Best Facial Tissue of 2020
The Kleenex Ultra Soft lives up to its name. It is very soft on noses, and its triple-ply construction makes it a formidable adversary to even the strongest sneezes. We found that we could use many of these tissues in quick succession without rubbing our noses raw. We are also delighted with their absorbency. During testing, we found that this product retained the second most liquid out of any of the products that we tested and also took ten times more water before tearing than the average tissue. The box comes in various patterns and colors, which means it can match the decor of a wide range of rooms.
There aren't many downsides to this product, but if we were forced to point out something, we say that its conventional fibers are not as strong as its cotton competitors. The packaging may also be a little inelegant or just too large for smaller bathrooms. All in all, though, this is a high-quality, strong product that can usually be had at a reasonable price.
The Kleenex Trusted Care is a true workhorse of a tissue. This 2-ply product didn't blow us away in any single metric, but it performed steadily throughout testing. It is relatively comfortable to use again and again with average absorbency. It is strong enough that we didn't experience any blowout issues in real-world testing. We also found that the fibers have notably above-average density, containing discharge better than products lower on this list.
Really the only knocks against this product are that it just isn't exceptional. It is average across the board, and the box is clunky and somewhat inelegant. Though it does come in different patterns and colors, it takes up a lot of visual space. For an inexpensive, all-around decent tissue, this would be the one that we turn to first.
The Winner Soft Dry Wipe is a unique product in the world of facial tissues; it is made from cotton fiber, as opposed to tree pulp. It is extremely strong and resists tearing in a way that no other tissue does. Its strength and material also make it highly versatile. It is excellent for runny noses but can also clean up tabletop spills or wipe a laptop screen.
We found that the packaging was a little tricky to get in to. The tissues come in a plastic wrap that is perforated in the same place as a standard box of tissues, but it's not that apparent at first. This wrap also makes it tricky to release one tissue from the package. Despite its incredible strength, it is comparatively porous and single-ply, which means some discharge might find its way through, even if the tissue doesn't tear. However, all things considered, we love how many different ways this tissue can be put to use.
The Puffs Plus Lotion is a super comfortable-to-use tissue. During testing, we noticed a considerable difference between this product and others when it came to how it left our noses feeling after extended use. It also proved to be the most absorbent of any product that we tested. In addition, during our porosity test, water beaded up on the surface rather than soaked through, suggesting that it would keep discharge contained and prevent it from escaping through the fibers of the tissue.
There are just a couple of qualities that detract from the experience of using this tissue. Though we found that the lotion does indeed feel nice on noses after repeated use, it also leaves behind a residue on hands, which you may not appreciate. This is also generally a very pricey product relative to other top contenders, so it may be worth considering alternatives if you are willing to shift your brand loyalties. However, for those with a chronic runny nose, this product is the best for preventing skin from getting too irritated.
The Kleenex Professional Cube is a conventional tissue that comes with a few 'extras'. It is a comfortable and soft 3-ply tissue that proved to be exceptionally strong, especially when folded over. It claims to be an anti-viral product, killing germs contained inside the tissue in 15 minutes. As the name suggests, the cube-shaped box is great for a workspace — on a desk, reception area counter, or even could be kept in a van or truck.
It has a lot of upsides but is not without its flaws. Despite its triple-ply, it still only has average absorbency and disappointing porosity, which makes us question if it completely contains nose discharge. We would also recommend steering clear of this product for wiping away tears. It comes with chemical additives (which are presumably responsible for its anti-viral quality), which can sting quite a bit when rubbed around eyes. Those concerns notwithstanding, it has value as a soft and strong product for the office.
The Kleenex Every Day Pocket is a specially packaged tissue that is great when you are on-the-go. It fits discreetly in a purse, backpack, or jacket pocket. One of the things that we most appreciate is that the tissue seems to be largely the same as other Kleenex-brand products. It is a full-size (8 1/4"x8 1/4") and is notably more comfortable to use than other tissues packaged for travel. It also has a resealable tab, so the package stays closed in your pocket.
