5 Things You Should Never Clean with Paper Towels

updated Sep 12, 2019
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It’s easy to reach for a paper towel to clean up just about every mess — they’re so handy! But just because something is convenient doesn’t mean it’s the best tool for the job. I’m definitely reaching for a paper towel to clean up chicken juice or a pet accident, but not all messes require a single-use item — and not all surfaces respond well to paper, either.

Here are five things you should never clean with a paper towel.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

1. Windows and mirrors

I used to be a firm believer in Windex and paper towels to get my windows and mirrors sparkling, but I’ve since converted. Microfiber cloths work just as well (if not better) and they’re reusable, which makes them the winner in my eyes. If you don’t have cloth, newspaper or even a paper bag will also work. And the best part: None of them leave lint behind the way a paper towel can.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

2. Grout

Anything that requires to you really get in there is not gonna get clean with a paper towel. The material is too flimsy and will shred as soon as you start scrubbing! Instead, use an old toothbrush to get stains out of grout, brick, or other textured surfaces.

(Image credit: Diana Liang)

3. Dusty moldings

Here’s the best way to tackle dusty moldings: First get rid of surface dust with a vacuum or a dry cloth. Then, use a wet microfiber cloth to scrub at any dirt that’s settled in. You don’t need much surface area at a time, but you do need it to be thick enough to hold up to some scrubbing — and cloths are sturdier than paper.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

4. Upholstery and rugs

To blot up an initial spill, a plain white rag is a more eco-friendly option than paper towels — and remember to blot, not rub! And if you’re looking at an older stain and you’re going to be scrubbing, reach for a microfiber cloth. It will let you get deeper into the fibers without leaving bits of paper towel lint all over the surface.

More on Cleaning Rugs and Upholstery

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5. Your electronic devices

Believe it or not, paper towels are kind of abrasive. Even the soft ones! That’s why you should use a microfiber cloth on everything from your computer screen to your TV. Oh, and your smart phone — it definitely needs a cleaning!