Get FREE access to my newsletter, exclusive coupon codes, and links to Mommypotamus recommended products for your health and home!

DIY Unpaper Towels (Without A Sewing Machine)

Affiliate Disclosure | in Healthy Home | by | with 136 Comments


Confession: I Have A Stack Of Paper Plates . . .

Sitting in my pantry, because as a soon-to-be-mama of three I have no illusions about how far my super powers go. Sometimes victory looks like scrambled eggs for dinner, you know? Ain’t nobody got time to do a load of dishes just to have something to serve them on!


Most days, though, I try to make more eco-friendly choices: cloth diapering, composting, local food, using real dishes, and avoiding paper towels where possible. On that last one, my strategy until recently was to use old rags and tea towels while keeping out the real deal for guests. Truth be told, though, I missed the convenience of tearing a towel straight off the holder, so when I came across the unpaper towel concept I knew I had to try it!

Problem Is . . .

I don’t have a sewing machine. And unless you count homemade beauty products, my crafty score is 0. Fortunately, with a little help from Youtube I was able to straight stitch my way to unpaper bliss. (What, you DIDN’T learn how to sew on Youtube? Pshaw)

How To Make Unpaper Towels


  • 2 yards terry cloth/flannel (Note: Though the terry cloth pictured is light in color, I’m making some with chocolate terry for messes that are likely to stain)
  • 2 yards cotton fabric of your choice
  • sharp scissors
  • needle
  • thread (preferably something that matches your fabric)
  • ruler or 12×12 stencil (I used a square book)
  • 57-63 snaps (you might want a few extra to practice with)
  • snap applicator (I used Babyville pliers, but the KAM applicator looks really good, too. Make sure you get one that is compatible with your snaps)
  • plastic canvas (2-4 sheets of 12×6 sections)
  • embroidery thread (optional)
  • superglue (optional)

Makes about 18 unpaper towels

Step 1: Wash & Dry Both Fabrics

That way if one or both of them shrinks it happens before you sew the pieces together!

Step 2: Cut Cloth Into 12×12 Inch Pieces

I found it helpful to use a stencil and trace on the back of the fabric before cutting. On or our old vacation photobook was just the right size – scrapbook paper is usually 12×12 too!



Note: You can adjust the size as needed, but keep in mind that the unpaper towels will be slightly smaller than the size you begin with.

Step 3: Sew A Straight Stitch

Lay the pieces together so that the fabric you want displayed is face down against the terry cloth/flannel and sew a straight stitch about 1/8- 1/4 inches away from the edge. Leave a 2-3 inch gap on one side so you can turn your towel inside out. Don’t know how to sew a straight stitch? It’s really, really easy, just watch the tutorial below and you’re on your way.

Here’s how the last corner should look when you’re done.



Optional Step: If you don’t feel quite confident that your stitches are super sturdy, you can apply a little liquid stitch around the seam. It’s not the “greenest” thing in the world, but I consider it a good tradeoff considering all the paper towels you’ll be saving.

Step 4: Turn Unpaper Towel Inside-Out

Trim any excess fabric that may create unwanted bulk, then pull your fabric through the gap you left so that the decorative part of the cloth is now facing out. Close up the remaining hole with a straight stitch.

If you would like, you can add a second later of stitching for decorative effect and to reinforce the edges. I chose not to, but this blanket stitch might be pretty with some embroidery thread.

Optional Step: Iron your towels so they will be nice and flat.

Step 6: Apply Snaps

Because it was cheaper, I started out using this snap applicator, but found that the unpaper towels were too thick for it to work properly. I ended up going with one like this. Though it was a bit tricky because my snaps were for a different applicator it was much easier to use! Here’s what you do:

Each unpaper towel will need 2-3 sockets on the right and 2-3 studs on the left so that each towel can attach to it’s neighbor. I chose to use three on each side.



You want the holes evenly distributed, so measure where you want them to go and then poke a little hole with the awl (pointy thingy that came with your pliers) to mark your spot. Place the cap through the hole and – using the instructions that come with your pliers – secure the snaps in place. If you have the Babyville pliers you may find this video tutorial helpful.



Step 7: Create Paper Towel Dowel

Now onto the last step: creating a sturdier version of the cardboard tube that holds paper towels in place. Some tutorials use PVC pipe, but when I went to my local hardware store to buy some I realized I had to buy an 8 foot pole and ask them to trim it into a 12 inch section for me. The rest would be thrown away, so I decided to try to find a less wasteful option and came across this tutorial, which uses plastic canvas.

Not only is this method easier, it saves you a trip! You can pick up plastic canvas at the fabric store while you’re picking out your fabrics. Here’s what to do:

Measure the height of your unpaper towels. Using that number, cut a section of plastic canvas that is (your unpaper towel height) x 6 inches. Mine was about 11.5×6.


