Like many people who try to live more eco-friendly lifestyles, I have been trying hard to get rid of unnecessary waste in my household. While I have been using homemade and natural cleaners for years, I had been having a hard time finding a paper towel substitute. I tried to reuse towels and washcloths in my kitchen and it lasted an entire week. I was doing wash so much I was wasting water and my towels were looking very ragged. As you can guess, we were once again buying paper towels. As someone who hates waste, I couldn't stand it. About two weeks ago, however, I finally came across what I was looking for – Skoy Cloths.
Why Replace Paper Towels?
If you talk to many green people about paper towels, things can very quickly get touchy. Some of us think there is a time and place for paper towels, while others consider them an Achilles heel of modern day society. In the United States alone, we use 571,230,000 pounds of paper1 towels a year. That is 50% more than our Europeans and 200% more than our Latin American counterparts. 2
Even worse, it is very difficult to recycle paper towels due to the nature of the wood pulp that is used during its manufacturing. Paper towels are made from virgin or recycled tree pulp, which is extracted from wood. Much of the time, the trees that were taken down for the manufacturing of paper towels are never replaced. While some companies have had some success with making recycled paper towels, they usually are less absorbent or more fragile, ending up taking twice the number of paper towels to clean up a mess, making them just as bad as their non-recycled counterparts. As well, the energy needed for production and transport of paper towels releases toxic materials into the environment, leaving a giant mess behind just so that we have the convenience of paper towels in our kitchen.
Now, if you ask me what is the worst part of using paper towels, it's the waste and cost. Have you seen how much room they take in the garbage? As well, a pack of 15 rolls of Bounty paper towels from Costco costs about $25. That is over $1.60 a roll! Since I easily could go through about two to three rolls in a week, this very quickly adds up. As you may have noticed, I try being eco-friendly and cutting costs, which means I view paper towels as a drain on my family's budget as well as the planet.
Skoy Cloths: What are They?
Before I go into my review of these eco-friendly paper towel substitutes, I wanted to talk a bit about Skoy. What I found so unique about the company was that it was not started by a couple of high end investors, but two stay at home moms in Encinitas, CA. The idea behind Skoy came when one of the ladies that owns the company was living in Europe. She had seen a similar product there and was frustrated when she came back to the United States and couldn't find it, or an equivalent. Years later they created a one of a kind product, a true paper towel substitute! Currently, these cloths are made in Germany (yay, not China!) and packaged in the United States.
Skoy is 100% biodegradable and (unlike paper towers) is made from natural cotton and cellulose pulp3. Like paper towels, they come in a variety of designs to fit just about any kitchen setting. The dyes used in Skoy cloths, however, are water based, making them more eco-friendly than the chemical/oil based colorants used in traditional factories. Add in that they are chlorine free and non-toxic, and they really seem to be the perfect substitute for paper towels if you look at them from a manufacturing standpoint alone. Of course, now that we can say they are eco-friendly, the big question is – do they work?
Sky Cloths: Durability
After using for the Skoy cloths for a bit over two weeks, I have to say that they are far more durable than they look! Skoy claims that these cloths can hold 15 times their weight in fluid, which is fairly impressive when you see these cloths. I really didn't believe how much they could hold until I wet these cloths and felt them expand in my hand. Wet, they are very dense and capable of soaking up more for extended mopup (soaking, being wrung out, and used again) than you might think if you are dealing with a mess.
To understand why they are so absorbent and durable, you have at the texture of the Skoy cloths themselves. The texture of the cloths are a bit rough with the front of the cloths being in a line pattern and the back being in a quilted diamond like pattern. While these look pretty, the secret really isn't seen until you zoom in on the cloths themselves.
This is a close up of the back
Texture of Skoy zoomed in more – between diamonds
As you can see, the cloth itself is very tightly knit and has a similar texture to construction paper when dry. This texture allows the cloth to trap in dirt particles while still being able to soak up any excess liquid from an accident, spill, or cleaner you are using. Personally, I think this knit and texture is the difference between using cotton and wood particles, since the cotton seems to be much better at soaking up liquid.
Skoy Cloths: Usability
When I was preparing to test my Skoy cloths, I was thinking I was first going to use them to clean the kitchen with one of my natural cleaners or clean dishes. Unfortunately, my klutziness decided otherwise! As some of you likely noticed, I posted a wonderful pancake recipe last Saturday. Well, there was a little kitchen disaster that ended with my Kitchenaid mixing bowl full of batter dumped all over the floor. While I was panicking with a hot skillet in the middle of flipping breakfast, my husband quickly came to the rescue with one the Skoy cloths. Both of us were surprised just how easily it picked up that thick batter – with one cloth, we were able to clean up the entire mess! All he had to do was give the cloth a quick rinse and the majority of the batter slid right off. To say the least, we were both very impressed. I hadn't considered testing it on something as messy as batter, but Skoy passed this impromptu test with flying colors, even coming out none the worse for wear from the wash afterward.
