How to Break Up With Paper Towels

Here's how to give up wasteful paper towels.

Paper towels, consider this our break-up letter. 

For months, LIVEKINDLY’s editors, on a never-ending quest towards zero waste, have looked for ways to give up wasteful paper towels, with one wee caveat. As much as we care about the environment, we want a practical solution that doesn’t involve us, like, living off the grid or washing a dozen dish towels each day.

Then we discovered Papaya Reusable Paper Towels. (Hear that? That’s the sound of angels sighing.) They’re compostable, washable, not to mention simple to use—and easy to organize, as each set comes with drying hooks you can hang anywhere. We were floored to learn that one Papaya towel replaces 17 rolls of disposable paper towels —which means this game-changing environmental move is also saving us a ton of money. 

Let’s face it: We’re addicted to paper towels

The first-ever paper towel, according to business legend, was a happy accident that sought to avoid waste. In 1907, Arthur Scott, president of Philadelphia’s Scott Paper Company, had a dilemma on his hands: an entire railroad car of toilet tissue was rolled too thick for its intended usage. Unwilling to let the paper go to waste, he decided to cut it into larger pieces and sell them as disposable paper towels. Easy to use, multipurpose, and eliminating the need for laundering, they were nothing short of revolutionary.

But Scott’s good intentions led to a whole heap of trouble for the environment. Americans alone use 13 billion pounds of paper towels each year, which adds up to about 80 rolls per person. That’s a lot of trash going into landfills, which emit large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. 

But all the trash that creates isn’t our only problem. Paper towels are made by using significant water and tree-pulp resources. (In order to get certain paper towels pristinely white, chlorine and formaldehyde are added to the wood pulp, putting chemicals directly into contact with our skin and the surfaces we use.) The paper-making process likewise requires gas, to make these products and move them across the country. This is why the paper and pulp industry has become the fourth largest energy-consuming industry in the world. So reducing paper-towel dependence, even incrementally, could have a significant, positive impact on the environment.

The solution is a godsend

First, the superficial stuff: Papaya’s Reusable Paper Towels are utterly Instagrammable. No, really, their designs are so chic we don’t have to hide them when friends swing by, like we do with our stained dish towels.

Aesthetics aside, we were admittedly skeptical at first. Could these little sheets really work for cleaning, drying, washing, or even smudging off our makeup? The proof is in the paper, because these did work when it came to all of the above. (For more ideas on maxing them out, check out our pointers below.)

The versatility is great, but we’re most excited about their smell—inasmuch as, they don’t have one! That means no more stinky kitchen sponges or cleaning rags to contend with; Papaya easily replaces them. The cotton and cellulose they’re made from is quick-drying, which means odor-causing bacteria doesn’t get a chance to set up shop. After using them a few times, you can give them a simple wash-and-wring with dish soap. And when they’re ready for a deeper clean (Papaya suggests once a week), you can toss them in the dishwasher or washing machine—then hang to dry.


One Papaya Reusable Paper Towel can last us up to nine months. They’re also zero waste: at the end of their life-cycle, unlike a dishrag, these paper towels can go right into the compost bin. Or you can even throw them in the trash and rest easy knowing they’ll soon return to the earth.

Our fave thing about Papaya paper towels is how customizable they are. You can snag ’em in packs of two, four, or six—or like us, build out a subscription box for freshies whenever you need them, or want to gift them (and you will!). The hooks are a key differentiator, making it easy to station them like little soldiers fighting messes: one for the sink, one on the backsplash, and one on the kiddo’s highchair to wipe his often messy mouth (good for pet paws, too). We’ve got even more ways below. To grab our exclusive 20% discount, use code LIVEKINDLY20 on Papaya’s site.

Unique ways to use your Papaya Reusable Paper Towels

Win the war on dust

We’re constantly confronted with the fact that we routinely forget to dust (why is it everywhere, all the time?). Well, not anymore. Just run a damp Papaya Reusable Paper Towel wherever dust collects and watch it disappear, lint-free. Rinse and repeat.

Learn to love doing dishes (hear us out)

A sink full of dirty dishes used to fill us with dread—but not anymore. Papaya paper towels make this chore, dare we say, fun? We use two: One to clean every inch of our utensils, measuring cups, and kitchen tools. The other we keep on hand to mop up excess water on washed dishes to cut down on drying time.

Pimp your ride

Our cars collect a lot of gunk—from coffee spills and dusty dashboards, to muddy boots and kid messes (So. Many. Cheerios.). Nothing gets into nooks and crannies like a Papaya paper towel. Just wet it, wring it, and wipe the day away. If only it could do something about this traffic…

Glow-up your beauty routine

We love to keep a clean Papaya towel handy to take the day off our face, but our favorite beauty secret is using one to clean all those makeup tools. Brushes, sponges, and rollers (even that jade gua sha massager) work better when they’re free from product buildup. It’s official: clean is the new glam.

Pet pampering

We used to constantly launder smelly rags after wiping our pups’ paws and eyes, but now they’ve got their own designated Papaya paper towels (should we get them monogrammed?).

Streak-free your mirrors

Disposable paper towels were our best mirror cleaners, but Papayas are our new leave-no-trace answer to streaks and mirror-glomming fibers. Morning affirmations, here we come.

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