What’s the Difference? Tissues, napkins, kleenex, and other paper products

Napkins, tissues, tissue paper, Kleenex, paper towels, toilet paper… How are they all different? What are they used for?

Several students have asked me this question. I’ve also noticed that there are many cultural differences in HOW each culture uses these products.

So I am going to explain what they are and how we use them in American culture!


Tissues / Kleenex


What are they?

These are tissues. We also call them kleenex/kleenexes. Tissue is the generic name. Kleenex is a popular brand name. It has become so common, that we often call ALL brands Kleenex, even if it is a different brand.

It is never called “tissue paper.” Tissue paper is something totally different (explained below).

What do you use them for?

Tissues/kleenexes are used for blowing your nose, wiping your nose, sneezing, coughing, wiping your watery eyes, crying… Many tissues have special oils or lotions to help keep your skin from getting too dry or cracked from sneezing or rubbing too much.

We do NOT use these as napkins at the kitchen table for wiping your hands as many Asian cultures do. If you have a box of tissues like this on your kitchen table, your American guests will probably ask you, “Do you have any napkins?” if they need to wipe their hands. For Americans, a napkin to wipe your hands is different from a tissue to blow your nose.

We also do not use these for cleaning up spills unless there is nothing else around. Tissues are not good at absorbing liquid.


toilet paper


What is it?

Toilet paper is used in the bathroom.

What is it used for?

Toilet paper is only used in the bathroom to wipe after going to the bathroom.

Like with tissues, we never use toilet paper at the table as a napkin for wiping our hands.

We also do not use toilet paper for cleaning up spills unless there is nothing else useful nearby.


paper towels

What are they?

Paper towels are bigger than most other similar paper products.

Common brands include Bounty, Viva, Scott, Basic, and Brawny. (There are many other brands too).

You can often find 2 or 3 different sizes of paper towels. The typical size is a bit bigger than a normal sheet of scrap paper. (11×11 in.). However, many brands sell options with a half sheet size – the same height, but half the width.

What are they used for?

Paper towels are made to be absorbent. On the packaging, you’ll see a lot of advertising that says “30% more absorbent than other brands!” and “Tough when wet!”

Paper towels are best for wiping up spills. Many people often use them for cleaning. I, personally, use them for cleaning the kitchen, the bathroom, and even for wiping off the table or cleaning mirrors.

It’s also common for people to use paper towels for napkins during a meal to wipe their hands or mouths or any spills at the kitchen table. This is when the smaller sizes come in handy!


cloth napkins


What are they?

There are 3 main kinds of napkins.

  1. Cloth napkins
  2. Party or specialty napkins
  3. Regular paper napkins

What are they used for?

Napkins like this are usually used at the kitchen table during a meal. They’re used for wiping your hands, mouth, and any spills around your plate.

Cloth napkins are sometimes called “table linens”. Most nice restaurants use cloth napkins. Some people also use them in their home for a special occasion or an unusually nice dinner.

It is also an unspoken and generally accepted table rule to place your cloth napkin in your lap during the meal. When you are totally finished with your meal, you may place your napkin on the table.

party or specialty napkins

Party or specialty napkins
are often used for (obviously) parties or special occasions. They are almost always a variety of paper napkin. If you go to any big party store, you can find all varieties! Different colors, different patterns, characters from your favorite disney movie, symbols from a specific holiday, special words and phrases. You can probably find napkins for any special occasion!

Many people like them simply because they are fun and colorful!

The only negative thing is that many specialty napkins are made for looks and are less effective than a generic napkin at cleaning up your mess.

generic napkins


Generic napkins are usually my personal favorite.

They’re usually the cheapest and are often sold in bulk packages of 250-500. Many of the big paper towel brands also sell napkins.

The best brands are soft, small in size, cheap, and absorbent.



tissue paper

What is it?

Tissue paper is NOT the same as tissues/Kleenex.

What is it used for?

Tissue paper is used in gifts that are given in a gift bag. It’s used to hide the gift inside of the bag.

Tissue paper is also used in many kinds of arts and crafts projects.


Holidays: All about Easter

easter-wallpaper-1What is Easter?

Easter is a Christian holiday that comes every Spring. It is not a set date, and changes every year. It is determined by the March Equinox. (Orthodox Christianity uses a slightly different calendar, so sometimes you can find 2 different dates for Easter).

Easter began as a Christian holiday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that all humans have sinned or done wrong things in life. Christians believe that God is perfect and cannot accept anything less than perfect. The imperfections or sins of humans cause people to owe a debt to God that cannot be repaid because even the best person cannot be 100% perfect. Instead of dooming all of earth to death, Christians believe that God sent His son Jesus, as both fully God and fully man, to live a perfect life. He lived a perfect life of love and obedience, but was cruelly killed on a cross in order to pay for the sins of humans. Christians believe that by His selfless death, Jesus paid the price or the debt that was owed to God so that those who believe he did these things can share in his love and have hope and eternal life after death with God. Christians believe that on the 3rd day, Jesus did not stay dead, but overcame death and rose again to life to prove to His followers that He wasn’t just a man, but was God as well.

