A roll of toilet paper.

Toilet paper is a soft paper product used to maintain personal hygiene after human defecation or urination. It differs in composition somewhat from facial tissue, and is designed to decompose in septic tanks, which some other bathroom and facial tissues do not. Most septic tank manufacturers advise against using paper products that are non-septic tank safe. Different names are used for toilet paper in countries around the world, including "loo roll/paper", "toilet roll", "dunny roll/paper", "bog roll", "TP", or "bathroom/toilet tissue".


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

Although paper had been known as a wrapping and padding material in China since the 2nd century BC,[1] the first use of toilet paper in human history dates back to the 6th century AD, in early medieval China.[2] In 589 AD the scholar-official Yan Zhitui (531–591) wrote about the use of toilet paper:

"Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes".[2]

During the later Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD) a Muslim Arab traveler to China in the year 851 AD remarked:

"They (the Chinese) are not careful about cleanliness, and they do not wash themselves with water when they have done their necessities; but they only wipe themselves with paper."[2]

During the early 14th century (Yuan Dynasty) it was recorded that in modern-day Zhejiang province alone there was an annual manufacturing of toilet paper amounting in ten million packages of 1,000 to 10,000 sheets of toilet paper each.[2] During the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 AD), it was recorded in 1393 that 720,000 sheets of toilet paper (two by three feet in size) were produced for the general use of the Imperial court at the capital of Nanjing.[2] From the records of the Imperial Bureau of Supplies (Bao Chao Si) of that same year, it was also recorded that for Emperor Hongwu's imperial family alone, there were 15,000 sheets of special soft-fabric toilet paper made, and each sheet of toilet paper was even perfumed.[2]

Elsewhere, wealthy people used wool, lace or hemp for their ablutions, while less wealthy people used their hand when defecating into rivers, or cleaned themselves with various materials such as rags, wood shavings, leaves, grass, hay, stone, sand, moss, water, snow, maize husks, fruit skins, or seashells, and cob of the corn depending upon the country and weather conditions or social customs. In Ancient Rome, a sponge on a stick was commonly used, and, after usage, placed back in a bucket of saltwater.

The 16th century French satirical writer François Rabelais in his series of novels Gargantua and Pantagruel, discussing the various ways of cleansing oneself at the toilet, wrote that: "He who uses paper on his filthy bum, will always find his ballocks lined with scum", proposing that the soft feathers on the back of a live goose provide an optimum cleansing medium.

The Scott Brothers are often cited as being the first to sell rolled and perforated toilet paper, but unless they were doing so without a patent, the beginning of toilet paper and dispensers familiar in the 21st century is with Seth Wheeler of Albany, NY, who obtained several patents. The first of note is for the idea of perforating commercial papers (25 July 1871, #117355), the application for which includes an illustration of a perforated roll of paper. On 13 February 1883 he was granted patent #272369, which presented a roll of perforated wrapping or toilet paper supported in the center with a tube. Wheeler also had patents for mounted brackets that held the rolls. Under the name Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Co., the product was manufactured as early as 1886 at their factory just north of downtown Albany.[3]

In many parts of the world, especially where toilet paper or the necessary plumbing for disposal may be unavailable or unaffordable, toilet paper is not used. Cleansing is then performed with other methods or materials, such as water, for example using a bidet, rags, sand, leaves (including seaweed), corn cobs, animal furs, or sticks.


