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13 Clever Uses for Paper Towels

Updated: Nov. 28, 2022

Paper towels to the rescue! These home tips will have you reaching for the roll every time you're in a fix.

Paper Towel Pyramid
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You might only be using paper towels to clean up spills and wet messes around your house, but there are a few other clever ways you can use them. Try out these extraordinary uses for paper towels that will help make your life a little easier. Make sure you know about these things you should never clean with paper towels.


Clean silk from fresh corn

If you hate picking the silk off freshly husked ears of corn, then you’ll love this paper towel trick. Dampen one and run it across the ear. The towel picks up the silk, and the corn is ready for the boiling pot or the grill. Try out these genius uses for baby wipes you never thought of.

Clear broth or stock without meat in cooking pot , close up
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Strain grease from broth

Use a paper towel to absorb the fat that surfaces on the top of broths and soups. Here’s how: Place another pot in the sink. Put a colander (or a sieve) in the new pot and put a paper towel in the colander. Now pour the broth through the towel into the waiting pot. You’ll find that the fat stays in the towel, while the cleaner broth streams through.

Brown sugar in a glass jar
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Soften brown sugar

If your brown sugar resembles a brick, you can reconstitute it by placing it in a bowl covered with a damp paper towel. Place the bowl in the microwave for 20 seconds, and the moisture will soften the sugar again. Try out these incredible uses for cardboard tubes.

Washed salad in sieve
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Keep produce fresh longer

Don’t you hate it when you open the vegetable bin in the refrigerator and find last week’s moldy carrots mixed with the now-yellow lettuce? Make your produce last long enough so you can eat it by lining your vegetable bins with paper towels. They absorb the moisture that causes your fruits and vegetables to rot. Makes cleaning up the bin easier too. Here are some more tips on how to keep your fruits and vegetables fresh for longer.

white plastic cutting board on blue wood table
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Keep cutting boards in place

Some plastic cutting boards don’t have anti-slip grips on the bottom, which means they’ll slide around the counter as you try to chop. Simply place a paper towel underneath the board for improved traction. Check out these extraordinary uses for household staples you already own.

Closeup of a Side Can Opener
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Clean a can opener

Have you ever noticed that strange gunk that collects on the cutting wheel of your can opener? You don’t want that in your food. Clean your can opener by “opening” a paper towel. Close the wheel on the edge of a paper towel, close the handles, and turn the crank. The paper towel will clean off the gunk as the wheel cuts through it.

Inside view of clean, empty microwave
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Prevent microwave messes

If you’re heating up something in the microwave and think it might pop or splatter, place a paper towel over the food to minimize the mess. These are the ways you’re using your microwave wrong.


Keep frozen bread from getting soggy

Here’s how to freeze—and thaw—your bread so it tastes just like fresh. Place a paper towel in the bag of bread before you freeze it. When you’re ready to eat that frozen loaf, the paper towel absorbs the moisture as the bread thaws. If you don’t want to use disposable paper towels, here are reusable versions of things you use every day.

Pouring milk into coffee cup
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Serve as a DIY coffee filter

If you need a caffeine fix but don’t have any filters, a paper towel will work in a pinch. Just use it to line the basket of your coffee maker, and it will strain out the grounds.

bacon, all that is good in life
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Cook bacon—without the mess

Layer two paper towels on the bottom of your microwave. Lay slices of bacon side by side, on the paper towels. Cover with two more paper towels. Run your microwave on High at 1-minute intervals, checking for crispness. It should take 3 to 4 minutes to cook, then toss the towels for easy clean-up. Watch out for these cleaning mistakes that make your home messier.

cast iron pot on stove
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Keep cast-iron pots rust-free

Stop rust from invading your prized collection of cast-iron pots. After they’re clean, place a paper towel in each to absorb any moisture. Store lids separately from the pots, separated by a lining of paper towels.


Test viability of old seeds

You’ve just found a packet of watermelon seeds dated two years ago. Should you bother to plant them or has their shelf life expired? To find out for sure, dampen two paper towels and lay down a few seeds. Cover with two more dampened paper towels. Over the next two weeks, keep the towels damp and keep checking on the seeds. If most of the seeds sprout, then plant the rest of the batch in the garden.

The white sewing machine on a desk.
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Clean a sewing machine

After you tune up your sewing machine, don’t worry about residual grease harming your sewing project: Use this paper towel trick. Thread the sewing machine and stitch several lines up a paper towel first. That should take care of any residual grease, so you can resume your sewing projects. Now, learn about how to remove grease stains from everything.