While it was lovely that they worked on kitchen disasters, how about some of the normal things we use paper towels for in the kitchen? Since we are trying to prepare our barn apartment to be shown by realtors I have been constantly cleaning the kitchen. I cleaned the entire kitchen top to bottom using Method's antibacterial cleaner and the Skoy cloths. The cloth easily soaked up the cleaner, and dragged away all the nasty food particles and stains on our kitchen counter, stove, and even the nooks and crannies under our counter. What surprised me the most was just how much better they were at cleaning. Since the cloths are more absorbent, even after wetting them down, I was able to use even less cleaner than normal! Not only did I save on paper towels, but some of my Method as well.
So far, I have loved the Skoy cloths as paper towel substitutes, but the packaging claims that they are also meant to replace sponges. I wasn't really too sure I was ready to replace my sponge just yet, but I decided to give it a try anyways. After using it in the sink a few times, I have sworn off sponges! It is even better than my sponges at cleaning out nasty messes, like burned-in spots on pans and nasty stains. What makes them so good at cleaning up messes also works to their advantage at cleaning dishes. They are right now my new favorite cloths for cleaning my non-stick pans that are hand-wash-only since they are so gentle on my cookware, but can be just as effective as my abrasive sponges.
Skoy cloths: Cleaning the Cloths
What fascinated me the most about the Skoy cloths is the fact that they are reusable. All you need to do is throw the cloths in the dishwasher or your washing machine. Since my dishwasher in my apartment is less than ideal, I cleaned all of my Skoy cloths in our front loading washing machine. I have to admit, I was nervous putting them in the washing machine since I knew this was going to be what made or broke the Skoy cloths. It wouldn't matter how effectively they cleaned if they fall apart in the washing machine, after all.
Well, I am happy to report that the Skoy cloths washed and dried beautifully! My husband joked that after being washed in the washing machine with CitraSuds that they were even whiter than they were when they arrived (picture above). I will say, however, that there is one little odd quirk with the Skoy cloths – they shrink in the drier.
Out of dryer
Cloth on right same cloth as above wet compared to a unused Skoy
As you can see from the picture, they are about half the size of an unused Skoy cloth. Luckily, this is only cosmetic. Once you wet the cloth again, they are back to their normal size. I have to admit, I actually played with my cloths since I was amused with the fact that it expanded in my hand! (I can be a little kid sometimes.) During the two weeks we have used these cloths, I have washed all of them two-four times each, and they look as good as new. From what I have seen, I am willing to believe that each cloth will last as long as 15 rolls of paper towels, as the manufacturers promise.
Now, there is one more way to clean the Skoy cloths and this is where I think they are superior to sponges and paper towels – they can be disinfected, as suggested by the makers. While you can use anti-bacterial cleaners and bleach, there is another surefire way to disinfect anything in your house hold – heat. To kill all the germs on your Skoy cloth, just wet the Skoy cloth and put it in your microwave on high for two minutes. This should heat the cloth to over 180oF. Since the cloth will be very hot afterward. make sure to leave in there for about three to four minutes to make sure you don't burn yourself. Also, it is very important that you remember to wet your cloths first to prevent them from catching fire or damaging your microwave! Just like every other cleaning method I tried, the microwave disinfecting option seemed to work well – the cloth came out without any visible damage.
While this may not really fit with cleaning, I was curious what exactly you are suppose to do with the Skoy cloths once they do fall apart from overuse. While you can just throw them away, I really don't like wasting anything. What I found was that they can be composted since they are biodegradable. In a home compost system, they take about five weeks to completely decompose. Even though I know most people are likely to just throw it in the trash, I thought this was pretty spiffy!
Skoy Cloths: Cost
Since Budget Earth focuses on living an eco-friendly lifestyle without killing your budget, it isn't too surprising that I looked at the cost of these cloths too. Skoy claims that each of their cleaning cloths replaces 15 rolls of paper towels, and over my last two weeks of use they have held up well enough I am inclined to believe it. Let's compare these cloths cost-wise to the mega pack of Bounty paper towels that you can purchase at Costco for $25.
The place where I got my pack of Skoy cloths is Paperless Kitchen, which is currently selling a four pack of Skoy Cloths for $7.99. Even though their shipping is $3.99 for your entire order, let's make this as expensive as possible and say we only ordered this one pack of Skoy cloths. This would bring our total for four Skoy Cloths to $11.98.
To see the cost of Skoy vs Bounty Paper Towels, I pulled out my handy dandy marker board. Before you get a headache, don't worry, I did all the math for you below.
As you can see, a 4 pack of Skoy can easily save a lot of money! Who knew that being green could be so inexpensive?
Overall Opinion of Skoy
It isn't an exagerration to say that I have fallen in love with Skoy in my kitchen. It is the paper towel alternative I have been trying to find for years! Not only does it deal with my paper waste problem, but is highly effective in cleaning and saves me money! Without question I give Skoy an A+ rating! If you are wanting to get rid of your paper towels, I recommend taking a look at Paperless Kitchen. They have an amazing price on these cloths and excellent customer service.
So, have I completely got rid of paper towels in my household? Well…not completely. There is still one member of the household I have to say we keep paper towels around for…
We love the new baby so I think she is worth the extra cost. Besides, unlike the humans, she goes through 1 roll of paper towels a month 🙂 For us humans, though, I would recommend switching to Skoy.
Note: Budget Earth & its writers did not recieve compensation from Skoy or Paperless Kitchen for this post, however we were provided with samples to test courtesy of Paperless Kitchen. The above review is completely the opinion of the writer.