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The 7 Very Best Paper-Towel Holders

Photo-Illustration: Courtesy Retailer

In this article

A paper-towel holder helps with the dirty work of a kitchen by keeping a roll handy to clean up sauce spills, puddles of dishwater, and missed throws to the trash can. Though they aren’t exactly “countertop attractions” like an on-display Dutch oven or splurge-worthy toaster, their usefulness makes them essential. So to find the best ones, I asked recipe developers, food writers, prop stylists, and professional organizers about their favorite paper-towel holders, from a made-in-Portugal option that provides a pop of color to one that comes with its own spray cleaner bottle.

What we’re looking for

Form

The standard paper-towel holder will be freestanding, with a pole centered on a round base. The shape is a bit reminiscent of a plunger, but the style can sometimes be design-y (à la this acrylic CB2 version). Others are magnetic and can be stuck on the side of a fridge, or wall-mountable, so you can use a couple of screws to attach them to the wall or underneath a cabinet (like this Kohler towel “arm”).

Material

Our experts favored paper-towel holders made of stainless steel (durable), wood (dependable), and ceramic (decorative). The materials of each are listed, below.

Features

This criteria point is all about the details — those characteristics that might make you choose this over that — from a tension arm that makes it easy to tear off one sheet at a time to a removable dowel for switching out rolls.

Dimensions

I double-checked the measurements for each paper-towel holder and listed them in order of length, width, and height (or diameter and height, if those were the only measurements specified), so you know whether you have enough space. If you’ll be using a freestanding paper-towel holder on a countertop that’s beneath upper cabinets, pay special attention to the height to be sure you have enough clearance.

Best overall paper-towel holder

Form: Freestanding | Material: Stainless steel | Features: Spring-activated arm | Size: 7” x 7” x 13”

It’s no secret that Oxo’s kitchenware is oft-recommended on our site. The brand makes all sorts of best-in-class products, from food-storage containers to compost bins to sheet pans. This (trademarked) SimplyTear earned endorsements from Lisa Zaslow, owner of Gotham Organizers, and Jessie Sheehan, author of Snackable Bakes. Its biggest selling point is the spring-powered tension arm that “keeps the roll rolled” so there’s “no loose end flopping around,” according to Zaslow. The “game changer” of a feature lets you rip off sheets one-handed, while the almost unshakable bottom adds balance. Sheehan has had hers for about five years — and the holder has remained stable, even through switches to jumbo-size rolls. Meanwhile, the steel hasn’t stopped shining, “If it gets splattered, it’s a cinch to wipe off,” she adds.

Best freestanding paper-towel holder

Form: Freestanding | Material: Steel and wood | Features: Side slot for tearing sheets | Size: 4.53” x 6.1” x 12.2”

Strategist staffers are on-the-record Yamazaki-heads — and the Tosca paper-towel holder is the first of two products from the brand that we’ve included on this list. Professional organizer Britnee Tanner has used many paper-towel holders that slide around or topple over when she tries to grab a sheet — but the Tosca is an exception. “The entire thing is so sturdy,” she says. There’s a slot that you can feed paper towels through and tear from (it’s more minimal than OXO’s), and that white bar next to the wood pole in the center adds tension to prevent the roll from shuffling around, reinforcing it so it stays upright. (Note: Your best bet is a standard-size roll.) Since it’s so minimalist, the holder isn’t something she minds seeing on her counter day in, day out, either.

Best magnetic paper-towel holder

Form: Magnetic mount | Material: Steel and wood | Features: Removable dowel | Size: 3.35” x 12.6” x 2.36”

Once creative and content strategist Carrie Carrollo stuck Yamazaki’s magnetic paper-towel holder on the side of her old fridge, she never had to think about it again. Her former roommate even kept the apartment and holder when Carrollo moved out. (“It’s still going strong with her.”) It’s “really just ‘there’ in the best way,” she says. The magic is in the magnet— though the holder is removable, Carrollo notes that “you need some actual force to move it around” because it’s “super-sturdy.” (And its fridge-side spot made it especially useful in the most messy circumstances, including an incident involving shattered bottles of soju and soy sauce.) One easy-to-miss detail is that the holder comes with a tiny rubber band, which Carrollo assumes many people might throw away. But she left hers on the end of the dowel “because it made the paper-towel roll feel more secure,” she explains.

