Thursday, August 12, 2010

Toilet Paper – A million and one uses


There are things here in America that we often take for granted: Freedom of speech, a reasonably stable economy, Baseball, Apple Pie, our Interstate Highway System, the Bachelorette Reality TV Series and even toilet paper.  Why toilet paper?  Well, I have lived or worked in 14 different countries, and have traveled to another 5 or 6 and have to confess

that the American backside has it good.

When living in Argentina in the early 90’s, the expatriates living there referred to the local toilet paper as “60 grit” (a reference to a coarse grade of sandpaper).  When available, the toilet paper there was waxy and coarse.  At times, due in part to periods of hyperinflation, it was more comfortable to use 100 Austral bills in a public restroom than the toilet paper provided.

Since its first use in the sixth century AD, many improvements have been made to toilet paper.  Here in the good old US of A, we have two-ply, three-ply, quilted, scented, and even colorfast.  You can get hypoallergenic and dermatologist approved tissue, or even tissue infused with lotion, or aloe vera extracts.

On a side note, one distinct benefit to living in Argentina, however was the prevalence in bidets.  If you haven’t used a bidet, I highly recommend that you try one out.  No, they are not used to clean your shoes as was referenced in the first Crocodile Dundee movie.  One word of advice from personal experience: Thoroughly familiarize yourself with the operation prior to using the bidet, especially the controls for hot and cold water and the height of the spray.  Failure to do so could cause a burned back.

In addition to the obvious, there is another ingenious use for toilet paper in America: Rolling houses.


Basically you take the toilet paper and after starting to unwind the roll, you toss it high into trees with a spin.  The paper gets caught in the trees, and unravels as it falls to the ground.  It is amazingly difficult to clean up due to the fact that it is perforated.  Pulling on it simply causes it to break off high into the tree. 

Having had to clean up a lot of toilet paper in my yard during my high school years, I have learned an invaluable technique to getting it out of the trees: Light it on fire.  The fire burns from one end up to the top of the tree, and goes out at the peak.

Growing up, my father used to ration the toilet paper in the house.  In order to reduce expenses, he also limited the number of our friends that could come in to use the bathroom.  He was convinced that our friends were using more than the maximum “Four Squares Per Wipe” allowed, and that was why the toilet paper was being consumed at such a high rate.  Truth is, my youngest sister was secretly pilfering and hoarding a roll at a time in order to go out at night with her girlfriends to decorate other people’s yards.

In the end, we Americans are getting blamed for damaging the economy through our need to take care of our backsides.  Soft tissue paper apparently isn’t so soft on the environment.  Is it eco-awareness on the part of the British, or is it Toilet paper envy?


  1. You should have seen that house before she started cleaning it up! It was the most thorough Rolling job I've ever seen. I was highly impressed with whoever managed that- and I felt very sorry for the girl cleaning it up.

  2. Who was that girl anyway? And yes, Libby WAS indeed hoarding tp and we were all punished for it! :-)

  3. Was that why I so often found myself in the bathroom in your St. Mtn. house with no paper available? It's also worth noting that not only was the number of sheets allowed an economic effort, but that quality TP is NOT on your parent's shopping list.

  4. Was so impressed with bidet when I was in Argentina that I bought one and brought it back home :)