Generic paper towels are made by grinding up wood and other plant material into fibers. Then, the fibers are bleached white, pressed into thin sheets and dried out.
- Grind up wood and plant material
A large machine called a pulper grinds up wood and other plant material, such as recycled paper, into fibers. The microscopic plant fibers are made of cellulose, which is the chemical that gives wood its strength. Cellulose can soak up lots of water molecules. The fibers are mixed with water to form a pulp. A filter removes all the none-paper materials from the pulp, such as staples and plastic.
- Bleach the pulp
The pulp is sent through a machine that strips the ink from it by injecting the pulp with air. The pulp goes through rollers to squeeze the water out. Then, it is whitened with a peroxide-based bleaching agent and rinsed thoroughly.
- Press it into sheets
The pulp is mixed with a wet-strength agent that keeps it intact while wet. It is pressed into thin sheets of paper by rollers. One layer of the paper towel is embossed with a textured design. Then, the textured layer and flat layer are put together. A fine knife cuts the perforation between the sheets. A machine winds the sheets around a cardboard tube, which is sliced into pieces by a rotating circular saw. The paper towels are then packaged and shipped out.