Paper towels

Paper towel buying guide

Last updated: March 2014

Find Ratings blob logo

Getting started

When it comes to slurping up spills, some paper towels really deliver, some don't. Among the 18 products we tested, three Bounty products were best, but a fourth version absorbed less than its brand mates. Prices ranged widely, from less than two dollars to more than four per 100 square feet, but you needn't pay top dollar. Walmart's Great Value Strong & Absorbent cost $2.09 per 100 square feet and was very good overall.

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. Viva's Choose-A-Size one-ply was one of our top picks.

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.


"Green" paper towels

Seventh Generation Right Size and Scott Naturals Mega Roll Choose-A-Size are the "green" brands we tested. Seventh Generation claims its paper is made from 100 percent recycled paper. Scotts claims its Naturals paper towels are made from 60 percent recycled fibers. Both brands scored in the low 40s (out of 100) in our Ratings.


These paper towels have "pick-a-size," "choose-a-size," or "right size" tacked onto their name. They have more perforations so you can choose a smaller piece for sopping up small spills or a larger one for bigger messes. The select-a-size rolls we tested cost about as much as regular paper towels, on average. So you can save if you really do use less paper per pull.


Find Ratings blob logo

Paper towels Ratings

Subscribers can view and compare all Paper towels Ratings.

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters!
Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Appliances News


and safety with
subscribers and fans

Follow us on:


Cars New Car Price Report
Find out what the dealers don't want you to know! Get dealer pricing information on a new car with the New Car Price Report.

Order Your Report


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more
left arrow right arrow
See also:
297 rated down arrow
See buying guide down arrow