When I fry pierogi or potatoes, and even though the oil I use is minimal, I try to maximize the oil I discard by letting the fried food sit on a paper kitchen towel to cool down. (Specifically, "Bounty Plus" towels, if it matters.)

I'm concerned that the flow of liquids is not just oil from the food into the paper towel, but also chemicals from the towel into the food.

Is it safe to leave fried food on a kitchen towel? How do I confirm what kind of bleach they use to manufacture the kitchen towels (which are always a bit too white to not have been bleached at some point during manufacturing), and are there governmental (USDA, etc) guidelines forcing manufacturers of kitchen towels make them food-safe?

Is this product meant just to wipe your counter-tops, or would you also deposit fries on it? (It didn't come with a user manual, but FWIW the ads only present the first kind of usage.)

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    If they used chemicals not food safe then they could not even be used to wipe counters which is the primary use.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 17:01
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    By kitchen towel i assume you mean paper towels which are intended for food handling and should be by their nature food grade and safe. If you are talking about cleaning towels, well, most should not make you sick, but they are for cleaning, not use directly on food. Items should be used for their intended design and then they should be chemically safe.
    – dlb
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 17:38
  • @dlb : it's a sign that he's likely not American. I'll go add it to cooking.stackexchange.com/q/784/67 . (may also be called 'kitchen roll')
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 18:02
  • @dlb edited the question to clarify
    – Calaf
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 18:10
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    I've removed a bit of discussion here about related questions and so on - one of the people involved had already self-deleted their comments anyway, so it didn't make much sense. If you've got another food safety question, you can just ask it, no need to try to hammer it out in comments. (And looking for health information beyond food safety is a bit out of scope for our site.)
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 11, 2017 at 0:42

1 Answer 1


I will put this as an answer as I might be too long winded for a comment.

The US, and most places have agencies that set food and food handling standards. I will not get into if those standards are the best, right, too high or low, ect., only state that those standards are when the agencies have deemed qualify as safe. I will also not comment on how well those standards are followed and enforced, only that they are in place, and should in general be followed. There purpose is to assure the public that what they eat and what they use to prepare food meets a reasonable health standard. If, in my opinion, one does not assume that items made within that country and imported by reputable sources into that country do not adhere to those standards, then you will simply worry yourself needlessly over everything.

On this specific question, kitchen towels/paper towels/paper rolls, etc. are specifically manufactured for kitchen and general household use. They should therefore be manufactured to food grade standards. Should you simply eat one? Well no, but it is not going to hurt you if you do. It is paper and a bit of dye. As intended for kitchen use, the dye is food grade, not fabric dye or such. Is bleach used to make it, yes, more than likely since bleach is a common item used to make such paper, but there is not deemed to be enough residual to be a health risk, and certainly not enough to be a contact risk from draining of blotting food. That does not mean it is recommended to start shredding them up and use them as a food supplement. It means that board review says causal contact with food is OK.

That does not mean that any paper or cleaning towel is OK to use. If it has been treated with cleaning or polishing solutions, like disinfection wet towels, those are not for direct contact with food. It is not their purpose, and yes, they might very well make you sick.

Is plastic safe? Well, it depends on the plastic. If it is food grade, then yes, as long as it is used reasonably and as intended. Take a thin zip lock bag and super heat it, well, that is not how it was intended to be used, and you may well have broken its integrity. Use it to store a piece of fruit in the refrigerator for a day and it is fine. Go to the hardware store and get a plastic bucket to mix something in? NO. That is not food grade plastic.

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    Let me be clear, "Popper Use". A paper towel is food grade for casual contact with food. It is not food grade for heavy contact, like using it as a substitute for a coffee filter. It is also a one-time use item. Attempts to use the same paper towel for more than one use is a major source of cross contamination.
    – dlb
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 19:04
  • "like using it as a substitute for a coffee filter" ... good to know, since I would have indeed assumed so with non-dyed ones (what is the point of dyed ones anyway?). Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 10:20
  • Convincing answer, but still. The fast-food "restaurants" approach of letting fried food drip from a (stainless steel?) sieve is likely the right solution, provided one is careful to pick up the oil and not let any get into sewage.
    – Calaf
    Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 21:59

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