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Published Sep. 27, 2021

Paper towels might seem like one of the most basic items you can buy for the kitchen, but their looks can be deceiving. Once you start to unroll them, paper towels can do so much more than dry our hands and clean up small spills. You can use them to stop cast-iron pans from rusting over, to serve as emergency coffee filters, to strain grease from broth, to keep produce fresh, to soften brown sugar, to prepare meats, to protect the microwave from splattering food,  to keep ice from drying out, and to replace cloth napkins at mealtime. They also come in handy outside of the kitchen, as an alternative to hand towels in the bathroom, and to make homemade baby wipes (just add water, baby wash and baby lotion), to clean mirrors and windows, and even to remove crayon and candle wax residue from the carpet. With all these uses besides wiping simple spills, the choice of which paper towels to buy suddenly becomes a bit more important! Here are our top picks:

How We Picked the Best Paper Towels

Methodology

It’s easy to conclude that paper towels are all the same. However, this isn’t true. Some paper towels are easy to tear while others aren’t. Also, the absorbency for each brand is different. As a home improvement writer, I have years of experience vetting and reviewing home goods for quality and value. For this guide, I factored in absorbency, ease of use, environmental friendliness, and cost into my selections.

Absorbency: Some paper towels are made with thinner materials than others. We looked for brands made with wood fibers and pulp as well as bamboo and other materials.

Ease of Use: Some brands now make paper towels with flex sheets, so you can can tailor how much towel you need and tear off just a half a towel or a quarter of a towel.

Eco-Friendliness: In addition to giving higher marks to brands that let you cut down on waste, we considered brands that didn’t use pulp at all, but were made from more sustainable materials like bamboo and sugarcane grass.

Cost: As a disposable product, the cost of buying paper towels can add up. We looked for options that came in budget-friendly packs.

The Best Paper Towels: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Bounty Quick-Size Paper Towels

Long-Lasting

This “Quick Size” Bounty pack of 16 contains the equivalent of 40 regular-sized units, and each one includes 80 more sheets than comparable jumbo collections from the same brand.
Bounty

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Why It Made The Cut: The exceptional absorbency and number of sheets make these rolls last longer, making up for a slightly higher price.

Specs:

  • Weight: 12.24 pounds
  • Dimensions: 24 x 12.43 x 22.63 inches
  • 80 sheets per pack

Pros:  

  • More sheets 
  • Cost-efficient
  • Two times more absorbent than most brands

Cons:

  • May be hard to store

Bounty is one of the most recognizable household paper towel brands. It was introduced in 1965 and is manufactured by Proctor & Gamble. The “quicker-picker-upper” tagline has been true for many decades. Bounty continues to reign as one of the most absorbent paper towel brands available.  It’s so durable that users may be able to re-use individual sheets. To support sustainability, Bounty supports responsible forestry and grows a tree for every tree it uses. 

Bounty paper towels have more sheets than ordinary brands, so the rolls may last up to 50 percent longer. But these rolls may be hard to store since they’re quite big.

Best House Brand: Amazon Brand – Presto! Flex-a-Size Paper Towels

Solid Cleaner-Upper

The pulp used for this brand comes from sustainably-managed forests and controlled sources. Presto!

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Why It Made The Cut: This Amazon brand is nearly as good as other top-rated brands but what makes it a nifty choice is that you can use Alexa to reorder it and have more delivered in no time.

Specs:

  • Weight: 9.38 Pounds
  • Dimensions: 22.18 x 17.18 x 11.61 inches
  • 158 2-ply sheets per roll

Pros:

  • Environmentally friendly  
  • Extra-absorbent
  • 75 percent more absorbent than leading brands

Cons:

  • Higher cost per roll

Using pulp from sustainably managed forests, Amazon has introduced a product which is just as absorbent as some of the best brands on the market. The towels are also competitively priced with these top brands. Amazon is so sure of its product that the company offers a refund within a year of purchase if customers aren’t happy. Presto! Is designed with flex sheets that allow you to easily tear off half of a sheet instead of a full sheet of the paper towel. Another great feature is that if you’re too busy to reorder these paper towels online, you can simply tell Alexa to do it for you. While there are many great aspects of this product, it is one of the highest priced paper towels per roll.

Best Value: Brawny Tear-A-Square Paper Towels

More User Control

Adjust how much of the product you use for the task at hand, leading to less waste. Brawny

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Why It Made The Cut: This paper towel provides you more tear size options, all the way down to a quarter sheet, so that you won’t have to waste whole paper towels on smaller jobs.

Specs:

  • Weight: 11.17 Pounds
  • Dimensions: 22 x 20.25 x 11 inches
  • 3 sheet sizes
  • 128 sheets equivalent to 2 regular rolls

Pros: 

  • Versatility 
  • More user options
  • Absorbent and durable

Cons: 

  • Harder to tear

Brawny is another household brand that’s been around for decades and it still ranks high in most paper towel reviews. These paper towels are ultra-absorbent and the sheets can easily be used as a full size, half size, or quarter size. The quarter size makes it perfect for holding snacks, using as a coaster, or cleaning small spills. While this new quarter-size invention was quite innovative, it’s also proving to be problematic. Users report some issues with the perforations making it harder to tear.

Best Tree-Free:  Caboo Tree Free Bamboo Paper Towels

Good for the Environment

These hypoallergenic and fragrance-free towels are ideal for people with sensitive noses. The towels are also lint free, making them better for cleaning glass.
Caboo

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Why It Made The Cut: Made from bamboo and sugarcane grasses which can grow back in a few months compared to trees, these non-paper towels are a more sustainable choice.

