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What's behind our paper towel Ratings?

Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 15 models in paper towels to see which ones perform best.
We look for:
  • Overall score
    Overall score is based on a towels ability to absorb water, to withstand scrubbing along a rough surface and force necessary to burst through.
  • Absorbency
    Absorbency is based on how much water a 5-inch square piece of towel could hold.
  • Scrubbing
    Scrubbing is based on the number of times a towel could be rubbed along a rough surface before the sheet tore.
  • Wet strength
    Wet strength is based on how much force it took for a steel ball to burst through a wet sheet of paper towel.
  • Sq. ft. per roll
    The number of square feet of paper towel contained in each roll.
  • Sheet size
    Sheet size is the length and the width of the paper towel sheet.


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Recommended paper towels

Recommended paper towels are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. When narrowing your choices, weigh features, price, and attributes that matter to you.
  • Buying Guide
  • Ratings
If you're looking for information about paper towels, Consumer Reports is your best resource. Consumer Reports’ paper towel reviews will give you honest buying advice that you can trust. Use our paper towel buying guide to discover which features are most important to consider. We also provide unbiased ratings and paper towel reviews to help you choose the best paper towel for your needs.

Paper towel buying guide

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.

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