Much as we primly avoid discussing the embarrassing reality of our bodily functions, there’s no getting away from the fact that toilet paper is one of life’s absolute essentials.
According to this Vinepair Article, the United States spends more than $6 billion a year on toilet tissue - more than any other nation in the world. Americans, on average, use 57 squares a day and 50 pounds a year. Those are some statistics!
There’s no end of choice out there, from the ultimate in luxury to bargain basement. So, if we’re paying out so much money on this indispensable household item, are we getting the best value for money? And what about the environmental factors related to this multi-billion dollar industry? Read on to learn more.
Chances are you don’t want to spend your valuable time researching such a mundane-if-essential item, so for your convenience, we’ve trawled through the many options out there for you and narrowed down the field to just 10 of the best toilet papers.
So, whether it’s economy, comfort or ecology that drives you, we have the bottom line on toilet paper.
We’ll just apologize right here and now for the puns, intentional and otherwise, that appear in this piece – we’re on a roll, after all…
History of Toilet Paper
We all know that the Chinese were the first to make paper, but did you know that was way back in the 2nd Century BC? And by the 6th Century AD, there’s evidence that it was being made in vast quantities specifically as toilet paper.
By the 12th Century, the Emperor was said to use perfumed toilet paper! We were way behind the curve in the west – almost two millennia behind! – since mass production of toilet paper didn’t start in the US until the late 19th Century.
Since then, the ever-growing population has created a multi-billion-dollar business. Today’s consumers have become very demanding when it comes to toilet paper – it has to be strong, absorbent, soft and reasonably priced – and preferably marketed using cute puppies or bears!
If we’ve tweaked your interest about all things toilet paper-related, check out this link, where you’ll find out pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about toilet paper and were afraid to ask…
Buyer’s Guide: Toilet Paper
If you’re 50+, chances are you remember the bizarre, and now unthinkable, oddity of the hard, moisture-repelling sheets of paper that were sold to the masses as toilet paper – you might as well have tried to clean yourself up with sandpaper and newsprint would certainly have done a more thorough job!
Things have moved on since then, mercifully, and now softness is key to success for any toilet paper brand.
You only have to watch a couple of ads on TV featuring bears and puppies to know that softness sells.
There’s plenty of science behind the race to achieve the ultimate softness – there’s actually an Institute of Paper Chemistry whose scientists have worked tirelessly to produce the softest possible paper for your comfort and joy.
All that hard graft, and most of the time we barely think about it. We just wipe and go – or do we mean go and wipe?
Value for Money
The general rule of thumb is that you get what you pay for, right? The more you spend, the better you expect a product to perform. Interestingly, toilet paper may be the exception to that rule. The luxurious quilted cushioned comfort of the pricier brands to wipe your down-belows may be a treat you like to pay for.
The downside of these products is that the chemicals used in the process of formulating the more expensive, stronger toilet papers reduce its ability to break down. That, in turn, causes problems with blockages in drains which are costly to resolve and, further down the line, cause environmental issues.
Therefore, that springy softness which you crave and are willing to shell out good money for isn’t necessarily the right thing for you or for the environment and could have quite a negative impact on your pocket.
If you’re looking for value for money, then actually cheaper – therefore thinner – toilet paper which breaks down more easily is the way to go.
Wet Strength & Absorbency
Toilet paper is obviously designed to cope with being wet but it also needs to retain its strength in order to wipe cleanly without any ‘finger breakthrough’ (as it’s charmingly called in the business).
Using techniques like quilting and embossing, manufacturers have successfully developed products which combine strength and absorbency but performance varies from product to product – often depending on cost, with the cheaper brands being less strong and less absorbent.
Since less paper will be needed if it’s both strong and absorbent, it could be a false economy to buy a cheaper paper.
One way to judge the suitability of a toilet paper brand is on how easily the sheets separate along the perforations. Our view is that the harder it is to separate the sheets, the more sheets people will end up using.
