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Which Paper Towels Are The Best? I Tested 5 To Find Out

best paper towels

We all have unique opinions when it comes to the cleaning products and tools we use, so the best paper towels may not be your favorite paper towels, and vice versa. But keeping an open mind is never a bad thing, and checking in with your own preferences from time to time can certainly be worthwhile!

The question of which paper towels are best was brought to mind when the paper towels I received through my Amazon Subscribe & Save order were wildly different than the cloth-like Viva paper towels I’d come to love so much, and have even recommended for use in DIY wipes and other projects.

paper towels

Have Viva Paper Towels Changed?

My question was: what gives? It turns out that Viva now makes two kinds of paper towels. The new one is Viva’s Multi-Surface Cloth, which, according to the brand, is better for cleaning cleaning stone countertops, windows and mirrors, and stainless steel.

The cloth-like paper towels I have come to love so much are still around, but they’ve been re-branded as Viva Signature Cloth. You can find more details about the differences between the two styles on the Viva FAQ page under “Product specific questions”.

paper towels

The OGT Paper Towel Showdown

That paper towel switcheroo got me thinking about whether there might be a better paper towel out there that I was ignoring in favor of sticking with my old preference. To find out, I decided to test some of the most popular paper towels in a head-to-head showdown.

The Contenders

I ended up choosing the following paper towels for my test:

I chose these brands because they’re popular and widely available. You can certainly find cheaper or more environmentally-friendly paper towels, but for this comparison, I was more focused on evaluating quality and performance.

To sum it up, the question I wanted to answer was “Which paper towel is best?”

paper towels

Putting Them To The Test

I did a few different tests at the studio, and the paper towels seemed quite similar. They were all very absorbent, and none of them broke down when scrubbing a mixture of ketchup, syrup, and baking soda.

The differences I noticed were fairly small—the Bounty paper towels seemed the most durable, even when saturated with water, and the Kirkland paper towels had the largest sheets.

paper towels

But I couldn’t confidently declare a winner from those tests alone, so I took the paper towels home and put them to the test over a long weekend of cleaning. After using them in several “real world” tests at home, I can now confidently share my paper towel power rankings!

Which Paper Towels Are The Best?

Here’s my personal ranking of the 5 contenders, from best to worst:

  1. Viva Signature Cloth
  2. Viva Multi-Surface Cloth
  3. Brawny
  4. Kirkland Signature
  5. Bounty
paper towels

The Winner: Viva Signature Cloth

Unsurprisingly, Viva Signature Cloth remains my favorite of the bunch. I just love the cloth-like feel of them and they work as well as any other paper towel I’ve tried, so I would have been shocked if another paper towel had been able to beat them out for the top spot!

paper towels

The Runner-Up: Viva Multi-Surface Cloth

Surprisingly, though, the Viva Multi-Surface Cloth was my second favorite. I had felt duped when I got them in my Subscribe & Save order, but once I figured out that the old ones still exist, I was able to evaluate these more objectively. In the end, I do like these paper towels—they’re strong and still a bit softer than some of the other options.

paper towels

3rd Place: Brawny

Brawny was a close third to the Viva Multi-Surface Cloth. I like the Tear-A-Square option, but you can technically do that with any paper towel. I also had to consider that Brawny was also the most expensive option of all of them.

paper towels

4th Place: Kirkland Signature

The Kirkland Signature paper towels have the largest sheets, but they’re also very thin. The cost is their most redeeming quality—these paper towels weren’t my favorite of the bunch, but they are the cheapest by far and they performed well enough in my tests.

paper towels

5th Place: Bounty

The Bounty paper towels were so stiff, they almost felt like really thin cardboard. While I’m sure it’s the reason for their durability, I found that I just didn’t need that much strength or stiffness. They didn’t clean any better than the softer options, so I didn’t find it to be that beneficial.

I am always trying to use fewer paper towels, but there are a couple tasks that I keep paper towels around for. Check out these tips if you’re trying to cut down, too.

What are your favorite paper towels?

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • I love my Bounty paper towels. I like their strength! I like the Viva Multi Service next. I used to like the viva cloth like ones but they leave lint everywhere. I kept finding lint on the stove and mirrors then I realized it was the paper towels. I have accidentally washed the Bounty paper towels and they hold up in the wash. Thankfully they don’t disintegrate like the others. I have accidentally washed all the paper towels on this list except for the Kirkland. I never tried those. I’ll keep my Bounty. Like Veronica F. I also dry the paper towels to use again to clean a spot on the floor or to pick up hairballs….etc.

  • I started using Viva Signature Cloth paper towels because of your prior study revealing them to be your #1 choice (I trust your testing!). They are truly the best. I have tried the other 4 brands, and none hold up as well as Viva, and the Viva does feel like cloth! I did find they produce some lint, though, and not really great for cleaning glass, but they are super absorbent. I used to be an avid Bounty fan, but something went awry with the quality of their product after the pandemic. Now they are coarse, and no longer have a soft texture like they used to have. I buy the Bounty Essentials for my craft room and my husband’s shop for quick cleanups, but Viva Signature Cloth are by far always in my kitchen now!

  • We use the Members Mark towels from Sams Club, and they are some tough towels. They have been inadvertently tested numerous times by us. How, you might ask? Well, my wife has a habit of stashing one or two in the pockets of her jeans, and if I do not diligently check those pockets before doing the laundry (yes, I do the laundry), they get thoroughly tumbled, washed, and spun (and sometimes even dried), and still come out of the washer or dryer in one piece.They aren’t quite as thick and heavy as they were to begin with,but they actually could still be used for some light wiping if one was desperately in need of a paper towel.

