Why You Should Avoid Cleaning Or Drying Dishes With Paper Towels

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

The search for convenience often reigns supreme in our all-too-hectic lives. We're all guilty of taking shortcuts now and then, especially when it comes to daily chores like cleaning or drying dishes. After a hearty meal, the last thing we want to do is spend precious minutes meticulously drying each plate and glass. Instead, we opt for the quickest solution at hand: paper towels. This, however, may not be the wisest move as paper towels typically contain chemical ingredients. They can also damage the dishes, are not eco-friendly, and may not be cost-efficient.

Common dish-drying methods range from air drying on a rack to using a dish towel or even the dishwasher. But there are times when we're in a rush, and the dishwasher just isn't an option. Perhaps there are only a couple of items to dry, and it seems wasteful to run a full cycle. In these moments, the convenience of grabbing a paper towel to swiftly wipe away moisture becomes all too tempting. Still, such a choice warrants a second look as, it turns out, the dishes you use for eating are among the things you shouldn't be cleaning with paper towels.

The pitfalls of using paper towels on dishes

Succumbing to the allure of paper towels for dish drying may not be as harmless as it seems. These seemingly innocuous sheets are typically made from wood pulp, often bleached and treated with chemicals for enhanced absorbency. While they're perfectly fine for wiping spills or cleaning surfaces, using them on dishes poses several drawbacks. Aside from bleach, paper towels may contain harmful chemicals like dyes, fragrances, and lotions that can trigger allergies in sensitive individuals. Conventional paper towels are also known to contain formaldehyde and bisphenol A, also known as BPA. According to the National Cancer Institute, formaldehyde has been linked to certain types of cancer, while BPA can have adverse effects on reproductive and metabolic processes in the body. These chemicals can transfer onto your dishes, especially when wet, and may pose health risks when ingested, particularly if they leach into food or beverages. Moreover, the abrasive texture of some paper towels can scratch delicate dishware, leading to premature wear and tear.

From an environmental perspective, paper towels contribute to deforestation and waste accumulation. Their single-use nature makes them an unsustainable choice for routine tasks like dish drying. Moreover, relying on paper towels can be inefficient and costly in the long run, as you'll need to replenish them constantly.

Greener and safer alternatives

Fortunately, there are plenty of superior alternatives to paper towels for cleaning and drying dishes. Invest in a set of reusable microfiber cloths or cotton dish towels. These fabrics are gentle on dishes, absorbent, and can be laundered for reuse, significantly reducing waste. You can also use eco-friendly paper towel options that are not only recycled but also don't contain all the bad stuff we talked about, like Seventh Generation's unbleached paper towels available on Amazon for $73.99 (for 30 jumbo rolls) or EcoFirst Recycled Paper Towels retailing for $17.64 (two rolls) at Walmart.

For air drying, consider using a dish drying rack or mat made from eco-friendly materials like bamboo or silicone. These options provide ample space for dishes to air dry naturally, eliminating the need for additional drying aids. If you're pressed for time, a handheld dish dryer specifically designed for removing moisture from dishes can be a convenient compromise. These products are designed to efficiently absorb moisture without the risk of harmful chemicals or environmental harm. By opting for these alternatives, you not only protect your health and preserve your dishware, but you also contribute to a more sustainable future. So, the next time you're tempted to reach for a paper towel, consider the greener, safer options available. Your dishes — and the planet — will thank you for it.