Also, if it doesn’t tear easily, then there’s more chance of the user spinning the roll in the holder and ending up with dozens of sheets when only a couple would have been plenty.
That’s more waste down the drain (not forgetting the possibility of costly blockages), more money flushed away and more trees needlessly felled, so ease of perforation is something worth considering when you’re deciding on a brand.
Toilet paper has been an on-going problem for people with septic tank drainage systems since the systems were invented.
All regular toilet paper will eventually break down inside your septic tank but it may take some time and it’s likely that the residue will form a large proportion of the gunk that gets sucked out when you get it emptied out and that expensive event may need to happen more often.
Biodegradable toilet paper requires less water to break down and will dissolve much faster, so it’s probably a better choice for use with a septic system. The downside is that biodegradable toilet paper is not as soft or thick as more luxurious alternatives; it’s also usually more expensive. This is a popular option for those using a composting toilet.
Another option is to choose recycled toilet paper which dissolves more quickly and contain fewer chemicals that interrupt the natural bacterial breakdown in your tank. It makes sense to avoid using any toilet paper with additives like lotions or waxes in your septic system for reasons that are quite obvious.
To ensure you get the best product for your septic system, it’s a good idea to look for products which have been certified ‘septic-safe’ by the National Sanitation Foundation (a non-profit which tests environment and health-related products).
Septic-Safe Toilet Paper
There is plenty of choices out there if you’re looking for toilet paper marked ‘septic-safe’. The bottom line here is that it’s intended to dissolve rapidly but, in reality, some do that better than others.
If like us, you’re skeptical about manufacturer labels, our advice is to look for toilet papers that have been certified septic-safe by the National Sanitation Foundation to ensure that they’re fit for purpose.
Beware of Wipes
These products are rapidly becoming the scourge of our age in terms of sewage management. We consumers buy them in good faith, confident that when the packaging says they’re flushable, it’s OK to flush them away. Not so!
Sewage management is becoming an ever-bigger headache for local government agencies to deal with and, although there are other culprits, wet wipes are a huge part of that problem.
The fact is that, no matter what the companies claim, they just don’t break down. Take a look at this BBC article if you’d like to learn more.
So our advice is don’t flush anything but toilet paper down the toilet. Wet wipes definitely have their uses and it’s understandable why they’ve become popular but put them in the trash, not the toilet.
High on the consumer’s list of complaints about toilet paper is when those little bits get left behind where they’re not wanted, known in the trade as ‘residual lint’ but our research told us that they’re also known as ‘dingleberries’ – who knew?
Much research and experimentation have been carried out by manufacturers in their efforts to minimize the annoyance of residual lint by creating toilet paper which is soft yet strong enough to do its job and not break down in the process.
It’s impossible to think about the gigantic amounts of toilet paper which are manufactured each year globally without considering the environmental impact.
According to the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency, one tree produces about 100 pounds of toilet paper and about 83 million rolls are produced per day. Humans consume 27,000 trees daily to make toilet paper.
And the stats continue: the United States could save 470,000 trees, 1.2 million feet of cubic landfill space, and 169 million gallons of water if everyone in the US traded one roll of regular toilet paper for a recycled roll. That’s just for one roll. Imagine if we all made the permanent switch to recycled toilet paper!
So, stats like this make it clear that it’s unsustainable to continue using virgin trees for the ultimate ‘throw-away’ use. Recycled toilet paper has gained a good share of the market in recent years and other materials like bamboo, sugarcane waste and hemp are now becoming a popular alternative choice for the ethically-minded consumer.
There can’t be many manufactured products these days that don’t involve some kind of chemical additives to enhance their performance in some way. Toilet paper is no exception.
Chlorine bleach and formaldehyde are both used in the process, neither of which are kind to our environment and have been shown to have negative effects on human health, too. Scroll down to our section below for more information about the chemicals used in the production of toilet paper.
