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12 Things You Shouldn’t Be Cleaning with Paper Towels

If you stop to think about it, you realize most things can be cleaned with a reusable sponge or cloth. Save paper with these expert tips.

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White bathtub with steel faucet and shower head on white wooden chick blind background.Oppdowngalon/Shutterstock

The tub

Think twice before reaching for the paper towel to remove that icky residue from your sink, shower, or bathtub. According to Sara Hernandez, Crew Leader, Housekeeping Associates of Ann Arbor, Michigan, the best way to remove soap scum (residue) from your bathroom is to use a mixture of vinegar with Dawn dish soap to cut through the grime and then wipe dry with a clean cloth.

These are the things you shouldn’t store in your bathroom.

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Cooking - chef's hands preparing vegetable vegetarian stew (thick soup). Kitchen scenery - pot with recipe ingredients around on the grey stone worktop captured from above (top view, flat lay). Pinkyone/Shutterstock

Wiping your hands while cooking

It’s easy to just grab a sheet off the roll to dry your greasy, sticky fingers, but try to resist. Martha Stewart recommends wearing an apron while cooking, and chances are you’ve got one hanging in the kitchen you’ve been neglecting. You’ll not only save paper as you cook, but you’ll also protect your clothing in the process. Just wipe your hands on the apron after washing them, and move on to the next step in your cooking process.

Lazy people will love these brilliant cleaning shortcuts.

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Laminate parquete floor. Light wooden texture. Beige soft carpet. Warm interior designJuly Prokopiv/Shutterstock

Carpets and rugs

Accidentally spill soda on the rug? Don’t reach for the paper towel. “Wiping up spills or scrubbing stains with a paper towel will leave paper residue on carpeting, and it does not do a thorough job of wiping up,” says Deretta Richards, Crew Leader, Housekeeping Associates of Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Instead, use a clean dry cloth to soak up spills, let it dry, then vacuum.”

There’s another problem with using paper towels, warns professional cleaner Olivia Monash of Fantastic Services Group in Australia. “Scrubbing the stain will make the lint to go deep into the fiber and it will be difficult to vacuum afterward. Use a sponge instead.”

Avoid these habits that shorten the life of your vacuum cleaner.

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Empty white plate with silverware on wooden table. View from aboveIevgenii Meyer/Shutterstock

Dinner plates

Wiping kitchen plates and cups with paper towels because they’ve been sitting unused in the cupboard for a while is a bad idea, says Monash. “This would be anything but nature-friendly, not to mention that tiny particles might stick to dishes and later on end up in your digestive system.” Use a rag or damp cloth instead to wipe off those plates or mugs.

Don’t miss these dirty kitchen items you never think to clean.

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An open laptop on an office desk with flower, coffee, books in front of white brick wall background conceptra2studio/Shutterstock

Electronic screens

Keep paper towels far away from your TV screen, laptop, and even your cell phone. “We would never recommend using paper towels on delicate glass surfaces like LCD or plasma TV screens,” says Carol Smith, owner of Toronto-based HireaMaid. “The fibres can cause permanent etching of the screen. Instead, use a product and microfibre cloth designed specifically for these surfaces.” Adds Smith: “It’s also important to not apply too much pressure when cleaning these screens, because it may cause damage to the crystals inside an LCD.”

Find out how to save your laptop after a spill!

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Modern hallway interior with clothes on hanger stand and mirrorNew Africa/Shutterstock

Mirrors and windows

When cleaning windows and mirrors, use microfibre clothes—a favourite of professional cleaners—instead of paper towels. “I used to be a firm believer in Windex and paper towels to get my windows and mirrors sparkling, but I’ve since converted,” says Lifestyle expert Ayn-Monique Klahre of Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn, an online food magazine. Microfibre cloths, explains Klahre, work just as well (if not better) and they’re reusable. “If you don’t have cloth, newspaper or even a paper bag will also work. And the best part: None of them leave lint behind the way a paper towel can.”

Use these common household items to clean your silver!

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White toilet bowl in a bathroomaradaphotography/Shutterstock

The toilet

“Paper towels are not effective in cleaning toilets,” says professional cleaner Carolyn Osborne, Crew Leader, Housekeeping Associates. “Instead, use Lysol Toilet Bowl cleaner or Comet Toilet Bowl Cleaner with bleach and a toilet bowl brush to make your toilet bowl sparkle.”

Make sure you never flush these items down the toilet.

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Cutting Board.Billion Photos/Shutterstock

Cutting boards

“When cleaning up stains such as meat juices on a wooden surface like a cutting board, do not use a paper towel as it will not thoroughly soak up all of the liquid. Use a clean, damp cloth with disinfectant on it to remove all residue,” recommends Lisa Sorensen, Crew Leader, Housekeeping Associates.

These are the things you shouldn’t store on your kitchen countertops.

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Eyeglasses on black and white marble table texturehappydancing/Shutterstock


“Raw paper can be hard enough to scratch your lenses, and it will leave lint,” says Olivia Monash of Fantastic Services Group in Australia. “Instead, always use microfiber cloths as it cuts the oils that cause smudges and wipes them away.”

Familiarize yourself with the cleaning tricks that don’t actually work.

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car jeep interiorVolha-Hanna Kanashyts/Shutterstock

Car interiors

Avoid using paper towels when cleaning the car, says Jennifer Gregory, Brand Manager of Molly Maid. “Don’t dust your dashboard with a paper towel. Again, microfibre is ideal as it removes the dust versus moving it around. A dry paper towel never seems to fully remove the dust and applying a cleaning product leaves a sticky residue that attracts more dust! The grooves in microfibre capture and remove the mess.”

Restore your ride with these car cleaning accessories.

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White subway tile wall and dark grout for a kitchen or bathroom backsplashDuntrune Studios/Shutterstock


Use a toothbrush instead, writes Klahre on The Kitchn: “Anything that requires to you really get in there (to clean deeply) is not gonna get clean with a paper towel. The material is too flimsy and will shred as soon as you start scrubbing! Instead, use an old toothbrush to get stains out of grout, brick, or other textured surfaces.”

Think vinegar is just for salad dressing? Think again! Check out these clever household uses for vinegar!

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Most things

According to Jeri Fritz, founder and owner of Highland Park Housekeeping, her housekeepers have swapped out paper towels for microfibre cloths to clean almost everything. It’s a must-have product in their cleaning arsenal of products. “Cloth works perfectly with a multi-purpose product like Branch Basics‘ non-toxic All Purpose Cleaner and Glass Cleaner. Microfibre is better than paper towels, which leave streaks and create waste.”

Gregory of Molly Maid is also a big fan of microfibre cloths. “It’s ideal to use something sustainable like microfibre whenever possible! Microfibre cloths can be reused and laundered—though don’t use dryer sheets or fabric softener.”

Next, read up on these tips to organize every room in your home.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest