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The Best Reusable Paper Towels

Are there eco-friendly options that match the convenience of traditional paper towels?


Published May 3, 2023.

See Everything We Tested

What You Need To Know

We use paper towels because they’re convenient and hygienic. The best towels strike a balance between strength, absorbency, and softness. Although we love our traditional paper towel winner from Bounty, we wanted to find more eco-friendly alternatives. Our favorite bamboo option is the Full Circle Tough Sheet Reusable Plant Towels, similar to regular paper towels but sturdy enough to be washed and reused. They’re absorbent, excellent at scrubbing dried-on messes, efficient at cleaning various surfaces, and easy to rinse clean. These are great for people who prefer perforated sheets that they can easily tear off and don’t mind washing by hand. Marley’s Monsters UNpaper Towels are the best cotton cloth option. These flannel towels, which are similar to cotton dish towels, are great for drying dishes, absorbing spills, and cleaning multiple surfaces, and they come on a cardboard core that can fit on a paper towel holder. They’re perfect for people who are partial to the look and feel of cotton.

What You Need to Know

Paper towels are versatile. We reach for them when sopping up spills, blotting raw meat, wiping counters, drying our hands, and cleaning our bathrooms. While it might be second nature for us to tear off a sheet, overuse of them negatively impacts the environment. 

Traditional paper towels are made from wood pulp derived from trees, usually from virgin or old-growth forests, according to a report published by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an international environmental advocacy group. Wood pulp production contributes to deforestation and the destruction of ecosystems. Even though we can compost paper towels in some cases (see FAQ below), many people do not, which means most of them end up in landfills, contributing to methane emissions.  

Recently, reusable products intended to replace or reduce the use of paper towels have emerged. Some, such as Swedish dishcloths, also attempt to replace sponges (you can read our review of Swedish dishcloths here). In this testing, we focused on bamboo and cotton products also marketed as “unpaper” or “tree-free” towels, meaning they are made without wood pulp.  

There are a few differences between cotton towels and bamboo sheets besides the materials used. We found products made from cotton were typically thicker, mirroring the look and feel of regular dish towels. The bamboo sheets were thinner like traditional paper towels and often perforated like them, too, allowing you to tear off a sheet quickly. Bamboo fiber is supersoft, smooth, and silky—especially when turned into rayon, a material made from regenerated cellulose. Like regular pape...

Everything We Tested

Good : 3 stars out of 3.Fair : 2 stars out of 3.Poor : 1 stars out of 3.
*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.
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The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.

Sawyer Phillips

Sawyer is an assistant digital editor for ATK Reviews. She enjoys baking, collecting Prince records, and all things Toni Morrison.