Specs:

  • Weight: 2.8 Pounds
  • Dimensions: 7.9 x 11.6 x 11 inches
  • 75 sheets per roll

Pros:    

  • Environmentally friendly    
  • Chemically safer
  • Strong, durable, and absorbent

Cons:

  • Not as soft as other brands

Caboo’s non-paper towels are a much more sustainable solution to using disposable towels in the kitchen. Instead of using trees—which take many years to grow—to create their product, Caboo uses bamboo and sugarcane grasses which only take a few months to grow.

These towels are perfect for environmentally conscious people who want to reduce waste as much as possible. Caboo’s paper towels are biodegradable, dissolvable, and compostable. They’re also hypoallergenic, lint free, BPA free, and fragrance free, making them ideal for people with allergies. 

Caboo touts its product as treeless, meaning the towels don’t contain any wood fibers. These towels are very absorbent and great for getting rid of spills. Although Caboo has done a great job at creating a sustainable product, it’s not quite as soft and luxurious as other, similar products. It also comes wrapped in plastic which somewhat undermines its environmental halo.

Best Non-Rolls:  Pacific Blue Select Multifold Premium 2-Ply Paper Towels by GP PRO

For Heavy Bathroom Traffic

These towels can be stacked in an open tray or put in a dispenser mounted on the wall, and you can pull out each sheet without touching other surfaces Georgia-Pacific

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Why It Made The Cut: With so much concern about touching potentially contaminated surfaces, these towels make the cut because the user can grab a towel (or two) without touching an entire paper towel roll and without touching a dispenser.

Specs:

  • Weight: 13 Pounds
  • Dimensions: 20.88 x 13.88 x 9.88 inches
  • 125 paper towels per pack, 16 packs per case

Pros:  

  • Easy to use
  • Sanitary
  • Great for offices

Cons:

  • Less common for kitchen use

Georgia Pacific is an Atlanta-based company that is one of the biggest manufacturers and distributors of tissue, paper, and other such products in the world. It operates under several brand names including Angel Soft, Blue Ribbon, Mardi Gras, Brawny, Dixie and a few others. 

Pacific Blue paper towels are perfect for “away-from-home” use in facilities like public bathrooms and hospitals. But they can be used at home, too, especially in heavily-trafficked bathrooms where people don’t want to share hand towels. Unlike many similar commercial products, Pacific Blue doesn’t feel rough. 

These products are a lot like napkins but have the strength of paper towels. Instead of tearing a sheet from a roll, you simply pull a towel from a dispenser or a stack. The only drawback for this product is that it isn’t specifically designed for home use.

Things to Consider Before Buying Paper Towels

Ply Count

Paper towels with a higher ply count will be more absorbent (2-ply is the industry standard), and if you tend to make sizable messes in the kitchen and other rooms, a larger size sheet will be more useful. To help reduce your carbon footprint, look for paper towels made from recycled materials and paper towels called PCF (processed chlorine-free) that are processed using hydrogen peroxide and oxygen instead of bleach.

No-Roll Paper Towels

Paper towels don’t only come in roll form. They’re also packaged in flat stacks that can be stored and distributed in a dispenser. For this style of paper towel, fold is especially important as it impacts the way it comes out of the dispenser. Interlocking single-fold and large multifold paper towels are the most cost-efficient because they come out one at a time. Z-fold towels are folded twice, creating a Z-shape, and can be dispensed one at a time, but they are generally smaller than C-fold towels, which are folded inward on both sides. These can be difficult to unfold completely and to pull out one at a time, sometimes leading to waste.

Usage on Glass

We often judge a paper towel brand by its absorbency, but the chemicals used to help the towel hold more water are also what causes some towels to leave lint and streaks when used to clean glass surfaces like windows and mirrors. For the best cleaning results on glass, use a brand that doesn’t contain binders or glues, like Scott Shop glass towels, with an ammonia-based glass cleaner or a 50/50 water-and-vinegar solution.

Spills

If spills on carpet are a concern, consider buying heftier, more expensive paper towels that will ensure extra carpet and rug protection when you clean up. For instance, if you need to clean a wax spill on the carpet, just cover it with a sheet of paper towel and run an iron over it so that the paper towel will absorb the melting wax. A thicker towel will do the job and protect the carpet.

FAQs

Q:

Can I use paper towels in the microwave?

Most paper towels can be used in the microwave to keep food from splattering when it’s being reheated. But check the label first, because some paper towels may include materials that could cause a fire in the microwave. Leaving any paper towels in the microwave too long might also start a fire.

Q:

Can biodegradable paper towels be flushed down toilets?

There are many biodegradable and environmentally friendly paper towel options on the market. However, it’s not a good idea to flush them down the toilet because they can cause backup. 

Q:

Is it better to clean kitchen counters with paper towels or dish towels?

It’s better to clean with paper towels because dish towels may contain bacteria. When you use reusable cloth towels to wipe down counters, you may be spreading bacteria and contaminating the surface. Paper towels minimize contamination. That said, paper towels

Final Thoughts

Not all paper towels are created equal. Some are mostly made of paper while others can be made of recycled materials or bamboo. Paper towels may also have various sheet sizes and ply counts. However, the one feature that continues to be the most significant in determining the best paper towel is still its absorbency. Bounty seems to beat out the competition when it comes to durability and absorbance.

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