That is what Easter is to Christians.

You can find more details about Jesus’s death and resurrection, according to the Christian tradition, through sources like John 3:16 and Luke 22-24 (www.biblegateway.com).

Do I have to be Christian to celebrate Easter?

No! Even though Easter started as a Christian holiday and is still celebrated by Christians, many people who aren’t religious still choose to celebrate Easter with some of the non-religious traditions because everyone loves a holiday!

For many people who follow another religion or are simply non-religious, Easter can be a celebration of the beautiful Spring-time and the renewal of life after the cold winter.

How do Americans celebrate Easter?

I will list some of the religious and non-religious traditions.

Christian traditions:

Ash WednesdayThis is the day that begins the 40 day fasting period before Easter. Many people will attend a special church service and receive a cross of ashes on their forehead. If you see people walking around with black/grey crosses of ash on their forehead on this day, it probably means they attended a church service to begin this 6 week period before Easter.

LentThis is considered the 40 days of fasting before Easter. During this time, people choose to fast from food. It can be similar to Ramadan where you fast from all food; however, most people usually fast from a specific food or habit. For example, many people give up chocolate or coffee during this time. And other people might give up something they really enjoy like watching tv. It is a personal choice and the purpose for those who choose to do it is to experience the suffering of Jesus. It is important to understand that not all Christians observe Lent.

Many people fast for the full 40 days, while others fast for 6 days of each week and then feast and enjoy on Sunday (in order to remember the belief that even though Jesus suffered, he came alive again on the 3rd day… This style of Lent provides a picture of this cycle of fasting and feasting).

Lent is very similar to Russian Post and has some similarities to Ramadan.

Palm SundayThis represents a day of celebration, when Jesus rode into the city on a donkey and people were excited about His arrival. At that time, the old land of Israel was ruled by the Romans and the Jewish people were waiting for a King to save them from Roman rule. They thought that Jesus might be the next King or Revolutionary to lead them to freedom from the Roman Empire. They welcomed him to the city but they didn’t realize that his plan was not to destroy the Romans. Instead he was more of a religious revolutionary, asking people to love even the outcasts in society instead of harshly forcing their religious rules upon everyone and pushing out those who were different. So by the end of the week, most people didn’t like him anymore… 
Many people attend church on this day. Some churches even provide palm branches, like the ones the people would have welcomed Jesus with like a King.

Maundy ThursdayThis is the day that Jesus ate his “last supper” with his “12 disciples” or his 12 main followers. At this feast, he washed the feet of all 12 men. This is important to Christianity because it shows that Jesus came to serve people and most Christians believe that they should do the same. He also told them, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Even though all people make mistakes and even Christians often don’t act loving towards others, this is a core of the Christian beliefs: to love others as Jesus loved them.
Some churches hold a special foot-washing ceremony on this day. To show that they are committed to serving each other and sometimes the community. And to remember how Jesus served the people.

Good FridayThis represents the day that Jesus was crucified and died. Many people attend church services. This is considered a sad day to remember suffering. Many people choose to feel this suffering by fasting, or not eating any food, on this day. Others just decide not to eat meat. Some people eat a special kind of sweet bread on this day called ‘hot cross buns.’

Easter Sunday – This is a day of celebration and feasting. Many people attend a church service in the morning and celebrate a meal for lunch or dinner with friends of family. You can serve whatever you’d like, but a common meal usually includes ham or turkey or both!


Non-religious traditions that are celebrated by both Christians and non-Christians:

Easter Egg Hunts – Many neighborhoods and schools organize kids’ Easter egg hunts. You fill plastic easter eggs with candy, hide them, then the kids go searching for them! There are many varieties. You can play with or without candy in the eggs. Or you can even use boiled eggs instead of plastic eggs. You can even have your own Easter egg hunt at home with your family. Just hide the eggs around the house or yard while your kids aren’t watching, give them a basket, then send them on a hunt to collect the eggs! The winner is the one who finds the most eggs. Or you can play without a winner, and they get to eat their candy afterwards. Some people hide a “golden egg”, or a special egg that has a prize inside, like money or a special prize. When I was younger, my brother and sister and I used to take turns making our own Easter egg hunt at home. We would take turns hiding the eggs for each other.

Painting Easter Eggs – This can be really fun. Boil some eggs and stick them back in the refrigerator to cool. You can find an Easter Egg Dying kit at most nearby stores. Follow the instructions to fill several cups with water and place the different dye colors in each one. Dip the eggs into the cups and hold them in the colored water for several minutes to get the color you want. You can be really creative with this!

