Written by Kevin Oliver and Georgia Kral
Updated January 18, 2023
Paper towels are one of those household products that pretty much need to be on hand at all times. And when it’s time to clean up a mess around the house, the right high-quality paper towel goes a long way. But with an entire aisle of paper towel brands in every store, which paper towel offers the best cleaning ability for the money?
After researching and testing the best paper towels on the market, our favorite paper towel is the Kirkland Signature Premium Create-a-Size (available at Costco) because of its ease of use, soft texture, and unparalleled cleaning ability. However, there were many excellent products we found in our testing.
The recommendations in this guide are based on thorough product and market research by our team of expert product reviewers. The picks are based on examining user reviews, product specifications, and, in some limited cases, our experience with the specific products named.
Kirkland Signature Create-A-Size Paper Towels
The Kirkland Paper Towels aced all of our tests. The towel had no problem sopping up tomato sauce on the counter or removing the dust from under my radiator. I was especially impressed with the dust wipe, as the particles clung to the paper towel and didn’t just get moved around on the floor. When I soaked the towel in water and rubbed it rigorously on the carpet, it held together and didn’t tear. Not only are these towels impressively strong, they’re also soft to the touch. A good hard pull is required to rip one of them, and it was reusable after being wet and then dried.
Similar to Bounty
Loses strength in water
Presto Paper Towels
Presto!, which is Amazon’s paper products brand, really impressed us. It was surprising that such a new product could hold its own next to powerhouse leading towel brands like Bounty. It wiped away nearly all of the tomato sauce on the counter and, when it was rubbed across a carpet, it only tore a tiny bit. It’s not the softest towel in the world, but it’s thick and sturdy.
Not the softest
The “quicker picker upper” brand—yep, Bounty—is one of the best known paper towel brands and for good reason. In the tomato sauce single-wipe test, Bounty left only a trace amount of sauce left on the counter, just like the Kirkland towel. Where it lost points was in the dust wipe; while some of the dust did cling to the paper towel, an equal amount was left behind.
As a dry paper towel, the Bounty felt very strong and thick. Once we wet the towel, it held its strength and performed very well in the rough carpet rubbing test with just a bit of tearing. On the subjective side, this towel doesn’t necessarily feel like anything special or unique and it isn’t soft to the touch, but each sheet tears easily from the roll.
Strong and thick
Can withstand rigorous scrubbing
Rough to the touch
Brawny has a comparable feel to Bounty—which means it would feel right at home in any kitchen for just about every use. The only area Brawny struggled in was how it held together after dunking. Other than that, this product is a good option for most people and you shouldn’t hesitate throwing it in your shopping cart.
Falls apart when soaked
The Bounty Essentials are thinner and softer than the Select-a-Size towels we tested. However, this translates into a towel that can’t really compete. The towels pulled apart easily during the carpet rubbing test. And, while it wiped up most of the tomato sauce, it pushed around as much dust as it picked up and tore when rubbed across the carpet.
Loses strength when submerged
The Viva paper towel is thin and soft. There’s no texture woven into this towel, which makes the experience of using it quite different than the others. When holding the towel, it feels thin and closer to a thick piece of toilet paper than a sturdy paper towel. But while it feels nice and soft while using, it didn’t perform well during the wiping test.The Viva wiped up some but not all of the tomato sauce and it wasn’t able to pick up most of the dust under my radiator. Interestingly, despite the lack of thickness, it didn’t tear at all after being submerged in water and rubbed across a rough carpet.
Disintegrates easily when wet
Like Bounty, Brawny is another household brand. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to its reputation. These textured towels are fairly rough to the touch. They also weren't able to wipe up the same amount of sauce or dust as its competitors. As for durability, it’s on the weaker side. After being submerged in water and dragged across a rough carpet, the towel pulled apart fairly easily.
None we could find
Sparkle Paper Towels
Sparkle was simply nothing special. Aside from being ho-hum in all of our objective testing, the paper had an irritating feel. It also took some effort to tear a clean piece without leaving a corner at the bottom. Altogether, it’s not awful, but there are so many better options on the market with competitive prices.
