On a Roll: The History of Toilet Paper and Restroom Paper Products

On a Roll: The History of Toilet Paper and Restroom Paper Products

It’s a public restroom nightmare everyone is familiar with: You reach for toilet paper, and there’s none to be found. In fact, empty or jammed toilet paper dispensers are a recurring pain point for respondents who take Bradley Corp.’s annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey.

While data shows the importance of keeping paper products stocked, customers also want paper products that are effective, absorbent, and soft to reduce irritation and frustration in public restrooms. Examining the history of toilet paper can help you pick the right product. 

Over time, restroom paper products have seen improvements that benefit both users and the facilities that stock them. The sheer number of options available on the market today can sometimes feel overwhelming when weighing the benefits of each product. Facility managers should understand the paper options available to ensure products are well-suited to guests’ needs.

The Progress Behind Paper

Restroom paper products have made significant progress throughout the years. In the mid-1800s, people used aloe-infused sheets of manila hemp that were dispensed from boxes similar to those used for facial tissues, according to an article published by Mental Floss called, “Toilet Paper History: How America Convinced the World to Wipe.” The idea of a commercial product designed solely to wipe after restroom use started about 150 years ago in America. When paper products on a roll hit the market in 1890, the idea gained widespread traction and popularity, despite the fact that many consumers were embarrassed to purchase it.

At the end of the 19th century, more homes were built with flush toilets connected to indoor plumbing systems, requiring a product that could be flushed away without damaging the pipes, the article continues. Given this need, toilet paper in the form we know and use today was born.

Today, many variations of restroom paper products are available as facilities and guests place a greater value on sustainability, cost savings, and quality. The paper industry is growing worldwide as the paper and pulp production process transforms and evolves.

Since choosing the right paper products impacts a business’s bottom line, facility managers should consider the following during the purchase process:

Toilet Clog-Fighting Capabilities

High-traffic operations such as hotels, hospitals, and airports cannot run the risk of closing a restroom due to toilet clogs. Eighty-six percent of Americans say a clogged toilet would negatively impact their perception of a business, according to a 2018 Harris Poll. In addition to costly and time-consuming repairs, toilet clogs are detrimental to overall guest satisfaction.

Advanced toilet tissue can now reduce the buildup of dirt within restroom pipes simply by being flushed. These products use natural, nonpathogenic microorganisms that produce enzymes which feed on dirt when they make contact with water. After the cleaning process is complete, the enzymes biodegrade, leaving behind no residue and limiting the opportunity for clogs after roughly one month of continual use. There are even paper towels that dissolve in minutes to further reduce the possibility of clogs in the event they are flushed down the toilet.

Virgin vs. Recycled Paper

Many companies label their products as “green” or “eco-friendly,” which may lead buyers to assume these options are the best choice. However, there’s more than meets the eye when determining which paper option is right for a facility and the environment. If paper fibers are recycled too many times, the resulting product can sometimes be of lower quality and perform poorly. Since recycled paper can only be reused a finite number of times, virgin paper production is ultimately necessary.

Resistance and Absorption

Quality paper towels get the job done without ripping or becoming too soggy. When purchasing paper towels, seek out strong, durable products that can withstand high volumes of water or liquid.

Coreless Paper Rolls

Today, facilities can purchase rolls of toilet tissue and paper towels without cardboard cores. These products require less wasteful packaging materials and allow more space for the product itself. Every inch of the product gets used, making it both economically and environmentally beneficial.

A Better Bathroom

While it may seem insignificant, properly stocking a restroom’s paper products can greatly impact guest satisfaction and the bottom line. Higher quality paper products leave customers feeling refreshed and result in less waste, thereby reducing costs and improving sustainability. Additionally, products developed to support restroom pipes help limit costly repairs and sewage system interventions that can lead to unnecessary downtime. With cutting-edge advancements in sustainability and performance, the future looks bright for the paper industry.

Posted On July 17, 2018

Fabio Vitali

Vice President of Marketing, Sofidel

Fabio Vitali is vice president of marketing for Sofidel, a manufacturer of paper for hygienic and domestic use, including its Papernet brand. For more information, visit  

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