Sunday, November 3, 2013

A time and place for paper towels

Temerity Jane just wrote a 150,000 word post on paper towels and how she won't buy them and has instead bought unpaper towels. In case you don't have the kind of time it takes to read 150,000 words on paper towels*, let me recap it for you here: Kelly doesn't like to spend money on things like paper towels which are used only once. She tried to use dishcloths, but they did not fulfill her paper towel needs. So she bought some handmade "unpaper towels" which are basically a specialized dishcloth that have the right thickness to stand in for a paper towel. There, Kelly. That only took 55 words.

Now I am ALL FOR the end of paper towel purchases. I am fully on board. I stopped buying them myself, under the premise that if I don’t have them, I can’t use them. I have found that dishcloths and dish towels do work pretty well for our paper towel needs, but I have to admit I am intrigued by this unpaper towel product and may buy some to try out.

But all that being said, there is a time and a place for paper towels, and that place is your kitchen and the time is immediately after an entire glass quart full of milk is dropped on the floor and shatters.

You see, we buy our milk in glass quarts from the local dairy. We do this because I like to support local businesses, and because I like reusing things whenever possible, and because the purchasing of reusable glass bottles of local milk gives me a pleasant smug feeling. There are two major downsides to this system. First, the glass bottles only come in quarts, so a week’s worth of milk takes up an inordinate amount of space in our refrigerator. Second, when a glass quart of milk is dropped on the floor, you get milky shard of glass everywhere. Just everywhere.

The first time this happened, I had recently climbed on the “no paper towels” train, so I grabbed a bunch of dish towels – including the pack of brand new dish towels that I had purchased that very day because when your kitchen is covered in spreading puddle of glassy milk you grab whatever is most handy- to sop up the milk. And it worked fabulously. The towels were absorbent enough to get all the milk and thick enough to protect my hands from the glass splinters.

But then I had a pile of milk-soaked towels, studded with shards of glass. “I’ll just put these in the washing machine immediately so they don’t fill the kitchen with the smell of sour milk,” I thought, and dropped them in. “I’m sure the washing machine will also get all the glass out.”

Did you spot the flaw in this plan? The good news is that I also spotted the flaw just as my hand was about to press the start button, and I did not run a bunch of broken glass through my washing machine. So that’s something. So then I decided to dump the glassy towels on the porch to dry in the sun with the plan of shaking the glass off the towels once everything was dry.

Did you find the second flaw? But fortunately, a few days later my brain clicked on mere moments before I shook a million glass splinters all over the porch my kids sometimes walk on barefoot. Unfortunately, that left me with a pile of glass-splintery, sour-milk dish towels - three of which were brand new – and no idea what to do with them.

I threw them out. Much like I would have thrown out paper towels, but far more expensively and probably with a bigger environmental impact.

So now I try to keep at least one roll of paper towels around. For milk emergencies.

*You should though, because Kelly’s version is much, much funnier.


Temerity Jane said...

FIRST OF ALL, it has nothing to do with thickness! It has to do with the ability to keep ONE MILLION of them in a relatively small area (a bin or basket) near the sink, to mimic the SINGLE USENESS or paper towels. The problem with dish towels in that was is that it's just not practical to have several dozen stacked on your counter at any given time, to use once and then toss in the laundry pile. If it WAS, dish towels would be fine. If I had a giant counter, maybe. Or UNLIMITED DRAWER SPACE. My current kitchen has plenty of counter, actually, but none of it is any good. ANYWAY, IT'S NOT THICKNESS, IT'S SINGLE USEOSITY.

And as for wet milk and glass shards, LET ME PLAY THE ROLE OF THE ENTIRE INTERNET HOLY CRAP I'M SO EXCITED, watch how I do this and how I choose from none of the actual available options, don't answer the question that's being asked, and smugly suggest something else entirely in a way that kind of makes you want to slap me: SHOP VAC.

Oh I feel positively giddy. I see why people are such fart heads in comment sections now. Because it just feels so good to feel like you're smarter than the person asking the question even though you're entirely missing the point yourself.

No, but really, I do think probably paper towels work best for broken glass. I can't remember what I did with the last broken glass. PROBABLY SHOP VAC.

(We don't have a shop vac.)

Dr. Maureen said...

But isn't the relative thinness of the unpaper towels the REASON you can store ONE MILLION of them in a basket near the sink? HUH, KELLY?

HereWeGoAJen said...

I don't feel that there is a way to ever safely remove shards of broken glass from fabric. So paper towels are the way to go.

I have a whole kitchen drawer full of washcloths that we use for just about everything. But I also keep paper towels on hand (just in a cabinet, not out) because sometimes you need a paper towel. Usually for dog barf. Dog barf is another time for paper towels.

Tracy said...

I also use bar towels, etc. instead of paper towels. We also use a roll of paper towels for emergencies (glass shards being a good example), for microwaving certain items (crunchy taco shells for example), and for very greasy situations (lining a plate for bacon or checking the oil in the car come to mind.). I like my bar towels but might get some of those unpaper towels too.

Elsha said...

Some things REALLY just need paper towels, it's true.

Salome Ellen said...

I agree that some things NEED paper towels, which is why I still buy them. I splurge on the multi-size ones, because sometimes you only need that half-sheet amount.
That said, my go-to item for wiping stuff up is white terry utility towels which I buy in bulk and keep under the sink. The newer, nicer ones are in the bathroom and used for regular cleaning, and the ratty, getting ragged ones are used for things like glass shards and wiping out the oven after the self-clean cycle. And then they get tossed with no guilt.

Elise said...

I wish I could like Kelly's comment or reply directly to it. I giggled like a loon!

I might have tried to gently shake the towels out into a trash can before getting really discouraged (and probably getting glass EVERYWHERE) and just throwing out the towels in the end anyway. I HATE situations like this. Maybe a hidden stash of paper towels is the best way to go--out of sight so they're not used for anything other than glass shard emergencies.

Becca said...

We have a roll of paper towels in the laundry room that we use for draining bacon on. But yep, everything else gets a dishcloth or dishtowel and it is working quite nicely. I keep mine in a basket under the sink, next to the diapers. Cleaning stuff goes on a high shelf in the laundry room away from little fingers.

But yeah, I'd have busted out the bacon towels for the milk-splosion too.

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