There are several ways to attach the canvas so that it becomes a tube. There is this tutorial, which I planned to use until I realized that the snaps wouldn’t go through 4 sheets of canvas. Because I wanted a pretty sturdy dowel, I attached three studs to the outside sheet for the unpaper towels to connect to and then superglued the canvas together 


Now just put your unpaper towels on the dowel and you’re done!

Want More Recipes?

Cleaning Book1If you’ve ever wondered:

* Why your homemade dish detergent leaves behind a filmy residue (and how you can get your dishes crystal clear)

* Whether your homemade disinfectant REALLY works (Hint: Many are no more effective than water!!!)

* How to get streak free windows and mirrors without any chemicals

. . . along with other questions about homemade cleaners, you’ll definitely want to grab my ebook, DIY Non-Toxic Cleaning Supplies.

Click here to download a free preview.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

136 Responses to DIY Unpaper Towels (Without A Sewing Machine)

  1. lori says:

    while you’re at it…on a roll, so to speak…why not make a batch as a gift? especially to one who is like-minded but short on time and/or resources. i don’t know that i would put snaps on mine. thinking of folding them into a small box on the counter.

    • Jen says:

      I love the visual of the roll sitting on a paper towel holder, but the box thing might be the way to go to test out the towels themselves, for me.

      • Krista says:

        Honestly, while the roll thing looks cute, I simply keep a cute basket full of bar towels (easily and inexpensively purchased at Costco, Sams Club, or even the local department store) under my kitchen sink, so that I can grab them in a moments notice. It does take up more space than the towel holder, but I would think that with the bulk of the cloth, you would need a backup roll or two constantly in place – at least, with our four kiddos and two dogs we do. So the basket idea works best for us. As for going paper towel free, I definitely recommend it – we have cut our budget way back in that area, and it’s much easier to just wash them than to constantly be taking out trash, storing a load of paper towels, etc. :)

    • gudrunb says:

      Lori, i thought along your line
      just lay them on top of each other – would not have quite the effect of the roll, but beats putting the snaps on and when you are in a hurry there is no need to unsnap them;
      i love the idea of unpaper towels though!!!!

      • Ellen says:

        Or I would think a pop-up dispenser similar to a Kleenex box would be good. I can see making a simple version out of clay. I don’t like wiping my hands and feeling the contrasting texture of the snaps.

    • Shaera says:

      I love the paper towel roll idea so I thought I would add strips of Velcro in place of the snaps. I think it would also emulate the paper towel experience avoiding alienation of “outsiders who don’t understand us ‘hippie’ DIYers”. LOL

  2. Shera says:

    I am a total moron at these sorts of DIY projects, but this one looks amazing and I have to try it! I am hoping that I don’t eff it all the way up! Aaahhh!

  3. Meaghan says:

    Do you find that they absorb liquids well? I have to admit, that’s my primary reason for clinging to my paper towels – they just seem to do a better job cleaning up than my rags (dish cloths, towels, etc.)

    • Heather says:

      Hi Meagan, I think it depends on what fabric you use. The terry cloth does pretty well :)

      • I’ve found that using patterned flannel with microterry cloth is more absorbent. Plus, Joann fabrics frequently has the flannel for 50% off and you can use their 40% of flyer coupon for the microterry. Using microterry instead of regular makes them trimmer. I love the colors of yours though! Very cute :)

        • Kathleen says:

          Fabric softener sheets in the dryer will make your non-paper towels less absorbent. You might want to leave the fabric softener out of loads with these towels in them.

    • Laurel says:

      flannel is excellent and super absorbent. My baby much prefers me to wipe the mess off her face with flannel than a paper towel or a wash cloth. Well she screams either way but it’s a little less loud when I use flannel.

    • Carol says:

      Meaghan, Make sure you don’t use a lot of fabric softener. That tends to repel water.

    • LindaW says:

      Should work just fine for absorbancy. Think of a good washcloth. It absorbs a lot of liquid. Like regular towels, do not use fabric softener when you wash them (leaves wax residue that makes towels less absorbent.)

    • PK says:

      If you wash them without a fabric softener, they will be more absorbent. I do not use it at all anymore, but even when I did, I wouldn’t use it on the towels as it makes them less absorbent.

  4. Excellent tutorial! I want to make these now!

  5. Jennifer says:

    Great idea. I actually use paper towels a lot for messy things like cat puke or dog slime, then I can just throw the disgustingness away. But these would be great for kitchen or kid mess. I’m not sure I would do the snap thing though, maybe just have them in the drawer for easy access.

    • I agree with you, I only use my paper towels for gross things and dish towels for everything else. I could easily live without paper towels but TP would be a much bigger problem.

  6. Charity says:

    I would love to do this! Roughly how many unpaper towels fit on one roll?

  7. Rosemary C says:

    Haha this is a great idea! I love that you can select a design for the cotton layer and that’s the side you would hold so you’re always swiping the mess with the same side. I agree they would make great gifts.