The primary drawback of this product is that convenience comes at a price. In general, the cost-per-tissue is extremely high, so they are best saved for urgent situations when there is no better option around. We also found that these particular tissues have just average absorbency and strength. However, if you need a pocket pack that won't leave you out in the cold, this is an excellent choice.
The Solimo Facial Tissue with Lotion is a reliable everyday tissue. It is comfortable to use, mostly owing to the incorporated lotion. It's not obviously better than others tissue for tissue, but over the long run, if you have a lasting runny nose, the lotion does indeed mitigate irritation. We also think that the colors and patterns on the cube-shaped box make it nice option for a child's room.
Similar to other tissues with lotion, this isn't one that you want to use for wiping away tears. Though not as noticeable as other brands, the product does still have a lotiony feel, and we found that it can be mildly irritating to eyes. However, if you need an inexpensive, everyday product to keep sneezes at bay, this one is a worthy choice.
The Seventh Generation 2-Ply Cube is a hypo-allergenic, recycled-fiber facial tissue. This 2-ply product comes in a cube-shaped box that is convenient for the office, bedroom, or bathroom. It has a medium-density fiber that keeps nasal discharge reasonably contained within the tissue.
On the downside, this tissue is not nearly as soft as the top contenders. It also lacks the absorbency of other models, and while it does fine at dabbing away tears, there are other superior options out there. However, if purchasing environmentally conscious products is a top priority for you, then this will be your best bet.
The Georgia Pacific Envision is an inexpensive utility tissue. It seems like it is most at home in an office setting. The low-profile box is good for tight shelves or a cubicle. This 2-ply tissue is not the weakest in the bunch and is perfectly serviceable for the regular sniffles that come with the cold weather.
This product is rough all around. It is not uncomfortable to use, but we certainly wouldn't want it to be our go-to if we had a chronically runny nose. It also has weak tensile strength and below-average absorbency, meaning that it is fine but not excellent for wiping away tears. On the other hand, if you need a lot of tissues at a typically affordable price, this product has your name written all over it.
The Reeflex Car Tissue is a specialty package tissue that is good for urgent use when nothing else is available. The canister fits conveniently in a car cupholder and would also do well on an office desk or in a bathroom without much horizontal surface area.
We found that these tissues are better as a backup rather than primary use. They have the smallest dimensions of any that we tested, and they are also comparatively thin, making it difficult to get a good seal around your nose and also have confidence that you won't blow a hole right through them. However, for spaces where a conventional box just won't work, this product is certainly convenient.
Why You Should Trust Us
Lead reviewer Ben Applebaum-Bauch has been testing products at GearLab for over three years. In that time, he has written about over 200 hundred individual consumer goods and products and researched hundreds more. Living in cold weather climates for most of his life has made him no stranger to a runny nose and the value of a high-strength, comfortable tissue.
We purchase the products that we test at retail price and never accept free manufacturer samples. For this review, we put these facial tissues against various stress tests, blowing, wiping, and stretching, to determine which ones are the strongest, most comfortable, and most absorbent.
Analysis and Test Results
After working our way through hundreds of tissues, we discovered some interesting findings about the quality and qualities of different products. Below, we break down our assessment regarding tissue strength, comfort, absorbency, and packaging.
Strength is a tissue's ability to withstand tearing. After all, what good is it if you blow a hole right through the tissue before you get everything out? We used both real-world experience as well as more controlled experiments to determine the fiber integrity of these products.
Taking the top spot by a long shot is the Winner Soft Dry Wipe. Though it is the only single-ply product in this review, this unique cotton fiber tissue is exceptionally strong. You have to try very hard to physically tear the product. In almost any realistic nose-blowing scenario, there is no chance of blowing through it. Pivoting to the more traditional paper tissue, the 2-ply Kleenex Ultra Soft is a top-tier contender. It has a dense fiber matrix that gives it some heft, even when damp.
