The following post originally appeared in The Practical Kitchen weekly newsletter. It was so popular that I decided to republish it here in its entirety. For early access to exclusive content like this, sign up here.
In most commercial kitchens, these plain white towels with a blue stripe are a staple. We used them by the dozens in pastry school. I always had one over my shoulder, or tucked into my apron, or on the edge of my bench ready to grab. A laundry basket under the sink collected any dirty towels, and there was a seemingly endless supply of clean ones as needed. It was awesome.
I've wanted to cut back on my paper towel use at home for a while, but those pretty instagram-friendly colorful reusable paper towels that you have to manually roll around a tube after cleaning always just seemed like way too much work. I mean, honestly, who has the time?
So after my second week of pastry classes, I ordered a 15-pack of Zeppoli blue-striped kitchen towels. It turns out the trick to reducing your reliance on paper towels is having a stash of interchangeable kitchen towels that you don't care about.
I have lots of colorful, decorative kitchen towels that I love, and those will always have a place in my kitchen. But they're decoration. They're not utilitarian. I use them to wipe up water spills, or to grab the handle of a hot pot, but I'd still end up grabbing a paper towel for anything that might stain my nice kitchen towels. Which is absurd!
That's where these blue-striped towels shine. Because I don't care about keeping them pristine, I have no trouble dunking them in soapy water and wiping down counters. I use them to sop up juice or wine or salad dressing or eggs or melted chocolate or pizza sauce or anything else that might spill. I usually keep one folded in front of my sink to sop up any dirty sink water that splashes while I'm washing dishes.
They aren't special and that's what makes them special. I can run them through the wash with bleach and it's okay if they fade or get a bit worn out or fray at the edges. That just makes them better towels.
A system for washing helps, too
I have a small bin in the corner of my kitchen near the door to the closet that hides our washer and dryer that we chuck dirty kitchen towels in. When it gets full, we dump them in the washer with bleach and give them a good cleaning on the hot water cycle. That way we don't have towels with food on them sitting in the hamper with our clothes in the bedroom. Yuck.
Having enough kitchen towels that I don't care about and a dedicated spot for storing dirty towels until they're ready to wash means we don't think twice about reaching for a cloth towel instead of paper towels. I'm finally using fewer (but not zero) paper towels and I feel great about that.
I hope you give them a try!
P.S. You have my full permission to take your clean Zeppoli towels and keep them crumbled in a bag or drawer or corner, wherever it's easiest for you to reach. Remember: These towels aren't there to look pretty. You don't need to hang them nicely or fold them in perfect thirds to drape over a handle. They're meant to be used and then immediately tossed in the hamper to be washed when you're done with them. Don't waste time folding them if you don't want to. You're welcome!