In March, I announced I was going to reduce - possibly even eliminate - the use of paper towels in our home due to rising wood and paper prices. My first step was to purchase some additional flour sack kitchen towels (about $1 each at Wal-Mart), plus some hand-cloth sized scrubbing cloths (about $3 for 4 at Wal-Mart).
Then I tucked a single roll of paper towels up where nobody would notice them. I placed one each of the cloth towels in a handy location in the kitchen and determined the small ones were best for spills and such, whereas the flour sack towels were best for drying.
It took only a few days for me to start turning automatically to the cloth towels instead of paper. My family, however, found the switch more difficult. My 5 year old kept asking for paper towels to use as napkins, or to clean up food spills. It took several weeks for her to realize she liked cloth better.
My husband, on the other hand, still grumbles. He refuses to use cloth towels, saying they aren't really clean - even though I'm careful to toss any cloths used to wipe up spills directly into the washer and I change the flour sack cloth every day (more often, if needed). He also prefers paper towels for blowing his nose, saying toilet paper or Kleenex isn't strong enough for him. He even went so far as to bring some of his shop towels (heavy duty paper towels used by mechanics) into the house for his personal use.
I also found that when draining foods (like bacon), I really missed paper towels. At first, I tried draining them on a wire rack with a plate or bowl beneath, but I discovered a lot of fat still clung to the food. I considered using cloth directly under the food, but I didn't want to deal with trying to wash out that kind of grease. In the end, I decided to stick with paper towels for this particular job.
Oh, and then there was the night we had company for dinner and I realized I had no napkins! Normally, we use paper towels for this purpose, if we use napkins at all. Having company made me realize I need to invest in some cloth napkins.
But even with these complication, we've still drastically reduced our paper towel consumption while not increasing our laundry load. Those cloth towels slip into any load of clothes quite easily.
What about you? What are your challenges getting away from paper towels?