  8. Cool, thanks for the tutorial and info! I’d heard of these, but wasn’t sure how they really worked or stayed on the roll. I see the snaps are the secret!
    But now that you’ve tried them, I’d be interested in your review and thoughts on their practical use. Do you like how they work, does it seem like there are enough in a roll to keep you til the next wash load? And specifically, does ‘tearing’ them off their snaps work as well/quickly/easily as getting to tear off perforated paper ones? I feel like I might need two hands and a little more time, when sometimes I need to rip one off quickly with just the one hand…inwhich case I wonder if maybe velcro would be a good option.
    Anyway, I know I’d love to hear how you’ve enjoyed them after making your lovely roll at home!
    Thanks & Happy Week! :)

    • Hazel says:

      I don’t think I’d save them up to wash altogether- I’d just throw them in with whatever else I was washing (soaking any that were particularly greasy or dirty first).That’s what I do with all my other cloth wipes and towels; you always have some clean ones then.

    • crystal says:

      I would not use velcro because they will stick to the things in your wash. I have seen bibs with magnets in them though, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t use this with magnets as well. That would make it super fast and easy.

  9. Summer says:

    I have been waiting for you to post this! I love that you can Choose so many cool fabrics to snap to your papertowels (I always feel guilty for having to use a lot of paper towels to clean up messes and its a bummer when you forget you run out!)…even different ones for different messes…It would be cute to do rags this way to and have them on a roll also near the paper towels…Don’t think the snaps would work too well with cleaning dishes…but it might depending on how much the stick out? Thanks for the great post!! :)

  10. Amanda says:

    WONDERFUL! Thank you for posting this! I’ve been waiting for it and yay! I was not disappointed! :-) can’t wait to try them! A review from you on them would be awesome though. Obviously, the dark colour comment was a huge hint. (Thank you for that!) and can you just toss them in the washer the same as everything else? Thanks again! Terrific post! xx

  11. Elizabeth says:

    These are definitely cute. I don’t think I’d be willing to put that much work into them. We gave paper towels up a couple of years ago. I bought a few stacks of wash cloths at Ross and we fold them and stack them in a basket on the counter. When they start to get too worn out I’ll use them as rags and buy some new ones.

  12. Kristen says:

    For more absorbency, could you use plain cloth diapers? I use those to dry the cars after a wash and they are crazy absorbent. We have burp cloths made of cloth diapers and flannel and they are awesome.

    • Heather says:

      Yes, you totally could! The fabric might be too thick for some types of snaps, but you could buy ones that are specifically made for cloth dipea or go with velcro instead.

      • Joan says:

        Love the basic idea! Think I’d find a spot to store them in a heap, with teatowels! :)
        Velcro is not a good one in the wash, tending to stick on anything and pick up fluff and then be useless after a few washes! Experience speaking!

  13. Trish says:

    You are my hero! :) :) :) First the clay shampoo and now this. I only need Mommypotamus to make it through all of life’s needs…haha! I LOVE this idea and have been contemplating for a while. The 3 older children go to school next week and I will only have one daughter at home…so hoping to fit this is by Christmas..haha! Then I can make more as presents. I LOVE the velcro idea even more than snaps I think. I will have to see. Do you have any tips on choosing the best fabric? How many individual cloth towels did you make for your roll? Annnnnnnndddddddd, I still need to meet you, I’m over here near Columbia. ;) I think your babies need Llama kisses. ;) Do you get your milk at the market/gas station/restaurant in your little village? We used to, and are thinking of going back. We found a closer source. but it doesn’t taste as good for some reason.

  14. Stephanie O says:

    I have had everything to make these for like six months minus the snaps. I have been going to order the snaps and still haven’t. Wish there was a store near by that carried the ones I wanted because I would have them done.

    • Kandi says:

      Why not make them up to the snap step. I find that motivates me, plus you might find you prefer them snapless! Good luck

  15. Lindsey says:

    These are cute, but as a new mom of three kids, all that snapping sounds like too much work. I rarely use paper towels and just use old rags instead.

    • Marianne says:

      I’m with you. These are really cute, but too much work for what I need. I use rags and crunched up newspaper for ‘ick’ messes. Ever since I ditched fabric softener, the rags are more absorbent.

  16. Lisa says:

    Hi! This looks great & I can’t wait to try! Has anyone tried this with Velcro? I’m thinking it might help me to re-assemble if I can just put them together, but I’m not sure how well it would hold up. Thanks!

  17. Sarah L says:

    I wouldn’t use velcro. It is faster to yank a snap than pull celcro, especially if you ran a strip down the length of the towel. Snaps are also sturdier. regular washing destroys velcro unless it has a fold-over tab (like diapers). Finally, you are likely to wind up with chains of twisted unpaper towels in the washing macine and dryer, which means they won’t get as clean or dry as fast as the ones with snaps would.

