Lifestyle & Culture

Talkin’ ’bout Toilet Paper

August 21, 2014

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CAN WE TALK ABOUT toilet paper for a minute? Or “bathroom tissue,” if you prefer. Or TP. My feelings on the subject have been firm for years, but just last week my friend Bonnie Kogod burst out with a question that brought forth a tsunami of answers and opinions that may have alarmed her: Why, she piped up, is she constantly changing the roll of toilet paper? Why doesn’t a roll of toilet paper last?

My non-scientific but nonetheless energetically embraced answer: because she’s buying the wrong toilet paper. Because most of the heavily promoted brands are soft, meaning puffed up with air, meaning fewer sheets on a roll, meaning more frequent changes of roll, meaning more frequent trips to the supermarket or Costco, something I’ve taken quite seriously ever since I lived in a fifth-floor walk-up.

Remember those “Don’t squeeze the Charmin” TV commercials from eons ago? I swear it was all the air built into the rolls of paper that allowed that squooshy softness–nice in a teddy bear, maybe not so useful in a roll of toilet paper.

All that puffing up also means more shreds of tissue left behind (sorry), something you sometimes don’t discover till you shower.  (Okay, maybe that’s just me . . . )

My solution is to buy more expensive toilet paper, which, in the end (oh dear), is cheaper. More precisely, I buy Scott 1000. Oh no, I hear you gasp, that single-ply scratchy stuff. Well, Kimberly Clark also offers a slightly softer version (Scott Extra Soft), but it’s still the sturdier stuff that comes in 1,000-sheet rolls.

At Safeway this evening I found 12 double rolls of AngelSoft two-ply toilet paper, regularly a little over $7 but on sale for $5, an impressive 41.6 cents a roll. The package touts 352 square feet of tissue in 264 sheets–but is that 264 double sheets and therefore 132 usable sheets? I wan’t sure. Either way it comes to 1.420 cents per square foot.

Nearby, a dozen rolls of Scott 1000 cost $11.29, meaning a hefty 94 cents a roll. But those dozen rolls yield a total of 1,257.6 square feet of tissue. Even if you double the single-ply tissue, which I don’t find necessary, that means almost 629 square feet–so, at best less than 1 cent per square foot or, at worst if doubled, 1.794 cents per square foot.

See? Expensive–until you factor in all those emergency trips to CVS and the embarrassed guests. (And as some of you will no doubt figure out, math was never my strong suit, but I cling to my bottom line [oh, stop!] nonetheless.)

Some people don’t consider Scott to be “premium” toilet paper. So be it, if by “premium” you mean the extra money you pay for less product. (Am I just psychologically unfit to pay for air? No, mousse au chocolat is fine by me. Also mousse-style foundation.)

But enough. I’m sure other TP choices can be argued just as vigorously. (Feel free to do so!)

There are other toilet-paper issues.

Let’s leave aside the whole “men (or the kids) never announce when they have finished a roll.” There’s more. For instance, my friend Bonnie wanted to know, do you scandalize your guests by leaving extra rolls on the top of the toilet tank? (Ha! Here’s another Scott advantage: Rolls are available individually wrapped.) The alternative is often that the roll runs out and sends your panicked guest hunting under the sink for a spare. Or do you load extra rolls into a nearby wicker basket and pretend you’re Martha Stewart?

And what about those guests? When you’re about to host friends, do you remove the half-rolls in your bathrooms and start them off fresh, providing a sense of abundance and security? (And do you rest the half-used roll atop the fresh roll or hide it away? I can’t decide.)

Furthermore, where is the TP holder in your bathroom or powder room? For too many landlords, even architects and interior designers, this daily function gets all the attention of a 100-year flood plain. TP holders are mounted behind the toilet, or to the side and back far enough that you can pull a muscle accessing it.

In one of my bathrooms, refreshed in the 21st century but essentially circa 1953 (I found a newspaper in the wall cavity), the roll dispenser was built into the ceramic-tile wall–adjacent to the toilet but at the end of the bathtub. Fine for soakers, I guess, not so good for the showering classes. I solved the problem with a chrome stand tucked under the sink; the base is weighted, and the TP is on a crossbar about 18 inches from the floor.

In my architect-designed master bath there was no provision made for TP at all. I couldn’t stand the idea of marring the creamy-white walls with a dispenser than would have to be behind me, so I installed one inside the vanity door right in front of the toilet. It’s hidden–and I often forget to affix a Post-it note on the vanity announcing “TP Inside”–but it’s actually in the place where most people look first.

The ultimate TP question–should the paper roll out over over the top or hang from underneath, next to the wall–isn’t one I’m obsessed with. Many others are, though, and they all have their reasoning. But at least it won’t be a lot of hot air–unlike some toilet paper I could mention.

–Nancy McKeon


3 thoughts on “Talkin’ ’bout Toilet Paper

  1. Nancy McKeon says:


  2. Ginny Hamill says:

    I knew this was you, Nancy, before getting to the byline! Ginny

  3. Bonnie says:

    Finally! An intelligent and researched article about toilet paper 🙂 I am going to follow your advice and buy Scott from now on unless someone out there has another alternative??

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