In the next tier, the Puffs Plus Lotion and Solimo Facial Tissue with Lotion both performed well. Though the lotion in these products is primarily meant for comfort, we also noticed that it produced a slightly hydrophobic coating that resisted moisture and thus tearing as well. From here, the Kleenex Trusted Care and Kleenex Professional Cube each held up to repeated, heavy use, followed by the Kleenex Everyday Pocket, Seventh Generation Cube, Reeflex Car Tissues and Georgia Pacific Envision, which were all passable, but suffered from notably decreased fiber density that led to rapid tearing when dampened.
Comfort here primarily has to do with how each tissue type makes our skin feel. We consider the coarseness of the tissue fibers as well as something we think of as 'nose longevity'. That is, using a single type of tissue at regular intervals, how many does it take before the skin becomes irritated?
During testing, we noticed a slight difference between how comfortable we found the first tissue and how comfortable each one was after 5, 10, or 15 consecutive wipes. The Kleenex Ultra Soft lives up to its name, providing a soft, comfortable wipe, and the Winner Soft Dry Wipe and Kleenex Professional followed closely behind. The Puffs Plus Lotion was also solid out of the gate, but we noticed its value once we used several in a row. Though slightly less impressive overall, the Solimo Facial Tissue with Lotion also performed well.
The Kleenex Everyday Pocket and Kleenex Trusted Care are totally serviceable standbys, while the rougher fibers of the Georgia Pacific Envision, Seventh Generation Cube, and Reeflex Car Tissue all fell noticeably short in this metric.
Absorbency & Porosity
Absorbency has to do with how much moisture a tissue can absorb before it becomes saturated. We also look at fiber density and how porous each product is. Interestingly, we found that these two dimensions do not always positively correlate. That is, sometimes a tissue can hold quite a bit of water, but liquid also passes through it quite easily.
The Kleenex Ultra Soft and Puffs Plus Lotion are far and away the most absorbent. During testing, we found that they both could hold almost 100% more water than the average (with the latter slightly outperforming the former). In the case of the Ultra Soft, it also took more than ten times as much liquid to penetrate from one side of the tissue to the other, while the Puffs Plus still had above-average fiber density but was not nearly as impressive. The Kleenex Trusted Care also performed admirably, holding just about an average amount of water while also withstanding five times more liquid before it seeped through.
The Winner Soft Dry Wipe is almost as absorbent as the Kleenex Ultra Soft but is also significantly more porous. Inversely, the Kleenex Everyday Pocket has average absorbency but significantly above average fiber density. Most other products showed remarkably consistent performance in porosity with predictable drop-offs in absorbency in models like the Georgia Pacific Envision and Seventh Generation Cube.
Packaging is not about the tissues themselves but the container that they come in. It can have a notable impact on the user experience, so we take a look at how easy boxes are to open, as well as the all-important one-tissue-at-a-time test (is it easy, or are we left doing the tissue-box jiggle dance?). Some products also have packaging that may make them more aesthetically pleasing or are useful for a particular application.
The two clear specialty packages do the trick. The Reeflex Car Tissue sits perfectly in a car cup holder, and the Kleenex Everyday Pocket fits discreetly into a purse, messenger bag, or jacket pocket for quick access. It also has a sticky tab for resealing the packaging. Every other product in this review (except for the Winner) comes in a cardboard box with a plastic film around the opening to facilitate the dispensing of a single tissue at a time. On the whole, we found the large rectangular boxes like the Kleenex Ultra Soft and the Georgia Pacific Envision require slightly less effort to remove a tissue than the cube-shaped packages like the Puffs Plus Lotion and Kleenex Professional Cube.
Though it creates a minimalist profile, we found the plastic around the Winner Soft Dry Wipe to be a bit confusing to open at first (there is a hard-to-see perforation along the top) and also made it difficult to remove a tissue because of how snuggly it is wrapped.
The world of facial tissues is vast. Though many of them look the same, we hope our expert review was able to help you ply apart the great from the good. There might be runny noses in your future no matter what, but here's to finding the right facial tissue for the job.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch