Paper towels don’t seem like they’d be a complicated item. However, there are several different types available that can make a simple choice quite complex. Let’s dive into the various paper towels available, their pros and cons, and why there are so many differences for such a simple product.


Singlefold Towels  

Singlefold towels are the most basic of the folded towel variety. As the name suggests, they are folded once, in half. These towels interlock with each other allowing the next towel to be easily dispensed and are contained within a paper sleeve. When dispensed, only one towel comes out at a time, so there is no need to tear the towels. Singlefolds can be used in a dispenser or a pop-up box. Singlefold dispensers are usually smaller in size and more ideal for small spaces. However, singlefold towels can only be used in singlefold dispensers. They do not work with c-fold or multifold dispensers. They are generally less expensive than multifold and c-fold towels, but cost depends on a lot of varying factors. They can be made out of new or recycled paper and come in either a bleached white variety or a natural brown variety.

  • Less Expensive Less waste with only a single towel dispensed at a time
  • Less bulk from being only folded once
  • Slim dispenser profile
  • Less absorbent due to smaller surface area
  • More waste from potential improper usage (grabbing more than one at once)
  • Doesn't dispense as smoothly as other towel types



C-Fold Towels


C-fold towels are folded in a “C” shape (in case you haven’t guessed that already). This folded shape allows the towels to sit on top of each other when stacked. They are not interlocked, which means you must reach into the dispenser for each towel dispensed. C-fold towels are dispensed one at a time (no tearing), but in a closed position. They offer a large surface area, and thus more absorption, when unfolded. C-folds are available in new or recycled paper varieties as well as bleached white or natural brown color. C-fold dispensers are usually slim in profile and normally can use both c-fold and multifold towels interchangeably depending on size. However, C-fold towels are some of the more difficult towels to dispense and are often just kept in baskets on counters for easier dispensing.

  • Larger surface area for more absorption
  • Interchangeable with multifold towels
  • Slim dispenser profile
  • Must be unfolded after dispensed
  • Too many towels often pulled out at once due to improper usage (pinching towels in dispenser)
  • Fewer towels per case


Multifold Towels  

In keeping with the trend, multifold or Z-fold towels are folded in 3 layers. When stacked in a dispenser, they interlock with each other, allowing the next towel to be easily dispensed and are dispensed one at a time with no need to tear. These are the most commonly used type of folded towel. They are generally large, more absorbent and easier to dispense. They are also dispensed in an open positon, meaning they do not have to be unfolded. Multifold towels are available in new or recycled paper varieties as well as bleached white or natural brown color. They fit into a slim dispenser which can normally also accommodate C-fold towels.

  • Most Absorbent of the folded towel varieties
  • Less likely to bunch up in dispensers
  • Interchangeable with C-fold towels Slim dispenser profile
  • Generally more expensive
  • Still subject to multiple towels being pulled out at once due to improper usage



Centerpull Towels  

Centerpull towels are an innovative approach to towel dispensing. Centerpulls are a type of hard rolled towel. They, surprisingly, dispense from the center of the roll. A small piece of the paper core needs to be pulled out to start the process, and the centerpull towel needs a dispenser in order to operate properly. When a user pulls down on the exposed bit of towel, one sheet is pulled out, leaving another exposed bit of towel ready for the next use. It is a form of touch free dispensing and very sanitary because of this. The dispensers tend to be a bit bulkier, but they help prevent overuse by only dispensing one towel at a time. Unlike folded towels, centerpulls are much easier to dispenser and less likely to be misused. Because centerpulls are perforated during the manufacturing process, they take longer to produce and are generally more expensive than the comparable hardwound towel. There will also be some waste product with centerpulls when the dispenser needs to be refilled. The majority of centerpull towels are bleached white, but there are a few natural brown varieties.

  • Easy dispensing process
  • Less user waste
  • More sanitary design
  • Dispenser required for use
  • Bulky Dispensers
  • Wasted paper when replaced 




Hardwound Towels


Hardwound towels are some of the most commonly used towels for breakrooms. They are a simple design and come in bleached white or natural brown variety. There are a wide variety of dispensers on the market for hardwound towels, from levers to cranks and touch-free to battery operated. Because the towels are simple to manufacture, they are generally cheaper than centerpull towels. There is no waste product as the whole roll is able to be used before needing to be replaced. It is unlikely to jam in the dispenser or dispense too much at once. However, on occasion, the “tail” may not dispenser automatically. But most dispensers are equipped so users can turn a knob to re-start the roll. In contrast, once clogged, a centerpull dispenser must be unlocked and opened by an operator. How much of the towel is dispensed at a time depends on the dispenser, with some being customizable. The core of the roll is often small, allowing for more towels per roll, which ultimately means fewer roll changes.

  • Fewer roll changes               
  • No waste               
  • Various dispenser options
  • Usually rougher towels               
  • Crank dispensers are less hygienic               
  • Non-perforated, must be torn for use


Perforated Roll Towels/Kitchen Towels


Perforated roll towels, often called kitchen towels, are the type of towels just about everyone has in their home. They are a simple, loose roll of towels on a paper/cardboard core that are perforated and easily torn into ready-to-use strips. A dispenser is not needed to use these towels, but dispensers available for these towels are basic and easy to refill. Most dispensers for kitchen towels do not have locking mechanisms. The thickness, absorbency, softness, size and amount of towels per roll vary greatly in these towels, making it tough to equally compare different brands. They are generally all the bleach white variety.


  • Ready to use       
  • Simple and inexpensive dispensers     
  • Perforated
  • Difficult to compare towel brands due to multiple variances                                                                
  • Not long lasting                                                                      
  • Often overused