Creative Solutions: Bandannas in Place of Paper Towels & Napkins

This cheap household item can be reused endlessly, saving money and waste!

By Julie Dikken, publisher of Macaroni Kid Evergreen and Macaroni Kid Arvada, Colo. November 2, 2020

Reducing waste is a priority in our household. To help with that mission, over the years we have found ways to use a common item -- the cotton bandanna -- in place of paper towels and napkins. They are easy to find, inexpensive, washable, and super soft to use. Follow the tips below to create your own grab and go holder for reusable paper towels and napkins.

Why cotton bandannas?

Bandannas are easy to find. I've purchased them at a local craft store for under $1 each. They come in a variety of colors, so you can keep with your home's decor, use themed patterns for holidays, or mix and match with the ones you have around the house. I recommend looking for 100 percent cotton for easy washing and soft fabric.

Other creative uses for cotton bandannas

Along with using cotton bandannas as paper towels and napkins, we have found other creative uses for this simple item in our home, including:

  • Wrapping snacks to avoid crumby messes
  • To cover ice for boo-boos
  • Using as reusable wrapping paper
  • Keeping in car for quick clean-ups
  • Makeup removal (darker colors are best for this)
  • Cleaning rags (old bandannas with stains or holes make excellent cleaning rags, especially on windows and mirrors!)

The possible uses are endless!

Washing and care of the cotton bandanna

Bandannas are easy to care for. I just throw them in the laundry with our regular wash each week. Once they have been washed a few times, there is no need to separate the colors. A huge plus: The more you use and wash them, the softer they become. One big tip: Avoid using fabric softener to help keep the fabric absorbent for quick messes and spills.

How to "grab & go"

Set a bunch of bandannas up for easy "grab and go" for your family: 

  1. Fold each bandanna in half and make a pile. 
  2. Loosely roll each bandanna, slightly overlapping the next bandanna as you start to roll a new one. 
  3. Once all bandannas are rolled together, place them in a large container like a canning jar or vase. 
  4. You can also slide your roll of bandannas onto a paper towel holder. 
  5. Keep a separate basket in the kitchen or laundry room to place dirty bandannas. On laundry day, throw them in with the wash. After drying, roll them up so they are ready to use again!

Want to see how I do it? Check out my quick video:

Reduce, reuse, and recycle

Using bandannas in place of paper towels or paper napkins is a colorful, eco-friendly option. They work well to clean up both wet and dry messes, are a soft option when wiping little faces, and add a pop of color to your dinner table. You can use the same bandannas endlessly (I've been using mine for years!) which helps to reduce waste, save trees and keeps money in your pocket!

Julie Dikken is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Evergreen and Macaroni Kid Arvada, Colo.