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The seemingly limitless variety of paper towels can be pretty overwhelming, especially because they all seem to blend together. Although you may be tempted to simply continue to buy the ones you always have, there may be a better option for your needs.
In order to help you make an informed decision, we’ve put together a selection of some of the best paper towels on the market. Each is great for different purposes: for example, while some are impressively sturdy, others might be a better choice for you if you are working with a tight budget.
We’ve also included a couple of reusable options for those who are looking for opportunities to make their home more eco-friendly—one can absorb up to 16 times its weight in water while the other looks and feels surprisingly similar to disposable paper towels.
Here, the best paper towels available online.
Best Overall: Brawny Tear-A-Square Paper Towels
Brawny paper towels are one of the most affordable picks on the market, and yet, they are almost as durable as Bounty towels. That means that each of the 128 sheets per roll can handle any mess that happens in your house, whether it’s a giant spill or a sticky spot that needs to be scrubbed at. Although most paper towels these days have shorter sheets so that you can select the size you want, Brawny rolls are the only ones that have horizontal perforations as well as vertical ones. The 5.5-inch square shape is a lot more handheld than the half-size, so they’re great for just about any task that doesn’t involve soaking up big spills. They are also soft and cloth-like, so they will be more gentle on sensitive hands.
Best Absorbent: Bounty Select-A-Size Paper Towels
These rolls are a bit pricier than most of the other paper towels on this list, but when you realize how much a single sheet can mop up in one swipe, you’ll know they were well worth it. The 2-ply towels are thick, sturdy, and twice as absorbent as other custom-size-it paper towel brands. Additionally, the rough texture makes them great for scrubbing away sticky messes and catching loose dirt in the crevices. Because these are double rolls (triple also available), you won’t be hitting the cardboard nearly as quickly as you normally would which is very convenient as you won’t have to run out to the garage to grab a new roll nearly as often.
Best Resuable: Kitchen + Home Bamboo Towels
Because bamboo is a fast-growing grass that requires very little water to survive, it is way more sustainable than trees. For that reason, bamboo paper towels are a great alternative option for those who are working on creating a more eco-friendly household. Unlike most reusable towels, these look and feel like paper towels. They are thick, soft, and surprisingly sturdy. In fact, you can use them as an affordable replacement when you run out of pads for your flat mop.
It’s a little annoying to store these once you’ve torn apart their perforations, but there are plenty of great workarounds for that issue: you can roll each sheet and tuck them into a basket, stack them in an old wipes canister, or layer them while you roll them back around the cardboard tube. The sheets are machine-washable, so they’re easy to clean. You can stick them in the dryer with the temperature on low, but air-drying is your best bet for maintaining their quality and size.
Best Compostable: Food52 Five Two Compostable Sponge Cloths
Although these sponge cloths aren’t technically paper towels, we couldn’t resist including them because of how strong and sturdy they are. Just as the name suggests, they can be used as either a dish sponge or a surface wipe. While most sponge cloths are stiff and awkward to use, these are quite flexible. They can hold up to 16 times their weight without falling apart, and they have adorable, colorfast prints that won’t even fade if you use them with bleach.
Similar to the bamboo towels, these sponge cloths can be cleaned in either the dishwasher or the washing machine over and over again. You can even sanitize them in the microwave, just as you would a normal sponge! The cloths should last you quite a while (each can handle about 300 washes), and you can toss them into your compost bin with your food scraps once they lose their verve.
Best Holder: simplehuman Wall-Mount Paper Towel Holder
A good roll of paper towels is nothing without a great paper towel holder, and the simplehuman Wall-Mount Paper Towel Holder is just as sleek and inconspicuous as it is convenient. With the help of three tiny screws, it is so easy to mount under your cabinets, on the inside of cabinet doors, or on the wall. The tension spring inside of the knob holds the roll just tightly enough that you can pull and tear off a single sheet with one hand. Replacing an empty roll with a new one is just as simple: Pinch the two buttons on the knob to pull it off, switch the cardboard tube with a fresh roll, and slide the knob back into place. The design is so intuitive that you’ll never go back to your countertop towel holder.