    • Lisa says:

      Thanks! Those are great reasons to stick with snaps! I can’t wait to try!

    • Theresa M says:

      I guess my concern with snaps is that metal can scratch, especially my granite counters and enameled stovetop that I’m forever wiping up.. so putting three little soft velcros where the snaps would be seems safer. It’s not like they need to be bound tightly to the roll, just stuck enough to stay in place until they are needed. I also like the box idea.

  18. Bethany says:

    I’m not sure about all that snapping either. I am usually reaching for paper towels to wipe grease out of cast iron pans, clean up a massive gross spill quickly or a dog-hair-free- toweling option. (everything that goes in our washer comes out with dog hair on it). They are pretty.

  19. Ok, this is awesome. But is that Amy Butler or Anna Maria Horner fabric? Because I am in love.

  20. Joan says:

    Just been thinking of a trick from my grandmother who did many household items, children’s clothes and altered dresses during WWW1 and Depression- with no sewing machine. I also learned it in school in the 1940s! It was called “three-running-stitches-and-a-back-stitch! This was stronger, would take much stretch and tug in real life.
    Sorry I can’t do tutorial video!
    1. Start with a knot so no unravelling.
    2. Do 3 smallish running stitches as in the video
    3. Go ‘back’ over the last stitch (back stitch) – which acts as an emergency brake!
    4. Continue with next 3 running & a back stitch!
    Here is a tutorial I found. The 2nd line in the demo is the way I did it!
    Hope this helps someone!

  21. NW Homesteader says:

    As an untowel user, I would suggest for those that do have a sewing machine to quilt (atleast a giant X) across the towel. It tends to shift after a few washes :D Excellent tutorial!

    • heather says:

      I was thinking about doing this too (the giant X). this is my first sewing project and I love the couple I’ve done so far but can see that having them sewn together a little more would help. I am using plastic snaps (the kind for cloth diapers) and that seems to be working well so far. Except that our kitchen has a paper towel roll built in under the cabinets and the towels are so heavy they always unroll :) I only have 3 so far so I don’t think putting them on a roll is going to work. I may as well leave off the snaps and find/make a nice box to put them in on the counter.

      I may have to make a special towel or two just for draining bacon grease since that is really the only thing I am concerned about cleaning off of the towels (or getting fuzz on the bacon I suppose). We’ll see.

  22. Travellin' girl says:

    I have loved the idea of these “unpaper towels”, but to be honest, I’m too lazy to sew them. Nearly 5 years ago when my son started eating solids, I started keeping wash cloths in the kitchen to clean him up after meals – I find the idea of using a dish cloth that I washed my dishes with gross to clean my kids’ faces. I discovered that Kohls often has a pack of 10 white – or 8 colored – washclothes on sale for less than 6 dollars and using a 30 per cent off coupon, I’d get them really cheap. I’d stock up and use some in the kitchen for cleaning up the kids and the rest I used as wipes in the diapering area since I cloth diapered – not to worry, the kitchen and diapering ones did not mix!

    Now that my kids are able to go wash hands after meals, the wash cloths are now used as “unpaper” towels – I always have a drawer full. Just another way to employ the idea if you can’t get to making these cute towels!

    • Anita says:

      This is a great Idea. I was also thinking that those shames that you could get at the everything’s a dollar store might make good dish towels and unpaper towels. I use them to put dishes on to drain when I’m only doing a few. A dish towel sometimes doesn’t absorb all the water and slide around.

  23. Kate in Kansas says:

    For the absorption questions – don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets. These will drastically impact your absorption rate of the towels.

    • I use white vinegar as my fabric softener in my automatic washer, and my clothes are rinsed extra well, no chemicals, and towels absorb marvelously! It doesn’t stink, either. And it’s CHEAP! :)

    • Theresa Clemmer says:

      I stopped using fabric softner on most of my laundry. White vinegar in the rinse helps and i bought a steam ball for the dryer. Also heard of ppl using a tin foil ball in the dryer. Much cheaper than buying fabric softner

  24. Kandi says:

    Love this! Thanks for sharing it. You have a great website.

  25. leana says:

    Do you need to add the snaps since i dont have either snaps or the tool to put them in the fabric.

  26. Michelle says:

    Be sure to use fabric that is 100% cotton. It will be more absorbent. I skipped the snaps and velcro. Just put them in a pretty box on the counter. Snaps and velcro will scratch my countertops.