The Easter Bunny – You can find Easter bunny’s around town at different local shopping places. If your child isn’t scared, he/she can probably take a picture with the bunny! Some people tell their children that the Easter bunny comes and fills your Easter basket with gifts the night before Easter sunday if you’ve been well behaved. (Similar to Santa Claus).

Easter Baskets – You set out your Easter Basket (You can find special colorful baskets) the night before Easter and “The Easter Bunny” (or the parents) come to fill the basket with candy and colorful eggs. Even some adults get Easter baskets from their loved ones.

Maine Organic Farmhouse — by Mayumi

After our English immersion trip, I gave my students the task of writing about some of our experiences and the option of posting it online. Here is a wonderful account of an organic farmhouse where we stayed in Maine written by Mayumi.

Because of our flight delay and missing baggage, we were running behind. Our lodging that day today was a Farm House. The closer we are got to the address, the darker it got and the harder it got to see houses and lights. After the last corner we curved around, we seemed to wander off into the woods. It was a small road covered by many trees. Finally we made it with the help of the directions from the owner, and we parked the car. It is was 11pm. The owner had said she would be asleep before we arrived. There was a wooden house in front of the car. It had as big set of stairs outside. Our space was upstairs.  When we got out of the car, it was horribly cold, so I rushed to climb the stairs. I almost slipped, then I noticed the stairs were frozen. I changed to gingerly  toe walking on the tips of my toes. That was the way my coworker taught me to walk on ice when I lived in a snowy area. With unexpected effort, I finally arrived in our room. I felt a big relief. The room was clean and cute but still cold. I was very surprised when I found a compost toilet – I had never seen one before. After relieving oneself, you had to cover…it… using just sawdust. No water.

The hardest thing was that there was no shower in our room. We had to walk to the owner’s house through the garden. It is was freezing outside. It was 27 degrees.  The owner said she would keep a light on at the entrance of her house for us. We saw a light on the left side of the garden. However, it turned out to be a chicken’s house. Lauren found out the hard way since she went to shower first. I cannot imagine how surprised she must have been. Next, luckily I went to shower in a real human house. A good thing was waiting for me. Inside the house there was a cute cat. It was sitting near the door looking outside. When I came in, it came close to me and rubbed her body against me. It healed my exhausted mind and made me happy.   

After my shower I put on warm night wear; however, it was getting colder rapidly, and I couldn’t sleep at all. The building didn’t have heat except for some old space heaters. So I woke up, and put on 5 layers of clothes and slept covering my face with a down jacket. At that time I saw a lot of stars through the skylight above my bed. I felt as if I was sleeping outside.

It was a very sunny day the next morning. The room shined brilliantly from the light coming through the big windows along the deck side of our little apartment. How amazing it was! From the deck I could see down to a pretty little garden surrounded by woods even though there had seemed to be nothing in the darkness last night. There were many kinds of animals; hens, roosters, ducks, pigs, and dogs (they are were walking around in the yard freely). There were even some plastic green houses. The chicken coop was very small and strange, though it seemed much bigger like a human house the night before when it was lit up in the dark.

In our room we had a big kitchen. No water came out of the faucet because the water pipes froze up. It was so cold that night before! We made fried eggs using a cast iron skillet that I was pleased with. It was very heavy but antique and cute. It was a very simple breakfast, only eggs, bread, and coffee; however, I felt very satisfied sitting around the dining table with all 4 of us together. And the food was very fresh and delicious. I enjoyed this very happy moment like the a bear who was just coming out from hibernation.

This was one of the best most valuable experiences I have ever had. A country side life is very different from my city life. It is  so inconvenient; however, I learned the importance of a simple life during this time on our trip in Maine.

Baxter State Park — by Kanako

After our English immersion trip, I gave my students the task of writing about some of our experiences and the option of posting it online. Here is a wonderfully written account of Baxter State Park written by Kanako.

On the 3rd day of our trip, we went to Baxter State Park in Maine.
Although it was October, it was very cold, so we wore our down jackets!

When we first arrived at Baxter State Park, the beautiful colored leaves welcomed us!
The colors were very vivid shades of bright yellow and red.
What a beautiful sight!

Next, a big mountain welcomed us!
It was Mt. Katahdin.
It was covered with snow.
What a beautiful mountain!

While we were driving on the road through the park, the scenery became a wintery land!
The land and trees were covered with a thin layer of snow.
There was snow on the colored fallen leaves.
It seemed that fall and winter had become one.
It was interesting that we were able to see colored leave and snow together!

Suddenly, Mayumi screamed!
She saw two moose!!
And they saw us too!!
They had nice antlers.
They were very calm and went deeper into the inner part of the forest.

When we went a little more ahead, we were able to see a mother moose and her baby in an open field.
The baby moose followed the mother.
Their legs were long, skinny, and white.
They looked at us calmly, and then they went into the forest.
What an amazing experience!!!
How mysterious!!!
How beautiful!!!

