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Paper Towels

Paper towels are probably a part of your daily life. You use them for cleaning and drying at home and at work. Knowing a bit more about this everyday item will help you choose among the many options.

What are paper towels made of?

These handy products are made of plant fibers called cellulose. White towels are bleached to give them a bright, even color. If they have printed patterns on them, they will also contain ink.

Towels with some recycled content are also available. These varieties are usually not bleached and are often tan in color. Recycled towels are rarely printed with designs.

What makes paper towels absorbent?

The most basic answer is that, on a molecular level, cellulose is made of sugar. Sugar, as your probably know, melts when it gets wet. The same chemistry makes cellulose fibers pull up water.

Having said this, you also know from experience that the brands you use at home are more absorbent than the ones in public restrooms. There are several ways that the manufacturing process can affect absorbency:

  • Brands for the home usually have two layers, industrial types may have only one. When there are two layers, the air space between them gives more room to absorb water.
  • Home towels have textured surfaces, industrial ones are smooth. Having an embossed design, or even just a rough texture, creates more tiny air pockets into which liquid can be drawn.
  • Home towels are designed to be soft. This is accomplished by giving them more air pockets, which coincidentally makes them more absorbent. Industrial varieties are usually harder and more compact.
What kinds of paper towels are available for the home?

Common brands for the home are almost always rolls of bleached paper. Many rolls are perforated in intervals of about 10 inches. The select-a-size roll is perforated in intervals of about 5 inches, so you can use a smaller piece for a smaller cleaning job.

Paper towels for the home come in a variety of thicknesses and embossed patterns. It is really a matter of personal preference whether a budget or premium choice meets the need that you have for the product.

What styles of industrial paper towels are available?

Industrial towels may come in rolls or as stacks of rectangular sheets. Which style you choose will be determined by the kind of dispenser you have. Most styles of industrial towels are available in standard or recycled paper.

  • Rolls: These may unroll from the outside or be center-pull.
  • C-fold: C-fold towels are single sheets. The sides are folded over to meet in the middle, rather like a staple.
  • Multi-fold: Multi-fold towels are single sheets folded not quite in half. One long edge is then folded back on itself.
  • Single-fold: These sheets are simply folded in half.
Can paper towels be recycled or composted?

The food or cleaning products that are usually on used paper towels make them unfit to recycle. They are, however, compostable. The unbleached varieties are especially good for this purpose.