Consumer Reports ran side-by-side tests to find the best. They tested 18 paper towels, including some from Bounty, Viva, and Brawny. Store brands like Costco's Kirkland Signature and Walmart's Great Value were also including in the tests.
"You want a paper towel that picks up a lot of liquid and that doesn't fall apart when you use it. So we test for all that," said Consumer Reports' Celia Lehrman.
First, researchers conducted a simple absorbency test. Testers weighed a dry paper towel, dunked it in water, and then weighed it again to see how much water it can hold.
To test for strength, testers used a machine that measures how much force it takes to break through a wet paper towel.
And then there's the scrub test. A paper towel is strapped onto a machine and then it passes over a rough surface. Some can handle lots of scrubbing, but others, not so much.
Bounty's DuraTowel rated excellent in all of Consumer Reports' tests. Testers say it holds more water, is much stronger when wet, and held up far longer when scrubbing than any other paper towel tested. But the price may cause you to save these for the really tough jobs.
"They aced the scrub test, so they're great for tougher messes. But they are expensive — around twice as much as other paper towels," Lehrman said.
Consumer Reports' tests turned up some other good choices — some from Viva and two others from Bounty.
The top everyday choice was Bounty's Extra Soft. It costs a lot less than the DuraTowel, but is still terrific at soaking up spills.
Great Value Strong and Absorbent from Walmart was the best of the cheaper paper towels.
Experts say you shouldn't use a paper towel for everything. They'll scratch your glasses, your TV screens, and camera lenses. For those you're better off using a microfiber cloth instead. You can find them with the cleaning supplies in stores like Walmart and Target.