Ralph Gardner Jr.: Here’s My Best Toilet Paper Pick | Columnists
It may be my era of life or the state of geopolitics, but I find myself taking refuge in stories that avoid bad news. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no safer space than articles that review your favorite, user-friendly products. The world may be heating up, but there’s always satisfaction to be had from polls that confirm your choices and instincts.
This happened recently when the New York Times Wirecutter – their product review section – turned to toilet paper. Your choice of toilet paper says a lot about you. Are you a one-ply or two-ply person? Scented or unscented? Ultra soft ? Extra soft? Or just sweet?
For the sake of brevity, as well as for family harmony, I think it’s best to completely bypass the delicate subject of whether the toilet paper should hang above or below. It seems obvious that it should hang down so you don’t have to search for the top fabric. Reaching below is impractical, especially if time is of the essence. And now comes the word from science that the top is actually better for you because the bottom spreads bacteria more efficiently. I do not really understand. But I’m happy to stipulate anything that favors my point of view.
Let’s take the characteristics associated with toilet paper one by one starting with softness. Obviously, you don’t want the fabric to have the consistency of sandpaper. You don’t want a shiny finish either. No kidding. I’ve had experience with distributors, maybe in Europe, where the sheets came out one at a time and they were so shiny and non-absorbent that they were useless. European culture has much to commend it. Café terraces, flying buttresses (on medieval cathedrals), the bidet! But advanced toilet paper technology is not one of them.
Have you ever visited a train station, say in Marseilles, and had to pay for the privilege of using the toilet only to find that your investment didn’t include a seat and sometimes not even a toilet. They make you pay a lot to squat. Not done.
Nevertheless, who needs a toilet paper with a velvety texture, despite the Charmin bear? Going potty was never meant to be an all-day affair. That’s not to say it shouldn’t be comfortable. But toughen up, man!
Ditto scented toilet paper roll. I’m sorry, but a chemical concoction created to mimic a spring breeze isn’t enough. If a courtesy flush is needed, go for it. But don’t kid yourself; you don’t fool anyone when you go to the bathroom.
I don’t think we give enough credit to heredity when it comes to choosing a brand of toilet paper. You’ll probably find that people tend to use the same brand they grew up with. Certainly, people can change, and so can toilet paper culture. I don’t remember there being so many choices when I was a kid. But in the same way that the smell of Ivory soap evokes old memories, your family’s default brand provides a sense of security that other competitors won’t.
Monolayer or bilayer? For me, it’s all about traction. I’m not talking about a new roll’s tendency to tear one sheet at a time, although that’s pretty infuriating. What I mean is that whether I’m using very thin toilet paper or something as thick as a beach towel, I tend to unroll the same length of paper. You are trying to create as much distance between yourself and the problem as possible without causing your septic system to commit suicide. But I’m not good at the advanced math involved in factoring the thickness when unrolling the roll. Generous single-ply prints create a feeling of abundance and allow for more room for error.
I’m not going to get into the issue of recycled toilet paper, although I’m sure stand-up comedians could probably have a blast with it and probably already have. I will say, however, that I don’t care if my toilet paper is snow white or not. I’m happy to go with beige or even polka dots if it can save a few trees.
Having stated my priorities – a single ply, a generously sized, scent-free, competitively priced roll – there is only one brand that meets all of these requirements. And I was happy to see that the New York Times – the Gray Lady, the leading newspaper – agrees. “There’s a Toilet Paper Calculator,” their headline read on March 23, “that cuts through the ‘Mega’ and ‘Jumbo’ marketing claims.”
They were referring to calculator inventor Victor Ly. The newspaper described Mr. Ly as a San Francisco social worker and amateur bargain hunter. It goes without saying that he is also a hero for unit price buyers.
Incidentally, when The Times contacted some of America’s best-known toilet paper makers, Kimberly-Clark declined to comment, and Proctor & Gamble didn’t even respond. That says something to this crisis management student. They are probably hiding something. And what they hide, or rather hide behind, is all that crazy strength and efficiency, softness and absorption.
The calculator scored nine mainstays of the supermarket shelves and all got grades from C to F. Only one brand scored a B. It was Angel Soft. But wait! There was a manufacturer that the calculator gave not just an A but an A+. “The only brand to receive an A in this group,” reads their conclusion, “was also the most basic, no-frills TP in the group.”
Is the suspense killing you? If you’re half a home economics student like I am, you already know the answer. Incidentally, among the variables weighed was the price per sheet. My go-to costs 0.05 cents per sheet. The next cheapest price was 0.21 cents.
There’s the separate issue, best saved for another day, about how many rolls you need that can fit in your car, let alone your house. There is also the mortification factor. Buying goods in bulk is one thing. Buying toilet paper in bulk—some economy packs are the size of a Honda Fit—may suggest to the cashier that you have bowel issues.
Either way, the winner is… Scott One Thousand Sheets Per Roll. I always knew it was the smart choice. I had no idea how smart that was. It might be time to refuel. The one question The Times hasn’t answered, perhaps because it’s a philosophical question, is is there too much toilet paper in your basement? I don’t believe that is possible.