Is there anything you can't do with paper towels?
Aside from wiping up spills, they're good for cleaning the BBQ, keeping herbs fresh, germinating seeds, seasoning cast iron pans and cooking bacon in the microwave, according to our CHOICE Community.
To do all this, they need to be absorbent, strong and puncture-resistant. We put 27 products to the test in our paper towel reviews.
Here are the top scorers, the ones to avoid, and the cheapest we tested.
The best performing paper towels from our test
These are the highest scoring paper towels we tested and that our experts recommend:
- Viva Rinse & Re-use Towel: 92%
- Coles Ultra: 79%
- iCare Wipex: 77%
- Kleenex Viva: 77%
Viva Rinse & Re-use Towel was streets (or should that be streaks?) ahead of the competition, with a CHOICE Expert Rating of 92%. Our experts scored it as 'excellent' on every single test. (Ready to rush out and buy? Keep reading... we discuss its price soon.)
Coles Ultra had a double win, with its regular and double length rolls tying for second place.
There's a big gap between the scores for the Viva Rinse & Re-use and the Coles Ultra: a full 13 percentage points.
Almost, but not quite
What we haven't mentioned in this list is that two other products did receive CHOICE Expert Ratings in the 80s, but our experts don't recommend them as they scored poorly in some of the tests we do.
- Quilton Tuffy scored 85% overall, but bombed out in the separation test – a measure of how easy it is to tear the paper towel off the roll. You might need to be a Tuffy yourself to separate a towel from the roll!
- Woolworths' Strike 100% Recycled paper towel scored 80% overall but didn't strike it lucky on the puncture and wet tear strength tests, which means it's more likely to tear when wet or to rip while you're using it. Not great if you're using it to clean up cat vomit or something similarly unpleasant.
Viva Rinse & Re-Use Towel was our best performer, but it's also three times the price of the next most expensive product in our test.
Viva Rinse & Re-Use Towel: Not your regular paper towel
There's no denying that the Rinse & Re-Use Towel really mopped up the competition – nothing else came close.
But it's also far and away the most expensive product we tested: a huge $12.50 for 100 sheets, or 12.5 cents a sheet. For context, the next most expensive paper towel costs $4.40 for 100 sheets – about a third of the price!
It's way more expensive than conventional paper towels, though the cost is offset by the multiple uses afforded by each towelAshley Iredale, CHOICE expert
"While it tops our test in terms of performance, it's also way more expensive than conventional paper towels, though of course the cost is offset by the multiple uses afforded by each towel," says CHOICE expert Ashley Iredale.
The manufacturer claims it can be re-used up to 10 times more than other paper towels: it "can be re-used like a kitchen cloth, yet easily thrown away and replaced once it gets too dirty".
Here's a radical idea: why not just buy a cloth? Heck, why not just buy a whole bundle of them? You can use them in exactly the same way and then throw them in the wash when they're dirty, then re-use them over and over again.
Here's a radical idea: why not just buy a cloth? Heck, why not just buy a whole bundle of them?
You could buy a 10-pack of Woolworths Essentials Wipes (basically Woolies' version of a Chux cloth) for 10c a cloth. They'll do the same job, and once they're dirty you can pop them in the washing machine and use them again.
Or you could pick up a 3-pack of microfibre cloths from Coles for $4 (that's $1.33 a cloth) that'll last even longer.
Admittedly, there are some kitchen tasks that a fabric cloth just can't do, like patting a raw chicken dry or soaking up excess oil when deep-frying food.
For these jobs, you need a paper towel – but it doesn't make financial sense to use a Rinse & Re-use Towel that costs 12.5 cents a pop, so you'll probably want to have a cheaper paper towel on hand too.
But why not just buy some fabric cloths and have a more affordable paper towel in the cupboard for those few times that you really need it? Why would you opt for this instead of a conventional re-usable kitchen cloth?
Do these advantages outweigh the higher cost, both monetary and environmental? That's up to you to decideAshley Iredale, CHOICE expert
"Well, one reason might be hygiene – conventional kitchen cloths can get pretty grotty over time, so if you're not diligent in terms of replacing or thoroughly washing them, they can become rife with bacteria and germs," says Ashley.
"Even if you reuse these Viva paper towels several times, you'll still be disposing of them much sooner, which gives the bacteria less time to proliferate."
"Do these advantages outweigh the higher cost, both monetary and environmental? That's up to you to decide."
At just $1.01 for 100 sheets, Woolworths Strike Pro Double Length paper towel was the cheapest we tested.
The cheapest paper towels in our test
One of the best ways to keep costs down when shopping is to keep an eye on unit pricing – how much something costs per 100g or, in the case of paper towels, per 100 sheets.
These are the cheapest paper towels we tested, plus their CHOICE Expert Ratings:
- Woolworths Strike Pro Double Length: $1.01/100 sheets – 67%
- Woolworths Strike: $1.06/100 sheets – 67%
- Coles Paper Towels: $1.19/100 sheets – 66%
- iCare Wipex Pick a Size: $1.33/100 sheets – 77%, Recommended
- Aldi Confidence Absorbit: $1.41/100 sheets – 66%
- iCare Wipex: $1.46/100 sheets – 77%, Recommended
You might save money by opting for house-brand paper towels from Coles, Woolies and Aldi, but unfortunately none of them were much chop in our tests, so we suggest giving them a miss even if you're on a budget.
If you're looking for the best combination of affordability and performance, the iCare Wipex paper towels are the best way to go – they're one of the cheapest we tested, and they're recommended by our experts.
How We Roll paper towels might be better for the environment, but performance was unimpressive.
The worst performing paper towels from our tests
These paper towels were at the bottom of the heap:
- How We Roll Co 100% Sustainable Bamboo Paper Towel: 48%
- Oobamboo Bamboo Kitchen Towel: 59%
- Handee Ultra: 60% (also available in prints and double length)
- Coles 100% Recycled Paper Towels: 62%
- Naturale 100% Recycled Paper Towel: 65%
- Coles Paper Towels: 66%
- Aldi Confidence Absorbit: 66%
- Woolworths Strike: 67%
- Space White Premium Bamboo Paper Towels: 67%
Unfortunately, many of the worst performers in our tests were eco-friendly products, with the two lowest scorers made from bamboo. While they may help to clean up the planet, they're not much good for cleaning up your kitchen. They're also quite expensive, coming in at $2.71/100 sheets and $3.56/100 sheets.
A number of other products made from recycled paper didn't perform much better.
If you're keen on greening your cleaning cupboard, you could opt for Viva Eco 100% Bamboo Fibre, which scored 74%, or better yet, an iCare product – they all scored 77% and they're among the cheapest in our test.
Green but not clean
Paper towels made from recycled paper didn't fare particularly well in our tests (as with recycled toilet paper), but you might be happy to sacrifice some performance for the environmental benefits.
And if you're thinking you can put paper towel in the recycling bin, unfortunately you can't.
You can pop them in the compost if you've used them with dirt, water or plant-based food. But paper towels used to mop up greasy spills or with harsh cleaning products need to go in the bin.
You might be happy to sacrifice some performance for the environmental benefits
If the environmental impact is weighing on your mind, you could opt for better performing products that are packaged in recycled paper, or choose long-roll products.
"Long-roll products have only a little extra packaging compared to regular length products – so you'll get more paper towel relative to packaging," says Ashley.
"And they often come in cheaper on a per-sheet basis than if you buy a bigger bulk pack of 'regular length' paper towels."
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.