Swedish tea towel test: An ecological kitchen towel

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I’m just gonna go ahead and admit it: I’m addicted to paper towels. Although I’ve managed to stifle some of my previously un-eco-friendly habits – Stasher’s reusable silicone bags, for example, were my biggest discovery of 2019 – I’m shamefully prone to tearing up a paper towel selected size of rolling dozens of times a day. Whether I’m sweeping crumbs off my kitchen table or cleaning up a burst of red sauce in the microwave, I turn to a paper towel 100% of the time.

Recently, however, I decided that had to change. Not only is this consumption bad for the planet, but it’s also bad for my monthly budget. My favorite Brawny 16-pack of paper towels, for example, costs $32.12. In my quest to find a more sustainable solution, I discovered the Swedish tea towel.

Grab this set of 10 and replace your paper towels forever.

This 10-pack is on sale now, down from its original price of $24.99.

Boasting nearly 23,000 positive reviews and a 4.6-star rating on Amazon, the 10-pack is on sale for $19.95, originally $24.99, and is currently trending in because of the above reasons that a) paper towels are useless and bad for the environment and b) paper towels are expensive! Are you ready for a fun fact? One Swedish dishcloth can actually replace 17 rolls of paper towels. Let that sink in, people.

Here’s the backstory: Invented by a Swedish engineer in 1949, tea towels are reusable, biodegradable and ultra affordable, not to mention highly effective. As a result, they are widely used in Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland, which also happen to be the most eco-friendly countries in the world. The thing is, you’ll be hard pressed to find a roll of paper towels in any Nordic home or business, as they all rely on Swedish tea towels instead.

Aside from durability, the fabrics have many additional selling points that have tons of fans here in the United States. Made of renewable and natural fibers, specifically 70% cellulose and 30% cotton, the dishcloths air-dry much faster than, say, the stinky sponges we Americans grew up using. Because of this, germs and bacteria (and their accompanying odors) don’t have time to grow on them – and if they start to smell bad, just toss them in the dishwasher or washing machine. to wash and they will be like new after one cycle. Yes really. You can reuse each individual cloth hundreds of times before you throw them away, and don’t worry, they won’t sit in a landfill later, because they’re also biodegradable.

While I assumed that I would use my set of cloths primarily in my kitchen, it turns out that they are much more versatile than I expected. You can use the cloths to wash your car, for example. Or remove nail polish (just add nail polish remover, and voila!). Or dry your pets’ paws. Or clean your mirrors and windows (lint and streak free!). I have one designated for wiping the dirty faces and sticky hands of my four children. I keep another one in their bathroom for a nightly toothpaste cleaning of the counter/sink. Since rags are safe on surfaces like wood, marble, tile, stainless steel, and yes, even human skin, they’re suddenly replacing not just paper towels, but napkins, too. sponges and your perpetually damp dishcloths.

There is also the fact that the tea towels are very absorbent. The brand actually has a highly visible video of a rag soaking up an entire cup of liquid (fast forward to 0:35 to catch it). This benefit didn’t mean much to me – until I remembered the countless times I used dozens of paper towels to clean up a spilled cup of milk. So. A lot. Waste.

Just turn to Amazon reviews for even more reasons to try Swedish dishcloths. “Much better than any cotton dishcloths as they are VERY absorbent but easy to wring out completely (and I mean completely!) after use,” writes one Amazon reviewer. Another said: ‘I rarely write reviews, but these deserve a shout out. SO much more substantial than the Handi wipes and you can really scrub with them, but they’re never gross like a sponge. I’ve been using the same two for a month now and they still look great.

The tea towels come in three color options – the white shade will perfectly match the all-white kitchens that are de rigueur at the moment, while the yellow and multi-coloured pack (which doesn’t ship until August at the moment) would add some fun a pop of color in a serene space – and given their stiff nature when dry and their diamond-like 3D texture, they can also be used to scrub stubborn residue from pots, pans and more.

Having used the tea towels for several weeks now, I can attest that my paper towel consumption is down. But more importantly, my peace of mind is up. I like knowing that by reusing them day after day, I significantly reduce the annual waste production of my house. We’ll never be a zero-waste family, but the Swedish tea towel is proof that a little change can go a long way.