15 Ways to Switch from Disposable to Reusable

Here are 15 reusable versions of common household items. Get rid of disposables to keep your trash out of landfills, save money, and enjoy better quality!Green your home, save some cash, and go for quality with these 15 ways to switch to reusable options around the house!

When I hear the word “reusable” advertised with a product, I perk up.

I love learning of new ways that I can switch out disposable household items for reusable alternatives. I don’t make the changes because it’s the trendy thing to do–I make them because it’s the common sense thing to do. 

So why should you consider switching to reusable options?

  • To keep your trash out of the landfills
  • To save money
  • To have better quality items that will last longer
  • To be classier

Maybe that last one will make you look a little “trendy,” but who cares? Wood and glass and cloth are classier than plastic or paper–you can’t get around that.

Go on a treasure hunt around your house and identify the disposable items you can switch out. You may have already done some of the things on my list (#12  is pretty common), but maybe others are new to you (have you done #6?).

15 Ways to Switch to Reusable:

Microfiber Cleaning Cloths - RichlyRooted.com

1. Microfiber cloths

These are a must in my natural cleaning arsenal. I use them in place of paper towels–the general purpose cloths for dusting, and the polishing cloths for glass and mirrors. I also wrap a damp general purpose cloth around the Swiffer head so that I don’t have to buy Swiffer pad refills.

2. Washable sponges

The cheap, synthetic sponges get gross quickly. I bought a few microfiber sponges that I can toss in the washing machine as needed.

3. Kitchen scrub brush

There are so many cheap, throw-away options that get nasty fast! Instead, you can use a nifty product like this one for a long time!

4. Rags/cloth wipes

We try to use old T-shirts and towels in place of paper towels for cleaning up messes. To step it up a notch, try making your own disinfectant wipes.

Cats Love Cloth Shopping Bags - RichlyRooted.com

5. Cloth shopping bags

Keep these in your car trunk to have handy! They also double as sleeping mats for your cat.

6. Cloth shower curtain liner

Plastic curtain liners get nasty over time, and you have to toss them. You may have to spend a little more on a cloth curtain liner, but not much–and you can toss it in the laundry when it gets dirty.

7. Handkerchiefs

This is on my list of things to switch! There are lots of pretty cotton handkerchiefs available online, like this one or these. And there are plenty of durable plain white options for guys!

Cloth Diaper Guide

8. Cloth diapers

We’d love to cloth diaper our future babies because we’re not a fan of the chemicals in disposable dipes. Around the thought of mountains of poopy plastic diapers filling up landfills just isn’t pretty. For all you need to know about cloth diapers, I recommend this handbook.

9. Reusable options for your cycle

I’m not going to talk much about this one, but I’m a fan! This and these could change your life!

10. Lunchbox

Instead of reaching for a paper or plastic bag to pack your lunch, go with an inexpensive, insulated tote. I have one similar to this one.

11. Commuter mug

We all do this now, right? No need to keep Styrofoam cups in the cabinet when there are so many great, eco-friendly options out there!

12. Cloth napkins

The savings can really add up here! My family of 8 started using cloth napkins when I was about 7. I did some number crunching based on this popular brand of paper napkins and figured that we saved well over $3,500 over the years, just by using cloth! If you have a big family like I did, it’s helpful to get each person their own unique napkin ring–if the napkins get shuffled between meals, you know whose is whose.

13. Silverware

Plastic cutlery is the obvious choice for picnics, cookouts, and camping trips, but I’m not sure it should be! After our Epic West Adventure last summer, we decided that plastic utensils weren’t worth it. Why? They break! So grab some cheap packs of silverware at Wal-Mart or the Dollar Store and wash and reuse those, instead!

14. Real plates

For home use, Corelle plates are durable and lightweight (easy for children to manage). For camping, we wash and reuse sturdy plastic.

15. Glass straws

Pick out a glass straw for each person in your family! You can wash them in the dishwasher and reuse them for life–if they’re made of borosilicate glass, they won’t break! I got ours from Strawesome, a Michigan-based family business. I picked up the smoothie straw size since those seemed the most versatile. There are also a variety of glass straws available on Amazon.

[question]What did I miss? What other items can you swap out for reusable?[/question]

For a whole list of ways to reduce disposable items in the kitchen and switch to reusable, check out this post.

There's a lot of waste that goes on in kitchens, but intentional homemakers don't have to follow the norm. You can choose to invest in reusable kitchenwares, and as you use them day in and day out you'll not only keep junk out of landfills, but you'll get your money's worth (many times over!).


  1. Great list! We do all of these over here. I’ve also started cutting up old receiving blankets and using those for my “cycle”. 😉 They work great!

    Speaking of cycles… 😉

    For Wellness Wednesday this week I linked up my post, “Why Women are DITCHING the PILL for F.A.M.” It has really important information that I wish all women knew!


