Toilet paper

From Academic Kids

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A roll of toilet paper.

Toilet paper is a tissue paper product designed for the cleaning of the anus after defecation or the genitals after urination.

Toilet paper possesses a different composition from facial tissue. Toilet paper is designed to break apart when wet so as to not clog drain pipes. Toilet paper is designed to decompose in septic tanks, whereas most septic tank manufacturers advise against flushing facial tissues into a septic tank.

Toilet paper is sometimes euphemistically called bathroom tissue, especially in commercials.



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Wooden toilet paper from the Nara period (710 to 784) in Japan. The modern rolls in the background are for size comparison

Toilet paper was first produced in China in the 14th century.

The first factory-made paper marketed exclusively for toilet use was produced by Joseph Cayetty in the United States in 1857. Cayetty's name was printed on every sheet.

Before this invention, wealthy people used wool, lace or hemp for their ablutions, while less wealthy people used their hand, defecated into rivers, or cleaned themselves with various materials such as rags, wood shavings, grass, hay, stone, sand, moss, water, snow, maize husks, or seashells, depending upon the country and weather conditions or social customs. In Ancient Rome, a sponge was commonly used.

In some parts of the world, the use of newspaper, or telephone directory pages were common. Old Farmer's Almanac was sold with a hole punched in the corner so it could be hung on a nail in the outhouse. The widely-distributed Sears catalogue was also a popular choice until it began to be printed on glossy paper (at which point some people wrote to the company to complain). In Herv Bazin's Viper in the Fist, a Catholic family uses pages of the Catholic newspaper La Croix after cutting off the image of the Calvary.

In monarchical Russia, some subordinates stamped the toilet paper with imperial arms for the use of the Tsar. In the court of King Henry VIII, the Groom of the Stool was given the job of cleaning the royal posterior with his hand. The Groom of the Stool was both a highly respected and coveted position. For security reasons, only a highly trusted courtier would be chosen and it was coveted because of the influence he might have with the king, daily having the opportunity to be alone with His Majesty.

The use of water to clean oneself is common in the Middle East, where people use their left hand to clean themselves, and their right hand for eating. In parts of Africa, the converse is true, and a right-handed handshake could be considered rude.


  • 14th century: toilet paper first produced in China (for the Emperor's use)
  • 1596: invention of the flushing toilet by Sir John Harington
  • 1700s: newspaper is a popular choice of toilet paper since it is widely available
  • 1710s: bidet invented
  • 1857: Joseph Cayetty sells first factory-made toilet paper in the USA
  • 1879: Scott Paper Company sell first toilet paper on a roll, although initially they do not print their company name on the packaging
  • late 19th century: rolls of perforated toilet paper available for the first time, replaces razor or knife on dispensers
  • 1890s: Sears catalogue first becomes available, commonly used in rural America
  • 1900: plumbing improvements of the Victorian era have led to wide use of flushing toilet and (in Europe) the bidet
  • 1930s: Sears starts publishing its catalogue on less absorbent glossy paper
  • 1935: Northern Tissue advertises its toilet paper as "splinter-free"
  • 1942: first two-ply toilet paper, St. Andrew's Paper Mill in England, toilet paper becomes softer and more pliable
  • 1943: novelty toilet paper printed with images of Hitler
  • 1973, December 19: comedian Johnny Carson causes a three week toilet paper shortage in the USA after a joke scares consumers into stockpiling supplies
  • 1980: the paperless toilet invented in Japan (combination toilet, bidet and drying element, see Japanese toilet)
  • 1990-1991: Gulf War, American troops camouflage tanks with toilet paper
  • 1990s: tissues containing ingredients like aloe begin to be heavily marketed in the USA
  • 1990s: in the United Kingdom, Andrex sells the first moist toilet tissues (compare wet wipes or baby wipes)

Modern toilet paper

The advantages of toilet paper are that it is easy and intuitive to use, fairly absorbent, can be conveniently made available near toilets and it can be flushed in most countries where toilet paper is common. In areas where septic tanks are common, and in most developing countries, used toilet paper is normally placed in a tin or dustbin next to the toilet as the plumbing or septic system cannot cope with toilet paper. Misplacing the soiled paper can lead to a serious faux pas, regardless of culture.

Toilet paper is available in several types of paper, a variety of colors, decorations, and textures, to appeal to individual preference. Toilet paper is typically made from recycled paper. Environmentally friendly toilet paper may also be unbleached, which some think reduces the depletion of forests and pollution of waterways.

