Can Paper Towels Scratch Glass?

Using paper towels for cleaning glass surfaces is very common. They are convenient, readily available in most households, and seem soft enough for the job. However, many people have concerns about whether using paper towels could scratch glass surfaces like windows, drinking glasses, mirrors or electronic screens.

Can Paper Towels Scratch Glass

So can paper towels actually scratch glass? The short answer is yes – paper towels can potentially scratch glass if used improperly or if the glass already has grit, dirt or debris on its surface. While paper towels may appear harmless, their texture and fibers can damage glass under certain conditions.

How Paper Towels Can Scratch Glass

There are a few key reasons why using paper towels poses a risk of scratching glass:

The Texture and Fibers

  • Paper towels are made of tiny wood pulp fibers that can be surprisingly abrasive for smooth surfaces like glass.
  • Over time these fibers may start to break down and roughen. Old or cheap paper towels tend to have more rigid, coarse fibers.
  • Rubbing the fibrous paper towel against glass creates friction that can scratch the surface at a microscopic level.

Key Takeaway: The tiny fibers that make up paper towels can abrade and create micro-scratches on glass. Softer, high quality paper towels have a lower risk.

Trapped Particles Acting as Abrasives

  • If there are any bits of grit, dirt, dust or sand particles on the glass, using a paper towel pushes these particles against the surface.
  • These particles get lodged and trapped between the glass and fibrous paper towel.
  • As the paper towel gets rubbed across the glass, these trapped abrasive particles cause scratches by grinding against the surface.

Key Takeaway: Even if the paper towel itself is relatively soft, hard particles trapped beneath it can scratch glass as abrasives when rubbed across the surface.

Excessive Pressure and Force

  • Scrubbing too vigorously or applying excess pressure with a paper towel raises the risk of scratching.
  • As friction increases from heavy rubbing, so does potential damage to the glass surface.
  • Tiny fibers on the paper towel and any abrasive particles can dig into and scratch the glass more aggressively with too much force.

Key Takeaway: Using gentle, light motions is ideal when wiping glass with paper towels to minimize scratches. Excess pressure causes deeper abrasion damage from fibers and debris.

6 Tips to Clean Glass Without Scratching

  1. Use a microfiber cloth – Microfiber cloths have ultra-fine fibers that are exceptionally soft and gentle on glass surfaces. Their smooth texture glides over the glass without scratching it.
  2. Spray glass cleaner first – Applying a glass cleaning solution helps lubricate the surface so that any particles can glide across smoothly without scratching from friction.
  3. Blot gently – Rather than rubbing vigorously, gently press the towel or cloth against the glass and lift straight up to blot away grime. This reduces potential scratches.
  4. Dry glass before wiping – If wiping a wet glass surface, dry it first with a lint-free cloth to prevent water spots. This avoids abrasive particles in a paper towel grinding against the glass.
  5. Remove debris – Before wiping with any towel, use a duster or brush to remove any loose dirt or grit particles that could scratch if dragged along the glass surface.
  6. Rinse microfiber cloths – For reusable microfiber glass cloths, rinse after use to wash away any clinging particles that could scratch next time you wipe.

Using these precautions along with the right gentle cleaning materials, you can safely get glass surfaces sparkling clean without worrying about scratch damage from paper towels.

Safer Alternatives to Paper Towels for Cleaning Glass

Rather than risk micro-scratches on valued glass items by using paper towels, consider switching to these gentler, more suitable options:

  • Microfiber cloths – Ultra-soft synthetic cloths specially designed not to scratch glass or screens.
  • Cotton flannel – All-cotton, lint-free cloths that safely clean delicate surfaces.
  • Newspaper – Surprisingly effective with non-abrasive ink that repels grime.
  • Coffee filters – Made of smooth paper, they won’t scratch and absorb grease well.
  • Chamois leather – Buffs without scratching due to its soft suede-like texture.
  • Lens cleaning tissue – Soft, pre-moistened towelettes to hygienically clean glasses.
  • Feather dusters – Remove loose particles before wiping to prevent scratches.

Using one of these alternatives provides peace of mind against damaging valuable glassware, mirrors, framed photos, electronic screens, windows and other smooth glass items when cleaning.


Can paper towels scratch glass stove tops?

Yes – Glass stove tops easily get tiny scratches, especially around cooking zones where oil, food and abrasive spills accumulate. Paper towels should be avoided since their fibers and any grit on the stove top can mark and damage the cooking surface when wiped. Using a non-abrasive stove top cleaner and microfiber cloths minimizes risks.

Do paper towels scratch phone screens?

Possibly – Modern touchscreens use extremely strong glass, like Gorilla Glass, designed to resist scratches. However, sand particles or other hard debris trapped under a paper towel could potentially still scratch softer screen coatings when wiped over. A microfiber cloth is safer.

What about eyeglasses or mirrors?

Use caution – Any type of glass with coatings applied could become damaged, depending on coating hardness and thickness. Repeatedly using a paper towel risks creating faint haze and scratches over time. Delicate glasses lenses and expensive mirrors are best cleaned very gently with microfiber.

Is window glass at risk of scratching?

Minimally – Glass used for windows tends to be quite durable against standard household scratches and paper towels. However, avoid using them on very fine, antique leaded glass windows which can still sustain damage from repeated abrasion on their softer surface.

Will drinking glasses or glass dishes get scratched?

Not typically – Scratch-resistant glassware designed for kitchen use is extremely durable against regular paper towel usage. Its hardness and surface withstands occasional cleaning without damage from the mild abrasion. Exceptions could occur if other materials embedded into the towel are dragged forcefully across the glass.


While using paper towels may seem harmless, there is indeed a risk of scratching delicate glass surfaces like lenses, displays or stove tops over time, depending on the pressure, debris levels and quality of the paper towel itself.

Pulp paper fibers and any trapped particles during wiping can create tiny abrasions that accumulate with repeated cleaning to degrade surface clarity and optical quality.

To avoid potentially damaging valued glass possessions, microfiber cloths are strongly recommended as gentler, safer alternatives for cleaning glass instead of regular paper towels.

Emma Kellam
Emma Kellam

I'm Emma, and I run Towels Edition, a website for fellow home goods enthusiasts who, like me, are passionate about textiles. After working in high-end retail, I was amazed by how little most people (myself included!) know about all the towel options out there.

I research and write all the content myself. Whether it's specialized towels like bar mops, Turkish cotton production methods, or comparing hair towel absorbency, I cover it. My goal is to share my knowledge and enthusiasm to help others.

Running Towels Edition allows me to constantly expand my own expertise too. I love learning about innovations in bamboo fabric or ideal bath towels. It's so rewarding to receive emails thanking me for recommendations that improved my readers' routines.

I want Towels Edition to be the ultimate online towel resource, making this overlooked necessity far more fascinating. My aim is to open people's eyes to how specialty towels can thoroughly enhance hygiene, cleaning, recreation and self-care.