Here’s a way to use washable cloth hand towels for a group too large and/or germy to share a towel hanging on a rack:
- Get a bunch of small cloth towels or terry washcloths.
- Stack the towels in a box or basket near the sink.
- Hang a laundry bag or place a laundry basket or hamper nearby.
- Hang up a sign indicating where used towels should go. This is necessary not only to get the towels where you want them but also to prevent garbage from being thrown in there. You may need to have a sign pointing out the clean towels, too, if your storage method does not make them really obvious.
- Remove paper towels from the handwashing area–unless there is a high likelihood of people needing them for purposes so messy that you don’t want your cloth towels used in that way.
- Periodically check the towel supply.
- When the laundry bag is full, empty it into the washing machine.
I tried this last weekend at Girl Scout camp. There were 37 people in our group, but the main level of the lodge had only one single-user restroom (the big restroom is in the basement), so I set up the towels in there. I put them in a large metal canister, set it on top of a small shelving unit, and hung a sign above that said, “Hand Towels” with an arrow pointing at them. I tied the drawstring of a large laundry bag to the grab bar on the wall nearby and hung the “Please put used towels in the bag” sign where you couldn’t miss seeing it when facing the towels, with an arrow pointing to the bag.
This was a last-minute idea (as I was packing for camp, my eye fell on the towels I had just bought to donate to my church’s kitchen and had washed but wouldn’t have time to deliver to the church until after camp) so I had only 48 towels, not enough for all the hand-washing we did. However, the girls and leaders did use all of the cloth towels and put them in the bag, and nobody put anything else in the bag. This system worked perfectly even though I said nothing about it, just let the set-up speak for itself. We saved approximately one roll of paper towels and one trash bag and therefore a couple of dollars, as well as saving trees and reducing pollution even more than we would have by buying recycled, unbleached paper towels instead of conventional.
I heard a couple comments about how it was nice to have a fresh, clean cloth towel instead of wrestling with a soggy paper-towel roll (There was no paper-towel holder in that bathroom. Imagine what a paper-towel roll looks like after a bunch of six-year-olds have tried to pick it up with wet hands and tear off a towel!) and a couple about how this was better for the environment. Otherwise, the girls seemed to find it unremarkable.
BONUS TIP: Jessica at Moneyless Mommas explained how to make a Washing Wilma for washing hands in a place with no sink. This innovative gadget uses a gallon plastic jug, a leg of old pantyhose, and a golf tee. Check it out!