  2. This is a great list! We do most of those things already… I haven’t gotten to the handkerchiefs yet, which is sort of silly. It’s one of the easiest things on that list! And I’m done with cloth diapers now… probably forever.
    And *now* the little monsters get me to make indecently named desserts the recipes for which they found in their Harry Potter Cookbook! 🙂

  3. I have a friend that uses the tops to the plastic bucket of ice cream (the inexpensive gallon bucket) for plates when we go on picnics. They make great plates for younger kids (or older messy ones) bc they have a lip that keeps the food from sliding off and they stack together nicely for storage. 🙂

    1. this is brilliant! We have a score of these buckets and tops (this is about the only ice cream we buy for our big family when it goes on sale for under $4).Will definitely be using this idea.

  4. Great ideas! I haven’t thought about the reusable sponges, yet. I’ll have to check those out, thanks! Sharing all over my social media platforms.

  5. Such a great list! We do most of them…but I hadn’t heard about the glass straws…brilliant! When we were in the grips of cloth diapers, I read about “family cloth” and my hubby about came unglued…”ABSOLUTELY NOT!” There is only so far my non-crunchy friends and family will go, I suppose. 🙂 Another idea is to reuse single-serve yogurt cups for kids’ snack/drink cups. They come in real handy when you have a pile over for playgroup. Check yard sales for awesome vintage hankies…some of my favorites have beautiful hand embroidery and are super soft.

  6. I love this list! Great ideas! In case anyone is looking to get started on #12 send them my way! I make cloth napkins in fun and bold prints. 🙂

  7. I started using 100% cotton pads for the menstrual periods…it’s amazing! I have much less cramping and much less flow. I had read a lot of the reviews of other women who had done it, and they all said the same thing. I wonder if there’s not something chemical in sanitary napkins that isn’t good. After 7 pregnancies, I had started experiencing very heavy and long periods. The first month I began using the cotton pads, I had none of the pain and the length of my period was almost like it was before I had children!!

  8. We got a bidet to make converting to family cloth less scary to my husband. Due to this, even my guests get curious and rarely use the toilet paper.

  9. Thanks for sharing our product!! Although just to clarify, they are not unbreakable. They are the strongest glass you can commercially purchase so if it does break we will replace it.

    1. Hi, Daedra! Good to see you here! (I follow your newsletter(: That is good to know about the straws, and I will update the post with that info!

  10. We have silicone straws (they were a gift) and bamboo straws, as a glass straw isn’t the safest option for my toddler. Stainless steel straws also exist, though I’ve not used them.

    In addition to all 15 of these (yaye!), I have a set of muslin bags that I use for produce and bulk items at the grocery store.

    Along the same lines, I’ve become more aware of packaging and will buy loose produce over produce that is shrink wrapped.

    And water bottles! Love my Klean Kanteens!

    1. Yes! One definitely becomes more aware of the packaging!

      Do you use the muslin bags to store the produce in the fridge? I need to try that. And I also want to check out Klean Kanteens, as I’ve never heard of those. I think a silicone straw would be interesting. I wonder with stainless steel if they’d get too cold when you’re sipping a milkshake, though!

      1. We have stainless steel straws–LOVE THEM! There’s a little brush to use to clean them out, which helps with sanitation. No probs with milkshakes! 🙂

  11. Great list! Regarding plates and flatware, I have found excellent quality items at the local “better stores” (such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc). Buying used items that are easily sanitized is about as renewable and re-useable as it gets.

  12. I bought reusable mesh produce bags (you can also make your own) and I’ve only used them at Whole Foods but they don’t blink an eye. I love the bags too, so easy if you store them in your reusable grocery bag in your car!

  13. Elsie,
    Love this list – I have gotten much better with #5 – carrying cloth shopping bags with me. It sure has reduced the amount of plastic that comes home. I also have loved #6 – Being able to just throw the shower curtain in the wash has saved money and I think looks a little nicer than the plastic ones too.
    We do need to get back to using cloth napkins – we did that for awhile but than life got busy and we stopped putting the effort forward.
    One other thing we have done has been to switch to using all glass drinking cups. We simply re-purposed pint canning jars and then added a plastic drinking band around them in various colors so we could tell which glass belonged to each family member. Fun and functional.
    Sharing this article with my readers over on the Simplified Life Facebook page – Thanks!

  14. Sea sponges instead of tampons ! $5 mixed bag at craft store. You will figure out best size and texture type for you trim to b suit. Safer and works better. Rinse out as needed during your cycle then disinfect soak and dry between times. This may be TMI for some but I have a super heavy menstrual flow requiring heaviest tampon with overnight pads changed every 1-2 hours max for first couple days. When I was able to use sea sponges again, the relief was dramatic.

    1. Very interesting! I have heard of sea sponge tampons before, and actually been curious to try them! Thanks for sharing your experience with them.

  15. Toiletries, like tooth brushes, can also be made of things non-plastic. I’ve seen reasonably priced bamboo toothbrushes on Amazon 😉

        1. Purchased ours from Earth’s Daughter on Amazon. They came in a package of four and in cardboard & paper packaging. Love them!

  16. I recently discovered glass nail files and I really love them, they are such a great alternative to cardboard files. You just need to brush them with soap and water and they will last forever!

  17. To sanitize your sponges, place them in a bowl of water with a drop or two of lemon essential oil. This disinfects them. Of course, you can also run them through the dishwasher, too.

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