are, tend to get very sticky when they’re eating. Napkins, whether cloth or paper(well, especially paper!), just aren’t very good at taking care of stickiness, but a wet washcloth is perfect for the job.

I use cheap white washcloths that come in a package at places like Target or Walmart. They do eventually wear out, but I’m quite sure that they pay for themselves before they become full of holes. A package only costs a couple of dollars and it doesn’t take long at all to go through a couple of dollars worth of paper napkins.

Washcloths can become stinky pretty fast if they’re not taken care of properly, though. To keep them from smelling bad, I let them dry every night by hanging them on places like the oven door, or over the kitchen sink(leaving them in a wad by the kitchen sink is a very bad idea). Then in the morning, I throw them into the laundry basket, as I don’t ever use the same washcloth two days in a row.

I do line dry most of my laundry, but to kill the bacteria that like to live in washcloths, I use my dryer. I just make a separate pile in my laundry room for kitchen towels and washcloths, and once a week I do a load of those and then throw them in the dryer.

Additionally, every so often I soak the whole bunch in a bucket of bleach and water. This makes them white again and kills any bacteria that have tried to make the washcloths their home.

So, give it a try, at least for your young(and sticky!) kids! The trees and your wallet will thank you. ;)

8 Responses to “A napkin alternative”

  1. Same here (as I said in my comment yesterday *g*). I buy the packages of colored ones for special occasions, which means when the family comes for dinner….I haven’t done “fancy” in years! But I buy white for every day, and each evening I run a little hot, soapy water into the kitchen sink, add a splash of bleach, and wipe down all my kitchen surfaces. Just a quick wipe, no deep cleaning. That leaves the “napkins” fresh smelling, white and ready to drape over the towel bar to dry and await the next load of wash, and it makes me feel like I’ve annihilated any nasty salmonella or such that may be lingering on my counter top, all in one easy step.

  2. I swear I’m getting senile. Yes, I commented that I use cheap wash rags as napkins, but it was on someone else’s blog! Methinks I’ve been spending too much time on this computer :-)

  3. 3 Kristen

    LOL at you! Go garden for a little while or something! =P

  4. OMG, will you PLEASE call my husband and explain to him about the nasty wet wadded wash cloth thing? It drives me crazy. He will not wring out sponges either.

    Thanks for submitting this post to Carnival of Trash. It will be posted shortly.


  5. 5 Kristen

    Beth, I doubt I’d be very effective. My own husband still does that! lol

  6. Good advice, what do you do when you go out to restaurants though? My experience is if you take a cloth napkin you’ll still get given a paper napkin that will be thrown away by the waiting staff after you leave the table….

  7. 7 Kristen

    Well, we hardly ever eat out, so we don’t run into this often at all. :p Side benefit of being frugal, I guess…eating at home is usually green as well as being cheap!

    I’m on vacation right now, so we’re actually eating out a few times. Last night we ate at Outback, and all we got was cloth napkins, so we didn’t even have to use paper then.

    The bottom line, though, is that I go out to eat SO infrequently, I don’t worry myself about the paper napkins that much. If I ate out every day, I’d probably take it more seriously.

  8. 8 agreenfire

    Found your blog from the carnival of trash on Fake Plastic Fish. Great post! I have been thinking about switching to cloth napkins for a while now, and this gives me another reason to try them.

    I’m going to point several of my friends to your post because they have small children and I know they deal with this sticky issue all the time. This is just a GREAT idea and I know they will appreciate it. Thank you.


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