ROI: Cloth vs. Paper Towels


Cloth Savings

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet and get straight to the numbers.  How much money do cloth napkins and kitchen towels save you over the course of 10 years?  According to my back of the napkin calculations, switching to cloth is worth about $219 per decade per person.

Here are the full summary stats:

  • 10 Year NPV: $219
  • 10 Year ROI: 117%
  • 10 Year Payback: 1.3 years
roi - cloth vs paper towels
roi – cloth vs paper towels
chart - cloth vs. paper towels
chart – cloth vs. paper towels

A Few Thoughts

Color me a little underwhelmed.  I was hoping for at least a $500 value, but I’ll still take $220 because going cloth isn’t that big of a sacrifice.  Plus this is only for one person.  The savings could be a lot higher or a lot lower depending on how cheap or expensive your cloth towels and napkins are, how many of them you use per week, and how often you replace them.  You can see my assumptions on those things below.

We have been using cloth for a while and I like them a lot.  It apparently is a little cheaper and also reduces the amount of crap we have to buy at the grocery store.  Plus, the cloth looks and feels a little more luxurious… I’m dabbin in style man!  And of course, besides staying fly at the dinner table, there are some environmental benefits as well.


  1. Time costs of cloth vs. paper towels are roughly equal, therefore not included.
  2. The average person uses 0.7 rolls of paper towels per week (carbon rally).
  3. The average paper towel roll costs $1.00 (amazon).
  4. 12 new cloth napkins cost $16 (amazon).
  5. 8 new kitchen towels cost $16 (amazon).
  6. Laundry costs increase by $6.00 or about 6 extra wash and dry cycles per year (self, Mr. electricity).
  7. Buy all new cloths every 3 years (self).

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