  27. Skye Wilson says: This is an incredibly cute idea, but I have some constructive criticisms. I too have the stack of paper plates in my dish cabinet that contradicts my compulsive need to recycle, and strict using of cloth diapers. It is difficult to be green and practical. I Love the idea of having cute patterns on my non paper towels but doesn’t that seem kinda a waste when the sort of thing you need to ideally mop up is gross things like cat vomit? More importantly, the ingenious method of snapping you non-paper towels together in a roll is making more work for yourself on laundry day right? You are gonna lose all these little towels in the wash and have to bring them back together unless you wash them all together which mean letting the nasty ones sit somewhere for a bit until you get through the roll. And then they will start to stink or stain. I know this because I keep a bin of rags for my personal non paper towel usage. For a while I was tossing the used ones into a small Rubbermaid step can filled with vinegar, so that they wouldn’t get nasty in between washing full loads. But seriously… are you really gonna gather these after every washing and snap them all pretty like onto the roll for “convenience”? “ain’t nobody got time fo dat!” Its a great idea in theory, but perhaps could be simplified. Instead of creating a canvas roll and worrying about all the snaps, you could instead put a large grommet on the corner of every rag and slide them onto a paper towel holding rod. That way you would have cute, displayable, easy accessibility, without all the excessive set up time, every time they go through the laundry.

    • I agree with you, I was thinking, I don’t have time for all that extra work in the making of, and maintaining of the laundry. Too much of our clothes don’t ever make it into a drawer as it is, LOL, and the husband is forever digging around for clean socks.

      I do, however, have a growing pile of dish towels that thru the years have seen better times, but until they grow large holes, I loathe to throw them out. I am concerned about the scratching idea with the grommet, and am thinking that I might install a common coat hook ~ a single spike one, with the longest hooky part I can get, right on the kitchen wall, in the right spot. I’ll put a buttonhole on each corner of each towel, and cut the big towels down to the same size if I’m really industrious that day, and just hang them on the hook, ready to pull off to clean up the (ahem) cat puke, greasy skillet, or whatever the demand of the day. Having a trash bin with soaking solution under the sink in the kitchen sounds like a super way of dealing with all the nasty toweling and dishrags until they’re ready for the laundry, and then of course, the following load will always be the husband’s work jeans. *snort* Who wants their pretties getting washed in the load right after the nasties? LOL!

      Thank you so much for this post. It really got my creative juices flowing again! :)

    • Anita says:

      Great Idea using a grommet.

    • Amanda Moore says:

      This is a great idea! I was going to suggest a thin magnet lol, but the grommet idea sounds much better.

  28. Jessica says:

    I am wondering what you use for the really gross messes? I just cleaned bacon grease out of the cast iron skillet today, and don’t want that all absorbed by a cloth to go into the septic system. Do you keep a roll of paper towels for this kind of thing? I have toyed with the idea of making something like these for a while, though. But for now, we have a drawer-full of kitchen rags that serve the same purpose (and we go through many a day, I am not into recycling those at different times of the day!).

    • Heather says:

      I still have a stash of kitchen rags that I use for heavy duty stuff. I tend to pour extra grease out of my pans when they’re still hot so I don’t have much need for paper towels in that sense, but I do keep a stash under my sink for when I am behind on laundry :)

  29. Kelly and H's mom says:

    great idea. i would probably use velcro instead of snaps.

  30. Donna says:

    I didn’t read all the comments, so someone might have already mentioned this. I think this is a great idea, but I too would leave off the snaps and put them in a box, but I would use flour sack towels for both the front and the back of the unpaper towel, or at least for the back, as they are so very absorbent. So a lovely terry cloth for the decorative top part and flour sack towels for the bottom side. I would also use a sewing machine, but it is fairly easy to do a straight stitch. Now it may be cheaper in the long run to just buy a bunch of wash cloths at the store and stack them in a box, but they won’t be as pretty.

  31. Donna says:

    After reading a few more comments I have decided that I have made a good decision about how I handle the use of paper towels, etc. I try to be balanced, I know my life, and yes, I have a stack of paper plates too, but when it comes to paper towels, I have reduced my use of them significantly by buying flour sack towels. They are fairly inexpensive and last a long time. I use paper towels for those messes that just need to go into the trash, like cat vomit, and grease, but if there are dishes I need to hand wash, I use a flour sack towel to dry them, I also keep one handy to dry hands and soak up any water mess that may get on the counter. I use cotton or crochet or knit washcloths for cleaning up the counters etc. I cut my usage of paper towels very significantly and saved money too. I also recycle all my plastic bags, veggie bags, bread bags, at Walmart, and I take my other recyclables to our recycle place where I live on one of my errand days that week, I don’t make a special trip for that so therefore save on gasoline too. I live in a small town, so we don’t have the benefit of recycling pick up.

  32. Ranjani says:

    Heather, You are so awesome! This is such a great idea. Now, if only I could put my awful sewing skills into practice to start this project.

  33. […] DIY Unpaper Towels :: from Heather at Mommypotamus […]

  34. Audra says:

    These sound great! I have 1 suggestion, though. Start in the middle of one of the sides, not at a corner. It’s harder to sew the corners after you’ve flipped it right-side out.