Has an irritating feel
Takes effort to tear a clean piece
Food Lion Paper Towels
While our local grocery pick may not fully represent every local grocery’s paper towels, Food Lion’s paper towels simply couldn’t hold up to the competition and didn’t impress in any category. They were rough to the touch and only became weaker when wet. Spring for the Bounty Essentials or any of our other store-specific picks if you’re looking to save money on paper towels.
Rough to the touch
Falls apart when wet
Seventh Generation Unbleached Paper Towels
For whatever reason, the unbleached version of the Seventh Generation’s 100% recycled paper performed much worse in our test than its bleached counterpart. This product was coarse, weak, and not great at performing basic clean-ups. If you’re looking for a recycled paper towel, the Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value 100% recycled towels was a better and more affordable option.
Made of recycled paper
How We Tested Paper Towels
We put each towel through its paces in practical, around-the-house tests that would best reflect the average consumer’s use of the product.
Our first trial was a simple wiping test. We put a teaspoon of tomato sauce on a common kitchen countertop and tried to clean the mess with one swipe of a paper towel. We documented any smudging or smearing, while also taking into account each product’s ease of use.
Next, we swiped each dry towel over a dusty surface to find their cleaning ability without the aid of water or spray.
We also tested the strength of each paper towel in both a dry and wet state. Using just one piece of paper, we attempted to pull it in half while dry and while wet. Next, we rubbed each wet paper towel against the rough surface of a floor rug to test the durability of each towel.
Last but certainly not least, we paid attention to the smaller, subjective details that make certain paper towels more enjoyable to use than others. This includes ease of tearing (because everyone loathes that piece at the bottom after an uneven tear), texture, softness, and overall ease of use.
What You Should Know About Paper Towels
While it may seem like all paper towels are the same, that’s actually not the case. There are a few considerations for the consumer that will help determine what to buy.
The first factor to consider is the sticker price, which incorporates the actual dollar amount but also the question of reusability. In our testing we wet the towels and then allowed them to dry and then used them again. This helped us determine which towels were strong and absorbent and the most durable.
Thickness & Absorbency
The thickness of each paper towel must also be considered. How sturdy the towel feels in your hand is important, but thickness plays a role in absorbency, which of course is one of the most important criteria when it comes to paper towels. But it’s not always the case that the thickest towel cleans up the biggest mess or stays the strongest when soaked through. In our testing, the thinnest towel was the Viva, but that towel proved to be quite durable when wet.
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Meet the testers
Kevin Oliver is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
See all of Kevin Oliver's reviews
In her career as a journalist, Kral has reported on topics ranging from restaurants and food to parenting and education. She lives in Montclair, N.J., with her husband and two children.
See all of Georgia Kral's reviews
Checking our work.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.
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The Best Paper Towels of 2023? ›
Our top pick is Brawny Tear-A-Square Paper Towels because they are affordable, absorbent, and strong enough to tackle big spills. Their horizontal and vertical perforations allow you to tear off a full, half, or quarter of a sheet, so you use less paper per wipe than with other brands.What is the best brand of paper towels? ›
Our top pick is Brawny Tear-A-Square Paper Towels because they are affordable, absorbent, and strong enough to tackle big spills. Their horizontal and vertical perforations allow you to tear off a full, half, or quarter of a sheet, so you use less paper per wipe than with other brands.What brand of paper towels is most absorbent? ›
As it turns out, Viva is the most absorbent paper towel.What are the best paper towels that don t leave lint behind? ›
Bounty Select-A-Size Paper Towels
Bounty paper towels are top performers and GH lab pros #1 choice for their own homes. These paper towels are able to absorb liquid quickly without breaking, and they leave no lint in their path, keeping your counter tops perfectly clean.
Brawny – Pick-A-Size is our choice for best paper towel due to its strength, absorbency and scrubbing power. Brawny also costs less per square foot than our second-best pick, Bounty. Since it's a leading brand, the cost is higher than a generic brand, but you're paying for better performance.What are the very best towels? ›
- Best Bath Towel Overall: Frontgate Resort Cotton Bath Towel.
