One of my verrrry early blog posts (beware of terrible photos and tumbling deep into the archives!) was about going paperless in the kitchen. More than five years later and we still have a paperless kitchen - and love it! In fact I often forget that a paperless kitchen isn't the norm at everyone's house.
If you're interested in going paperless in the kitchen here's a quick start-up guide:
+ Identify the different tasks for which you use towels, rags and paper products. At our house we identified the tasks of: wiping up spills from the floor, wiping the countertops, wiping the boys' hands and faces and using a napkin at meal times.
+ Designate a specific type of towel or rag for each purpose. The same type of towel/rag could be used for multiple tasks if the tasks are compatible as long as you know what to grab when you need it. For examples, drying dishes and drying hands are compatible tasks but wiping the floor and wiping the boys' faces are not.
+ Stock up! The key to going paperless is to have plenty of towels and rags to grab as you need them.
+ Create a system of use and washing. It's important to make it easy to grab the towel/rag/napkin when and where you need it and to regularly wash and restock.
I would recommend starting with these materials:
+ 12 kitchen rags for wiping counters // I love the Trader Joe's Super Amazing Kitchen Cloth and use a new one every 1 - 2 days and then throw dirty ones into the wash.
+ 12 flour sack towels for cleaning up spills on the floor // The key with these is to embrace the fact that they will get stained. That's OK! They're just for cleaning the floor.
+ 12 dishtowels for drying dishes and hands // I love the simple ELLY towels from Ikea and also the cotton dish towels at Trader Joe's (which I just discovered!).
+ 12 cloth napkins // World Market has lots of color and pattern options
If you have young children who need their hands and faces wiped you might consider having a separate stock of small soft wash clothes but it's not necessary. We have some although after a while they've lost their softness so I don't have a great recommendation for you. Often I'll just grab a new counter-wiping rag and to clean little hands and faces.
We are still using the two storage baskets under the sink for clean towels and rags that I set up originally so the system has worked well. One area where we need improvement is our system for processing dirty towels and rags. Currently we put dirty ones on a side counter and within the day throw them in the washing machine. It feels a bit loosey-goosey which is not my favorite way to operate (surprise!). I'm thinking I'd like to hang a wet bag inside the under-sink counter and do a small wash of towels and rags once or twice per week.