Bounty Towels: The Crystal Meth of Paper Products


In general, I am not one to brag; but I can be a little smug when it comes to trumpeting my eco credentials. Because the fact is, I consider myself pretty darn green. I buy products made of sustainable materials whenever I can (unless they’re really expensive or hard to find). I recycle everything that that can possibly be recycled (except for the very occasional can of tuna on a really hot day because let’s face it, the smell never comes out of those cans and sometimes you just can’t deal). I never – okay hardly ever – eat Chilean sea bass or other endangered sea creatures. In short, I am as eco friendly as the next somewhat lazy and imperfect modern woman. But underneath all my good intentions, there is a guilty environmental secret known only to a select and trusted few: I have a shameful and crippling addiction to Bounty paper towels.

It was a long time before I could admit that my attachment to Bounty towels was really a problem – for awhile, I just thought of myself as excessively brand loyal. But then I started to recognize the troubling symptoms of dependency: I get jittery and anxious when deprived of these highly absorbent paper goods. I begin to worry about running out when I’m down to my last three rolls. And there have been times when I have surreptitiously used up every last paper towel in the house, only to sneak out and replace them before my husband and kids could see what I had done.

Clearly, I have a problem. Knowing how bad power towels are for the environment, I have tried to kick the habit. But as an unrepentant germaphobe, I find paper towels necessary for cleaning. When I look at a sponge, I can almost see it crawling with all the disgusting bacteria and germs from previous uses. As far as I’m concerned, sponges don’t clean – they just redistribute salmonella and e-coli.  Over time they also develop that repulsive sour sponge smell, unlike paper towels, which are pristine and sterile and smell of nothing but their indispensable sidekick: antibacterial spray.

On occasion I have forced myself to buy those self-righteously eco brown paper towels, but it’s just not the same. They are rough and crackly. They smell oddly like hemp. Plus, they shred easily and don’t have the buttery hand-feel of my beloved Bountys – holding them feels like having a palm full of Rice Krispies.

I have not been able to give up my habit but I have cut back. I switched to Bounty’s select-a-size product – they are the same lovely paper towels but with sneaky perforations that force you to rip off a smaller piece than you might otherwise select. It’s not a cure but it is a step-down solution that limits my consumption and improves my carbon footprint – at least a little.

It doesn’t help matters that my problem is stoked by my husband and live-in enabler. In some families, if a spouse brings home a 24-pack of paper towels it is simply a favor or a nice gesture; in my house this qualifies as foreplay.

All of my closest friends know about my problem. And when they heard I was writing for an eco blog they all had extremely similar reactions. One after another they looked concerned, then leaned in close and whispered “Do they know about the paper towels?”

Well, they do now.

Image: Andy on Flickr

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10 thoughts on “Bounty Towels: The Crystal Meth of Paper Products

  1. Have you gotten a roll of Bounty that smells bad when wet? They must be changing the way Bounty is made, because that last package I got was not the Bounty I’m used to. It smells so bad that I am seriously ready to kick my Bounty habit!

  2. Cut up old t-shirts. I cut up all my old t-shirts and use them as rags. i use one, throw it in a basket for dirty rags and wash when I get enough for a load. They never shred like paper towels. Sure I’m using water to wash them, but I figure it’s less of an impact than paper towels.

  3. This is a great article! It’s humorous and it really shows the struggle many people have trying to be green. There’s either a lack of alternatives or the alternatives aren’t very affordable.

    I own a website called that is a free educational co-op that allows people to promote themselves by teaching others. I have reposted your article (with full credentials and trackbacks) to the “Green Living” tutorials section. Check it out at –

    Keep up the great content.

  4. Pingback: Not being as green as we should be. | Arbor Bend

  5. Just be careful microwaving sponges – I put one in for a little too long once and it burst into flames. Entertaining but not too safe…

  6. don’t worry…I have a similar issue with paper towels. Except mine is Viva!!! Viva la Viva!!! I’ve loved it since it was first introduced in 1996 and they had the lady demoing them. I have cut down my use to only use them for cleaning. I use cloth for napkins type uses.

    Will not live w/o my Viva as long as it’s still around and I can afford it!!!

  7. I was just talking with Heather D. about the paper towel dilemma, Susan. The bleached Bounty towels work so much better and you end up using fewer than the recycled ones which are so thin. What’s ultimately worse? Hmm…

    And Desiree, I am right there with you on the sponges. My mom taught me a neat trick: boil sponges in a saucepan of water for 60 seconds (the water needs to boil for at least a minute). Presto, sanitized! You can also microwave them for a minute if you have a microwave.

  8. Shame on you! Just kidding.

    Its seems that all my friends are doing their best to be kinder to the environment but, most have trouble giving up the paper towel. I am also right there with you on the sponge. Those things are gross, we use a scrub brush to do our dishes. My suggestion to you, shop towels! Get a pack at any general merchandise store. I got mine at Target and my mom got a 12-pack at Wal-Mart for $5. Use them one time to wipe down your counters and then wash them. The germies are gone and they will be ready to use again. Probably one of the hardest transitions we made at our house but now that we have changed our habits, we don’t miss the paper.

    Good luck!


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