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The Importance Of Toilet Paper

Published on: 25/01/2015
Last Updated: 27/08/2019
15 Things You May Not Know About Toilet Paper

We might not give toilet paper much thought, but life without it is an unpleasant idea. If you’ve ever been caught short beside an empty dispenser or gone camping in the remote wilds where leaves are your only option, you know first hand how inconvenient it can be! The fact is, even though it’s hard to imagine how we got along without it, toilet paper as we know it is a fairly recent invention.

Once a luxury, it’s now an irreplaceable feature in even the humblest bathrooms. So, how much do you know about this remarkable and often-overlooked invention? In our quest for a greener tomorrow, we are all searching for eco-friendly substitutes for our daily use-essentials, like reusable towels and coffee mugs. But there are some things that take the majority vote for being simply irreplaceable. Think toilet-paper and then think again. Why is this one of the most necessary of wash-area essentials with none of us in a mood for compromise? There is a dedicated National Toilet Paper Day celebrated on August 26.

In the past, people have willingly used toilet paper with splinters, disregarding the pain Most people are willing to pay more for premium or super premium toilet paper to wipe their delicate derrières.

Some even go to the extent of stressing over lack of toilet paper if stranded on deserted islands or an empty dispenser. If you want to know more about Toilet Paper, click here to know more, why Toilet Paper is more than an accessory.

Why Toilet paper is more than an accessory?

An essential household item of the past—the Toilet Paper (TP)—is the subject of much discussion and has attracted criticism from quarters that use alternate measures. The TP practice has been ridiculed for being less hygienic and a drain on the environment. Having become the subject of relentless attacks it continues to attract new following and assert its strong position by finding new methods in positioning itself, fresh approach and certainly revised innovations to help it remain a part of the western civilization and its cultures.

Softness and absorption are principal parameters crucial to the growth and sustenance of TP culture which are being ignored as virtues in the present climate absorbed with highly critical views on environmental issues and hygiene standards that run the risk of imposing harsh judgement and eventual sidelining of the Toilet Paper culture.

Toilet paper

What’s your orientation?

The growing discussion these days is not just the TP but a sub-accessory that lends it pivotal support: the Dispenser commonly known as the Toilet Roll Holder! Two issues have emerged from this consideration—the right kind of TP holder and the how do the sheets roll out? Which leads you to a question that indicates your preference: Will you be able to roll them from the top or from underneath? To the novice it wouldn’t mean a lot but seasoned practitioners have strong conflicting opinions. The conflict is about the preference of the sheet being rolled over or under and a survey in the United States landed a majority in favour of those who prefer the sheet rolling out from the top.

The rationale behind this preference is hygiene and functional aspects that include easy detaching of the sheets with better visibility of the perforated divisions at uniform length intervals meant to facilitate even-tears. As a result one can expect reduction in paper wastage and its contamination with germs and grime in circumstances that combine the use of the under roll method in a bathroom with an unattended (dirty) wall.

The same logic applies to the TP holder selection criterion under which the holder offering maximum clearing area from the wall is to be preferred. Under rollers cite aesthetics and reduced risk of the TP unrolled by pets for their chosen orientation or just feel compelled by their preference.

Toilet Roll Holder

While the debate will remain ongoing and often the balance would threaten to tilt to either side, the user today is busy with another aspect of orientation involving the manner in which you prepare the TP for the wipe and the execution of it with questions articulated in the following manner: are you a folder, a wader(some who crumples their TP) or a wrapper? Followed by the final nail in the coffin: do you sit or stand when you wipe yourself?

There is no scientific evidence or even study for that matter which should give us reasons to prefer one method over the other and it would be laughable if someone seriously took that up. So your preference of folding is simply your preference over wrapping or wadding without privilege attached or subject to any interpretation, but there are some people who are interested in finding your wipe style in order to speculate and draw a rough sketch of your character or predict your career based on the information you are willing to part with.

Folding reminds me of another phenomenon that mysteriously visited the hospitality industry a few decades ago and has become a part of its water closet ever since—the world wide fold.

The world wide fold

All credit goes to Susan Blackmore, an author of psychology books for reciting her account of an incident involving the folded toilet paper she had witnessed in a rural guest house in Assam, India to demonstrate the presence and spread of this practice across continents, evolving as a culture. Photographer Stephen Gill holds the distinction of studying the diversity and subtle variations in this practice since 2004 and was taken aback with the remarkable consistency of this pattern which he photographed as evidence for the next three years as a traveler across the globe.

