Thursday, 4 August 2022

“The greatest necessity for the age.”

Believe it or not, I started to think about toilet paper, hygienic paper, or bathroom/toilet tissue in a bathroom. Makes sense, doesn’t it? I suspect that the only other places where one thinks about toilet paper are in a grocery store aisle or on a shopping list where it is discretely described as TP.

It is true, however, that I seriously thought about toilet paper when I visited my guest bathroom after an air-conditioner ‘technician’ used it. I was horrified to find that the tissue roll was near the end of the sheets. I immediately checked to see that I had an extra roll available in the bathroom. I did. With this experience, I thought that one of humanity’s greatest fears would be to run out of TP. Our recent toilet paper hoarding during the early days of the Covid pandemic proves this human fear.

For most of us, toilet tissue is a given, a taken-for-granted commodity. But toilet paper wasn’t always around as we know it. Cloud Paper offers a brief history of the evolution of toilet paper:(How Toilet Paper Was Invented and What People Used Before It – Cloud Paper)

  • Before modern toilet paper was invented, people used a variety of materials, including silk, moss, snow, or even their own hand. (Dreadful!)
  • The Ancient Romans used a xylospongium, a sponge attached to a stick that was shared in public toilets. (Disgusting!)
  • Documents from the Ming Dynasty show toilet paper was invented for members of the Imperial Court in the 6th Century AD. (Nice!)
  • Modern toilet paper was invented in the mid-1800s, but didn’t catch on until about 100 years later. (Why pay good money for it when one can use a ‘sheet’ (still a word used to describe one piece of TP) of a newspaper?)
  • Unfortunately, toilet paper made from trees is now recognized to contribute to deforestation and climate. (Remember. This is written by a TP company.)
  • Tree-free toilet paper is an eco-friendly alternative made from bamboo, a fast-growing grass that captures more carbon dioxide than any other plant. (I did not know this about bamboo!)

Of course, modern plumbing and flushable toilets make our current use of toilet paper feasible. This is obvious, but I needed to segue.

The best toilet paper is described as soft (cloud or angel soft), hygienic (Remember the reusable common brush of the ancient Romans!), multi-ply (the more, the better); flushable and bio-degradable; and in some circles, scented.

There is a variety of toilet paper holders:

There are clever ways to provide extra rolls that are clearly visible to a guest who might otherwise feel uncomfortable digging through your bathroom cabinets:

To mimic a hotel’s attempt to make such a mundane thing seem to have been given loving and artistic care just for you, the honorable guest:

If you are interested in color, design, or matching disposable handtowels, your options are many:

There is also a distasteful and revengeful way to leave toilet paper hanging:

There is also a great toilet paper debate: under or over?

Finally, sheets on or off a roll: Which became preferred? I quote Cloud Paper’s history, which was previously cited. “In the modern world, toilet paper didn’t take off as a commercial product until the late 1800s. In 1857, American entrepreneur Joseph Gayetty created wide, single paper sheets infused with aloe. He stamped his name on every sheet and marketed them as The Greatest Necessity for the Age. Gayetty’s Medicated Paper for the Water Closet. The product flopped (my comment, but it came back recently and is called a wet-wipe.). Most Americans were perfectly happy to use sheets from magazines and newspapers and weren’t inclined to pay for a similar product. But American entrepreneurs did not give up on the idea. Ten years after Gayetty’s failure, two brothers put toilet paper on a roll. American consumers still weren’t convinced, but the brothers found a market selling to hotels and drugstores.” As I mentioned, modern plumbing later caused the toilet paper convenience craze, which we enjoy today.

Published by Thomas

Retired from active priestly ministry in the Catholic Church; former Benedictine monk; francophile; Holocaust researcher; Delta One Million Miler; Ex-Patriated American to the Republic of Panama

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