About Shake & Fold

Paper Towels Suck. Literally.

Paper towels are single-use products often made from virgin materials. Once used they are not recyclable. They can be composted but they are rarely collected and sorted for composting. Instead they are hauled to landfills where they release methane as they break down. In fact, Americans send over 6 million tons of paper towels to landfills every year.

What if there was a way to reduce paper towel use by half, or more? How? Shake & Fold!

Shake & Fold is a hand-drying method you can use to reduce paper towel waste. Here’s how it works: after washing, shake your hands (or flick – whatever works) to get some of the water off. Then take a single paper towel. It doesn’t matter how low the paper quality is or even if the dispenser delivers only five inches. Because the magic happens when you fold the paper towel in half. Folding traps air in the middle which is called, “interstitial suspension.” Whatever your call it, it makes the paper towel stronger and more absorbent. It will completely dry your hands. Guaranteed.

Joe Smith Rules!

The Shake & Fold method was developed by Joe Smith who described it in a Tedx Talk at Concordia University in 2012:

I found the YouTube video in 2015 and it changed my life. I knew I had to locate Joe Smith. I combed the internet until I found him. Quite unbelievably, he lives only 30 miles away in Portland, Oregon!

I met Joe Smith. He gave me his blessing to create a Shake & Fold campaign

The Campaign is Born

The first campaign effort was I was placing stickers in both English and Spanish on every paper towel dispenser in all of the elementary schools in my local district. Also, many restaurants in my town have stickers in their restrooms.

The Nonprofit is Born

As of April 2018, Shake & Fold is registered as a 501(c)(3) in the United States. All donations are tax-deductible.

The Shake & Fold campaign has now grown beyond small-town Oregon: I’ve been contacted by people in Australia, Israel, Lebanon, Indonesia, New Zealand, Canada, Sweden, Holland, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Russia, Brazil, France, Ireland, Scotland, and England. In the U.S. I’ve heard from folks from California to Maine and from Florida to Washington State.

How to Spread the Word

Talk About It

The New York Times offered tips for starting small talk and included how to bring up Shake & Fold at the bathroom sink.


Set an Example

Share Shake & Fold by example in every public washroom. Resist the urge to chastise someone who uses multiple paper towels. Just show them how they can dry their hands with the Shake & Fold method.

Put Stickers in Public Spaces

Go to the Free Stickers (+ Postage) page to get all of the information you need to request stickers and how to cover the postage.

Email me directly, Cecelia@shakeandfold.org, with questions about the Shake & Fold campaign.