Paper towel buying guide: How to find the best paper towel for your kitchen
We'll help you choose the perfect paper towel to meet your needs.
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Key facts about paper towels:
- While paper towels might all look the same on the shelf, there are actually a few different types of paper towel products, including virgin pulp, recycled, certified and chlorine-free options.
- When comparing paper towels, look for environmental certifications including FSC and PEFC labels.
While paper towels might all look the same on the shelf, there are actually a few different types of paper towel products, including virgin pulp, recycled, certified and chlorine-free options. Our guide will help you compare paper towels and choose the right product for your household.
Compare some of the best paper towels
Types of paper towels
Most paper towels are made from pulp, which is made by separating the fibres in timber, waste paper or fibre crops. Several environmentally friendly options are available including recycled, bleach-free and certified.
Common types of paper towels include the following:
- Virgin. These paper towels do not include any recycled/alternative fibres.
- Recycled. Made from a mix of reused materials, these are less harmful to the environment and won't end up as waste in landfills. However, the pre-processed pulp used is weaker, which can mean the towels aren't as absorbent.
- Elemental Chlorine-Free (ECF). Paper towels are frequently bleached to appear white. ECF products are not actually chlorine-free, but rather bleached with chlorine dioxide instead of more harmful elemental chlorine gas.
- Processed chlorine-free (PCF). PCF products are treated with bleach alternatives such as hydrogen peroxide or oxygen.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) are international organisations that endorse sustainable forest management.
If you want to use more environmentally friendly paper towels, choose an FSC- or PEFC-certified product by looking for the FSC tree tick logo or the PEFC-certified logo.
How to understand FSC and PEFC labels
|FSC mix||The timber used in the product is either recycled, made from FSC-certified forests or from controlled sources and is not harvested illegally or in violation of traditional and civil rights.|
|FSC recycled||The entire product is made with recycled or reclaimed material.|
|FSC 100%||All of the timber used to make the product comes from FSC-certified forests.|
|PEFC certified||At least 70% of the timber used in the product is from PEFC-certified forests and controlled sources.|
|PEFC recycled||At least 70% of timber used in the product is recycled PEFC-certified material and timber from controlled sources.|
How to compare paper towels
Paper towels will generally cost you between $1.70 to $18 per pack (or $0.85 to $6.00 per 100 sheets), depending on brand, material and pack size. The right choice for you depends on your needs and lifestyle.
Generally, a higher ply count or the more layers of paper used means the material will be more absorbent, thicker, softer and stronger.
How well does the towel withstand scrubbing rough surfaces when wet? Check reviews for different brands to find a towel that doesn't break and leave lint all over your countertops or floors.
How much liquid can the towel soak up before it gets saturated and breaks apart? There's usually a trade-off between strength and absorbency.
Paper towels that come in smaller sized sheets can help you use less each time. Look for products with more tear-off points to reduce waste.
Additional factors to think about:
- Microwave safe.If you typically use paper towels when microwaving food, it's important the towel you choose is microwave safe.
- Allergies.For those with sensitive skin or allergies, pick unscented, dye-free products with a hypoallergenic label.
- Embossed, printed, quilted, scented.These features are optional for added aesthetic appeal. Keep in mind, the dye in some printed paper towels will bleed when wet.
Paper towels vs reusable dishcloths
There's no denying paper towels are convenient to use, but like single-use plastics, they are harmful to the environment and produce a lot of waste. A more environmentally friendly alternative to single-use paper towels is reusable dishcloths. In the long run, reusing your cloth towels rather than constantly purchasing paper towels could be more cost-effective.
As long as you clean and disinfect reusable dishcloths properly, they are hygienic enough for most daily cleaning. However, you shouldn't use them for cleaning up bacteria-filled messes. If your new puppy goes to the bathroom all over your hardwood floors, opt for paper towels.
Ultimately, it might be best to use a mix of both. Consider using reusable towels for everyday hand drying and small messes and keeping a roll of paper towels in the cupboard for emergencies.
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