Two-ply toilet paper is the standard in many countries, although one-ply is often available and marketed as a budget option, it may also be more appropriate for use in toilets on boats and in camper-vans. Toilet paper, especially if it is marketed as "luxury", may be quilted or rippled (embossed), perfumed, colored or patterned, medicated (with anti bacterial chemicals), treated with aloe, etc. In the USA, many novelty designs are also available on toilet paper, from cute cartoon animals via pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden to pictures of dollar bills. Women who are prone to vaginal yeast infections are advised by some medical experts to use white, unperfumed toilet paper.

Moist toilet paper was first introduced by Kimberly-Clark in the UK by Andrex in the 1990s, and in the US in 2001, two countries in which bidets are rare. It is designed to clean better than dry toilet paper after defecation, and may be useful for women during menstruation.

The manufacture of toilet paper is a large industry. According to US company Charmin, an American uses an average of 57 sheets of toilet paper a day (20 805 a year). The toilet paper market is worth about US$2.4 billion a year in America alone.

The term toilet paper has been used throughout this article but it is often known by other (mostly slang) names such as shit tickets, TP, toilet tissue, toilet roll, loo roll, bumf, bumfodder, bog roll, date roll, and ass wipe. "TP" is often used as a verb (we TPed the school principal's house) where it means throwing rolls of toilet paper over large objects (trees, cars, houses) to leave long streams of toilet paper fluttering in the breeze. Toilet paper is also often used, due to its availability and absorbent properties, by school children to form wet missiles to throw at people or the ceiling (where it sticks, dries and sets, to the dismay of the janitors) In the late 1960s and 1970s, British soccer supporters would frequently respond to moments of excitement or frustration by hurling large numbers of toilet rolls from the stands on to the pitch. The resulting streamers often required clearing away to the sidelines before the game could proceed.


There are two common methods of installing toilet paper on the toilet paper roll. Often a matter of stern debate, and a contentious problem in households with opposing viewpoints, the variances are mainly that of personal preference. The first method of installation has the edge of the roll facing away from the wall and commonly facing the toilet. This method allows the defecator easy access to grab the toilet paper and pull off the desired amount of paper, as the roll spins toward the user.

The second method of installation has the edge of the roll facing the wall and commonly facing away from the toilet. This method is a bit more difficult for the defecator to grab the toilet paper. As the roll spins it spins away from the user. A perceived advantage to this method, that some feel outweighs the inconvenience of the inaccessible edge, is that a household with toddlers is less likely to have toilet paper spun off the roll. This is because a toddler is most likely to spin the roll toward them. In the case of this installation, as the roll spins toward the toddler, the paper remains wound on the roll.

A third (but far less common) toilet paper installation method is totally to dispense with any roller mechanism at all.

Modern alternatives

In France, toilet sanitation was supplemented by the invention of the bidet in the 1710s. With the improvements to plumbing in the Victorian era the bidet moved from the bedroom (where it was kept with the chamber pot) to the bathroom. Modern bidets use a stream of warm water to cleanse the genitals and anus (before modern plumbing, bidets sometimes had a hand-crank to achieve the same effect). The bidet is commonplace in many European countries, especially in France, and also in Japan where approximately half of all households have a form of bidet.

A twin-nozzled electronic bidet unit of a
A twin-nozzled electronic bidet unit of a Japanese toilet

The first "paperless" toilet was invented in Japan in 1980. It is a combination toilet, bidet and drier, controlled by an electronic panel next to the toilet seat. This has famously led to tourists accidentally activating the bidet and causing a jet of water to shoot high into the air and spray all over the bathroom floor, usually a result of investigating the unfamiliar fixture's buttons, all of course labeled in Japanese (the fact that some toilets use a button on the same panel to flush exacerbated the problem). Many modern Japanese bidet toilets, especially in hotels and public areas, are labeled with pictograms to avoid the problem, and some newer models even have a sensor that will refuse to activate the bidet unless it detects someone actually sitting on the toilet.

In some parts of Asia especially in the Indian sub-continent a water container referred to as a Lota is used to pour water down the back passage to remove feces using the hands. Though there is no universal design for a Lota anything from a flowering pot to a milk jug can be used as one. This practice has spread to North America and Europe with the sub-continental diaspora.

Another popular alternative ressembles a miniature shower and is termed as a "health faucet". It is placed on a holder near the toilet, thus enabling the person using it to have it within an arm's length for easy accessibility.

See also

External links

de:Toilettenpapier nl:Toiletpapier ja:トイレットペーパー pl:Papier toaletowy pt:Papel higinico sv:Toalettpapper


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