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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.

Updated

Fact checked
Woman washing hands in kitchen

Key facts about paper towel:

  • 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

Data obtained December 2018. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.
Name Product Average Price (AUD) Number of ply Roll/Pack size Size of sheets (mm) Made from recycled material? Sheets per roll/pack Purchase today
Livi Essentials Ultraslim Towel 150s – 1415
Livi Essentials Ultraslim Towel 150s – 1415
$58.08 (box of 16)
2
16 pack
230 x 240
No
150
The Livi Essentials Ultraslim Towel 150s – 1415 is specifically designed for hand drying and delicate cleans.
Viva Multi-Purpose Cleaning Towel
Viva Multi-Purpose Cleaning Towel
$21.99 (3x)
2
2 pack
225 x 210
No
60
Viva’s Multi-Purpose Cleaning Towel is affordable, versatile and suitable for indoor and outdoor cleaning.
Tork Xpress Multifold Hand Towel / Slimline Advanced
Tork Xpress Multifold Hand Towel / Slimline Advanced
$69.20 (21 pack)
1
21 pack
129 x 213
No
185
Tork’s Xpress Multifold Hand Towel / Slimline Advanced is designed for single-use, hand cleaning dispensers.
Caprice Slimfold Interleaved Towel
Caprice Slimfold Interleaved Towel
$80.00 (20 pack)
20 pack
225 x 230
No
200
The Caprice Slimfold Interleaved Towel is portion-controlled and suitable for busy washrooms.
Quilton Tuffy
Quilton Tuffy
$31.99 (3x)
4
3 pack
225 x 210
No
60
Quilton’s Tuffy is a premium 4-ply paper towel for greater absorbency and strength.
Tork Basic Paper 1ply Centerfeed Roll
Tork Basic Paper 1ply Centerfeed Roll
$65.67 (4 rolls)
1
4 pack
280 x 200
No
Not specified
Tork’s Basic Paper 1ply Centerfeed Roll is tailored for high-capacity paper dispenser systems.
Handee Ultra
Handee Ultra
$10.90
2
3 pack
225 x 205
No
60
Handee’s Ultra paper towels have an interlock weave design for greater toughness.
Naturale Paper Towels 100% Recycled
Naturale Paper Towels 100% Recycled
$32.99 (6x)
2
2 pack
225 x 210
Yes
70
Naturale’s 100% Recycled paper towels are eco-friendly, biodegradable and made from recycled material.
Livi Essentials Kitchen Roll Towel 240s – 1400
Livi Essentials Kitchen Roll Towel 240s – 1400
$69.95 (box of 12)
2
12 pack
228 x 215
No
240
The Livi Essentials Kitchen Roll Towel 240s – 1400 is designed for cleaning spills quickly.
Livi Essentials Roll towel 100m – 1202
Livi Essentials Roll towel 100m – 1202
$67.80 (box of 16)
1
16 pack
178 x 100
No
Not specified
The Livi Essentials Roll towel 100m – 1202 is tailored for light spills and hand drying.
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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.

Environmental certifications

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 mixThe 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 recycledThe 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 certifiedAt least 70% of the timber used in the product is from PEFC-certified forests and controlled sources.
PEFC recycledAt 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.

Ply count

Generally, a higher ply count or the more layers of paper used means the material will be more absorbent, thicker, softer and stronger.

Scrubbing strength

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.

Absorbency

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.

Sheet size

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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