Different Kinds of Paper Towels


Paper towels are used for a number of different purposes in homes and in commercial settings. Different brands of paper towels compete with each other mainly with regard to how much moisture they can absorb. Paper towel thickness and size both play a role in their ability to do the jobs that they are meant for as the manufacturers advertise.


  • Arthur Scott, head of the Scott Paper Company, invented paper towels as we know them today from a mistake in the manufacturing process of toilet paper. An entire shipment of rolls had been made too thick and so they couldn't be used as toilet paper. Scott perforated the thick paper into small sheets and sold them as disposable paper towels to a teacher. This teacher gave every student who had a cold a small piece of paper to use so the kids wouldn't contaminate the roller towel in the toilets. The product was later sold as Sani-Towels to hotels, restaurants and railroad stations for use in public bathrooms. The first paper towels for use in the kitchen were introduced by Scott in 1931.


  • Paper towels are used for a variety of purposes in homes, restaurants, schools and hospitals. Primarily used to wipe spills, paper towels can also absorb excess oil from cooked food, especially fried food. Paper towels in public bathrooms are offered as disposable hand towels which are folded and stacked into a dispenser rather than in rolls. When cleaning, you can use paper towels to wipe windows, mirrors and furniture as well as kitchen and bathroom surfaces. Some people use paper towels as table napkins.

Sizes and Thickness

  • In the United States, the standard size for paper towels is 11-by-11 inches, and a standard-size roll has 60 sheets. Some brands, however, offer different sized sheets and rolls. The thickness of a paper towel is referred to as a ply. The number of plies determines how well the paper towel can absorb spills as well as its softness. The thicker the ply, the more it can absorb and the softer it will be. Some brands have quilted sheets which are even softer than regular ply towels.


  • Popular paper towel brands include Bounty, Scott, Brawny, Viva, So-Dri, Sparkle and 7th Generation. Most paper towels are white, but some brands manufacture paper towels with print designs. Generic, store-brand paper towels are also available and, although less expensive, are usually less absorbent.

Paper Towels vs. Cloth Towels

  • The main advantage of paper towels over cloth towels is that paper towels are disposable. Unlike cloth towels, paper towels can be used once and then thrown away. Although paper towels and cloth towels both serve similar purposes, cloth towels need to be cleaned after each use, and this adds to the amount of laundry. Some people, however, prefer cloth towels over paper towels for environmental reasons because of the trees that need to be cut to manufacture paper towels.

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