We had a wonderful experience in Baxter State Park 🙂

Written by Kanako Nifuku

Moose sighting at Baxter State Park

Moose sighting at Baxter State Park (Photo taken by Lauren)

Mother and baby moose

Mother and baby moose (Photo taken by Lauren)

Driving through Baxter State Park (Photo taken by Lauren)

Driving through Baxter State Park
(Photo taken by Lauren)

Male moose (Photo taken by Lauren)

Male moose
(Photo taken by Lauren)

Hiking the Grand Canyon — by Jiyeon

One of my students wrote this after our trip for her ‘blog post’ assignment. Enjoy 🙂

Hiking the Grand Canyon
Written by Jiyeon

June 11th, the 7th day of our road trip—Today was like the highlight of this trip, at least to me because I have been excited about hiking the Grand Canyon for a long time. Actually, it was my third time to visit this amazing place; first, back in 2007, I gave it a glance on my way to Las Vegas from L.A.  Also, last year, I briefly visited here on a tourist bus with my parents. I was for sure surprised and impressed by this masterpiece of Mother Nature at that time, but the feeling only lasted for about 10 minutes (haha). I thought I was missing something; just looking at it and taking pictures was not good enough. So, I was glad that Lauren planned for us to go on a hike into the Grand Canyon!

We chose the South Kaibab Trail, which was one of the moderate hiking courses about three miles roundtrip. But it also had the best view of all the trails for such a short hiking distance. We each prepared two bottles of water and Gatorade, beef jerky, and some oatmeal bars in our back packs and started the hike!

As you can imagine, hiking the Grand Canyon is completely opposite to any general hike in any mountains; you go downhill first, then uphill. That’s something you should remember when you hike there. You should not spend too much of your energy while going down. I was very scared of the height, and the trail was slippery, so I had to take every step carefully, using a lot of my energy. I didn’t realize it at first, but going down was nothing compared to climbing up, and I didn’t know the trail was that steep until we started going up! Going uphill was a tremendously tiring thing for me. I had to take a short break almost every 5-10 minutes. However, it took us three hours and finally, I made it. To be honest, I regretted doing this for a while, especially when I almost fell over going downhill, but I didn’t give up halfway. It was worth it eventually and I felt proud of myself. Now I realize why I didn’t feel that I fully enjoyed the canyon in my past two visits. You should sweat there and feel the breeze by hiking in the canyon. I will never forget how fresh the breeze was and how amazing the Canyon looked when I came down and took in the view!

It was such a good experience, and next time, I’ll go down to the bottom to see the Colorado River!

view from the South Kaibab Trail

view from the South Kaibab Trail

The Navajo Experience — by Giulia

I encouraged everyone from our trip to write at least one “blog” post about something that stood out. Giulia from Italy decided to share “The Navajo Experience” with us! Enjoy!

Written by Giulia
Edited a little by Lauren

We had to spend one night in the Monument Valley, and the day before our night, most of us were asking: Will we have electricity in the Navajo residence? Will we have a shower? Will we have pillows? No one knew the answers to these questions, and this was just the beginning of our incredible night!

We were in Monument Valley in the morning, and we immediately met John, our Navajo guide for one day. He was nice. He answered all the questions we asked, opening for us the door of the Navajo world.

In the afternoon, we took a great tour of the Monument Valley on a sort of open truck. I have never seen such wild landscapes in my life, red mountains, sand rocks, free horses, sheep, dogs….and the sunset in the Monument Valley was awesome! After the sunset you could see the strange shapes of the mountains and this is beautiful.

Afterwards, we ate a typical Navajo dinner called Navajo taco, that reminds me of a Sicilian dish, called “cuzzola fritta” (sometimes the world is so small). After dinner we took part in a special Navajo dance, It was funny!

Then John showed us where we would sleep. We had two choices: the first – sleep outside under a magnificent sky with thousand of stars or the second – inside the Hogan (the typical Navajo house) where the temperature was quite hot, but in my opinion there were less dangers inside (in terms of animals).

So I preferred to sleep inside, I heard that outside my traveling companions were at the mercy of small dogs that tried to protect them from some crazy horses by barking when the horses came near. Anyway, it was the worst night of my life, I think I slept just a couple of hours. I was afraid of bugs, insects, and other unidentified animals that live in the valley.

The morning after this night, It was hard to wake up without water (and without a shower) and with a sort of primitive toilet that was really just a hole.

I overcame this drawback, and I saw probably one of the best sunrises of my life… I don’t know if It was the best because It meant that the terrible night was over or just because It was really magic. Anyway, I really enjoyed the Navajo overnight experience for the landscapes that we saw and because It’s important sometimes to have an extreme experience, but  I will never do it again! : )