  35. Lisa says:

    I think I’m going to try this but using Velcro dots to attach them together

  36. Jessica says:

    Thank you for the know how….I’m going to recycle all my old receiving blankets into unpaper towels!

  37. Jay says:

    This is a neat idea for like dinner or picnic napkins, but the idea of paper towels is to just toss them instead of having to clean them. Just thoughts on the tube for these: the cardboard tubes from plastic wrap or aluminum foil is sturdy and should hold up well, and also Home Depot sells pvc pipe in two foot sections, you may also find short sections of pipe of e-bay or maybe you could have an eight foot section cut into short lengths and then use what you need and sell the rest on e-bay. You could also use a short piece of metal pipe, just to be sure that the ends are smooth, or you could use a large wooden dowel or a 2-inch by 2-inch piece of wood and round off the corners (and you could attach a snap to the wood to hold the first towel).

  38. What an awesome idea. I love to make things as gifts and this is a great idea just for that.

  39. barbara says:

    way way too much work. i’ll just use my rags

  40. Miriam D says:

    I love my unpaper towels! I made them with the terry cloth on one side and flannel on the other (very absorbent) and i have them folded in half, rolled up and sitting in a bowl on the counter. Very convenient and pretty to see. Thanks for posting this great snap idea too.

  41. Faye says:

    Wow! I love your cloth towels; they are so much more stylish than what I use! I am reusing baby cloth wipes for when I was cloth diapering and put them in a strawberry plastic container. I use another plastic tub for when they are used next to the clean one. For bigger jobs, like spills, I use terry wash cloth I found cheap and in bulk. I keep them folded on the counter though.
    My only concern with your cool design are the studs; I would have to remember to fold them in before wiping or they’d scratch the counter. Perhaps tweaking the design by having a fold over flap pillow case style or Velcro? I am going to make a few when I get a chance; I’ll probably fold them. I can’t wait to pick a cool fabric patter. lol

  42. Natasha says:

    I keep a basket of assorted napkins purchased from thrift stores and etsy on the counter by the sink (under the paper towel roll). I grab them for cleaning sticky fingers and wiping counter messes and drying things but my husband has a long time habit of using paper towels for everything, even drying his hands.
    So I want these to encourage reusable PT use. Actually, I want them most for cuteness factor, who am I kidding? :)

  43. […] Fantastic Kitchen DIY: I’m not sure how, but I think I can do this. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can… […]

  44. Andrea B says:

    I would use velcro circles or squares (circles if purchased pre-shaped, squares if I had to cut them) instead of snaps. I made something similar for baby wipes–used old towels and various fabrics I had on hand, including a couple receiving blankets. They were smaller than these, but worked well. No snaps or velcro, though, but I did zigzag stitch with cool thread around the outside.

  45. Teresa says:

    I gave us paper towels. I bought a roll of diaper cloth and cut into 11X11 squares and surged around the edges. I just put them in a basket on my counter and use as needed. It took me about an hour to make about 40. Pretty easy and economical.

  46. Mary says:

    If you have a Serger sewing machine, you can make these towels with wrong sides together and serge around the edges……serge all the way off each side, don’t try to turn the corner. The serger finishes the edges and cuts off any unwanted fabric at the same time. It gives you the type of finished edge you find on ready made washcloths. After sewing the last side use a large eyed needle to grab the thread tail and weave it back through the stitching. I secure it with a dab of Fray-Chek. I like the magnet idea or the grommet in the corner and hang them on a hook. I like the basket idea, but don’t have enough counter top space for it! I wonder if magnets would have your cloths sticking to the inside of your washer or dryer drum??!! Thanks for the pattern and for everyone’s ideas!

  47. Sandy says:

    This may be a strange question, could you put the used unpaper towel or two in the top rack of the dishwasher at the end of the night (we run ours nightly with such a large family) so that they don’t have to wait in the for the laundry line???? Thanks, and these are super cute!!!

  48. I haven’t used paper towels in years. I have a bazillion kitchen rags that we use (well, maybe not EXACTLY a bazillion, but a lot). I DO, however, love the look of these and the flannel and micro-terry fabrics sound great and much more absorbent than my old kitchen rags.

    I would NOT use (or recommend) velcro – it will pick up too much stuff and eventually no longer stick, plus it gets tough and warpy (is that a word) after too many washings. Nor would I have the patience to use the snaps (I can just see the roll whipping off my counter with the way my family would unsnap them). HOWEVER, I’m thinking that actually sewing a flannel strip onto the underside edge of each would allow it to stick to the flannel top of the next one – sort of like a flannel graph (or me with my flannel nightgown in our flannel sheets in the winter time!! :O )

    I love, love, love this tutorial and will be going to JoAnn’s this week with my Christmas Club money!! Thanks.

  49. Samantha Witte says:

    What type of snaps are used for these? Does it matter? Thanks!

