Best Paper Towels

Updated June 2019
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

49 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
568 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best paper towels

Last Updated June 2019

It’s tempting to grab a few packages of inexpensive paper towels, but should you? Even though paper towels are easy to find and plentiful on shelves, you probably have a preference in terms of the style and texture you use. Maybe you like thick, fancy paper towels and don’t mind spending a little extra for the luxury. Maybe you like plain value rolls that you can use in bulk to clean up household messes.

If you have storage space, buying paper towels online is a no-brainer. You don’t have to wrestle with large packages from store to home, and you can’t beat the stocking-up deals on bulk purchases. However, there are some key points to consider before clicking  the “buy now” button, as not all paper towels are created equally. Roll size, sheet size, thickness, softness, and wet strengths all vary.

To help you narrow down your options, we  explore paper towels in depth in this shopping guide. Read on if you want to unravel the mystery of what makes a mediocre paper towel versus a better picker upper.

In the early 1900s, a schoolteacher in Philadelphia handed out small squares of soft notebook paper instead of cloth towels to stop the spread of flu in her classroom. Scott Paper Company took the teacher’s idea and created the first paper towel, named Sani-Towels, and marketed its hygienic qualities.

Key considerations

Absorbency

Absorbency is likely the most important consideration when choosing paper towels. A paper towel absorbs with its cellulose fibers and holds moisture there through an internal bonding process. You can do all the tests to see which brand absorbs more or less, but the bottom line is that premium plush double-ply products absorb more in weight than economical single-ply paper towels. A full sheet of double-ply paper towel can hold up to 3/4 of a cup of liquid.

Wet strength

The strength of a paper towel comes from the quality of its fiber and resins. Consider whether you want to reuse paper towels or toss them after one use. To rinse and reuse a paper towel, it needs superior wet strength.

A paper towel with superior wet strength will hold up if you scrub a slightly abrasive surface a couple hundred times while the towel is wet. If it breaks apart after a few dozen passes, however, it has poor wet strength.

Thickness

A paper towel with multiple layers has more space to absorb more water. A single-ply paper towel is a less-expensive utilitarian product that gets the job done, but it’s not as strong when wet. A two-ply (double-ply) towel is not always as economical, but it gets the job done and is twice as strong as cheaper construction. In this type of paper towel, a type of water-based adhesive holds the two layers together.

Hand

A paper towel with larger pockets to hold water will also feel softer in your hand. If you don’t like the way a paper towel feels in your hand — for example, if it feels too abrasive to hold — chances are you probably won’t use it. If you love the way a plush paper towel feels in your hand, you’re likely to jump up and grab the roll for clean-ups.

If you truly don’t care one way or another how your paper towels feel in your hand, you might as well pick the more economical choice. They may feel harder and have fewer pockets, but they’ll save you money.

Sheets per roll

Paper towel rolls with full-size sheets may come with extra perforations so you can rip them into half or quarter sheets. Some manufacturers note how many half-size or quarter-size sheets you’ll find on a roll. You’ll see that information in tiny print on the bottom of the package.

Though there’s no standard rule, a regular roll of paper towels generally has about 60 sheets, whereas a mega roll has about 100 sheets. Similarly, if you were to compare the diameter of a standard roll of an economical brand to a standard roll from a premium brand, the former would probably look smaller.

Square feet per roll

Another way to compare brands is to look at the square feet of paper towels per roll. You should be able to find that information in the same place that you find the number of sheets per roll.

Sheet size

Full paper towel sheets are typically 11” x 11” squares. A half-sheet is usually 11” x 6”, and a quarter-sheet is half of that.

Put your paper towels to good use by lining your vegetable crispers with them. The towels will absorb the moisture that causes produce to rot.

Staff
BestReviews

Features

Customized size sheets

Being able to tear off a small piece of paper towel for a little mess means less waste and more convenience. However, this often comes at a higher cost per roll. For many consumers, it comes down to how easy it is to tear the paper towel at the perforation.

Texture

Quilted paper towels are designed to hold more moisture. The quilted shapes form air pockets that sop up and hold water.

Design

Water-based printing inks create the decorative and seasonal patterns and colors of paper towels.

Mega roll

There is no standard or regulated measurement of a “mega” roll of paper towels. Some manufacturers say their mega roll is equal to 1.5 standard rolls, while others say their mega rolls are equal to two standard rolls. To make things even more confusing, one top brand also has a package of two “family rolls,” which are equal to five regular rolls.

Coupon

An instant coupon from the manufacturer increases your savings. A paper towel brand that participates in a subscribe-and-save program can also help save you money over time.

