Why I Never Recommend Bamboo Paper Towels

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If you’re trying to live more sustainably, you probably already know that there are problems with conventional toilet paper and paper towel production. Maybe you’ve even switched to bamboo toilet paper for an eco-friendly alternative! But what about bamboo paper towels? Are bamboo paper towels eco friendly? Should you use them?

My short answer….no.

Let’s dig into the pros and cons of bamboo paper towels below.

bamboo paper towels

Why do I not recommend bamboo paper towels?

1. Bamboo paper towels are not as environmentally friendly as recycled paper towels.

If you haven’t read my post about eco friendly toilet paper yet, then you might not know that the best type of fiber for disposable paper products comes from recycled paper.

The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) rated popular toilet paper, paper towel, and facial tissue brands, including bamboo favorites, based on their sustainability. (source)

The most sustainable paper towels come from 100% recycled paper, not bamboo.

In fact, the highest-rated bamboo paper towels from the NRDC are from Reel and they get a C rating.

Even my favorite bamboo toilet paper was rated a D. I am officially switching to a sustainable toilet paper with an A+ rating (this one).

eco friendly paper towels

2. Paper towels don’t come in contact with your most sensitive parts.

One of the reasons why people switch to bamboo toilet paper is over the concern with BPA in recycled toilet paper content. The BPA comes from thermal paper products, like receipts. When they get recycled, you end up with trace amounts of BPA in your TP. (source)

This is concerning to some folks who are concerned about BPA’s cancer risk, so they opt for bamboo as a more sustainable option.

Paper towels don’t touch any sensitive parts. You might use them for just a second or two before they’re done anyway!

3. Bamboo paper towels are way too expensive.

I recently tried Caboo bamboo paper towels from Costco as an experiment for this site. It costs about $30 for a 12-pack bag. That’s $2.50 a roll! We rarely, rarely use paper towels so I knew this quantity would be enough for probably 2 years.

First of all, I was horrified by the price. You can get an 8-pack of A+ rated EverSpring recycled paper towels from Target for $12.99. That’s $1.62 per roll.

are bamboo paper towels eco friendly

4. Bamboo paper towels are so scratchy.

Personally, I don’t mind the texture of bamboo toilet paper. It’s not soft but it’s not nearly as dry as the worst rest stop bathroom TP.

But bamboo paper towels? Oh my goodness, I have some weird mild texture issues cannot handle them. They are so dry and scratchy. I do not like how they feel on my hands at all.

They are so unpleasant for me to touch that I will be giving the ones I bought away on my local Buy Nothing group. I get chills every time I touch them!

5. Paper towels are entirely unnecessary.

Paper towels are one of the easiest swaps to start a sustainable lifestyle. Instead of disposable paper towels, simply use some organic cotton cloths or buy unpaper towels.

Lots of folks like Swedish dishcloths, but I’m even reluctant to buy those as they don’t last indefinitely. My cotton cleaning rags will last for years and years.

best zero waste paper towels

Best zero waste paper towels

If you do need paper towels, I recommend grabbing a small container of 100% recycled paper towels. There is no need for fresh bamboo to be harvested, processed, turned into paper towels, and then shipped to the US to wipe up some dog barf or bacon grease.

Plus, a one-time $20-30 investment in reusable paper towels will keep you from wasting money on paper towels for years and years.

Reusable Paper Towel Alternatives

unpaper towels

Unpaper Towels

These organic cotton unpaper towels are absorbent cleaning cloths you can wash and reuse again and again.

6 pack $19.99/ 12 pack $37.99
Available on EarthHero

Swedish Dishcloths

Made from 70% cellulose and 30% cotton, these Swedish dishcloths can be composted at the end of their life. Before then, wash them in the dishwasher or heat them in the microwave!

3 pack $9.99
Available on EarthHero

Cotton Glass Polishing Cloths

This is the exact set of glass polishing cloths we bought years ago and use for general cleaning around the house. Unfortunately, they are not organic.

18 pack $14.46
Available on Amazon

How to store reusable paper towels

Some people roll up their reusable paper towels to place on their countertop paper towel dispenser. This allows them simply grab an unpaper towel from the same place they used to grab a regular paper towel.

That’s too fussy for me. We simply fold our reusable cleaning cloths and store them in the same drawer as our dishcloths.

We put a metal bucket (actually, our too-small compost bin) under the sink to store them until we are ready to do a load of laundry.

reusable paper towels

Are microfiber towels eco friendly?

There’s a reason why I didn’t add any microfiber towels to the list above…They release microplastics into the environment, contributing to plastic pollution. (source)

If you already have microplastics, make the most of the products. You can even try using a special filter like a guppy bag or Cora ball to catch the microplastics from your microfiber cloths and synthetic clothing to reduce what ends up in the water.

When your microfiber cloths are no longer working, replace them with organic cotton or another sustainable fabric.

Are bamboo paper towels better in any way?

The only thing bamboo paper towels have going for them is that they are usually packaged in paper instead of plastic, but the Costco bamboo paper towels were in plastic anyway!

are bamboo paper towels eco friendly

What’s your favorite eco friendly paper towel?

Whether you use a recycled option or a reusable, I’d love to know which product works best for you! Tell me your favorite zero waste paper towel option in the comments.

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  1. For cleaning the bathroom, do you still use a reusable towel with a bathroom spray cleaner? It’s probably a mental block that it seems like a less clean option.

    1. Yes, I do! It can feel weird at first for sure. I recommend having a stash of towels that you use only for cleaning. We do this in the kitchen and the bathroom and you can even wash them separately if you’d prefer!

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