  50. Lynn says:

    This makes me think of the things my mother used to do in the 1940’s & ’50’s. She told me about making a slip cover for a chair with no sewing machine or scissors. Just make due with what you had was what she taught. I saw a picture of that slip cover & it was awesome. Your idea of unpapertowels is right up that same “make use of what you have” idea. Thank you for this fabulous post.

  51. faith says:

    why not just glue snaps to p v c ?

  52. […]  How to make homemade “paper” towels. Yes, I will be trying this and let you know how it goes. Love the idea. Will see how it works in […]

  53. […] We go through a lot of paper waste. Consider a paper towel alternative in your house. I think Mommypotamus has a cute idea for “unpaper towels”: […]

  54. Kerry says:

    So why not just keep a hand towel on the cupboard to use?

  55. […] We do a really good job in this house with making eco-friendly choices. But paper towels are still bought, used to dry off lettuce or to wipe up a spill and thrown away. Here’s a way to remedy this situation […]

  56. Stephanie says:

    We mostly use paper towels for draining things like sausage or bacon. Has anyone used these for that and do they come clean?? I want to transition, and think even my very convenience minded husband would find them ok since they’re on a roll like “real ” paper towels, but I am concerned about saturating them (even partway) with grease….

    • Heather says:

      Hi Stephanie, grease would be pretty hard to get out, unfortunately. You might choose a dark color for the terry cloth side if you plan to use them for heavy duty cleaning.

  57. renae says:

    I was also worried about grease… I’m wondering if you do quilters cotton on both sides with the terry cloth sandwiched between if that would work… the cotton wouldn’t be fuzzy so you wouldn’t have fuzz on the food… you could do them in food fabric so you would know they’re only for draining food on… just my thoughts… someone may have a better idea lol… :D

  58. meg says:

    I guess while I think those are super cute, I don’t really *get* them. We just have a stockpile of rags in a drawer. No extra cost, no fuss.

  59. jayme says:

    IS it saving money and the planet? I hate paper towels but wonder if it’s almost as bad to be using the water and energy (and paying for it) to wash them and the detergents that eventually end up in our ground water.

    • jsnally says:

      I find that it does save me a lot of money. I just use these to finish off a load of regular laundry. Since I always wash in cold water and use a homemade detergent that is much better for the environment (and my family), color bleeding isn’t really an issue. And I use them so often that I was buying 3-4 rolls of paper towels per month. And I would get the premium towels that cost about $1.50 per roll. With these, 18 only cost me about $6. Even with washing I only spent about $10 that first month. Within 2 months, they payed for themselves just in what I didn’t buy in regular paper towels.

  60. phaedra says:

    Paper plates are ok. You can compost them.

  61. Courtney says:

    I was just wondering how many fit nicely snapped together on a paper towel holder and how many you go through in, say a week? Would it make sense to make 2 rolls if possible?

  62. Melissa says:

    I was wondering if anyone has tried Velcro instead of the snaps. I was thinking that if you used the rougher side of the velcro it may attach to the terry cloth…just a thought…planning on making these soon

  63. Debbie says:

    The title claimed “WITHOUT A SEWING MACHINE”. I don’t own a sewing machine, yet it DID require one.
    Cute idea, but I wasted my my time.

  64. […] (Un)paper Towels, from Mommypotamus […]

  65. […] the dependency on paper towels: make or purchase un-paper towels, they are re usable. you can also use recycled rags to make your own cleaning wipes. it’s […]

  66. […] all my paper towels and toilet paper for reusable more “green” options such as theseUnpaper Towels but honestly I don’t ever see myself doing that. I would be overjoyed to find a more natural […]

  67. […] 19. No more paper towels. Never buy them again. Stock up on cloth rags and dishcloths (best option) or make your own. […]

  68. Allie says:

    For those with a sewing machine and no serger, you could just straight stich the wrong sides together then trim the edges with pinking shears to prevent fraying. Also, a button hole or a loop of ribbon sewn on one corner would be the cheapest way to hang and there is no issue with scratching. For grease, you could always do what many in Europe do and use newspaper. If you are like me and hate the idea of not being able to recycle the newspaper afterward, you can use it as a fire starter for outdoor fire pits.

  69. Linda says:

    Great ideas in this post! I have a seger and I make similar rags out of old bath towels. I run my serger thru, cutting and serging the edge all at the same time. I can make rags of all sizes in minutes. Then I make buttonholes in a few of the corners. I either hang them on hooks under the sinks or toss them in baskets all around the house for messes and spills in the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, etc. Old bath towels are absorbent, and have lost most of their lint. This is a grat upcycle project. To really get them clean and odor free, I wash them in hot water with a scoop of Biz and laundry detergent. This is also a great sewing project for the preteen in your house. Teach them how to use the serger, the sewing machine and the buttonhole maker. Great practice.

