Paper Towel vs Toilet Paper: Which One Should You Use?

When it comes to choosing between paper towels and toilet paper, there are several factors to consider before deciding which product is better suited for different uses.

This article will compare paper towels and toilet paper across various categories to help you determine when to use each paper product.

Key Differences

1. Materials Used

The raw materials used to produce paper towels and toilet paper can vary. Paper towels are often made from virgin wood pulp or recycled pulp, which makes them very absorbent but also more durable when wet.

Toilet paper is typically manufactured from virgin pulp, but may also contain recycled paper fibers. Some toilet paper has extra chemicals to help it break down quickly when wet.

2. Absorbency

Paper towels are made to soak up liquids and dry hands and surfaces well. The fibers are closely woven for better soaking.

Toilet paper is made to soak up moisture but breaks down quickly when wet. The focus is not on maximum absorbency.

3. Strength

The tight weave of dense fibers in paper towels gives them more wet strength compared to toilet paper. Paper towels can withstand scrubbing and wiping without ripping apart.

Toilet paper is made to be strong when dry, but very weak when wet, falling apart easily.

4. Texture

Paper towels usually have a rougher, textured feel, while toilet paper is very smooth and soft. The texture makes paper towels more abrasive and suitable for cleaning messes and drying dishes. Toilet paper is gentler for use on the skin.

person checking the paper towel and toilet paper

5. Sheet Size

Paper towel sheets are generally larger than toilet paper sheets. The standard sheet size of paper towels is 11 inches wide and 11 inches long. Toilet paper sheets are normally 4.5 inches wide and 4 inches long.

Common Uses of Paper Towels

There are some key tasks that paper towels are well suited for:

someone wiping up a spill with a paper towel

1. Cleaning Up Spills

The high absorbency makes paper towels ideal for cleaning up liquid spills like juices, soups, sodas, etc. They can also wipe up grease splatters and messy spills effectively.

2. Drying Hands

After washing hands, paper towels can quickly dry hands hygienically. Studies show they are better for drying hands thoroughly compared to hot air dryers.

3. Wiping Surfaces

The rough surface of paper towels makes it easy to clean surfaces like countertops, tables, and appliances by getting rid of oils, grease, and dust without causing any scratches.

4. Household Cleaning

For cleaning windows, mirrors, kitchen and bathroom surfaces, paper towels excel due to their strength and absorbency.

5. Garage and Workshop

For absorbing oil and solvent spills while maintaining their integrity, paper towels are useful for mechanics and woodworkers.

Paper towels are a strong and durable option, great for soaking up a lot of liquids, cleaning surfaces, and handling tough cleaning tasks that require strength.

Common Uses of Toilet Paper

Toilet paper is preferred for:

person wiping their eyes with a toilet paper.

1. Personal Hygiene

  • Cleaning the anus and surrounding region after defecation.
  • Cleaning the external genitalia after urination.
  • General intimate hygiene and wiping.

2. Household

  • Blowing the nose.
  • Wiping eyes or eyeglasses.
  • Absorbing light menstrual discharge.
  • Wiping off sweat.
  • Applying cosmetics.

Toilet paper is specially designed for gentle, close contact uses around the body. It’s soft, disposable, and septic-safe. The thin tissue quickly breaks down when flushed.

Environmental Impact

Both impact the environment here are some main points:

1. Deforestation:

  • Paper towels: About 17 trees are cut down for every 1 ton of paper towels, leading to biodiversity loss, soil erosion, and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Toilet paper: Around 80% of toilet paper is made from virgin forest trees, contributing to deforestation and the depletion of carbon-absorbing old-growth forests.

2. Water Usage:

  • Paper towels: Manufacturing one ton of paper towels requires around 20,000 gallons of water, straining this valuable resource.
  • Toilet paper: Significant water resources are used in turning wood pulp into toilet paper, impacting local water systems.

3. Bleaching and Chemical Processes:

  • Bleaching and chemical processes are involved in manufacturing, adding to environmental impacts.

4. Energy Usage and Carbon Emissions:

  • Paper towels: High energy consumption in manufacturing contributes to carbon emissions and a larger global carbon footprint.
  • Toilet paper: The production of toilet paper demands significant energy, contributing to environmental carbon emissions.

5. Recyclability:

  • Paper towels: Generally not accepted for recycling due to low fiber quality; often end up in landfills.
  • Toilet paper: Most conventional toilet paper is not made from recycled materials, but opting for recycled alternatives can promote sustainability.

In summary, both contribute to deforestation, water strain, pollution, and high energy use. Choosing eco-friendly options is essential for reducing their environmental impact.

Cost Comparison

Paper towels typically cost more per sheet compared to toilet paper. Here is a typical cost breakdown for leading brands:

  • Bounty paper towels: $0.026 per sheet.
  • Charmin toilet paper: $0.005 per sheet.

Buying in bulk brings down costs for both paper products.

Overall, toilet paper provides affordability for routine hygiene needs. Paper towels offer greater value for cleaning tasks. An economical strategy is purchasing bulk recycled toilet paper alongside mid-range paper towels.

Convenience and Storage

One advantage of toilet paper is compact rolls that are convenient to store and distribute throughout a home. Paper towels generally come in large stacks that take up more storage space.

However, paper towels allow greater convenience through multi-purpose use for cleaning, hygiene, and more. Carrying a small stack can replace toilet paper when traveling or camping.

In general, paper towels are more versatile and convenient, even though they require more storage space. Toilet paper is good for easily storing and distributing for regular bathroom use.


Both serve important household purposes but shine in different areas. Paper towels are the best option when you want to quickly clean up spills, dry dishes, wipe counters, scrub surfaces, or have an absorbent towel ready for household tasks. Their strength and absorbency make them perfect for these uses.

However, for personal hygiene and bathroom purposes, toilet paper’s softness and septic-safe design make it better suited. Having paper towels available for cleaning and toilet paper for the bathroom ensures you have the right product for each task.

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay to use paper towels as toilet paper?

No, it’s not a good idea to use paper towels instead of toilet paper. Paper towels are made for different tasks and might not break down well in water. Flushing them down the toilet can cause plumbing problems and clogs. Stick to using toilet paper for the right disposal and to prevent possible issues.

Is it better to flush tissues or paper towels?

It’s better to flush tissues instead of paper towels. Tissues are made to break down easily in water, reducing the chance of pipes getting clogged or causing plumbing problems. On the other hand, paper towels are sturdier and might not break apart as fast, so they’re not as good for flushing. Just make sure to follow the right way to dispose of them to keep your plumbing system healthy.

Is toilet paper more hygienic?

Yes, toilet paper is designed specifically for personal hygiene during bathroom use. It is made to be gentle on the skin and dissolves easily in water, minimizing the risk of plumbing problems. Using toilet paper is generally considered more hygienic than alternatives like paper towels because it is designed for bathroom use.


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