Clean up life's messes with the world's best paper towels

Life is messy, and sometimes you need a quick fix for spills. That's where paper towels come in handy. Brawny Tear-a-Square is my top choice for cleaning all the dirties that come my way. It's a paper towel you size to your needs, and it's incredible. Some paper towels just flat-out work better than others. Here's the rundown of what we like and why.

Best Overall: Brawny Tear-a-Square

These paper towels look like the ones your mom used but come with the added convenience of being able to tear them in quarters or halves, so you only use what you need. Each large sheet is perforated. You can work with the entire paper towel if you need to wipe up big spills, tear it in half for smaller splatters, and even separate it into quarters and put it to work as a napkin or give the appliances a quick once-over.

Each sheet is two-ply, so it's thick and absorbent. Like all Brawny products, these towels are durable. You can blot up water spills and wipe down the counters after cooking with just one sheet. It never shreds, breaks down, or wears out. The unique tear-away design lends itself to a wide variety of uses both inside and outside the home.

There are fewer towels per roll when you go this route. It's not a huge difference, but it does add up if you buy paper towels in bulk. That said, if you find a full sheet of paper toweling is often going to waste in your household, these are an excellent alternative. They stand up well to harsh cleaning jobs, and the tear-away design is eco-friendly.

Pros:

  • Can be separated into 2 or 4 sheets
  • Absorbent
  • Durable when wet
  • 16 rolls included
  • Good for multiple uses

Cons:

  • Only 64 sheets per roll

Best Overall

Brawny Tear-a-Square

Use only what you need

If you find paper towels too large, these sheets will be right up your alley. Absorbent, durable, and you'll use only what you need.

Best Value: Scott Essential Multifold Paper Towels

Scott paper towels don't come on an awkward roll but are instead folded and tucked into cardboard packs. There are 16 packs included, and each contains 250 sheets. In case you're not doing the math with me, that's 4,000 paper towels per box. Wow!

Scott's towels can fit in most universal multifold paper towel dispensers, or you can stuff a box in the glove compartment, on your kitchen counter, or anywhere else you need them. We like to keep a box handy for camping. Though ideal for drying hands after washing, the tight weave on the paper also works well for cleaning mirrors, soaking up food splashes, and even wiping down the car.

These aren't as absorbent as more traditional paper towels, but they work well enough for 99 percent of what you need them to do. And let's face it, this is one heck of a bargain. Whether you're refilling a paper towel dispenser or looking for toss-away rags you can stick in the car, these paper towels from Scott will get the job done.

Pros:

  • 4,000 paper towels per box
  • Handy for the car or home
  • Cheap
  • Great for cleaning
  • Perfect size for travel

Cons:

  • Not as absorbent as other options

Best Value

Scott Essential Multifold Paper Towels

The paper towels you can take anywhere

You get 4,000 paper towels with Scott. Each sleeve has 250 sheets inside. They're fantastic for the glove compartment, camping trips, or kitchen cleanup.

Best for Tough Jobs: Presto! by Amazon

If you long for old fashion full-sheet paper towels, this 12-count pack from Presto! will impress. With 90 sheets per roll, you'll get well over one thousand thirsty paper towels per box.

Full-size sheets from Presto! are sourced from sustainable forests, something we always like to see. Do they work? Yes! These towels can soak up big and small messes, get a rinse, and continue cleaning. As a former user of big brand name paper towels, I've made the switch to Presto! and haven't noticed a difference in quality.

These aren't the greatest for cleaning windows or mirrors, something that's true for many brands of paper towels. They tend to leave a bit of lint behind on glass. For basic cleaning and wiping up messes, Presto! paper towels are a choice you won't regret. And bonus: you can reorder towels using Alexa.

Pros:

  • Super strong
  • Good value
  • Can restock using Alexa
  • Soaks up messes
  • Sourced from sustainable forests

Cons:

  • Leaves a little lint behind

Best Overall

Presto! by Amazon

The towel that keeps going

Presto! paper towels are every bit as durable and absorbent as more familiar brand name towels. Reorders are also easy with Alexa.

