Homemade Disposable Cleaning Wipes

Most of the time I don’t rely on those disposable cleaning wipes in the pop-up dispensers.  I usually find I can grab my spray bottle of homemade all-purpose cleaner and a rag out of my cleaning closet and give things a quick little wipe down without much effort. So why use the wipes? That’s been pretty true for me with one exception.

My downstairs bathroom.

Ugh, it always seems so far away.  None of my cleaning supplies ever feel handy and there’s almost no room in the tiny vanity in that bathroom to store any cleaning supplies.  It’s become the one area in my house where I’ve  resorted to one of those pop-up dispensers of cleaning wipes (often from the dollar store) so that I would at least have those close by and could give things a quick wipe down until I got around to bringing my supplies downstairs to do a more thorough job.

cleaning wipes

But even at the dollar store those little wipes were not feeling very frugal.  The last container I bought only had 35 wipes which sure ain’t many wipes. I decided it was time to Make My Own!

 The Paper Towel and Container Dilemma

Perhaps you’ve seen other instructions around the internet too for homemade cleaning wipes made from paper toweling that you moisten and then keep in a container.  I’ve been looking at those for awhile now but was always kind of turned off by the very first step in the process – cutting a roll of paper toweling in half.

Yes, it seems like almost all the instructions you see for homemade cleaning wipes are trying to make them a little smaller sized perhaps because then it’s easier to find a container to keep your homemade wipes in.  I’ve seen pictures of people using circular tables saws and big ole knives, hacking away at their paper toweling to cut it in half.  And that just did not look good to me – plus –  I thought it would make my knife dull too.

So apparently not only am I feeling too lazy to get down to the basement to clean my bathroom, I’m feeling too lazy to cut my paper toweling in half too.  *oh dear*

{ Update May, 2018: I did cut the paper in half! See the update here: Wipes Version 2 }

My Solution

What I decided to do instead was to keep my eyes peeled in the stores for a container big enough to hold a full size roll of paper toweling so I could make my own homemade disposable cleaning wipes without any sawing or cutting.  I realize that this makes for a much larger sized container than what a store bought container of pop-up disposable wipes would be, but that’s what I wanted.  Even though it would take up a little more room in my small vanity, I wanted the convenience of something disposable in that location.

I finally found a 1 gallon sized beverage pitcher at Walmart that was just the size I was looking for – big enough to hold a full size roll of paper towels, but still able to fit in my small bathroom vanity.  Once I had the container and the paper toweling, I took the next step of making them moist with a homemade cleaning solution and my wipes were ready to go.

How to make homemade cleaning wipes

Here’s how to do it:

Homemade Disposable Cleaning Wipes

You Will Need:

  • A Roll of Paper Toweling (Use a good brand like Bounty or Viva)
  • A Large Container (I used a 1 gallon pitcher)

For the moistening solution you will need:

  • 1-3/4 cups Water (I used distilled water)
  • 1/4 cup Vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Liquid Dish Soap (I used Dawn)
  • 10 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil

As a beginning note, all the advice I read about a project like this made mention that the cheaper brands of paper toweling did not work well at all and would just fall apart.  It was always recommended to use a good quality brand.  Now that I’ve made a batch of wipes I would agree with that advice.  I used  the Viva brand (the Viva Vantage with V-Flex Weave!!).  I think the 88 sheets on this roll of paper toweling is still more frugal than the store bought wipes and there’s less chemicals too.

I began by placing my roll of paper towels in the gallon container.  Even though it looks like the paper toweling is just a little too big for the container, it still worked.

How to make homemade cleaning wipes

I then mixed together my water, vinegar, dish soap and tea tree oil in a 2 cup measuring cup.  I decided to use distilled water just to be sure it was germ-free as I figured my moist paper towel wipes would be setting around for several weeks before I used them up.  I also decided to use tea tree essential oil to add some natural anti-bacterial disinfecting to my wipes, but if you don’t have any tea tree essential on hand, you can skip this ingredient.  Update:  I’ve been very happy that my wipes have not grown any mold over the several months I’ve been using them and I think that’s in large part because of the tea tree oil.  I now think that ingredient is more important than I first thought.

