In Praise of TP


She's dark, she's dangerous, she's RCT humor columnist Ella Steinbeck
She’s dark, she’s dangerous, she’s RCT humor columnist Ella Steinbeck



Don’t you? Maybe you never really thought about it before, but let’s take a moment to be thankful for this little thing that makes our lives significantly cleaner, better and downright more comfortable.

We can blow our noses with it, stick a square in a book and use it as a bookmark, kill a bug with it, remove our nail polish, absorb a small spill, send it streaming from your neighbor’s tree and yes…wipe with it. Your iPad can’t do any of those things. It never will.

The options seem to be endless. We can choose from single ply, double ply, quilted, extra strong, extra soft, ultra strong and ultra soft. You can also choose from interleaf, sustainable, and recycled.  I assume it’s made of recycled paper and not recycled toilet paper, but I still don’t like the visual it conjures up.

Consumer Report tests for strength, tearability, and softness. Good Housekeeping checks out absorbency, dissolvability, and wet and dry tensile strength before giving their stamp of approval.  Your TP needs to be taken seriously! Toilet paper making is a science. We don’t give it enough credit.

Before the invention of toilet paper people used wool, grass, corncobs, shells, their left hand, rocks and even fur. Ok, I admit, fur does sound like a very luxurious option, but the others sound really yucky and bad. In fact, before the manufacturing of TP in the US, people would tear out pages from the Sears catalogue or the Farmers Almanac to clean up their mess. Waste not. Want not.

The Chinese were always ahead of their time as far as hygiene is concerned. They understood the need to bathe regularly way before the Europeans did and they were the first on record to use paper to wipe. They were benefitting from clean “rears” as far back as the Tang Dynasty

Where would we be without it?
Where would we be without it?

(618-907 AD). By the 14th century, China was manufacturing toilet paper. It was 2 feet by 3 feet in size. I assume you tore off what you needed, just like we do today. But now we have soft, fluffy, 4 inch wide  perforated rolls – way easier to stack in a small bathroom closet.

Joseph Gayetty is credited with inventing toilet paper in 1857. I can’t figure out why the Chinese aren’t given the actual credit. I am sure it has something to do with politics. Joseph’s paper was sold in a pack of small square flat sheets. Advertisements called it, “the greatest necessity of the age!” I do agree!

A man named Seth Wheeler patented toilet paper in 1883. He’s from Albany, NY. My guess is that this guy is THE reason Albany is our state capital. Toilet paper is very very important!

Early TP wasn’t soft but merely functional.  It wasn’t until 1935 that Northern Tissue gave the world “splinter free” toilet paper. We’ve come a long way in toilet paper technology. It’s time to stop taking toilet paper for granted. If you’re having a bad day and need a reason to smile… remind yourself how lucky you are to live in an era where toilet paper leaves your bottom fresh, clean and free from a splintery assault.

One Response to "In Praise of TP"

  1. Pingback: The Sunday Paper, (1) 5, « Helen Hiebert Studio

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