9 Best Toilet Papers Reviewed
1. Quilted Northern Ultra Plush
Best Rated Toilet Paper
This luxurious, quilted, 3-ply toilet paper from Northern is designed with your ultimate comfort and cleanliness in mind and claims to be the only premium toilet paper with 3 layers of tissue. The 4.3 stars on Amazon would suggest legions of very satisfied customers - placing it in our top position as the best-rated toilet paper.
The ‘supreme’ rolls boast 319 sheets per roll and a pack of 24 Supreme rolls is the equivalent to more than 92 Regular rolls, so you won’t need to re-order too often – one less thing on your long to-do list.
Although it’s made from virgin pulp, the fact that Quilted Northern toilet paper is Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certified will give you peace of mind if you have environmental concerns.
One word of caution, though… Some negative reviews are written by people who’ve had to pay for expensive call-outs to resolve blocked sewer lines would suggest that this toilet paper doesn’t break down so well. That may be a price you’re willing to pay for the luxurious softness it provides.
Although it is advertised as ‘septic-safe’ we wouldn’t recommend this product for septic systems based on these negative review comments.
2. Presto! Amazon Brand Mega Roll
Best Toilet Paper For Septic Systems
Amazon’s own-brand toilet paper Presto! combines strength and comfort at the same time as being septic-safe. The generous-sized roll (308 sheets) means it lasts well, so you don’t have to change the roll so often.
Better still, Presto! Ultra-Strong is certified by the PEFC, meaning that the pulp is sustainably sourced from managed forests and controlled sources.
Although it’s 2-ply rather than the more luxurious 3, reviewers really rate its comfort factor and claim it’s as good as some of the more up-market branded toilet paper and much more economical – win/win!
According to a review and ‘road test’ on smartfamilymoney.com, Presto! Ultra-Strong rated high for Strength, Dissolvability and Thickness.
This Amazon toilet paper is backed by their Happiness Guarantee – if you’re not happy with any Presto! products, Amazon will refund you. So you have nothing to lose by swapping this septic-safe toilet paper for your usual brand.
3. Seventh Generation Unbleached
Best Toilet Paper For Allergies And Sensitive Skin
Many people don’t realize that something as innocuous as toilet paper, something we use multiple times each day, contains chemicals and compounds which are known skin irritants and, even worse, cancer-causers.
If you’re sensitive to contact with such heavy-duty chemicals, then you’ll be looking for the best-unbleached toilet paper you can find. We think we have the solution to your problem with this hypoallergenic toilet paper from Seventh Generation.
This product is 100% unbleached and manufactured from a minimum of 80% post-consumer recycled paper. No dyes, fragrances or inks are added during the manufacture of this environmentally-friendly and skin-kind toilet paper.
To quote a review written by EllenN: ‘This toilet paper is a lifesaver! A member of my household is sensitive to the bleach in most toilet papers, so we use only Seventh Generation unbleached TP. We even pack it when we travel, to use in place of the toilet paper in hotels. I also appreciate that it is 100 percent recycled.’
If you’re concerned that you may need to sacrifice comfort, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how soft this recycled toilet paper feels. And at the same time, you can be confident that you’re ‘doing your bit’ by taking an active part in ensuring the continued cycle of fiber use.
4. Cottonelle Ultra ComfortCare Clean Ripple
Best Soft Toilet Paper
If you and your family rate toilet paper by its softness and the all-important comfort factor, then we think you’ll appreciate this Kimberly-Clark product. It’s highly-rated by reviewers on Amazon, scooping a very healthy 4.2 stars out of 5.
Those unique ripples are designed to improve the efficiency of the cleaning process and if all the positive reviews are anything to go by they do a great job. This soft toilet paper is nice and thick, too, in spite of being only 2-ply, so that saves a good number of trees.
Cottonelle Ultra is also strong. In fact, Cottonelle toilet paper claims to be 3 x stronger, 3 x thicker and 3 x more absorbent when compared to the leading national brand. There must be something in those claims to keep those positive reviews flooding in!
For example, a satisfied reviewer on the consumerreports.org website said: ‘I have been looking for good toilet paper for a while. Then I discovered Cottonelle ultra care. It is fabulous! Soft and it doesn't clog the toilet.