I slowly poured my liquid over top of the paper towels in the container to moisten them.  I poured the last little bit of the mixture into the bottom of my container to help get the bottom of the towels moistened too.  At this point my paper towels appeared to be quite well moistened without being dripping wet.

How to make homemade cleaning wipes

I let everything set for a few minutes, and then removed the inner cardboard tube which easily pulled out once it was wet.

How to make homemade cleaning wipes

Once the inner cardboard tube is removed, I got my “pop-up” wipes started by pulling the beginning of the paper towel roll up from the center.

How to make homemade cleaning wipes

I then put the lid back on my container, which I was able to do even though the paper toweling roll at first looked too big because once the paper toweling is moistened, it squashes down without too much problem.

Now here again, many instructions around the internet having you chopping some kind of hole in the lid of your container to make your homemade disposable cleaning wipes even more like the pop-up store variety.  But just as I was not in the mood to saw my paper toweling in half, I was also not in the mood to be chopping away and hacking a hole in the lid of my gallon beverage container.  It’s been working fine to just pull the lid off and reach in and get a wipe when needed.

I was at first hopeful I could use the pour spout opening of the lid of the beverage container for pulling out a wipe, but because it’s not in the center of the lid it really didn’t work.

A Few More Thoughts

This is still something of an experiment for me.  I’ve done a bit of cleaning with my wipes and so far I really like how they’re working.  However I’m still watching a few things:

~~ Was the 2 cups of liquid I used enough to really moisten everything?

~~ Will the paper toweling stay moist even after several weeks have gone by?

~~ And if the paper toweling does stay moist will it keep its strength?

~~ Will I wish I had got out my saw and cut the stupid paper toweling in half ??

Only time will tell and I’ll report back in a few weeks with the final verdict.

And one more thing. . . the recipe for the liquid mixture I used in this project is a recipe I made that I’ve been using in a spray bottle for awhile now as a disinfectant spray and it works great! Feel free to give it a try that way too for another frugal cleaning strategy.

 3/1/15 Update:  Well I said I would report back in a few weeks and it’s actually been a few months!  But that extra time has helped me see how this recipe would hold up.  I’m happy to report that the 2 cups of liquid did in fact get everything moistened and the Viva paper toweling has held up great and kept it’s strength.  Keeping the roll at its full size has worked fine too.

I originally had the tea tree listed as an optional ingredient but I now think that’s been an important ingredient that’s prevented any mold from growing and would highly recommend using that in your mixture. I’ve used these wipes regularly since I first made them and still have about a quarter of the roll left so it definitely made a good sized batch of wipes.  I think this recipe is a keeper!


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  1. Bev –
    I learned of making your own wipes years ago using commercial cleaner of choice, but cutting the paper towel rolls sounded like a pain. Now that I have your recipe as a guide, I am going to make a container up using the full size roll to keep near the toilets for quick clean ups.
    I am also going to look for a container to put several dollar store washcloths or cut up tshirt rags in with the liquid to use for other cleaning projects, then wash the rags to reuse. If I do use this for traveling purposes, I think I might slip the container in a plastic baggie so I have a place to go with the used rags until I get home and can wash them.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. This recipe for homemade cleaning wipes is the best thing I have ever seen on “Hometalk”. I am very thankfull for your recipe.

  3. Is there any other oil that can be used? Tea tree oil is very difficult to find right now in this pandemic.

    1. I would suggest lavender essential oil as a possible substitute as it also has antibacterial properties.

  4. I love this idea. The store bought wipes are just aggravating in the least. They are too small. I definitely will try this idea. Thank you for keeping updates on your progress.TY

  5. I’ve just made a roll of these. First ones out are great! I shall see in a few days and will let you know.

  6. I think im going to try this because i always use wipes for everything! Thanks for sharing!

  7. If you are cleaning a bathroom with the homemade paper towel wipes, be sure not to dispose by flushing. Even though they may flush fine and not clog the toilet or even your home sewage pipes, they are not compatible with municipal sewer systems. you might want to add something to your blog post about not flushing.

