When Were Paper Towels Invented? History of Paper Towels

When Were Paper Towels Invented? History of Paper Towels


Paper towels were invented in 1879 by Clarence and Irvin Scott, founders of the Scott Paper Company.

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it's often the simplest of inventions that become integral, yet their origins remain unknown to many. Among these, the humble paper towel stands out. A staple in households and public restrooms alike, paper towels have woven their way into our cleaning routines, be it for wiping hands or cleaning spills. But have you ever paused mid-spill and wondered, "When were paper towels invented?" or "What are paper towels made of?" From its inception to its place on our kitchen counters, the story of the paper towel is both intriguing and full of unexpected turns. Dive with us as we unravel the fascinating history of paper towels and their impact on our world.

The Genesis of Paper Towels

The Scott Brothers’ Innovation

In the year 1879, two visionary brothers, Clarence and Irvin Scott, established the foundation of what we know today as the Scott Paper Company. In 1907, they brought to life the earliest version of paper towels initially intended for medical purposes [1]. Yes, that's right! Before they became our go-to for kitchen spills, these towels served as a sanitary alternative to cloth towels in the healthcare sector.

The Accidental Invention

Life is full of surprises, and Arthur Scott's narrative affirms this. The head of Scott Paper Company found himself grappling with an excessive shipment of thick paper rolls. The dilemma? These weren't suited for regular toilet paper as they were too thick [2].

However, thanks to a teacher's initiative to prevent the spread of germs [1], he was inspired to repurpose these rolls. By offering small towel-size sheets, Arthur not only addressed a health concern but also gave birth to the disposable paper towel as we know it today.

Evolution and Acceptance of Paper Towels

From Washrooms to Kitchens

The evolution from washrooms to kitchens was spearheaded by the introduction of the Sani-Towel. The thick paper was perforated into rather small towel-sized sheets before they were sold to railroad stations, restaurants, and hotels for public washroom use. In 1931, the company realized that paper towels had huge potential and began manufacturing paper towels specifically for kitchen use [3]. These rolls were eighteen inches long. This movement was so impactful that it led to the creation of an entirely new grocery category.

Overcoming Initial Hesitancy

Imagine a world where people hesitated to use paper towels. Hard to visualize, right? However, this was the reality in the early days. The public was initially skeptical about replacing their trusty cloth towels with disposable paper towels. Yet, as the convenience of paper towel usage became evident, cloth towels found themselves gradually getting sidelined.

The Environmental Impact and Sustainable Alternatives

Growing Environmental Concerns

As global awareness regarding environmental sustainability has grown, so too have concerns about the ecological impact of everyday items. Paper towels, while convenient, come at a significant environmental cost. The production process often involves cutting down vast numbers of trees, contributing to deforestation and habitat destruction.

Additionally, the energy-intensive manufacturing of paper towels, coupled with the water consumption needed, further strains our planet's precious resources. With millions of rolls used daily worldwide, the waste generated from paper towels, especially if not recycled, adds to the burden on landfills, emphasizing the urgent need for more sustainable alternatives in our daily lives. This brings up the question, "Are paper towels recyclable?" The answer is: it depends on the brand.

Sustainable Alternatives

While paper towels are indisputably convenient, their environmental footprint is a concern. Enter Reel Paper, offering sustainable solutions like Reel Recycled Paper Towels. Made from 100% recycled paper, these towels present an eco-friendly alternative, marrying utility with sustainability. We also offer premium bamboo toilet paper as well. Bamboo, as a rapidly renewable resource, grows 20 times faster than regular trees, making it an optimal choice for paper production. Furthermore, by using recycled materials, we significantly reduce waste, decrease energy consumption, and conserve our valuable forests.

Reel Paper: Pioneering Sustainability in Paper Products

Reel Paper isn’t just another brand; it’s a movement. With a mission to revolutionize the paper industry and combat deforestation, Reel has set the gold standard for sustainability. From bamboo toilet paper, recycled facial tissue and paper towels, our household paper products are redefining sustainable habits at home. We have an unwavering commitment to plastic-free packaging, carbon-neutral freight, and we plant one tree for every 2 boxes ordered though our Give Back Partner, One Tree Planted.

In wrapping things up, the journey of the paper towel from its medicinal roots to our kitchens is indeed a testament to innovation and adaptability. But as we reach for that next sheet to clean up a spill, it's worth pondering our choices. Thanks to brands like Reel Paper, choosing sustainability without compromising on convenience is now within arm's reach.



  1. Encyclopedia.com. 2018. “Scott Paper Company | Encyclopedia.com.” Www.encyclopedia.com. May 23, 2018. https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences-and-law/economics-business-and-labor/businesses-and-occupations/scott-paper-company.
  2. Sasser, Sue. 2001. “Study Guide Paper Towels.” Texas A&M University. https://bexar-tx.tamu.edu/files/2011/12/papertowels_11.pdf.
  3. Poppenheimer, Linda. 2017. “Paper Towels — Use and Environmental Impact.” Green Groundswell. November 10, 2017. https://greengroundswell.com/paper-towels-use-and-environmental-impact/2012/11/12/.


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