- Best Value Bath Towel: Amazon Basics Quick Dry Bath Towels.
- Best Luxury Bath Towel: Matouk Milagro Bath Towel.
Our results were that: Bounty wiped up most of the water. School brand wiped up the second most water. Kirkland soaked up a fair amount of water.Why is Viva paper towels so good? ›
From the Viva website: “Viva Signature Cloth paper towels are designed to be cloth-like, durable and used for deep cleaning. Viva Multi-Surface Cloth paper towels have two absorbent layers designed with a unique texture to lift and trap mess on many surfaces.”Why is Viva the best paper towel? ›
They're soft, strong and absorbent, which makes them perfect for the kitchen or the bathroom. In our analysis of 49 expert reviews, the Viva Hand Washing Cloth-Like Paper Towels placed 8th when we looked at the top 16 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.What is better than using paper towels? ›
To cut down on the waste and cost of paper towels, you can switch to reusable 'unpaper' towels, cotton dish cloths, or even reusable rolls. You can avoid using paper towels in many ways, especially by using these alternatives to single-use towels.
What is better than paper towels? ›
The Best Overall Paper Towel Alternative: Scotch-Brite Heavy-Duty Scrub Sponges. These sponges soak up liquid like, well, sponges. They dominated when it came to absorbency, are pretty much indestructible, and clean up easily without needing a run through the washing machine.What paper towels have no chemicals? ›
- Grove Co. Swedish Dishcloths - Lemons.
- Marley's Monsters Vintage Lemons Rolled UNpaper® Towels.
- Grove Co. Tree-Free Reusable Paper Towels - 100% Bamboo.
- Seventh Generation Unbleached Paper Towels.
- Marley's Monsters Rainbow Rolled Unpaper® Towels.
- Seventh Generation Paper Towel.
- Grove Co.
- 1st Place. Regina Blitz Kitchen Towel Extra Large Roll 3ply Super Absorbent Paper, Pack of. ...
- 2nd Place. Regina Blitz Household Towel, 560 Super-Sized Sheets, Triple Layered Strength, 8 Count. ...
- 3rd Place. Nail Technician Desk Towels 100% Lint Free (Pack of 50) ...
- 4th Place. ...
- 5th Place.
Usually, the thicker the cloth, the more absorbent it is. In the above experiment, the terry cloth will absorb more than the paper towel, which will absorb more than the facial tissue.Are Unpaper towels worth it? ›
YES! In fact, if every household replaced just one roll of paper towels with Unpaper Towels, it would save around 544,000 trees each year!Which is better Bounty or Sparkle? ›
Some paper towels are stronger and more absorbent than others. We tested paper towels from Brawny, Marcal, Sparkle, and Bounty to see which was the strongest and most absorbent. Bounty was the strongest and most absorbent paper towel we tried.What is the oldest paper towel brand? ›
1907 Scott Paper invents Sani-Towels (later renamed ScotTissue Towels), the first disposable paper towel, for use in Philadelphia classrooms to help prevent the spread of common colds. 1913 Scott's sales exceed $1 million for the first time.What paper towels are made in USA? ›
One source regarded that most paper towels are made in Georgia since the state is rich in pulp. Some of the major companies that manufacture in various parts of the United States include the Scott brand, Bounty, Viva, and Sparkle.What towels do most hotels use? ›
The most common types of towels used in hotels are 100% cotton towels. However, cotton and polyester blends are also used in hotels, thanks to their exceptional durability.What kind of towels does Oprah use? ›
Cozy Earth Waffle Bath Bundle
Turn your bathroom into a spa, with this super-soft, super-luxe, super-absorbent set beloved by Oprah. Made from a 60/40 blend of cotton and viscose (from bamboo), the waffle towels are ultra-soft and absorbent. The set includes two bath towels, two hand towels and four washcloths.