Best Multi-Surface: Viva TaskSize

When you want one paper towel that can do it all, you should reach for Viva TaskSize. Viva is known for its cloth-like paper towels that not only suck up spills but also feel like a soft rag. Because they're not as harsh or scratchy as other towels, these won't leave marks or streaks behind on delicate glass or other surfaces.

These are big towels, and they're made for big jobs. Viva TaskSize paper towels excel at cleaning large spills, polishing fingerprints off glass and mirrors, and general cleaning. Their biggest plus is that no lint is left behind on windows or mirrors. Fantastic!

It's worth mentioning that these paper towels work better when wet or at least damp. They tend to absorb more liquid and power out stains with less elbow grease when pre-moistened. That goes for windows and glass too. You'll want to use a window cleaner with the towels in those instances. For cleaning anywhere around your house, Viva TaskSize is the right paper towel for the job.

Pros:

  • Cloth-like feel
  • Sucks up liquid like a sponge
  • Soft enough for use anywhere
  • Doesn't leave lint behind on glass

Cons:

  • Works better when wet

Best Multi-Surface

Viva TaskSize

Clean anything

These extra-large towels feel like cloth and power out stains, suck up spills, and wipe down mirrors without leaving lint behind.

Best Environmentally-Friendly : Seventh Generation

Seventh Generation has made a name for themselves producing eco-friendly cleaning products that are easy on the planet and tough on dirt. Their paper towels are no different.

This 24 pack of paper towels are made of 100 percent recycled paper, at least half of which comes from post-consumer recycled content. There's no chlorine, dyes, inks, or fragrances added. And if that weren't enough, each paper towel is compostable.

These two-ply paper towels are perforated so that you're able to use a full sheet when required, and a half sheet when less is called for. These aren't quite as thick as other choices, but they are every bit as efficient and durable when put to use cleaning.

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Dye and chlorine-free
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Compostable
  • Absorbent

Cons:

  • Thin

Best Environmentally-Friendly

Seventh Generation

Tough on grime, easy on the planet

There's no added chlorine or dyes in these paper towels, and they're compostable. They're a little thin but work just as well as other brands.

Best Reusable: Kitchen + Home Bamboo Towels

If you grimace a little each time you throw a paper towel away, you will adore these machine-washable bamboo paper towels from Kitchen + Home. One roll of bamboo towels replace six months worth of regular paper towels.

These are made from sustainable bamboo and are entirely lint-free, so they're great on windows, mirrors, and other shiny surfaces. They're also super durable. So durable, they're machine washable and reusable up to 120 times.

These towels are a large 11"x24" and can be used to clean up spills, wipe down counters, clean windows to a streak-free shine, and more. They're soft enough to dry hands and use on wood, yet durable enough to use and reuse over and over again. One word of caution: stains do not wash off these towels. If you clean a dirty floor or wipe up a red sauce, even after a run through the washing machine, that stain will still be present. If you can live with that, these are versatile towels that are good for you and the environment.

Pros:

  • Machine-washable
  • Super strong
  • Versatile
  • Perfect for windows and glass
  • Large size towels

Cons:

  • Stains don't wash out

Best Reusable

Kitchen + Home Bamboo Towels

The machine-washable paper towel

Use and reuse these bamboo paper towels more than 120 times. They're even machine-washable!

Bottom line

If one regular-sized sheet of paper toweling often seems like overkill, you will love Brawny Tear-a-Square. Just as absorbent as regular Brawny towels, these sheets have perforations that give you options.

If you need half a sheet, you can tear it down the middle and leave the other half on the roll for someone else. Need a napkin? These sheets also separate into four small squares perfect for snacks, small messes, or your child's little hands. There are endless possibilities for Tear-a-Square paper towels from Brawny, and we love that nothing goes to waste.

You'll get fewer towels per roll when buying into Tear-a-Square paper towels, but they still seem to go as far. And maybe that's the idea. Tear-a-Square from Brawny is great for cleanups, use as napkins, and everything in between.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Jodi Owan is a freelance writer and photographer. Find her on Instagram and her website.