By abykm91 and Rustina, Contributing Writers
All that paper towel going to waste or time spent finding a set of just plain cotton towels that don’t get all rough in the wash machine! There must be a better way, right? Good news – there is!
We love to encourage you to do things yourself, in your home. All year long we’ll be sharing projects, recipes, remedies, crafts, and more with you! Our goal is to help you find what you need to feel more secure in your knowledge and skills to make whatever you need!
Why Cleaning Cloths are a Great Idea
My husband loves paper towels. When I told him we were switching to homemade cleaning cloths, he was nearly distraught. Until he realized how much money we will save by not going through a case of paper towels each month. Especially since I made the cloths from old baby blankets and retired shirts. That makes them almost free (minus the cost of thread and time). And they are small enough that they are just added to the laundry I’m already doing, so we’re not using extra water for washing.
These are great for spills, bathroom cleaning, windows, mirrors, dusting, cleaning the fridge, the stovetop, counters, and any general wipe-up.
And a DIY cleaning cloth is totally customizable. You choose the size, the color, and the texture so it fits YOUR needs.
One great idea to consider is a two-sided cloth. One side that’s absorbent, and one that’s lint-free.
You can spend the money on fabric at the store if you want super-cute, totally matching, perfectly perfect cloths. Or you can up-cycle old work shirts, t-shirts, baby blankets and towels (which is what we did). It’s entirely up to you!
Some people like to make other sizes of cloths like a 14×16” for general use (about hand towel size). And 7×8” kid-size (about washcloth size). Making fun kid-sized cleaning cloths can encourage your littles to help out with the cleaning. Guess what? It worked for us!
12×12 will fold up nicely and fits that not too big, not too small category well! No matter the size you choose to cut, the basic steps are the same so have fun customizing as you wish!
How to Make Homemade Cleaning Cloths
- At least 2 cut outs of 12” x 12” cotton fabric
- Cotton thread
- Sewing machine (it can be hand sewn as well)
Step 1: Choose your materials.
The ideal cloth has an absorbent side and a lint-free side because no one wants streaky windows. You can use retired work shirts, old baby blankets, cut up larger towels that had holes, or any fabric really. Using the same color palette makes a cute coordinated set of cloths.
Step 2: Cut the fabric to your desired size.
I have cut fabric from the shirts to match quartered blankets. Since then, I’ve been consistent with the size of the sheets because I want them to fold evenly in the basket we use for storage. For this tutorial, I used some spare fabric that I was gifted and part of an old towel. This is cut to the 12” x 12” size.
Step 3: Pin the fabrics together (outside facing in).
You’ll want to put the outside facing in so after the nice strong seam is there, then when unfolded the “pretty side” is out.
Step 4: Use a straight stitch to sew and then trim.
For most cotton fabrics, the tension knob should be between 3 and 5. 3 for loose knit like the jersey/t shirt cotton and 5 for tighter stitched fabric/not as stretchy fabric. I used 4 for the thin cotton and thicker terry cloth.
Sew the 4 edges with a 1/4 inch margin (a ¼ of space between the edge of the fabric and where you are sewing). Leave about a 2 inch gap unsewn on one end so you can invert the fabric through that gap and get it right side out. Before inverting the fabric, be sure to trim the edges down for a smoother edge.
Step 5: Inverting the fabric.
Take the corner opposite of the gap, and push it through the gap and continue to pull it through until all the “right side” or “pretty side” of the fabric is on the outside now.
Once you’ve turned the cloth right side out, smooth it down (if you love ironing, go for it. If you don’t love ironing, just smooth it down as nicely as you can. This helps make sure you get a good flat edge that looks better when folded).
Step 6: Sew some more.
This time, you can either use a straight stitch (simple, clean look) or a zig zag stitch (fun, colorful look) to go around all four sides and close up the gap. This gives the cloth a cleaner, more finished look, and while it’s not how my first few cloths worked out, it’s how I’ve come to sew them now. If one of the fabrics is thick, like the terry cloth, you can add the trim to the lengths of the sides, but skip over the corners to avoid an area too thick for the sewing machine.
And there you have it!
I store the cleaning cloths in a cute basket on a child-height shelf in our kitchen. They are visible (one reason it’s nice if they’re cute) and easily accessible to everyone in the house, which makes them more likely to be used!
You could change the sizes you make also. A 6×6 is perfect to use for family cloth (cloth toilet paper, reusable or even great to have on hand in case you run out of TP – or the stores do again! A 12×16 is a nice hand towel size.
You can find more helpful tips in the Clean Home Project Guide.