At first, I used too much because of other papers I had used but you don't need as much with Cottonelle. It is gift-giving worthy!’.
With 36 long-lasting rolls in this pack, you’ll find you won’t have to be re-ordering every five minutes and, let’s face it, there are few things less exciting than shopping for toilet paper.
5. Firebelly Outfitters RV
Best RV Toilet Paper
There are few things more likely to ruin a road trip in an RV (or a boat trip) than a blocked toilet. It’s understandable that whoever has to sort out the problem might feel that they got a bum deal.
So, it’s clear that the trick is to avoid blockages in the first place by making sure you use the best RV toilet paper (or the best marine toilet paper if you’re afloat).
There will be fewer blockages because it’s designed to break down efficiently. There’ll be cost savings too because the 100% biodegradable paper dissolves fast and more completely than standard bathroom tissue and you’ll need fewer of those expensive chemicals.
Firebelly specializes in camping and RV accessories, so they know a thing or two about the possible toilet problems for RV owners. They designed this toilet paper to help reduce the frequency of RV septic treatments, so reducing costs and chemicals, with the aim of making your sewer cleanout process much easier.
This product is also ideal for septic systems, camping toilets, portable potties, and marine holding tanks.
You end up using twice as much to get a decent piece of toilet paper to take care of business!! Even though this toilet paper is 2ply, it dissolved very quickly when we tested it in a bucket of water. No more thin, scratchy toilet paper for these Happy Campers! This will be our choice in toilet paper from here on out!
It’s worth bearing in mind that this product is backed by Firebelly’s guarantee of a full refund if you’re not 100% satisfied. What have you got to lose? Give this product a try and find out for yourself if it really is the best RV toilet paper on the market.
6. Scott Rapid-Dissolving
Best Dissolving Toilet Paper
Made especially for RVs and boats, but also a great choice for septic systems, this toilet paper is designed to minimize the chances of clogged lines. This product is specially formulated to break down easily but at the same time, it’s tough enough for efficient wiping without falling apart.
Some similar products have a tendency in our experience to start breaking down as soon as they come off the roll – a messy business indeed!
Another plus point for this soft and absorbent toilet paper is that it’s skin-kind for those who are prone to chafing or have sensitive skin. And the final tick in the box is that it’s FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified, giving you peace of mind that it’s sustainably sourced.
7. Charmin Ultra Strong Clean Touch
Best Strong Clean Toilet Paper
If you’re looking for a toilet paper that is soft, absorbent, strong and goes on and on, then we think you and your family will love Charmin Ultra Strong Family Mega toilet paper.
Each long-lasting Family Mega roll boasts a whopping 385 sheets of 2-ply toilet paper with a design based on a washcloth to get the best possible clean. If you’re looking for the best deal on toilet paper, this could be it.
This toilet paper is clog-safe and septic-safe and it’s been tested by Roto-Rooter plumbers in their own homes to test just how well it breaks down. Charmin claims that their toilet paper is used by more residential plumbers than any other brand and that has to be a great recommendation.
Although the product is made using virgin pulp, Charmin guarantee that at least one tree is planted for every responsibly-sourced tree which is used. If you need further environmental assurance, the product is also Rainforest Alliance Certified.
8. Silk’n Soft Bamboo
Best Bamboo Toilet Paper
If like a growing numbers of ethically-aware consumers, you’re concerned about the environmental impact of regular toilet paper and the presence of BPA in recycled toilet paper, then one of the best alternative options is to use bamboo toilet paper.
As Nicole Caldwell on the greenmatters.com site wrote: ‘move over, recycled tp: bamboo is here to save your behind one wipe at a time’. The problem with eco-alternatives is that they often don’t actually work as well as the product they’re replacing.
None of those worries with this tree-free toilet paper from the True Earth Paper Company. In fact, it may even perform better because this toilet paper is 3-ply – usually a feature of premium toilet paper brands - giving it extra strength and it’s super-soft, too.
