compostable paper towels

The Most Important Things To Know About How To Compost Paper Towels

When it comes to composting, there are a lot of things that people don’t know. For example, did you know that paper towels can be composted? It’s true! In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about compostable paper towels.

We will cover topics such as how long it takes for paper towels to decompose, whether or not there are chemicals in paper towels, and whether or not they are safe for composting. We will also talk about the different brands of compostable paper towels available on the market, and how to compost them properly.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I make a small commission on products purchased through these links at no extra cost to you.


Most people don’t think twice about throwing away a paper towel. After all, it’s just a piece of paper, right? Wrong. Paper towels and other paper waste from households across the nation add up to thousands of tons of waste added to the landfills every year!

In theory, paper should decompose in the landfill within a few weeks. Most paper is technically biodegradable, afterall! But conditions in landfills are not at all favorable for decomposition. The microbes that work to decompose organic material require lots of oxygen to thrive. These things are in short supply in a landfill, and so paper is likely to take decades to decompose rather than weeks.

Needless to say, the more paper (including paper towels) that we can compost instead of sending to the landfills, the better.


Paper towels are composed largely of carbon, and carbons are a very important element of a successful compost bin!

Many people think they can simply throw their food waste into a bin and wind up with beautiful soil in a few months. But without carbons mixed in, the kitchen scraps will simply turn into a stinky mess. That’s why it’s important to have a mix of carbon-rich materials like paper towels, brown leaves, and straw in your compost bin.

So feel free to throw your paper towels into your compost pile. They are totally compostable and will actually help your pile turn to compost more quickly.


Most paper towels will take around two to four weeks to compost. Some brands may take a little longer than this.

The amount of time it takes a paper towel to compost also depends on the composting method that you use and how well you maintain it. For example, a paper towel in a hot compost bin will compost bin will decompose much more quickly than one in an open compost bin that doesn’t get turned often.


Many brands of paper towels do contain small amounts of formaldehyde, and white paper towels are also bleached to that beautiful white color with a chemical called chlorine.

While many people successfully compost these paper towels without any harm, you should avoid composting standard paper towels if you want to avoid trace amounts of formaldehyde from entering your compost.


There are a few instances when you should avoid composting paper towels. If the towel has been in contact with raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs, it needs to be thrown away because the scent of those items will attract pests to your outdoor compost pile.

Additionally, if the towel has been used to clean up a hazardous material, such as paint, it should not be composted.

Paper towels used to soak up cleaning chemicals should also not be composted, and likewise with paper towels that have come into contact with any type of oil or grease.


Paper towels can be composted right along with the waste from your kitchen. Simply bundle them up with the food scraps and place them in your outdoor compost pile. If you don’t have a compost pile, you can also put them in your green bin for curbside pickup, if you have one.

If you’re using a paper towel to clean up a spill, be sure to wring it out as much as possible before putting it into the compost bin to avoid adding too much moisture to the pile.

Additionally, the paper towels will decompose faster in smaller pieces, so take the time to shred them up into smaller pieces if you want them to compost more quickly.


While there’s no problem with composting your average store-brand paper towel, there are some alternative brands that are made with more sustainable materials and may break down more quickly. Here’s a quick look at some compostable paper towel recommendations!

Seventh Generation Unbleached Paper Towels

Seventh Generation is a widely known brand that may be available at your local grocery store. As a bonus, these come unbleached, so no need to worry about dangerous chemicals leaching into your compost!

Caboo Bamboo Paper Towels

Caboo paper towels are 100% compostable! And if sustainability is a big concern of yours, bamboo paper towels are an excellent alternative to standard paper towels, as bamboo grows very quickly and easily.

Betterway Bamboo Paper Towels

Betterway is another excellent rand that produces sustainable, compostable bamboo paper towels. The packaging is also totally plastic-free!


While composting is an amazing tool for dealing with household waste, its ideal to avoid creating waste in the first place! For that reason, I also love to recommend these reusable paper towel alternatives that work just as well:

Papaya Reusables

Papaya resuables are little squares that can be used over and over again – they say that one square can replace 17 rolls of paper towels! Simply use it, wash it, and hang to dry. Plus, they come in tons of adorable prints! And did I mention they’re compostable when they finally wear out?

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