  8. I love the essential oils. There are a number of ones that will do for this job. Lemon oil or Wild Orange oil are less expensive and still have the anti bacteria properties. Pure lemon oil with no fillers is available for $10.00 or less through Doterra or Young Living. They have so many multi uses, for example I use a drop of lemon oil in water as a veggie rinse. I put a drop in my glass water bottle. Thanks for this idea! I will definitely use it.

    1. Tea tree oil can be ordered on Amazon. If you have a local health food store, they will probably have too. And actually, I have recently found tea tree oil at my grocery store too! (Meijer).

  9. I have a cleaning business and use those wipes for everything and yes it is spendy!
    Will definitely be trying your option out!
    Thank you,

  10. Thinking about doing mine that way next time. Personally I went with the paper towels tonight because Im disabled and, well, anything to make life a little easier. I think i may have used a little too much tea tree oil in mine as it didnt come with a dropper so I guestimated lol.

    1. I think though that those half size sheets go the long way, and so that doesn’t help with needing them cut across the roll.

  11. I like the idea , thank you. When I find that tea essential oil, I will definitely give it a try.
    Thanks ,

    1. Try your local Michael’s or Hobby Lobby i am sure they both would carry the scents back by the soap making materials.

  12. I LOVE the diy cleaning wipes! I too have a small bathroom & vanity so it’s the perfect size! I have always hated the sink in there because the shape of it causes water to splash out on everything no matter how lightly you turn it on! However, now with my cleaning wipes right there handy, it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. Thank you for the great idea!

    1. You can order online, or purchase at a health food store. I’ve even seen it recently at my local Meijer grocery store in the pharmacy area!

  13. Thank you. Have been looking for a Clorox-free alternative because they test on animals. Didn’t want to cut the towel rolls! Will try this.

  14. Hi! Would these be good to use in the kitchen on the counter? I like to use the smaller store ones for just a quick clean. If I could use the homemade ones that would be great!

  15. I love this! I am legally blind and cutting the roll was a scary for me. I love making my own cleaners and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to use do just this! You my dear lady are a genius! I like the added plus of the handle too. 🙂 we have an upstairs bathroom and one downstairs. I keep the container in our large bath closet downstairs and when I’m done cleaning down there I grab and head up stairs and clean! I do have my own cleaning solution but thank you thank you thank you!!!

    1. So glad this was a solution for you! It’s been working great for me too and has come in so handy in our downstairs bath.

  16. Hello, I find cutting the paper roll in half with an electric knife and placing in two seperate short square containers, works best for me; plus I don’t cut hole to make pop-up, I just lift the lid. Divide the recipe between the two containers and I am certain you can find two places to use.

    1. Great ideas – but what about using the tail end of a roll of PT – (I also like Viva). I put ends in each side of the car doors and now I’ll cut them in half, collect a few, and use you pop-up method. It’s no trouble to cut- I do it sometimes when I’m low on the tail ends, just so I have something in the car. We are slobs who eat in the car!!

    1. I would try substituting lavender as another antibacterial essential oil – OR – you could try leaving the essential oil out. However without an essential oil that has some antibacterial or antifungal properties, you might find that the homemade wipes get moldy before you use them up because they stay continuously wet. The tea tree has kept my wipes from getting moldy, but lavender might work in the same way and I think its Ok for pets too.

      1. Oil of oregano, is a good alternative to tea tree oil. Not as powerful, so you will want 30 drops instead of 10. You can also use a 15 drops of lemon oil with 15 drops of oil of oregano to get a good scent and cleaning kick.

        I know on the farm we use oil of oregano and parsley to deworm cats with no ill effect other than getting rid of the worms 😉

    1. Even though the towels are bigger than the container, the lid does go back on. Once the towels are moistened they squash down and the lid fits on just fine.

  17. Why not use a bunch of cut up t-shirts or the like with the same cleaning solution. Toss them into the laundry and re-use instead of using paper towels.

    The amount you would use really wouldn’t take up much room in a load that you would already be doing anyway … and you’d save on paying for paper towels.