How many sheets of toilet paper is enough?

by Julie Finch-Scally

In these days when wastage is frowned upon, I am amazed at the number of public toilets that use the continuous rolls of toilet paper.  It is not only difficult to judge the number of sheets you have unwound – that is if there is perforation, but it is also difficult tear off the paper.

In the days of single sheet dispensers it was easy to work out how much paper.  Mind you quite often if the packaging was loose there would be a number of spare sheets on the floor around the toilet, but that was the only amount of wastage.

In the domestic situation wastage is caused because no one seems to know how much paper is enough.  As sheets of toilet tissues have become thicker there is no need for as many sheets as there was when they were thin. 

No one wants to get their hands wet or dirty when wiping themselves down so surely it is time for the toilet paper manufacturers to start indicating how many sheets are enough. 

Several years ago I heard a story of a politician’s wife who was assisting a poorer member of society by helping them budget their income.  On hearing they went through two rolls of toilet paper a day, she started asking each child how many sheets of paper they used.  The youngest, about 6, showed her how much he pulled off the roll and how he scrunched it into a ball.  The politicians wife then told the family that 5 sheets of paper was all that was needed per wipe, and if each sheet was folded one on top of each other it would be thick enough to do the job.  The toilet roll bill went down in that household.

So it would seem five sheets of toilet paper is sufficient.  But does the new thickness of the paper make any difference?  Yes it does, and because the paper is more absorbent we can now gain the same results with four sheets. 

There is another factor that is important.  Depending on where you live in the world dictates the length of each sheet of paper.  The Australian toilet paper sheets are practically square whereas in Europe and America the sheets are more oblong.  This means with oblong sheets of toilet paper, taking three sheets of paper and folding in half and in half again, still gives you a four sheet thickness but a squarer shape of paper. 

So depending on the thickness and the length of each sheet, we should all be aiming for a four sheet thickness with our toilet paper usage. 

And my idea for the toilet paper manufacturers writing the number of sheets to use? Why not add the words to the stencil that prints the patterns into the paper.  That way everyone would know how much to use and wastage would be a thing of the past. 



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