The paper towel holder is the unsung hero of the kitchen. It doesn’t add flavor to a meal like an herb or spice, or perform a crucial cooking task like a cast-iron skillet or a microwave. It just hangs or sits there, quietly and unobtrusively, storing and holding paper towels wherever you want them to be, which is usually within arm’s reach of the busiest section of the kitchen counter.

Reaching for a piece of paper towel, pulling it down and tearing it off becomes such an ingrained function that most of us can and often do that without actually looking at the paper towel roll. Thank you, paper towel holder, for always serving us! Until it doesn’t. A paper towel holder mishap totally disrupts whatever kitchen harmony and happiness you had. Damn you, paper towel holder, for failing us!

Here are three ways paper towel holders collapse, flounder, or otherwise don’t do their job—which usually occur at most inopportune times—and how to prevent such calamities from happening to you.

Top Pick

This contains a ratcheting mechanism, allowing you to rip off exactly the number of wipes you need every time. Kamenstein

You begin pulling a sheet of paper towel off of the roll that’s hanging on a wall or under a cabinet. The roll isn’t turning easily because the arms are holding the roll too tight, so you pull down a bit harder. Or, the roll turns too easily because the arms aren’t holding it with enough pressure, so you tear the paper towel section off with more force than usual. Suddenly there’s a lack of resistance because the whole roll has detached and fallen onto your dirty kitchen floor, rolling away and paving a miniature paper roadway into the living room, where your dog starts barking at it. Or, it falls onto the bowl of chicken noodle soup you were going to have for lunch, flipping the bowl over and spilling soup all over the counter, leaving you no choice but to use the entire contaminated roll to blot it up.

Solution: Stop buying those cheap plastic under-counter paper towel holders and invest in a metal ratcheting holder that allows you to easily pull out and tear off one sheet of paper towel at a time.

Great Value

Get good looks and sturdiness along with a full-size roller arm. iDesign

You’re placing a new roll of paper towel in a wall or under-cabinet holder. The roll is large, and it won’t easily fit between the arms, so you pull the arm of the paper towel holder out just a little more. The flange on the inside of the arm is only a hair away from sliding into the end of the cardboard tube, and snap. “Bad words,” you say, though not exactly those words, as you stare stupidly at the broken off-arm of the paper towel holder in your hand, while the roll of paper towels rolls into your kitchen sink, where it begins to absorb dirty dish water faster than you’ve ever seen paper towels absorb anything in your entire life.

Solution: Get a paper towel holder with an interior roller arm, so the paper towel roll can’t slide off.

Also Consider

This offers counter-top support so you won’t yank the roll onto the floor or rip off too many sheets. OXO

You’re attempting to tear a piece of paper towel from a vertical paper towel holder, but it won’t begin tearing, and you’re turning the roll instead, causing more paper towels to unroll. You can’t hold the roll still with your other hand because it’s covered in fudge or turkey grease or raw hamburger meat, so you apply harder, faster downward pressure. That only causes even more paper towels to unroll, which you try to yank off, causing the holder itself to slide across the counter, falling over and knocking your cup of coffee off of the counter and onto the floor, where it shatters, splattering hot coffee onto your new shoes. Or your bare feet.

Solution: Get a vertical paper towel holder with a spring-activated arm that will hold the roll still while you tear a piece off, and with a non-slip base so it won’t slide on your counter.