A print by William Hogarth entitled A just view of the British stage from 1724 depicting Robert Wilks, Colley Cibber, and Barton Booth rehearsing a pantomime play with puppets enacting a prison break down a privy. The "play" is comprised of nothing but special effects, and the scripts for Hamlet, inter al., are toilet paper.
  • 589 AD: the first mentioning of toilet paper in China.
  • 851 AD: the first foreign source (Arab-Muslim) to confirm the use of toilet paper in China.
  • c. 1300 AD: first records of the massive amounts of toilet paper manufactured in China.
  • 1391: 720 sheets of toilet paper produced in China for the Hongwu Emperor's court, while 15,000 special sheets were produced solely for the royal family. Sheets were approximately 60 cm × 90 cm.
  • 1596: invention of the flushing toilet.
  • 1710s: the bidet was invented. Although bidets gained popularity, toilet paper was still used by the majority.
  • 1857: Joseph Gayetty sells first factory-made toilet paper (Gayetty's Medicated Paper) in the USA. These were loose, flat, sheets of paper, pre-moistened and medicated with aloe; each sheet has Gayetty's name printed on it. It sold at five hundred sheets for fifty cents and was known as Gayetty's Medicated Paper—"a perfectly pure article for the toilet and for the prevention of piles." An advertisement for Gayetty's Medicated Paper can be found here.
  • 1871-1883: Seth Wheeler of Albany, NY, receives patents for rolled and perforated commercial paper (specifically including toilet paper) dispensed on tubes, and the brackets to hold them.
  • 1877: The Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company of Albany, New York, established by Seth Wheeler, sells perforated toilet paper ("The Standard"). It is sold "by all the leading druggists" and is not medicated. It is marketed as being free of "all deleterious substances" which includes printed materials and chemicals "incident to the ordinary process of manufacture (which is) a cause of hemorrhoids." In addition, medicated toilet paper which is "heavily charged with ointment" was offered for "sufferers of hemorrhoids."
  • mid 1880s: The A. P. W. P. Co. now has patents for the toilet paper roll that would become the standard, and establishes a new factory in Albany, NY for their production.
  • later 19th century: Scott Paper Company sells toilet paper on a roll, although initially they do not print their company name on the packaging. Toilet paper was sold under the name of various industrial customers, including the Waldorf Hotel, which led to the popular Waldorf brand of toilet paper.
  • 1888: The phrase "toilet paper" first appears in the New York Times.[4]
  • 1900: plumbing improvements of the Victorian era have led to wide use of flushing toilet and (in Europe) the bidet.
  • 1935: Northern Tissue advertises its toilet paper as "splinter-free".[누가?]
  • 1942: first two-ply toilet paper from St. Andrew's Paper Mill in England; toilet paper becomes softer and more pliable. For most of the rest of the twentieth century, both "hard" and "soft" paper was common. Hard was cheaper, and was shiny on one side. Sometimes it had messages like "GOVERNMENT PROPERTY", "IZAL MEDICATED" or "NOW WASH YOUR HANDS PLEASE" written on each sheet near the perforation. Eventually soft paper won out as the price differential between the two papers vanished. Hard paper is seldom seen these days in UK, but is still available.
  • 1943: novelty toilet paper printed with images of Adolf Hitler. (Note: The use of toilet paper of any type in wartime Britain was officially discouraged due to paper shortages. The widespread use of newspaper for this purpose was revived and one government propaganda newsreel suggested that anyone finding Nazi propaganda leaflets dropped from planes should use them for this purpose.)
  • 1964: Procter and Gamble introduces a fictitious Mr. Whipple, a grocer who begins admonishing customers, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin!”[5]
  • December 19, 1973: 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)
  • 1990s: papers containing ingredients like aloe begin to be heavily marketed in the USA.
  • 2000s: toilet paper is commonly available in hundreds of different designs, colors, and prints.

Today in some Muslim countries, toilet paper with added "wet strength" (chemicals to keep it from dissolving in water too quickly) is beginning to be accepted for drying (rather than cleaning, as is common in Western countries).

  • The United States Army has long been concerned with so-called natural functions. It is the subject of many colorful army acronyms and nicknames. Particularly on point is the so-called "John Wayne" which, among other things, refers to the toilet paper from the MRE because "it's rough, it's tough, and it don't take shit from nobody." See List of U.S. Army acronyms and expressions.

Modern toilet paper편집

The advantages of toilet paper are that it is easy and intuitive to use, fairly absorbent, and it can be flushed in most countries where toilet paper is common. Most modern sewage systems, including septic tanks, can accept toilet paper along with human excreta.

Toilet paper is available in several types of paper, a variety of colors, decorations, and textures, to appeal to individual preference. Toilet paper is sometimes made from recycled paper; however, large amounts of virgin tree pulp is still used.[6] Environmentally friendly toilet paper may also be unbleached. Toilet paper products vary immensely in the technical factors that distinguish them: sizes, weights, roughness, softness, chemical residues, "finger-breakthrough" resistance, water-absorption, etc. The larger companies have very detailed, scientific market surveys to determine which marketing sectors require/demand which of the many technical qualities. Modern toilet paper may have a light coating of aloe or lotion or wax worked into the paper to reduce roughness. Quality is usually determined by the number of plies (stacked sheets), coarseness, and durability. Low grade institutional toilet paper is typically of the lowest grade of paper, has only one or two plies, is very coarse and sometimes has small amounts of unbleached/unpulped paper embedded in it. Mid-grade two ply is somewhat textured to provide some softness, and is somewhat durable. Premium toilet paper may have lotion and wax, and has two to four plies made of very finely pulped paper.

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. Many novelty designs are also available on toilet paper, from cute cartoon animals to pictures of disfavored political celebrities to pictures of dollar bills. Women who are prone to vaginal Candidiasis yeast infections are advised by some medical experts to use white, unperfumed toilet paper.

Moist toilet paper was first introduced by the Kimberly-Clark in the United Kingdom by Andrex in the 1990s, and in the United States 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. 26 billion rolls of toilet paper, worth about US$2.4 billion, are sold yearly in America alone.

Toilet roll holder in NZ
Original toilet roll holder

Printed toilet paper편집

Not much is known about the first commercially available toilet paper with printed images or words, but rolls have been seen at auctions with the slogan "wipe out Hitler" which suggests printing on toilet paper has been around since World War II. Rolls have been sold on eBay depicting George W. Bush, Paris Hilton, and popular sports teams such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Certain websites now offer custom toilet paper printing, with the option of having a friend (or enemy)'s picture printed.

See also편집


  • De Beaumont, Sally; Amoret Tanner, Maurice Rickards (2000). 《Encyclopedia of Ephemera》. UK: Routledge. 190–191쪽. ISBN 0415926483. 


  • Needham, Joseph (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 1, Paper and Printing. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.

External links편집