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The History Of Toilet Paper…

Industry News 24-Oct-23 | By Steve

Toilet roll – it’s something we use every day, but have you ever wondered about its quirky history?

Well, grab a comfy seat, and let’s dive into the fascinating journey of toilet paper through the ages. 🚽

When Was Toilet Paper Invented?

History of toilet paper

Toilet paper has been a lifesaver for centuries, but the modern version we know and love wasn’t born until 1391. Yes, you heard it right, 1391! It was a royal invention, created specifically for the Chinese Emperor’s family. Picture this: perfumed flat sheets stacked on top of each other – that’s what they used back then. But before the modern marvel, ancient civilizations had their own version of toilet paper.

Did you know? The first toilet paper wasn’t like the pristine white sheets we use today. It was more of an “anything goes” kind of paper.

The Paper before Modern Toilet Paper

The Chinese were the trendsetters when it came to toilet hygiene. In the second century BC, they were already experimenting with something we can call “ancient toilet paper.” However, it took a while for this trend to catch on. It wasn’t until the sixth century AD that toilet paper became a wiping sensation across the empire.

Now here’s a curious fact: the first toilet paper wasn’t as luxurious as it sounds. It wasn’t even specifically designed for hygiene. In fact, a medieval Chinese scholar once said, “Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from the Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes.” So, essentially, they used any paper they could get their hands on.

Fun fact: Toilet paper was more like “paper of opportunity” back then, rather than a purpose-made product.

When Did Paper Become Common?

Just because the Chinese invented toilet paper didn’t mean the rest of the world immediately jumped on the bandwagon. Toilet paper didn’t become a common household item until the 15th century. It was only in the 19th century that the toilet paper industry truly took off, with large-scale production sweeping the globe.

Meet the trailblazer: Joseph C. Gayetty gets the credit for the first commercially packed toilet roll. He even medicated it with aloe and gave it a snazzy name – “The Therapeutic Paper.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t an instant hit, perhaps because people were used to free alternatives.

The First Toilet Roll

newspaper cutting toilet paper

Before 1878, toilet paper came in flat sheets, not rolls. But the Scott brothers changed the game in 1879 by introducing the world’s first toilet roll. They sold it through their own company, Scott Paper Company. The catch? They didn’t patent their ingenious idea, allowing others to roll with it.

No patent, no problem: The lack of a patent led to even more innovations, including the first perforated toilet roll, which we still use today. Walter Alcock deserves a nod for that one.

First Commercially Packaged Toilet Roll

newspaper cutting toilet paper

While the Scott Paper Company played a big part in toilet paper’s history, the first company to sell commercially packaged toilet roll was the British Perforated Paper Company. In 1880, they started selling individual squares in boxes.

Innovation knows no bounds: Toilet paper’s evolution continued with the introduction of splinter-free options, thanks to companies like Northern Tissue.

Adding That Extra Layer

Up until 1941, toilet paper was a single-layer affair. Then, in 1942, St. Andrews Paper Mill introduced the world to double-layer toilet roll. The standard modern toilet roll boasts two or even three layers, making it a true game-changer.

Double the comfort: Two layers meant double the softness, and people quickly fell in love with this upgraded bathroom essential.

Toilet Roll Shortage: A Historical Anecdote

johnny carson

We all remember the toilet roll frenzy at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but did you know there was another memorable shortage in history? It all began in Japan in 1973 when Japanese women started buying toilet roll in bulk due to various crises.

Japan’s hoarding habit: Amid oil and economic crises, Japanese citizens began stockpiling toilet roll out of fear, prioritizing individual comfort over societal stability.

Then, in the USA, a popular comedian named Johnny Carson made a joke about the toilet roll shortage in Japan. This sparked a frenzy in the States, leading to months of toilet roll shortages.

Johnny’s joke gone wild: A hilarious quip from Johnny Carson unintentionally set off a nationwide toilet paper hunt in the USA.

What Did People Use for Toilet Paper Before It Was Invented?

wood shavingstersorium

Now, you might be wondering, what did people use before toilet paper was a thing? Well, it all depended on where you lived and your social status. People got creative with their bathroom hygiene:

Early years: Wood shavings, hay, rocks, corn cobs, grass, and even shells – if it was free and nearby, it was fair game.

A touch of luxury: Some upper-class folks used wool or fancy cotton sheets for a more refined wiping experience.

The Silk Road influence: The ancient Chinese were ahead of their time, using bamboo or wooden sticks with cloth for a clean finish.

Roman innovation: In the Roman Empire, they had something called a “tersorium” – a stick with a sponge attached. It was surprisingly similar to what the Chinese had going on.

Hygiene, Roman-style: The Romans had communal bathroom tools and reused “toilet paper” – a practice that would make us cringe today.

Rolling with the times.

Today the manufacture of toilet roll is a large industry. The modern toilet roll has definitely made life much easier and more hygienic for us all.

From moist toilet roll, to scented. From flushable cores, to no cores. From pure-pulp, to sugarcane. There is no stopping toilet roll manufacture… It’s certainly on a roll 😬

So there you have it, the intriguing and sometimes hilarious history of toilet paper. Next time you reach for a roll, just remember how far we’ve come from wood shavings and sponge sticks! 😄🧻


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