Q: I use paper towels for everything from drying dishes to blotting fried foods. Is that sanitary or am I exposing myself to chemicals?
A: If chemicals or bleach are present, you'd have to do something to cause the paper to release them, such as heating the towel or soaking it.
But there is an environmental impact in using so much paper. I asked Benjamin Chapman, extension food safety specialist at N.C. State, if it is preferable to use paper towels instead of dish towels.
While some sources suggest it's better to use paper towels for kitchen spills, Chapman didn't agree. When you wash your hands, he says, you loosen bacteria with soap, rinse some away, and deposit the rest on what you use to dry your hands. So it's better to dry with a paper towel you toss. For wiping spilled meat juice or a counter you've cleaned, there's no reason you can't use a dish towel and toss it in the wash. Change dish towels, maybe more than once a day; launder in hot water.