Newcomers to my home can't ever find my paper towels. That's because they're hidden in the pantry so the cloth towels and rags I have are the first line of defense against spills and messes that need to be wiped. Here's how I use cloth and when even I reach for a paper towel.
When and Why I Use Cloth
I use a rag for wiping off the kitchen counters and the table. That's all this rag gets used for (it has its own special color) and it gets rinsed between each use and changed every day. Less waste, still clean, and sturdier for cleanup than a paper towel.
Three cloth towels also hang in my kitchen: one on the oven door for quick wipes of the hand or grabbing of hot handles while I'm cooking, one by the dish-drying rack that's exclusively for drying dishes if I need to, and one on the door of the cabinet beneath the sink for drying clean hands. These get changed once a week unless they get dirty sooner. Obviously, they save many, many paper towels from getting used and tossed. I hate paying for things that are essentially future garbage.
Cleaning rags get used for all my household cleaning chores with the exception of parts of the toilet.
When and Why I Use Paper Towels
I reach for paper towels when I have something on the floor to clean up because I don't want to wipe the floor with the rag that I'm going to use for wiping counters and the table. (Although many times a floor mess will be wiped up with a bigger cleaning rag.)
I also use paper towels to clean up any spills that could spread germs like Salmonella. So if I'm wiping off spilled raw egg, I'll use a paper towel, often followed by a Lysol wipe. (Lysol wipes also get used in the bathrooms when I'm cleaning the more inner parts of the toilet.)
I also use paper towels as a type of cooking tool, when I pat chicken dry or wipe the rim of a full trifle bowl to give a clean presentation, for instance. I don't want to touch food things with anything dirty and, again, I want to avoid raw germs from spreading around the kitchen.
What's your modus operandi?