Is it safe to use paper towel as a filter when brewing?



Are there any chemicals or dyes in most common paper towels that would be harmful if I brewed my coffee using the towel as a filter?

If it is safe, will it affect the taste of the coffee at all?

Jaken Herman

Posted 2015-08-14T20:19:06.847

Reputation: 215



Paper towels!? Knock yourself out!

In this answer in Lifehacks.SE, the accepted answer includes instructions to create a coffee filter out of paper towels. The full instrctions:

I tried to create a similar filter device with a paper towel and it worked perfectly.

Here is what I did:

  • First, make sure you have paper towels... seems foolish to mention, but hey... its true!
    • Approximate the size of your basket with your hand and tear a circle out of the paper towel bout an inch (+/- 2cm) wider than the basket size.
    • Place the paper into the basket and push the center down to touch the bottom.
    • the "buckled" edged should then be folded into an accordion (similar to the shape of a normal filter) -- this will help to maintain a "wall" for the water and grounds so they do not overflow into the drink.
    • Place the coffee grounds into the basket in a normal fashion and brew.

My formatting skills are rather rusty... So in conclusion, it's safe to use paper towels with no risk or worry! But I'll answer your concerns for you.

Since when do paper towels need dye? They're white, so no need for artificial colors here, all they need is some machine to make the cool patterns and all the other cool stuff. Same goes for chemicals. Read the comments for that answer for more information about chemicals that may be inside the paper towel. White paper towels are usually the ones with the lowest chemical content compared to other colored paper towels.

According to the comments, brown paper towels will make your coffee taste like one. Not good at all. Bleached towels should be avoided as they contain bleach or CI (chlorine). And who knows what hidden chemicals could be used in the non-bleached ones, any from A-Z really. So use the paper towels with caution as you might be drinking bleached coffee instead...

Depending on how strong your paper towel is, the strength of your coffee will vary. Quote from same answer used for this one.

Anthony Pham

Posted 2015-08-14T20:19:06.847

Reputation: 1 437

1Why do you conclude it is safe? Just because someone on Lifehacks.SE suggested it, doesn't mean its a good idea.

Paper towels are available in a variety of colours. Even if they are white, that is not be the natural colour, they could have been bleached. – vclaw – 2015-08-15T22:15:04.287

Although it's accepted, this post doesn't really answer the actual question: is it safe, and will it affect the taste? – fredley – 2015-08-16T10:38:13.787

@fredley, the last paragraph tells how the taste can be affected by the paper towel. And the paragraph above it tells you to read the comments for the linked answer for more information about the safety of using paper towels as filters. – Anthony Pham – 2015-08-16T17:51:49.120

3@Python Links can go stale, can you include the relevant portions in your answer? – fredley – 2015-08-16T18:01:39.523


So as far as I can tell, some kitchen towel can contain a variety of potentially nasty chemicals, including bleach. While it's only likely to be trace amounts, I'd avoid doing this except in an emergency.

The best towel to use if you do is microwave safe kitchen towel, which has a minimal amount of stuff in it.

As for the taste, I imagine it's going to vary hugely on the towel you use, but at the end of the day it's going to be very difficult to control the brew.

Stick to filter paper whenever possible, have a backup pack.


Posted 2015-08-14T20:19:06.847

Reputation: 4 258


The best answer, by far, is the one that was voted below zero. Says a lot about this site.

Coffee filters are subject to food grade standards. They aren't just convenient shapes and stronger than paper towels, they have substantially less toxins i.e. bleach byproducts such dioxins (strong carcinogen). As well many paper towels have various purfumes, inks and other chemicals only GRAS (generally recognized as safe) for external use on your skin. Not as a filter medium for an ingested beverage.

And as for white being devoid of dyes and chemicals.. natural wood pulp which is what filters and paper towels are made of is a murky brownish grey colour at it's lightest. If it's white it's been bleached. And i most cases with a more potent bleaching agent if the intended use is for paper towels than filter media.

Sure you can use paper towels. Most brands won't burst suddenly and it won't kill you on the spot anymore than BPA in older water bottles or lead in drinking water. But is this where you want to save a few pennies - by using something that is going to bring unnecessary amounts of known carcinogens into your diet?

I'll stick to coffee filters myself. And unbleached (brown) ones at that.


Posted 2015-08-14T20:19:06.847

Reputation: 49

It was downvoted because the original answer was a comment as opposed to an answer. (You can see the original post by selecting "edited DATE / TIME" After the edit it is a far better answer. - I upvoted it for that reason. If you stick around here you too will be able to moderate answers. – Mayo – 2018-02-26T22:49:31.923


Just tried it with a bounty paper towel. Made a satchel out of a piece of it and left the top open in a cup shape seal and lowered it into the heated water had to make sure the grinds where covered with water because the paper towel dose not strain well very durable and keeps water in unless you lower and lift and swirl the satchel to help drain the water for about 2 minutes then squeeze and dispose grounds. The taste is no different from normally coffee because coffee taste is very strong as for how harmful this is well I would say that eating a burger is worse.Just don't use recycled paper towels :P and the coloured ones stick with the good quality bounty or similar type of paper towel.


Posted 2015-08-14T20:19:06.847

Reputation: 21


Chlorine and its derivatives such as hypo- chlorite and chlorine dioxide should not be used to make recycled paper. Paper towels are sometimes bleached with elemental chlorine (chlorine gas), which causes the release of chlorinated compounds, such as dioxins and furans, which are powerful carcinogens and mutagens. Paper: Bathroom Tissue and Paper Towels

John Robinson

Posted 2015-08-14T20:19:06.847

Reputation: 21


Doesn't every paper towel contains chemicals (bleach, perfume, etc), some more than others. The one's that don't use chemicals will leave a bad flavour.

Coffee filters use special techniques to avoid that. That's why coffee filters are more expensive.


Posted 2015-08-14T20:19:06.847

Reputation: 11

Hi, this is more of a comment than an answer. Can you expand on it a little bit? – Mayo – 2017-11-30T13:38:01.153