  • I actually like Amazon’s House Brand, Presto. I like Viva too. I wish that I still had an option for full-sized sheets. I used to use them for a project, and I needed to cut them up in a different direction and the perforations messed it up.

  • I LIKE THE VIVA, BOTH OF THEM BUT TO ME THEY DOn’t HAVE ANYWHERE NEAR THE ABSORBENCY OF BOUNTY. I LOVE MY BOUNTY BUT WILL TRY OTHER BRANDS AS WELL.

  • Good Morning JILLEE

    You definitely have to try
    Target’s brand UP AND UP
    I’m pissed off because they
    Never have the full sheets
    I hate choose a size but the quality is definitely very good….

    Have a SAFE
    AND WONDERFUL
    WEEKEND

    LOVE YOUR SITE
    ELENA JO

  • I don’t use paper towels as much as most people so I buy the most inexpensive ones–Kirkland. I find they work fine for what I use them for. I use to have my own cleaning service and had many well to do clients– I learned some things from them–they learned some things form me One of the well to do ladies I cleaned for always saved her used paper towels–if needed she rinsed it and draped it over something under her sink until dry. She then folded them and put them in a container and used them whenever she had to wipe up something from the floor. I find you can do this with even the Kirkland. Now that is what I call recycling.
    I now do not use all the many Proctor and Gamble products I used for the 10 years when I had the cleaning business as I know now they are ALL extremely unhealthy and cause a lot of health problems. Since I retired from my cleaning business in 1998 I have learned to only use diluted Thieves household cleaner for everything or use deluded white vinegar and can add a few good smelling Essential Oils if I want to. No more chemicals for me.

  • The regular Viva towels have always been my go to! I, like you, tried the new ones and hated them, which through me in to a fit thinking they had changed from their product! I was so glad to find the good ole Viva towels still available. They are so good, that even when I mess up and forget to check all of my pockets, and a towel goes through the washing machine and the dryer (!) They come out whole and I can actually re-use the laundered towel a few more times. HA! I love my Viva, and nothing else compares!

  • Interesting conclusions. I was a Bounty girl for years…then the price went up so I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried Sam’s brand Membersmark. Now it is my go-to and they’ve changed Bounty since so it’s not even an option. So now we have THE GREAT PAPER SHORTAGE OF 2020 (and some in 2021). Choices are limited and you get what you get. I got Viva once and I did land with Brawny another time. Hated them. Thankful that I typically use white terry shop towels for most clean up and I was soooo happy when Sam’s finally got restocked. Now I’m doing something I hate…hoarding my Membersmark products. I cannot have paper product stress again. ;-)

  • I agree – Viva is a favorite. I noticed over the past year or so (during the great toilet paper and paper towel shortage at the COVID onset) that Bounty paper towels noticeably changed. They used to be softer, and now really feel coarse and rough. They are durable, but I don’t like the feeling of them. Thanks for this comparison – I’m inclined now to switch to Viva Signature Cloth!

  • I also love Viva Signature paper towels the best. I use them as facial tissues because they are soft and don’t fall apart. My nose is often running, so I keep them in my pockets, as well as my purse and car. The best part is that they go through the washing machine without coming apart!

    • I just read this after I made my post, and I chuckled when I read yours, as I also mentioned how well they accidentally ‘launder’ very well~! :)

  • Recently I spent a few hours sewing attractive cleaning towels to replace paper towels. My paper towel usage was so wasteful, costly, and just not earth friendly. I used diaper fabric I bought at a nearby fabric store and cut squares about 10-12 inches. Then I took colorful leftover flannel scraps, cut into matching squares, and sewed them together. I now have attractive and very absorbent towels that can be used for all kinds of cleaning jobs. I wash these separately when I have enough for a load.

  • I think target’s brand up & up full sheet paper towels are the best paper towels I have tried…they are so good the manager of target in Brooklyn told me when they come in they fly off the shelves so fast…I could never order them online they are always out of stock…they have chose a side which I despise…I hate those little sheets…I need a full sheet…

    But please try Target’s brand very very good product….

    By the way I ABSOLUTELY LOVE YOUR EMAILS AND SITE….

    THANKS
    Elena jo Ciambriello
    Elenajo1959@aol.com

  • I, too, love the Viva (now signature) paper towels. They are my go to to any furniture oiling or craft related project where I need a sturdy towel. My uncle brought a beautiful mahogany bookcase to my mother in the ‘60’s. It was always my job to keep it oiled. Back then we used cloth. After many years it fell into disrepair and I was finally allowed to bring it home. I completely cleaned, and repaired, and oiled it using Viva. I was pleasantly surprised at the wonderful job they did and they became my choice of paper towel. Am glad to know of the change in marketing. Thank you

  • I will swear by Bounty. If it’s a big mess, one towel lasts. No Costco near me so I can’t address it. I’ve tried BJ’s – they are a very basic towel. Try and use them to wipe a window and they just don’t cut it. I’ve gotten away from paper towels in a big way. I now have a bag of rags – old, worn out flannel pjs, wash cloths, kitchen towels, etc. If they are really filthy, they can be tossed. When I accumulate enough, into the washer they go.
    BTW – as to wipes, I just bought (if there’s something new, I’m willing to try it) Clorox wipes that are compostable. With all the “bugs” we’ve experienced, I use wipes more than ever. They’re a little pricy but I feel better knowing they’ll decompose in the landfill. I’m a huge fan of recycling and am always looking for ways to erase my footprint.

    • Same here. I thought the exact same thing. I have tried and used many but bounty is the one i use for many reasons and i like the select a size. Maybe she got paid to say it but i have never tried the Viva paper towels that i know of. It’s possible i had to use them when the paper shelves were empty for covid

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