What towels do the Kardashians use? ›
In an article for Poosh she wrote when she started working with the brand, Kardashian raved about her Aquis wrap towel: “Not only does it cut down on drying time, but it also minimizes frizz and breakage and increases shine.What happened to Bounty paper towels? ›
You may be asking what happened to Bounty paper towels with Dawn? Our Bounty with Dawn paper towels have been discontinued. We understand how much you loved Bounty with Dawn, which is why we know you'll love using our Bounty paper towels, Bounty Essentials paper towels,and Bounty Napkins.Why do school paper towels not absorb water? ›
Paper towels are permeable and porous, meaning that they contain small spaces that both liquid and air may pass through. Liquid is able to rise through a property of water called cohesion—that is, water molecules like to stay close to one another (which also helps to explain surface tension).Do more expensive paper towels absorb more water than cheaper ones? ›
The more expensive brands of paper towels will absorb more water, and the weight difference between the initial weight, and weight after immersion will be different for different brands.Are bamboo towels better than paper towels? ›
Bamboo, a naturally growing plant, regenerates every few months, as opposed to trees that cannot regrow or reharvest. And once produced, responsibly sourced bamboo is even more absorbent than typical paper towels. So not only is bamboo better for the planet, but it's also a super cost-effective solution for our homes.What are the three types of paper towels? ›
- Lint-free vs. traditional paper towels. ...
- Commercial vs. kitchen roll paper towels. ...
- C-fold vs. multifold paper towels. ...
- Select-a-size options. ...
- Absorbency. ...
- Durability. ...
- Reusability. ...
Viva paper towels come from American plants in locations such as Jenks, Oklahoma; Marinette, Wisconsin; and Beech Island, South Carolina.Did Costco change their paper towels? ›
Kirkland Premium Towel rolls used to come with 160 sheets, but now they come with 140. The change took effect because of an increased demand for paper towels amid the ongoing pandemic, and Costco says it's only temporary.
As our softest and most durable* paper towel, Viva® Signature Cloth™ will help you master any mess for an exceptional deep clean.Who owns Bounty paper towels? ›
Bounty is owned by P&G which stands for Procter and Gamble. P&G first acquired Charmin in 1957 which then became Bounty in 1965 after rebranding the two. P&G still owns the brand Charmin, which is currently a leading bathroom tissue brand, and no longer offers paper towels in their product line.
Should I use a hand dryer or paper towels? ›
From a hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior to electric air dryers. Drying hands thoroughly with single-use, disposable paper towels is the preferred mothod of hand drying in health care.How to go paper towel free? ›
There are so many ways to do it, whether it's swapping out one-use plastic spray bottles for cleaning concentrates, using beeswax wraps instead of cling film, or switching to reusable towels instead of reaching for your usual paper towel roll.Are blue shop towels better than paper towels? ›
Shop towels are more absorbent than paper towels, sometimes 5-to-10 paper towels are needed to do the job of one shop towel. Shop towels are softer than paper towels, making them easier on finished surfaces. Disposable paper towels are not as durable and are wasteful when compared to shop towels.Why are Bounty paper towels better? ›
Because Bounty is The Quicker Picker Upper. It's built like no other paper towel. Each sheet of Bounty is more durable, more absorbent, softer and thicker than anything else. So you can keep on living even when the messes keep on coming.Are papaya towels worth it? ›
I love them, they work better than paper towels actually. They work great for cleaning my windows, glass, counters, eeeeverything! And durable as heck! Thank you for such a great product.