  70. Gail says:

    I made flannel crib sheets and had four left over corner squares that were cut out before I sewed them up. So I used the corner pieces for kitchen wipes. Just sewed two together. Sewed an X in the middle. They are super absorbent. And if they get stained, I really don’t care. They make great baby wash cloths too. My new granddaughter will have some cute ones too.

  71. melanie says:

    Super cute and a fun idea, but it doesn’t pass my personal “practicality test.”

    We have a basket of rags that we have accumulated over the years (random washcloths, old cloth diapers, etc.) that we use for most everything (not a cat fan, so no cat vomit! =) ) And for the messes that stain or are too greasy to throw into your laundry, I just use 7th Generation’s unbleached paper towels (the brown ones) and compost them. We go through one roll VERY slowly and they are going back into the earth from whence they came!

    That’s the happy compromise this girl has come to. But happy sewing and snapping to the rest o’ ya! =)

  72. VIRGINIA says:

    I’m super cheap. Instead of paper towels, I buy old,very cheap but pretty enough flannel sheets. They can go for a dollar or two. I rip them into squares. I don’t hem them or anything else. I fold them and keep them in a basket. I have a dedicated metal waste basket for the dirty ones . They then get a good wash with bleach and back to the basket. If they start looking too stained, I toss them. I usually rip up the sheets while watching tv. Very little work and lots of money saved.

  73. irene says:

    I use paper towels to absorb the extra grease when i fry food , so… i am wondering, have you use them for that purpose? will it do? (also the washing the greasy cloth afterwards worries me)

    • Heather says:

      No, I just use these for light cleaning/spills, etc. I use regular paper towels for heavy duty cleaning.

      • Irene says:

        oh, ok, i was really hoping for an answer that let me not to buy those ever again! maybe someday someone will invent a cloth suitable for those kind of things, …what did people do in the old days for taking out the excess of grease out of food?…

        • Heather says:

          Well, I do have a set of very dark cloths that I use to clean up greasy things. I don’t have a huge set so I use paper towels as well, but the dark cloths work well and clean up well in the laundry :)

        • jsnally says:

          If you find a good degreaser, like Mean Green, it works just fine. Just presoak them before you wash. Can’t guarantee that they won’t still stain, but it does keep the grease off your other stuff.

  74. jsnally says:

    I found cheap wash cloths at the store that were pre-cut and pre-stitched. I just attached snaps to these and now have a roll of 18 un-paper towels that only cost me about $6. Not as cute as the patterns here, but work just fine.

  75. […] Un-paper Towels – Are you fed up of buying endless paper towels? If so, then this is the answer for you, these will act just like paper towels, but look pretty, and are totally re-usable, meaning you only have to purchase the materials once. Not forgetting them being economically friendly. […]

  76. Frostbytn says:

    Buy a sewing machine….
    Time is money and a sewing machine will pay for its self.
    If you are using cloth diapers, you could be making your own.
    Also, old tee shirts and stuff like that work good for making towels/cleaning rags.
    Old jeans work good for the ugly side of pot holders.
    Table clothes on the clearance rack are another cheap fabric option.

  77. Thank you for such a great idea!! Your post has been an inspiration for me to make a set of my own. I have achieved a set of towels and have thoroughly enjoyed using them instead of using the real thing, paper towels. To my surprise the unpaper towels work really well, I would say, better than the paper! I absolutely love this idea and your demonstrations of making them are perfect! I truly think this is wonderful idea in reducing the cost of store-bought items (paper towels) and saving for the family that is also environmentally friendly.

  78. […] if you’re feeling crafty- check out this DIY tutorial from Mommypotamus  (bonus- it doesn’t require a sewing […]

  79. Hi Heather!
    Wanted to let you know we featured this tutorial on our blog from The Keeper Cup at
    We are challenging our readers to try a tip a week towards a greener and less wasteful 2015. This week’s challenge was getting rid of paper towels! Feel free to share with your social networks and email me if you have any questions or would ever want to do a guest post for us.

  80. Loren says:

    Hi Heather! Which metal snaps are compatible with the Babyville Boutique Snap Pliers? Can’t wait to try this out!

  81. Sherri Phillips says:

    I think using larger and thicker hot pads would also do the trick or even a baking glove mitt. I use baking glove mitts–one on each hand to dry my pots and pans. This way the pan is in both hands and is getting dried by both hands.

  82. Annette says:

    Wow, I can use my collection of ripped bath towels and odd pieces of fabric to make these! Thanks for the upcycle idea!

  83. Monica says:

    Ok so I bought the snap applicator kit on Amazon but I can’t find where it says what size snaps to buy.

  84. Karen says:

    I read several of your comments.
    Here is my idea.
    Buy in bulk 2 different colors (light and dark), wash cloths(terry cloth) and use in the kitchen.

  85. rob says:

    old cloth diapers are great and can be laundered. hey tend to be lint free, absorbant and can take a beating.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

« »