Bamboo really is the ideal alternative to using wood pulp from trees because it’s the fastest growing, renewable and sustainable plant on the planet. Bamboo toilet paper is preferable to recycled toilet paper because of the heavy-duty chemicals used in the manufacturing process.
This environmentally-friendly bamboo toilet paper is 100% biodegradable, so it’s ideal for septic, RV and marine use. It’s also fragrance-free and BPA free, so it’s a great choice for those with sensitive skin.
9. Seventh Generation 100% Recycled
Best Recycled Toilet Paper
The environmental problems facing our planet get more and more attention and become ever more pressing each year. Many consumers are making a positive ethical choice and turning away from toilet paper made from virgin wood pulp.
They feel it’s unsustainable and not planet-friendly to sacrifice so many trees for the ultimate in single-use paper products.
The problem is that the recycled alternatives often aren’t that great, making the ‘green’ choice that bit more difficult and often unpopular with family members in our experience. Not so with this extra-strong, soft, 2-ply toilet paper from Seventh Generation.
They’ve managed to create a product which feels less like an environmental statement and more like, well, regular toilet paper!
Better yet, it’s made without using the chlorine bleach that’s usually part and parcel of the manufacturing process for recycled toilet paper. If you’re not aware of the problems that chlorine bleach can cause, you can find out more here.
And there are no added dyes, inks or fragrances used either. Those are all big ticks in the environmental box but they also make this toilet paper ideal for septic systems, RVs and for marine use.
How Is Toilet Paper Made?
New Pulp Paper
Toilet paper is generally made using a combination of softwood and hardwood trees (a combination of approximately 70% hardwood and 30% softwood) from so-called ‘virgin’ pulp. After debarking, the logs are chipped and then ‘cooked’ in a vast pressure cooker for about 3 hours.
Evaporation of the moisture is the next stage, resulting in a usable fiber pulp. The pulp is washed to remove a component called lignin (which would turn the paper yellow if not removed) and then bleached.
At this point, the pulp is mixed with a large quantity of water (0.5% fiber to 99.5% water) to produce ‘paper stock’ which is drained on mesh screens, pressed and dried. The dry paper is wound onto huge reels, cut, embossed and perforated. Finally, it’s cut into rolls and wrapped ready for sale.
But we think it’s always more fun to show than to tell, so why not take a look at this clip, which will show you how it’s done.
Recycled Toilet Paper
Large bales of recycled paper are mixed with lukewarm water and reduced to a pulp. The residual ink is removed by injecting the pulp with air that makes the ink rise to the top in a foam. The foam is skimmed off, leaving ink-free pulp.
Great rollers squeeze out the water and bleaching agents are added to produce pure white pulp. The rest of the paper-making process is the same as for toilet paper made from virgin pulp.
The Bottom Line on Bamboo
When you consider bamboo’s reputation as the world’s fastest growing plant, it’s hardly surprising that it’s highly renewable and sustainable.
Bamboo grows at an eye-popping rate - 30 times faster than trees. It can grow up to a meter a day, and it can be harvested every year, as opposed to trees which take a minimum of 30 years to reach maturity, with hardwoods taking a good while longer than that.
It’s 100% bio-degradable and there are no harsh chemicals like BPA or de-inking agents used in the manufacturing process.
What’s more, bamboo produces 35% more oxygen and absorbs 35% more carbon than trees. Bamboo’s eco-credentials are impressive, for sure. If we’ve spiked your interest, you can find out more facts about bamboo here.
What Chemicals are on Toilet Tissue?
If the idea of chemicals coming into contact with your sensitive nether regions multiple times per day disturbs you, then be sure to check the labels. Here’s a brief labeling guide to some of the nasties lurking within, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic.
Label: PCF or ECF
Acronyms for the bleach derivatives related to the bleaching of the paper. Processed Chlorine-Free (PCF) appears on recycled toilet paper packaging, indicating that no bleach was used in the manufacture (it may, however, have been used at an earlier stage in the process).
