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Unraveling the great toilet paper controversy

By Paul Viau | Mar 22, 2017
Photo by: File photo PATENTLY OBVIOUS — The inventor of the toilet paper dispenser thought over is better than under

There is a delicate subject I have wanted to write about for years now — toilet paper.

This essential part of the bathroom experience is so sensitive, that I am wiping my writing schedule clean to give it a thorough, but Charmin-soft explanation.

Let’s begin with a few things about TP we all can agree on — white is better than color, thick is better than thin and softer is always better. Ultra-soft, pillow soft and quilted are a bit much — even if you have the most sensitive tush.

Many features of modern toilet paper are simply marketing techniques — like scented and printed toilet paper. And if I’m on a roll (which averages 333 sheets) there is no such thing as flavored toilet paper — at least not yet.

Historically speaking, toilet paper is a relatively new aspect personal hygiene.

Did you know?  The Chinese invented the paper making process in the 2nd Century A.D. and put it to ‘the most personal of uses, as early as the 6th Century A.D.

In 1391 A.D., the first modern ‘toilet paper’ was made for the Chinese Emperor and his family, and it was in sheet form and perfumed.

It wasn’t until the late 15th century that paper became readily available throughout the world, and thanks to journalism, newspaper quickly became the favorite ‘read’ in the bathroom.

What did people use for personal hygiene before paper, you might ask? That varies greatly, depending on such factors as country, social conditions, cultural influence, status — and even the weather.

Common precursors of TP include: grass, leaves, ferns, moss, water, snow, seashells (Ouch), fruit skins and the southern favorite (ever since Sears & Roebuck quit printing catalog) — corn cobs.

Many cultures rely on the tools God gave them — their hand (which should always be the left hand.)

The wealthy, on the other hand (or either hand) used wool, hemp or lace. The Romans — widely considered the cleanest culture — used a sponge on the end of a stick, often soaked in rose water.

Raising the bar, the French invented the bidet and have been hands-free ever since.

We Americans have long favored roll-type toilet paper, but there is a long-standing debate on whether the toilet paper roll should flow over the center core, or under.

For me, the answer is as simple as baseball vs. softball.

For the most part, men play baseball — where the players hurl the ball overhand. Some women favor softball, where they pitch underhand — at incredible speeds — but still underhand.

True to her gender, my first wife placed the toilet paper rolls so that new sheets flowed from underneath. I would always reverse it.

Wonderful wife #2, gets it. She loads toilet paper rolls so that sheets flow from the top, billowing gently so you can easily see how many sheets are in the que.

Am I making a big deal about something trivial? Of course, I am. That’s what advertising people do.

Thankfully, I have proof that the inventor of the toilet paper dispenser, S. Wheeler, envisioned an overhand flow for the paper in his patent drawings, dated 1891.

Can you put the roll in the dispenser facing the other way? — Of course. But there’s one other important consideration, especially for pet owners.

When dogs and cats unravel the toilet paper, which the will do from time to time, it’s much easier to roll it back when it’s an overhand feed.

To wrap up this trivial column, I appeal to my readers to consider that over is better than under.