Blowouts are rare in Consumer Reports' tests, but our latest report on paper towels saw a landslide victory for the latest Bounty product, from Procter & Gamble. With an overall score of 96, Bounty DuraTowel was 21 points ahead of the next best, Bounty Extra Soft. Yet another Bounty product took third place, with Viva rounding out our recommended list. Even with DuraTowel's decisive victory, finding the best paper towel for your family takes careful consideration.
P&G is marketing Bounty DuraTowel as a "breakthrough" product that takes the place of a germ-infested dishcloth in your kitchen. Its "unique structure provides outstanding performance when wet," says P&G, and it also features a "new clothlike embossed design." While we didn't perform any structural analysis, we can tell you that the DuraTowel earned excellent scores for absorbency, scrubbing, and wet strength in our paper towel tests, the only paper towel to excel in all three areas.
That would seem to make choosing the DuraTowel a no-brainer, but for one thing: at $5.15 per 100 square feet, it's about twice the cost of other recommended models (each roll contains 49 sheets, compared with the 75 to 100 sheets you get with many other products).
This may not be an issue if you rely on paper towels for tough, gritty spills—say wiping up mud tracked in by kids or pets, or handling greasy messes in the garage or workshop. In those cases, a single sheet of DuraTowel could well do the work of two sheets from a competitor, making it a cost-effective option. But if you use paper towels for lesser messes such as spilled juice or for routine wiping on counters, you'll probably get better value from another of our select picks. Also, if you like being able to tear off a smaller sheet for minor jobs, the recommended Viva Choose-A-Size paper towel, $2.85, is the way to go.
We also tested several store brands. Despite narrowly missing our recommended list, Walmart's Great Value Strong & Absorbent was very good in every test and costs just $2.09. Target's Up & Up Full Sheet Puddle Busters, $2.31, lost points for scrubbing, though it's also very good overall. You might expect superior strength from Home Depot, but its HDX Paper Towels, $2.14, were subpar at absorbency and wet strength.
As for green paper towels, your best bet is the Seventh Generation Right Size, made from 100 percent recycled paper. But it earned so-so results across the board, and it's fairly costly at $4.05 per 100 square feet. Scott Naturals Mega Roll Choose-A-Size, $1.83, scored comparably, and is made with 60 percent recycled paper.
In case you're curious about just how bad paper towels can get, check out Family Dollar's Family Values Paper Towel and CVS's Just The Basics Paper Towels, both of which were subpar in every way in our tests.