Elemental Chlorine-Free (ECF) indicates chlorine dioxide was used rather than the more dangerous elemental chlorine (actually phased out in 2001 after links with cancer were identified).
Label: Recycled or Post-Consumer Recycled
The fact that the product is recycled indicates that BPA (Bisphenol A) is present since the recycled paper is a mixture of all types of paper including such things as receipts and luggage labels that typically contain BPA.
The level of concentration in toilet paper is tiny – it amounts to about 2% of one person’s typical daily exposure to BPA. In reality, you’re typically likely to have far more daily exposure to BPA from handling plastic containers and other household items than from toilet paper.
Label: With Lotion
Indicates petroleum-based mineral oil is present. This may not present any particular health concerns but anecdotal evidence from reviews online complained of ‘burning’ when they used toilet paper infused with Vitamin E and aloe (in petroleum-based mineral oil and paraffin-based coating).
If you are particularly sensitive, then our advice would be to avoid these ‘infused’ toilet papers.
Label: Ultra Strong
Likely to contain formaldehyde, typically added to toilet paper to improve its wet strength. Formaldehyde is a known skin irritant (linked in a 2010 study to chronic irritation of the vulva) and its links to cancer have been proven.
Perhaps it’s best to avoid toilet paper which claims to be ultra-strong if you’re keen to avoid contact with this aggressive chemical.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is toilet paper made of?
Toilet paper is most commonly made from wood pulp. However, increasing quantities of recycled paper are now used in an attempt to address environmental concerns about the use of virgin wood pulp.
The heavy-duty chemicals needed to create toilet paper from recycled material have also come under the spotlight, which has led to the development of other sources.
Use of bamboo, sugarcane, and hemp to make toilet paper is now gaining popularity since the carbon footprint of these materials is lower and fewer chemicals are needed in the manufacturing process.
Is Bamboo toilet paper biodegradable?
Yes, bamboo is 100% biodegradable. It doesn’t contain any bleach or dyes, so it’s the perfect toilet tissue to use in septic systems, boats, RVs, etc. It will dissolve naturally and won’t clog up your pipes or your tank.
Is toilet paper bad for septic systems?
The thicker and more chemically-treated the toilet paper, the less septic-friendly it’s likely to be. Always check the label to see that toilet paper you choose is septic-safe. It’s a fact of life with septic systems that you may need to sacrifice a little luxury and that’s never truer than with your choice of toilet paper.
That said, if you make the wrong choice, it will be expensive for you because you’ll have to have your system pumped more often.
How long does a roll of toilet paper last?
Ah…the ultimate how-long-is-a-piece-of-string question. This all depends on how thrifty you are in using it; that is, whether you use 3-4 sheets on each occasion or if it’s more like 15.
Some rolls are longer than others but it’s a no-brainer that it will last longer if you use less – it will also be kinder to your hard-working drains and your pocket.
How long does toilet paper take to decompose?
This depends on the quality and type of toilet paper and how much it’s moved around – the more movement, the faster the decomposition. The fastest and best from a drainage management perspective is recycled toilet paper because its short fibers break down completely and relatively quickly.
What to do if too much toilet paper clogs the toilet?
There’s often one family member – or, worse still, a visitor! – who’s a little heavy-handed with their use of toilet paper which leads to the inevitable blockage. Someone has to deal with it and it’s always you, right?
No one wants a bum deal when it comes to toilet paper and ultimately it’s a very ‘personal’ matter. Each and every one of us has our own idea of what makes the ultimate toilet paper. It’s actually surprising how an unsatisfactory experience in the bathroom can impact one’s mood!
The bottom line, though, seems to be softness, strength, absorbency, and economy – not necessarily in that order – and, for some, it’s important to tick the environmental box, too, even if that means sacrificing all of the above.
If we had to make a choice between the 9 top picks reviewed above and name the best toilet paper, we reckon that Charmin Ultra Strong Clean Touch Toilet Paper has the edge. From its mega-sized rolls to its quilted softness, it seems to offer what most of us are looking for in this household essential.
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