"Materials like microfiber and cotton (including Turkish cotton), are the most popular fabrics for face cloths, and they are also good options for full-size towels for the body." She suggests avoiding muslin fabrics, which tend to be harsher on skin.What towels don't collect bacteria? ›
Mizu towels are made of self cleaning silver fibers that prevent 99.9% of bacteria from sticking. The color of the stripes even change when it's dirty so you know when it's time to wash it.Do all paper towels have formaldehyde? ›
Some paper products, such as grocery bags and paper towels, give off small amounts of formaldehyde. Because these products contain formaldehyde, you may also be exposed on the skin by touching or coming in direct contact with them. You may also be exposed to small amounts of formaldehyde in the food you eat.Which paper towels are best for cleaning windows? ›
If you must use paper towels, go with untreated towels such as SCOTT Glass Towels. Skip anything touting its absorbency. In fact, I recommend skipping paper towels altogether if you can.What is the difference between Z and C fold paper towels? ›
C-Fold - A C-Fold paper towel is a towel that has tabs that are folded in on each other, with the middle of the paper towel facing down. Z-Fold - A Z-Fold paper towel is a towel that has an extra fold in the middle which creates the 'Z' shape.
What are the easiest towels to keep clean? ›
White towels are the easiest to maintain because you can wash them in hot water to disinfect without worrying about color fading. You can also bleach them (although be careful — chlorine bleach can yellow protein stains, like sweat, if it's not diluted properly).Which brands of paper towels absorb the most water? ›
As it turns out, Viva is the most absorbent paper towel.What absorbs water quickly? ›
Sponges and cotton are examples of materials found at home that are very porous and absorb water very easily.Why are hotel towels so good? ›
The main reason is that they wash their towels in hot water 40-50c with commercial detergent and no fabric softener. Fabric softener can really reduce the absorbency of your towels,which leave a waxy residue on towels, for example. Also, cotton gets more absorbent with use, and hotel towels are well-used.Are Sam's Club paper towels a good deal? ›
1. Get the cheapest high-quality paper towels at Sam's Club, at just $0.02 per square foot. If you compare a brand that everyone carries, like Bounty, Sam's Club ties Costco in terms of price, at just $0.04 per square foot. But, you can save even more if you go generic.Why are Bounty paper towels so expensive? ›
P&G said the two factors were outsized components in the baby, fabric, and home care cost structure. Pulp, which is made from trees, is the primary ingredient in Bounty, Puffs and Charmin, and a major material in Pampers. Since 2016, market prices for hardwood pulp have risen 60% and 20% for softwood.Which is better Bounty or sparkle? ›
Some paper towels are stronger and more absorbent than others. We tested paper towels from Brawny, Marcal, Sparkle, and Bounty to see which was the strongest and most absorbent. Bounty was the strongest and most absorbent paper towel we tried.Why is Bounty the best paper towel? ›
Because Bounty is The Quicker Picker Upper. It's built like no other paper towel. Each sheet of Bounty is more durable, more absorbent, softer and thicker than anything else. So you can keep on living even when the messes keep on coming.Why did Bounty change to plenty? ›
Swedish manufacturer SCA, which also acquired Charmin in the deal, claimed Plenty emerged as the name that consumers felt “encapsulated all of the elements of the current Bounty product, while also offering a name with more stretch and versatility”.Are sponge towels better than Bounty? ›
There's 4 packs of 6 rolls, so you get 24 rolls. I used to buy Bounty paper towels but I find that 'Sponge paper towels are just as good and they're a lot cheaper in price and they're made in Canada. I definitely recommend this brand.
Do Bounty paper towels have formaldehyde? ›
Do Bounty Paper Towels contain formaldehyde? We do not add formaldehyde to Bounty. We know formaldehyde is a naturally occurring substance, and can be detected in wood pulp at very low concentrations, and we do check to ensure the raw materials do not contain formaldehyde.Are more expensive paper towels better at absorbing liquid than cheaper ones? ›
Performing the Paper Towel Experiment
“More expensive brands of paper towel are more absorbent.”
Most hotels use peroxide-based laundry detergents to keep their sheets and towels bright. While these compounds are extremely successful at preventing white linens from greying or yellowing, they do necessitate some amount of knowledge. When used incorrectly, they might cause damage to your linens.Do hotels know if you take towels? ›
If you take something from your hotel room, you can expect an extra charge on your bill. Robes and towels are so commonly stolen that many hotels now list the charge right on the hanger; they will automatically bill the credit card they have on file for the extra cost of replacing these items.