Paper towels lead a brief and unglamorous life. When it comes to slurping up spills, some paper towels really deliver, some don't. Among the products we tested, prices ranged widely, from less than two dollars to more than four per 100 square feet, but you needn't pay top dollar. Some store brands offered impressive absorbency,scrubbing, and strength at a good price.
We test for absorbency (measuring how much water weight a towel can suck up), scrubbing strength (the number of strokes it takes to tear a wet towel when rubbed across an abrasive surface), and wet strength (the force it takes for a ball to burst through a paper towel). The best at scrubbing survived two to three times as many scrubbing strokes as those that tore most easily. Though two-ply paper towels top our tests, not all of them are more absorbent or durable than one-ply brands we tested.
Online merchants and the websites of many walk-instores sell paper towels, tissues and toilet paper touting low prices and convenience. Bulk purchases may be required to avoid shipping costs. Stocking up when your favorite brand goes on sale is a time-honored way of saving money.
As for "green" claims, there are currently few or no governmental regulations for many of the claims on paper towels. But "recycled" claims do have some merit, so it's a good idea to look for a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content.
You probably know you can prevent cross-contamination after handling raw chicken and meat by using paper towels and hot, soapy water to clean kitchen countertops and cutting boards. Here are five more uses for paper towels and five things you shouldn't use them for, even in a pinch.