A new study by Australian Financial Press (AFP) has found that when we wash our hands we use about twice as much toilet paper as when we clean our own clothes.
The results are likely to anger some who believe we are wasting our money when we do not actually need to.
It is not just our dirty hands that are to blame.
In fact, the paper towels we use most are not just paper towels but also towels made from plastic or cloth and towels made with either recycled paper or recycled polyester.
When we wash them, we are using about 50 per cent more plastic and 70 per cent less polyester than we would use for other household products, according to the study.
“I’m not saying that we need to save our disposable towels, I’m just saying we need some better choices,” Dr Julie Hickey from the University of Sydney told the ABC.
Dr Hickey said it was common for people to wash their hands in a vacuum bag or sponge and leave the towel on the sink, which resulted in the paper being stuck to the towel.
“That’s actually not good for the paper, it is the sticky paper,” she said.
Dr James Mathers from the Australian Institute of Water and Waste Management (AIBWM) said the paper was sticky and the sticky water could lead to a number of problems.
“We have been saying for quite some time that the paper towel should be treated with an anti-sticky chemical, like water, and if you’re going to use paper towels you should wash them with the anti-slippery chemical like vinegar,” he said.
The paper towels Dr Hickey tested were made from polyester or cotton and were also the most expensive among the products tested.
While a quarter of the paper used in Australia was made from paper, only 20 per cent was recycled.
“There’s been a lot of research that’s been done about the paper we use, it’s actually quite poor quality, but we’re still using it,” Dr Hicky said.
She said many households did not wash their clothes in a regular washing machine and were relying on washing by hand.
“It’s not a good thing if you use your washing machine, you’ve got to wash it by hand,” she told the AFR.
Dr Mather said the research would have been more interesting if it had been conducted by people who did not have children.
“The way we wash, it should be done by hand, so we don’t have children, we don�t have to be concerned about making sure we don”t have dirty hands,” he told the radio station.
“But we also want to do it by machine, and we have a lot more machines than just hand washing machines.”‘
It’s hard to avoid’The study showed that the disposable towels were also more likely to be used when people had to buy disposable bags to store the towel or paper.
“Some of these towels are very, very sticky and they can be difficult to wipe,” Dr Mather added.
“And it’s not just the hands, you can get very sticky paper in your mouth, and then your mouth can get really sticky, and that can also get into your eyes and nose.”
Dr Hicky has a few tips for people who might be tempted to buy the disposable towel, including:Wash your hands after using the paper.