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Using Paper Towel as Coffee Filter

Should I use a Paper Towel as a Coffee Filter

You’re out of coffee filters. You need your coffee. You have paper towels sitting right there on the counter. They seem similar to coffee filters. Surely, I could use paper towels until I get to the store, right?

Coffee Filter Substitute – Paper Towel?

Physically, of course, you could fold up and fit a paper towel into your coffee maker and make coffee. You didn’t need to use Google to figure that out.

The real question is should you use paper towels as a coffee filter.

Absolutely not. No Way. Never.

There are countless articles and videos online advising you that you can, and aren’t you so clever for thinking of it.

But the reality is that you should never do it.

The reason is simple. Coffee filters are manufactured with the knowledge that they are going to be in contact with food (coffee, hot water) and the facilities that make them operate as such. Coffee filters are not exposed to unsafe toxins, the factories where they are made use FDA approved lubricants on their machinery, and the end product, the filters themselves, must meet a stringent set of FDA Requirements.

None of this is true for paper towels. Why would it be? We don’t want super expensive, difficult to manufacture paper towels. We like cheap, readily available paper towels. If they were made to the same standards as coffee filters, they would be much more expensive.

Using Paper Towel as Coffee Filter
Don’t use Paper Towels as a Coffee Filter

You may also read or hear that paper towels are FDA approved for food contact. This is misleading. The FDA clearly states that paper towels are only intended for wiping, not for food use, and, therefore, the FDA has no reason to be involved with paper towels one way or the other. Read for yourself, here.

If a paper towel manufacturer wanted to market their paper towels as coffee filter substitutes, then they would have to comply with the same manufacturing processes and the same finished product standards and paper towels would be just as expensive as coffee filters.

The point is that paper towels could be filled with all sorts of nasty chemicals and the FDA wouldn’t know or care because the FDA has nothing to do with paper towels. Many paper towels have Formaldehyde, Chlorine, BPA, and other chemicals in them. This doesn’t bother me at all. I would even wrap food in a paper towel. But what I wouldn’t do is run hot or boiling water through a paper towel to extract as many of those toxins into my coffee as possible and then drink it!

Don’t use Towels or Clothes, Either!

Obviously, these items weren’t manufactured in an FDA regulated facility.

But probably more importantly, I bet you use some combination of laundry detergent, whitener, fabric softener, and/or bleach when you wash your clothes.

Do you really want your hot coffee water doing the final rinse to get the remnants of laundry chemicals into your coffee?

Related: Tea Strainer Alternative

Better Coffee Filter Alternatives

Tea Strainer

Tea Sieve

Tea Infuser

Fine Mesh Sieve


You probably have something in your kitchen that will be a fine temporary alternative to your coffee filters.

Best of all, these items will have been manufactured with materials intended for contact with food, and in facilities that operate in a food safe manner.

Bottom Line

Using paper towel as coffee filter? No way.

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