Whatever may have been the original intention, the impact it has on our minds is one of reflection, with the impression of being looked after with attention to such minute details, and above all the intention to please finds a visible expression. There are some places where an ordinary fold is supplanted with the advanced form of origami.

Gill went as far as to ponder on the level of concentration and different moods in which the people devoted to this task must have executed these decorative flirtations. In Japan he observed the practice is taken seriously and the attention to detail is exemplary! An entrepreneur decided to fly with this idea and was successful with a product named Meruboa—a toilet paper dispenser which folds the sheet into a triangle for the next user upon its lever being pulled.

fold toilet paper

Toilet paper: trends and economics

In an era dominated by the internet and social networking sites trends are made on the net where prominent figures of our society and common people alike make their voices heard on twitter. But who would have thought that some brain child in Australia would be quick to cash in on the idea of delivering a toilet paper with the tweets of your choice to wipe your behind giving birth to a new brand name in toilet rolls: Shitter!

However, this concept is partly old and part ancient. The older was a result of economics and the ancient which of course was not in the present avatar was a by-product of venting hatred. Star Toilet Paper was born in the U.S. before Shitter, inspired by the advertisements seen on application designed for mobile phones. The idea was to capitalize on the customer’s free time in the toilet where the toilet paper with advertisements printed it would have to be read out of boredom or inquisitiveness. As a recycled product it automatically attracts our environment friendly sensibilities and its use is considered safe for most people owing to its hypoallergenic feature and there is no need to worry about the ink used to print advertisements coming in contact with the skin as the ink is water-based.

Star has made its mark on the local as well as national scene providing marketing leverage to their clients who have witnessed increased sales to corroborate the effectiveness of this innovative approach. While Star toilet paper has gradually grown nationwide and garnered a strong base among colleges and bars and restaurants Shitter on the other hand has managed to become an overnight global phenomenon; if you wanted your exclusive tweet-roll or get Shitter as they promote it you will have to simply wait as they are sold out.

Shitter is an old wine in a new bottle concept which they may have not borrowed the idea knowingly which existed in ancient Greece and subsequently Rome where shards of ceramic (Pessoi) shredded to the size of pebbles were used to scrape posteriors post-defecation. A moment of tremendous inspiration must have catapulted the Pessoi’s transition into an Ostraca: the ceramic piece now had an enemy’s name inscribed on it. Ostracas bearing Socrates’ name have been found which can help the reader make the connection to our present day Shitter.

toilet papers

As we draw to a close there are certain aspects of the toilet paper that are worth pointing to which with certainty add to its utilitarian stature. The prospect of being stationed at a site with scarce water facilities is an unpleasant one so is a journey by road with insufficient water storage, in challenging environments and unpleasant situations a toilet paper is the only competent means that can help us combat and sail smooth. Alternatively its usage can be extended to wiping spills from a runny nose, cleaning mirrors, cleaning a child’s face, removing makeup, and covering toilet seats. All the acts mentioned in the alternate lists are everyday occurrences where we use the toilet paper without a second thought without giving this important accessory its due credit.


Although many cultures have favoured water over toilet paper and the west has largely remained a toilet paper patron there are a few pockets that have emerged over the years with a preference for water via bidet usage and other rival alternatives such as cloth wipes. The driving force behind these new choices could be the desire to become environment friendly or purely on the basis of preference, alternatives in the wake of changing tastes and perception do pose a threat but not a serious one to uproot the toilet paper out of its preferred and celebrated domain.

The people’s choice

As misunderstood in common discourse, toilet paper is not the sole global medium in use for cleaning our posteriors and yet it is frowned upon by some of its most bitter opponents and the so called experts on environment. We don’t deny the use of resources but those using water or cloth are equally involved in the consumption of natural resources albeit in a different form. However, an old Greek adage on Pessoi could solve the problem with regards to excessive consumption: “Three stones are enough to wipe” to which the modern equivalent of “toilet paper doesn’t grow on trees” is quite befitting to reinforce the ideal of frugal values.

You may choose to have it appear in: red, brown, recycled or even glowing in the dark types. The signal is pretty clear: the toilet paper despite competition from alternative cleaning practices and products remains the most dominant player and will continue to do so. Its position in our lives is unshakable so much so that that new business models have emerged propping themselves on its multifaceted character that will continue to give birth to new ideas representing an acknowledgement of a dynamic culture.

Sarabeth Asaff

Sarabeth Asaff
Sarabeth Asaff is a former kitchen and bathroom designer who now works as a home and garden industry writer and expert. She has a working knowledge of all areas of the home improvement industry, and specialises in functional design and material advice.