Paper towels aren't the best for every mess

Use them to clean your grill but not your glasses

Published: November 18, 2013 12:00 PM

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Paper towels lead a brief and unglamorous life, absorbing spills, wiping away messes, and substituting for napkins and even tissues. Sponges are the most frequently used item for kitchen cleanup, but unless they’re kept scrupulously clean, they can become germy and smelly. Ditto dish towels. A fresh paper towel is a better choice. But you can’t use them for everything. Here are five “aha!” uses for those handy helpers and four things you shouldn’t use them for, even in a pinch.

Great for grills and fighting germs

  • Wash and dry fruit and vegetables with paper towels before peeling to help keep dirt and bacteria from transferring from the knife to the produce.
  • Wrap food in wet paper towels to steam-cook in your microwave, creating healthy meals and snacks.
  • Cover bathroom door handles with a paper towel before turning them to reduce exposure to germs during cold and flu season.
  • Make a tight pad from two folded paper towels, add some vegetable oil, and use tongs to drag it across your grill’s grates just before cooking to prevent food from sticking.
  • Clean the rubber edge of your car’s wiper blades with a paper towel dampened with glass cleaner or water and a little dish detergent to extend the life of the wipers.

But don't scratch your glasses or TV screen

  • Avoid scratching your furniture by dusting with a microfiber cloth or other soft cloth rather than a paper towel’s rough surface.
  • That roughness also makes paper towels a no-no when cleaning TV screens and camera lenses. Use a dampened microfiber cloth instead.
  • Clean eyeglass lenses with warm water and a drop of dish detergent, then dry with  a soft hankie or microfiber cloth, not a paper towel.
  • Use a squeegee to wash windows; paper towels can leave lint behind.

The best from out tests
If you rely on paper towels for cleaning up tough spills, wiping up mud tracked in by the dog, or handling greasy messes in a garage or workshop, the Bounty DuraTowel is for you. It will be available in a select-a-size version in February, according to the manufacturer. But if you use paper towels for lesser messes, such as spilled juice or for routine wiping of counters, the lower-priced Bounty Extra Soft is a better value.

Though these economical choices didn’t score as high as our top picks, Walmart's Great Value Strong & Absorbent and Bounty Giant are strong, absorbent, and strong when wet. Costco's Kirkland Signature was excellent at absorbing spills and is the least expensive paper we tested, but it wasn’t as strong.

—Kimberly Janeway

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