10 Science-Backed Tips For Better Paper Towels

10 Science-Backed Tips For Better Paper Towels

You may think using paper towels is not rocket science, right?

Yet, it’s good to know the science hidden behind its sheet to make a better use of it.

So, we put our lab coat on to unroll some solid tips for improving the way you handle kitchen paper.

Don’t worry, we’ve left the scientific jargon out. 

Ready to find out what makes a good paper towel and many other geeky details?

1. Physics: The magic behind absorption

First of all, have you ever wondered why paper towels absorb so much water?

Well, there’s a physical phenomenon explaining that. It’s called capillarity.

What’s that?

It’s basically what happens when you put a narrow straw into a glass of water. The water likes the straw more than itself. This special bond between the water and the straw is so strong that can win over gravity. That’s why you’ll see water rising through the straw rather than staying in the glass. 

And that’s the same when you soak up a liquid with paper towels. This is because kitchen paper has got porous channels within it. You can think of these as paper straws where water can travel through.

2. Physics II: Fold is gold

Folding is a no-brainer when it comes to saving paper.

And that’s proven by science.

The secret is inside the paper itself, where you have cellulose fibres and air bubbles between them.

Every time you dry your hands with paper towels, water will find its way through the fibres and get trapped into the voids.

However, if you fold your paper, you’ll trap some air between the two layers, thus creating extra space for the water to fill. Which means you’ll need less sheets to dry your hands or anything else.

Pro Tip: Shake your hands 12 times before drying them and you’ll need only 1 folded paper towel.

3. Environmental Science: Reusing is caring 

Another way to waste less paper is to reuse it. 

Just like for toilet paper, both a family cloth and a reusable paper towel roll work as more eco-friendly paper towels. 

But why reusing kitchen paper is better for the environment?

Some of the benefits of doing that are wasting less paper (e.g. being thicker, reusable towels absorb more than single-use rolls), consuming less energy (no need of producing new paper) and saving money.

Several studies back that up as they found that reusable items like textile or food packaging have a lower carbon footprint than disposable stuff.

4. Environmental Science II: Don’t be a virgin consumer

When it comes to choose eco-friendly paper towels, recycled paper and bamboo are better options for the environment.

And that’s not Sheet Glory saying it.

To avoid any bias, we let numbers and researchers speak for us. 

Using waste paper to make fibres takes less energy compared to cutting down virgin trees.

As for bamboo, this grass grows much faster than trees while drinking 30% less water and taking up less land. That’s why making bamboo fibres emits 30% less CO2 compared to virgin tree fibres production.

5. Food science: A better way to store food 

Wet or dry paper towels are very handy to keep your food moist or crisp

But what’s the trick?

Again, no magic. Just science. Moisture control, to be picky. Water will move from a wet place (your spinach, for instance) to a dry one (paper towel).

6. Food science II: Safer packaging

Besides prolonging your food shelf life, kitchen paper is a safer way of wrapping your on-the-go snacks compared to foil. 

And that’s especially true if you love putting acidic ingredients (e.g., tomatoes) and spices in your sandwiches.

Why’s that?

Because those types of food may dissolve some of the aluminium contained in the foil, thus adding an undesired flavour to your snack.

Other than not being particularly tasty, too much aluminium may not be good for your health either. 

7. Botany: Green thumb up 

Paper towel can help you become a pro gardener even if botany is not your cup of green tea.

Experiments showed that kitchen paper speeds up seeds sprouting.

Even in this case, there’s a nerdy reason for this. And it’s very similar to the infamous greenhouse effect. Just like CO2 traps the hot sunlight within our atmosphere, wrapping your seeds with paper towel won’t let heat and moisture escape. Which is what your seeds need to grow fast.

8. Biology: Wipe correctly in case of emergency

What if you run out of toilet paper when the shops are closed?

Don’t panic (buying). Instead of throwing in the towel, you could use it as a decent backup. Though, make sure to wipe the right way (this applies to toilet paper too, of course).

If you want to steer away from a urinary tract infection (UTI), always wipe from front to back. Doing so, bacteria won’t get in touch with your delicate urethra.

9. Hydraulics: Think twice before flushing

There’s another thing to keep in mind when wiping with paper towels.

While kitchen paper can save your bum, it may clog your toilet, giving you a smelly and costly experience. 

If you use just a few sheets of 1-ply 100% biodegradable or soluble paper towel, you may get away with it. However, plumbers don’t recommend flushing it. Instead, you should dispose of them in your garbage bin. 

That’s because paper towels are designed to withstand water for longer. Being more durable than toilet paper, it won’t break down fast enough and will pile up in your plumbing. 

So, to avoid sticky situations, be aware of the science of sewage.

10. Chemistry: A feed for your composter

Although the toilet may not be the best final destination for your paper towel, you have a greener alternative to chucking it in the general waste bin.

Your kitchen paper sheet will do a glorious job in your compost pile. That’s because it’s a high-carbon organic material and will add up to the compost’s brown fraction

This is crucial if you don’t want to smell nasty odours. But don’t get carried away. You need to balance the carbon/brown portion with the green/nitrogen one if you want your compost to be hot enough, otherwise it won’t work.

Also, there are some exceptions. Don’t compost paper towel if it’s contaminated with:


That’s the end of our course on better paper towels.

Once you’ve passed these 10 exams, you’ll graduate from a junior user to a Master in efficient use of kitchen rolls.  

Good luck with it!