Best wall-mounted paper-towel holder

Form: Magnetic or screw mount | Material: Plastic, metal, wood | Features: Two-tiered shelves, removable dowel, movable hooks | Size: 13.2” x 11.6”

Caroline Mullen, a freelance writer and former editor at Food52, outfitted a free blank space she had next to the stove with this storage rack that includes a paper-towel holder. (She even penned an ode to the find for the Kitchn.) Mullen was sold from the moment she saw it, especially for the storage space. In addition to holding a roll of paper towels, the rack has room for olive oil, pepper, and salt on the topmost tier, and an apron and potholder on the hooks. It has a magnetic back, so you can slap it onto the side of the fridge like the Yamazaki, but there is also an option to screw it to the wall if that makes more sense in your kitchen — the necessary hardware comes in the box. Even in a small space full of multipurpose solutions, Mullen calls the rack “the most functional piece in the room.”

Best hanging paper-towel holder

Form: Screw mount | Material: Plastic | Features: Rolls slide in | Size: 11.25” x 2.3”

“This is the paper-towel holder for people who wish they didn’t ‘have’ to have a paper-towel holder clogging up counter space,” says recipe developer Rebecca Firkser. She inherited a version of the iDesign design from the previous tenants of her apartment, who installed it above the sink in the kitchen. “I’d probably prefer to hide it, but I don’t want to open a cabinet with wet hands for a towel,” Firkser says. Its appeal is the “mountability,” which she feels is more aesthetically pleasing than a paper-towel holder that sits on the countertop. The transparency is another draw, as she theorizes that metal pieces can “really weigh down a room.” In the two years of having it, “there are only a few scratches that I honestly only noticed when looking to answer this question,” Firkser says.

Or, if you’re plastic-averse, here’s an honorable mention made of stainless steel: Cookbook author Caroline Chambers has used this paper-towel hook in past rentals, unscrewing it and taking it with her when she moved — it’s currently installed under a cabinet in the home she now owns.

Best-looking paper-towel holder

Form: Freestanding | Material: Ceramic and wood | Features: Speckled glaze | Size: 7” x 13”

Moving into an apartment with a very “brown, in a classic Brooklyn way” kitchen influenced Strategist kitchen-and-dining writer Emma Wartzman to go with a “pops of blue” theme for her furnishings. One of those pops came courtesy of this paper-towel holder from Portuguese label Casafina, which features cobalt speckled-glazed stoneware on the base and at the top of the central wood rod. The “quite pretty” effect is practical, too: Because the bottom is ceramic “as opposed to wood, it doesn’t matter if it gets wet — mine is right next to the sink,” Wartzman says. It’s fairly lightweight despite its heavier materials — she mentions reading a review from someone who wished it was heavier — yet “never slides around or moves at all.”

Best paper-towel holder with a spray bottle

Form: Freestanding | Material: Stainless steel | Features: Tension arm, spray pump | Size: 7.1” x 8.1” x 15”

If you’re all for an all-in-one solution, consider Simplehuman’s new “pump” paper-towel holder. The can’t-miss feature is a spray bottle in the center, which you can fill with your cleaner of choice. A central tube houses the bottle and holds the paper-towel roll — a gentle push on the top of the bottle makes it pop up, while the roll stays in place. The brand sent me one for review, and I have it sitting beneath a shelf. Note that it’s on the taller side — at 15 inches, it’s the tallest freestanding paper-towel holder on this list — plus you’ll need some clearance to be able to pop up the bottle and remove it. The bottle sprays the finest of mists and stands on its own, too. It’s a clever design — especially with the addition of a tension arm to let you tear off sheets without the roll coming undone.

Our experts

Carrie Carrollo, creative and content strategist
Caroline Chambers, cookbook author
Rebecca Firkser, recipe developer
Caroline Mullen, freelance writer and former editor at Food52
Jessie Sheehan, author of Snackable Bakes
Britnee Tanner, professional organizer
Emma Wartzman, Strategist kitchen-and-dining writer
• Lisa Zaslow, owner of Gotham Organizers

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The 7 Very Best Paper-Towel Holders