Paper towel prices

Regardless of what brand or type of paper towels you prefer, you’ll always get a better deal buying in bulk rather than buying single rolls. You may see calculated pricing that tells you how much you pay per 100 sheets on a roll. For example, you may find items listed as $1.13/100 sheets, $1.37/100 sheets, and $1.77/100 sheets. One way to handle pricing is to compare the cost of 100 sheets of your favorite brand’s mega roll to other mega rolls.

Inexpensive: For $3 to $12, you can buy single rolls of paper towels from just about any brand. Granted, a $9 single roll of paper towels is not considered cheap by any means, but if you’re buying a single roll of reusable bamboo paper towels, that adds value to your purchase.

In this range, you can also find lower-quality packs of three rolls that may not absorb or tear well. They may only come in full-size sheets with no select-a-size feature. You may also find packs of 100% recycled paper towels in this price range; these may not be as absorbent as higher-priced paper towels.

Mid-range: In the $12 to $22 range, you’ll find bulk deals on notable brand names in packages of six to eight rolls, most of which are select-a-size rolls. You’ll also find larger bulk packs of no-name paper towels.

Expensive: Over $22, you can find your best bulk deals. For example, you will find 12+ packages of select-a-size sheets in giant, extra-large, and mega sizes. Premium brands that offer the greatest absorbency can also be found here.

EXPERT TIP

Use paper towels to sop up spills and to wash windows, but avoid using them to clean eyeglass lenses and wood furniture. Even a soft, dry paper towel has some abrasion to it, which could potentially scratch a lens coating or the dusty surface of a wood tabletop.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

If you clean with paper towels that have color or pattern, don’t worry about the design and the dye transferring to anything else. However, be mindful of using colored paper towels in the microwave for too long, as the dye will heat up and potentially transfer to the food.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • If you routinely use paper towels to dry and lift washed fruit, opt for double-ply rolls. Single-ply sheets will have a tough time holding up under the pressure of a half a pound of grapes, for example.

  • The way a paper towel feels largely has to do with its finish. Conditioners are often added to the process to improve softness or strength. Manufacturers of paper towels keep these proprietary formulas secret.

  • Paper towels made of recycled fibers may absorb less than towels made from virgin fibers. The process of recycling fibers shortens them, which affects the way they’re able to absorb liquids. There are brands that offer a combination of recycled and virgin fibers.

Other products we considered

If you’re considering 100% recycled paper towels that are whitened without using chlorine bleach, go with Seventh Generation Paper Towels. We like them because they have all the right-size sheets without the added dyes, inks, or fragrances.

We also love these Kleenex Expressions Hand Towels, which are essentially paper towels in a box. Though pricey, these durable paper towels come in value packs of six stylish boxes (for 360 towels) and are ideal as fresh and disposable guest hand towels.

If you’re excited to try a reusable, machine washable paper towel made from organically sourced bamboo, give some thought to Bambooee, a 30-sheet roll that the manufacturer says replaces up to 429 regular paper towel rolls.

Paper towels are safe to use in the microwave. When you’re microwaving a greasy item, a paper towel on top loosely covering the food helps contain the grease. However, you should never put paper towels in a regular oven, as they could catch fire.

FAQ

Q. Why do some brands of paper towels leave lint behind when wiping down glass?
A.
Some brands leave a cloud of lint when you tear off a sheet from the roll, or they leave behind a bit of lint, which is actually just tiny loose fibers. Different brands of paper towels leave varying amounts of lint. If you can’t tolerate any lint, opt for microfiber cloths instead.

Q. What does it mean if paper towels are septic-safe or compostable?
A.
Paper towels should never be flushed down a toilet because they’re not designed to disintegrate like toilet paper when put in a septic system. Although paper towels are considered compostable (recyclable), keep them out of the compost if they are contaminated with food or other spills you’ve wiped up.

Q. What does it mean if paper towels are bleached?
A.
Bleaching agents are routinely used in tissue and paper towel manufacturing to keep them bright white. Paper towels are made from pulp, which is brown in its natural state. The American Forest & Paper Association says that modern bleaching processes use safe, non-toxic technology that’s recognized and accepted by both U.S. and international commissions, including the EPA. However, if you prefer unbleached paper towels, you have a choice.

Q. Is there such a thing as scented paper towels?
A.
Scent-infused paper towels tend to appear on the market every so often, but they don’t stay for very long. Adding scent (or in some cases, dishwashing detergent) to an item like paper towels may bump up the cost too much. Furthermore, scents could aggravate consumers who may be sensitive to fragrant products. Not only that, can you imagine how a scented paper towel may react to an odorous spill? When two odors collide, sometimes it doesn’t smell pretty.

The team that worked on this review
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Marilyn
    Marilyn
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey