(printer-friendly version)

Green product watch: Best paper towels 1/12
(This article is adapted from the the January 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.)

When it comes to slurping up spills, a reusable sponge or dish towel might be the best environmental choice. But for some jobs you still may need paper towels. Several brands with 100% recycled content, including high post-consumer content, tout their green credentials, but do they work as well as others?

In Consumer Reports tests, one of the most expensive brands, Earth Friendly Products, at $4.75 per 100 sq. ft., was lowest rated of all.

The tests measured absorption (the weight of water that a 25-square-inch piece of paper towel could hold) and scrubbing (the number of strokes needed to tear a section of wet paper towel rubbed over a mildly abrasive surface). The best at scrubbing survived five to 10 times as many scrubbing strokes as those that tore most easily. Testers also assessed wet strength (force required to pull a section of wet towel apart).

Prices ranged widely, from $1.46 to $5.12 per 100 square feet.

Among the “green” brands tested with recycled content, White Cloud Green Earth at $2.27 per 100 sq. ft. (Walmart), and Seventh Generation, at $2.89, did fairly well and cost about the same as the top-rated brands.

Brands with recycled content that scored much lower -- especially in the absorption tests --were Marcal Small Steps, CVS Earth Essentials, Scott Naturals, Green Forest, and 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods).

Related links

Consumer Reports Video: Tough paper towel tests. 1/12

"A Shopper’s Guide to Home Tissue Products," Natural Resources Defense Council.

Copyright © 2003-2012 by Consumers Union of United States., Inc., 101 Truman Avenue, Yonkers, NY 10703, a nonprofit organization. No downloading, transmission, photocopying, or commercial use permitted. Visit www.GreenerChoices.org.