Are Paper Towels Good Insulators?

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Paper towels are useful in many ways in our homes, offices, hospitals, schools, and just about everywhere. They come as rolls of disposable, absorbent towels made out of paper. They are soft but thicker than toilet paper. We tend to reach for a roll of paper towel when we are trying to mop up spills or wipe surfaces dry.

Now and again, you may have attempted to use paper towels to wipe the spill from a boiling pot that touched the hotplate on a stove, and you wonder, are paper towels good insulators? Well, let’s find out.

Are paper towels used for insulationg

So, Are Paper Towels Good Insulators? Paper towels are good insulators. However, this is true to an extent because their insulating ability is not as effective as other materials such as plastic, wood, or rubber.

The insulating effect of a paper towel starts to reduce when the temperature of the hot object that you placed it on begins to rise and at that point, the paper towel gradually conducts the heat, allowing it to pass through the layers of paper and you are most likely going to start feeling the burning sensation on your hands.

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You may have to learn more about the qualities of paper towels, to understand how good of an insulator they can be. Please, keep reading.

How good of an insulator is a paper towel?

Paper as a material generally has low thermal conductivity, which means that it does not allow heat to pass through to an extent. 

So, if paper towels are made out of plant-based cellulose just like any other paper and are useful in picking up liquid spills, they are good insulators but it depends on how thick the roll of paper towel is that you use and for how long the source of heat it is used on, lasts. 

To be on the safe side, pull out more from the roll of paper towel, to make it thick enough to protect your hands before you handle that hot mess! Just the same way you would prefer winter gloves that have more padding or fleece to keep you warm.

Is a wet paper towel a better insulator?

No, please! Using a wet paper towel will most likely cause heat to transfer more quickly from its source and through the layers of the towels.  

Dry paper towels are good materials that keep heat or electricity at bay for some time, hence they are fairly good insulators but when the air pockets within the cellulose of the paper towels are used up by the wetness, the insulation barrier breaks and the paper towels become good conductors instead of insulators. 

At that point, it is said to have reached a thermal breakdown. Now you know why wet paper towels can get hot very quickly compared to dry ones. Do not get burned! 

Which brand of paper towel is the best insulator?

The best paper towels should be those that clean like cloth. There are quite a few great products out there to choose from, but a very popular brand is Bounty. When you shop for paper towels, use this guide to help with your selection of those that make good insulators: 

  • Check for the favourite brands available. There is a wide variety to pick from and it depends on what you like as well as your budget. Try Bounty paper towel or Sparkle: they are well known to be top of the quality range.
  • Be sure to check the weight of the paper towels. The best products out there weigh around 2grams per sheet. The thicker the sheet, the better the insulating job it will do for you.
  • Read to know how absorbent the product is. Paper towels absorb water because their cellulose has air bubbles that allow it. The more absorbent the paper towels are, the better they will work as insulators.
  • Feel the texture to know how soft the paper towel is. The towels that are thick and do not tear easily, make good insulators. If soft, the more liquid they will absorb and the less insulation they provide.

Is it okay to use paper towels in a microwave oven?

Most paper towels are safe to use in microwave ovens if you do so safely. You can use paper towels to cover food or line the plates before you put them in the microwave oven. The towels help to absorb excess moisture while the food cooks in the oven.

If you make use of a wet paper towel over your food in the microwave, it helps to protect the food from overheating and likely getting burnt too quickly. The paper towel forms a barrier and helps the food to cook evenly.

Do not leave the paper towel in the oven for too long, as it can dry up after a while and may cause a fire. Stand by the oven and keep a close eye on the food.

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Which other material can you use as an insulator?

There are other materials that can be used as insulators, instead of paper towels.

  • Newspapers are great alternatives. Do not throw them away after going through the news. Stash them for later. They are budget-friendly and are thick enough to withstand heat to a certain degree.
  • Microfiber cleaning cloths can also double as your go-to material for mopping up spilled liquids. They are sustainable and can be washed after use.
  • Old-T shirts come in handy, too. The ones made from 100% cotton will work just fine. They are absorbent and are durable.

What about reusable paper towels?

Yes, you read it right! Reusable paper towels exist and they are becoming popular. It will be a good time to start thinking of going for them because of the following reasons. 

They are usually made from the bamboo plant and are found to be friendlier to our environment because they are biodegradable. They are also cost-effective. You can use the towels over and over again. Simply, rinse and hang them out to dry before the next use. 

Reusable paper towels have been found to be stronger than the conventional products out there. 

FAQs

Is a paper towel a conductor or an insulator?

Paper towel can be both a conductor or an insulator, depending on how it is used. A dry paper towel acts as an insulator because it does not allow heat or temperature to pass through.

On the other hand, a wet paper towel is a conductor as it allows heat to be transferred from its source, through the layers of paper. 

Is a white paper towel a good insulator?

Yes, white paper towels are good insulators.  Most paper towels come in white color. We also have some that have colored designs on them. Since they are all made from plant-based cellulose, they will act the same way when exposed to heat. 

Is a paper towel conductive?

Paper towels are not conductive.  Conductive material allows heat or electricity to pass through it. 

To be more specific, dry paper towels are not conductive but when you use them wet, their conductive property changes. Wet paper towels can permit the transfer of heat or electricity. 

Would recycled paper towels be good insulators as the regular ones?

Recycled or not, paper towels are all good insulators.

Are paper towels safe for use on babies?

Paper towels are not safe to be used on babies. Most paper towels contain chemicals and the two common ingredients are chlorine and formaldehyde. These are harmful and have been found to be likely cancer-causing agents. 

Are Paper Towels Toxic to Human health?

This is quite worrying and you will agree with me because most often we use this on our food items in the kitchen, and our faces most often. Most paper towels in the market contain toxic chemicals which can be detrimental to human health.

The likes of grocery bags give off small amounts of formaldehyde which is used to boost the wet strength and other valued characteristics of paper and paper products.

Furthermore, Formaldehyde is also a known carcinogen, and because of this substance “formaldehyde”, you can be infected with the skin-related disease when in direct contact with them.

Chlorine is quite generally used to make the paper towel white in color. The by-products of using Chlorine for bleaching are toxins such as dioxin and furans, which are known to be incredibly dangerous to the human body.

Are Paper Towels Good Insulators – Conclusion

Paper towels are a staple in our lives. They are handy and make for a quick solution to accidental spills. When next you hold up a hot mug of coffee with a towel, just remember that dry paper towels are also good insulators. They do not allow heat or electricity to transfer through their thick layers. To retain the insulation, do not make them wet. 

It is best to buy well-known brands like Bounty because they are thicker, more absorbent and weigh more. But where you lack paper towels, please make do with available alternatives around you, such as old newspapers, microfibre cleaning cloth, or that old cotton T-shirt. 

Lastly, why not try reusable paper towels? They are not only pocket-friendly, but they are also super strong in comparison to conventional products and are going to make better insulators

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