Best Recycled: 365 Everyday Value Paper Towels
Being eco-friendly is rarely convenient and often requires more time than most people have to spare, but 365 Everyday Value Paper Towels are a great compromise. They’re less wasteful because they are made with 100 percent recycled content, more convenient than dealing with cloth towels that have to be washed, and just as absorbent as traditional paper towels. They don’t contain any fragrances, dyes, inks, or chlorine bleach, so they’re a good choice for people with sensitive skin. The only real drawback of these is that they don’t have the half-size perforations, but at a dollar per roll, it’s well worth the sacrifice. Although they don’t hold up as effectively as the Bounty or Brawny towels, these sheets are strong and absorbent enough to get the job done.
Best for Glass: Scott Shop Towels
Sometimes, it seems almost impossible to get a streak-free finish when cleaning glass, which is why Scott Shop Towels really come in handy. Because they are untreated and don’t utilize any binders, they won’t leave behind streaks or flecks of lint. They are designed to mop up oil and grease in auto shops, so you know that they’re also equipped to handle more substantial messes. The blue sheets have a thick, cloth-like texture without the quilting that can make some paper towels feel rough.
Surprisingly, these specialty towels are about the same price as the more affordable ones on this list—about 1.4 cents per sheet—so you don’t have to worry about paying a premium just to make your windows, electric stovetop, or glass tabletops sparkle
Best Value: Scott Essential Multifold Paper Towel
If you’re trying to cut costs wherever you can, Scott Essential Multifold Paper Towels are a great choice. At less than a cent per sheet, they are by far the cheapest ones on the list. They’re single-ply, so they won’t be quite as tough as the premium options, but the signature “absorbency pockets” ensure that they soak up water quickly and hold it well. Although you’ll probably need to have a few cloths on hand to mop up big spills, Scott Essential Multifold Paper Towels are great for lightweight jobs like wiping down the kitchen table or sweeping up crumbs. They’re also a great alternative for the bathroom if wiping your hands dry with cloth hand towels feels even less sanitary than it used to. You can either tuck a pile into a basket or invest in a dispenser or two that allows you to pull out a single sheet without touching or dripping water on the next one.
Although Bounty Select-A-Size Paper Towels (view at Target) are the strongest and most absorbent on this list, the low price point and horizontal perforations on the Brawny Tear-A-Square Paper Towels (view at Amazon) make them the best choice. However, if you're looking for a compostable option, go with the Five Two Compostable Sponge Cloths (view at Food52).
What to Look for in Paper Towels
Absorbency & Durability
It goes without saying that paper towels need to be absorbent, and even more so if you have children who tend to spill a bit more. You can check on the absorbency of different products by looking at the 'ply' (2-ply is stronger) and size of the individual sheets, as well as the perforations.
Paper towels are recyclable but not reusable, unless you opt for something that's cloth or bamboo, which can be used more than once. Although eco-friendly towels and cloths tend to be higher in price, they can, of course, be used more than once—which is great if you're trying to conserve and protect the environment.
Paper towel pricing can vary, and can be pretty frustrating if you're trying to get the best deal. If you're opting for something reusable or sustainable, keep in mind that this will always be at a higher price range. As far as typical paper towels go, check out the weight, size, and single vs. double roll. Often times you'll pay more for "fancy" features, but budget buys may not be as powerful when it comes to cleaning big spills.
What are paper towels made of?
When were paper towels invented?
Where should you put paper towels in the kitchen?
You can set up your paper towels anywhere, but most people store them in easy-to-access places, like under the sink or cabinet.
Why Trust The Spruce
This article was researched and written by Emily Shwake, a freelance writer who has written for The Spruce since 2020. In addition to The Spruce, she writes about home and lifestyle topics for BuzzFeed, Apartment Therapy, and Martha Stewart. She currently has a roll of Bounty Select-A-Sheet Paper Towels on her simplehuman Wall-Mount Paper Towel Holder, but she intends to switch to Brawny once it’s time to restock. Additional reporting was done by Marisa Donnelly, a writer and editor with over 12 years of experience. Her work has appeared in Huffington Post, Bustle, BossBabe, Thought Catalog, and more.