Monday, September 24, 2012

The Boat Galley: Less Paper Towels

This week's Boat Galley article continues discussing paper towels - and how to not use so many on your boat...

Tips From The Boat Galley, by Carolyn Shearlock
Carolyn Shearlock, author of The Boat Galley, appears weekly on the Daily Boater with tips for getting the most out of your boat's kitchen. Download a free sample of her soon-to-be-published The Boat Galley Cookbook

Paper towels can take up a lot of space on a boat. And if you cruise more isolated spots, it can be hard to find "good" ones and they can be expensive. And then there's the environmental aspect, as well as just producing more trash to deal with when you're cruising. So we learned to

Use Fewer Paper Towels
Boat Galley paper towels
Photo by Carolyn Shearlock /

In our first year of cruising, we learned several ways to use far fewer paper towels. We never got it totally down to zero, but we never bought a case at Sam’s Club again.

In the Kitchen, Use Bar Rags

Bar rags are a little smaller than a dish towel and are made of 100% cotton to be very absorbent. I got a pack of 24, so that I could use fresh ones frequently. I'd use them for wiping up all the little stuff in the galley as well as things like mopping the water out of the refrigerator when I defrosted it.

Bar rags are almost always just plain white, maybe with a little stripe. Don't pay extra for microfiber or "pretty" towels for everyday use -- they'll get stained and you'll want to be able to use bleach on them. After about a year, I'd buy another set and my old ones would become engine rags.

Outside the US, I never did find anything similar -- I could find wash cloths, but most had polyester in them and weren't nearly as absorbent. Then I figured out a great substitute:  cloth baby diapers and burp rags. They're both very absorbent, designed to be washed and bleached over and over, and I could find them everywhere.

For the Engine and Workshop, Use Old T-Shirts and Towels

Initially, Dave bought a bag of "shop towels" for all the gunky stuff. The first time he used them he discovered that there was a reason they'd been so cheap:  they had a high polyester content and didn't do much for getting grease and oil off his hands... or anything else, for that matter.

Well, both of us seem to find it impossible to keep clean. We have many stained t-shirts. Actually, a large bag designated as “work shirts.”  Since they were all 100% cotton, a bunch were quickly torn up and used as shop rags.

When bar towels or shower towels were past their prime, they also were made into work rags. Most could be washed and re-used numerous times before they got tossed.

When You Have to Use a Paper Towel, Use Only Half

While we used far fewer paper towels, there were still times when we wanted one instead of a cloth rag. In the US, we had usually bought the ones with the "half-sheet" perforations so we didn't have to always use a full sheet. We never found these outside the US and often didn’t in remote locations in the US.

At first, I tried tearing half a sheet off the roll, parallel to the perforations. That didn't work as the sheet would end up tearing lengthwise sort of diagonally. One day I had an AHA! moment:  if the sheets want to tear lengthwise, let them.

Make a small tear to start in the center of the roll, hold down one side and tear the other side off. VoilĂ  -- a perfect half sheet!

About the Author

Carolyn Shearlock is author of The Boat Galley, with over 350 FREE articles to get the most out of your boat kitchen with galley tips, insights & equipment recommendations. A few recipes, too - plus an active Facebook community to ask questions and share tips with other readers! And be sure to download a free sample of her soon-to-be-published The Boat Galley Cookbook.


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