How to figure out the best price on paper towelsFiguring out the best price on paper towels is made difficult by the variety in products, sheet size, and roll size. As a rule of thumb, in the US in 2007 you should not be paying more than $0.01 per sheet, but even that figure is very high.. With coupons and sales you can probably get paper towels less expensively, although if bought at full price they usually sell for more than this. This page discusses ways to comparison shop for paper towels.
Roll SizesThere are many dimensions to roll size, essentially the amount of paper you get. If your goal is to determine how long a roll will last, perhaps the best measure is sheet count. Whether this is best measure depends on how you use paper towels. If most uses are for small things, then you are likely to use only one sheet per job and sheet count is accurate. If you use paper towels for large spills, then the aborbency and sheet size will make a difference. In my view, however, for larger spills you should be using a sponge or a mop or a wet vac to pick up most of the liqid and you shouldn't use paper towles except perhaps for the final drying if necessary.
While sheet count is important, don't be misled if the sheet size is so small that you end up using more towels, however. I have seen rolls of paper towels marked as "choos a size" that have sheet sized about a half that of a normal sheet. This is actually a good idea, why use a whole paper towell when a third will do, but you need to make sure you understand that the sheet count on such a roll may appear larger as a result.
The most common size for a paper towel in the United States is 11 x 11 inches, and a standard size roll will have 60 sheets. Bounty sells a "mega" roll with 100 sheets and other larger size rolls are available from other manufacturers.
Number of PliesThe number of plies will make a difference in how much liquid can be absorbed by a paper towel, and also in its feel. Two-ply paper towels tend to feel softer. It will not, however, make much of a difference in how long a roll of paper towels will last if they are being used only in ways that a single sheet will work.
Some NumbersHere are some of the numbers I recall reading off of packages in early 2007.
Scott Paper Towels - single roll
Bounty Mega Rolls
Viva (a Kleenex brand) choose-a-size
What is a standard rollBased on the packages I have seen, I consider a standard roll to have 60 sheets of 11 x 11 inches each for a suface area of 4.6 square meters per roll.
A word on conservationUsing large amounts of paper is hurtful to the enviornment, and it can get to be expensive. With respect to paper towels, the best way to save and to help the environment is to reduce and reuse and use recycled products. Reduce by using fewer paper towells, replacing use just to dry your hands with cloth towells. When used for just small amounts of water, it is useful also to reuse several times the paper towels that you do use. Finally, when choosing brands of paper towels, you can purchase towels that are made from post consumer recycled content.
Some popular brandsThe following are counts and sizes from some popular brands, noted in spring 2007. Please note that the actual counts and sizes might be changed, or might also vary in different regions, and the manfacturers might offer promotional size rolls, or larger size rolls. The notes here describe those specific rolls I have found in the store in 2007.