HAPPY NATIONAL TOILET PAPER DAY! Join us as we celebrate the amazing rolls of paper we rub our nether regions with! Today we’re celebrating with friend, sister and toilet paper user Amy Cowan (aacowan.com / Twitter: @aacowan / Instagram: aacowan)!! LET’S PARTY!!

Show Notes

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History + fun facts about the holiday

  • “Toilet paper is a tissue paper product people primarily use to clean the anus and surrounding area of fecal material after defecation and to clean the perineal area of urine and other bodily fluid releases. It also acts as a layer of protection for the hands during these processes.” –Wikipedia
    • According to WordHippo, other names for toilet paper include: toilet tissue, TP, bum wad, loo paper, loo roll, bog paper, or bog roll
    • According to Urban Thesaurus, additional synonyms include: shit ticket, ass polish, geneva convention, US constitution, bill of rights, certificate of deposit, bung fodder, bum fodder, poop eraser, manpon, rectum ribbon, moon squares, moon tape, bowel towels, poop mittens, clint eastwood paper, poo or poop tickets, dookie tickets, parachute, mountain money, shistapape, dunny roll, shatner, hole roll, yugio cards, moon floss, daily mail, alpha whiskey, ghetto kleenex, and butt scroll
      • Among many, many, many other terms with definitions adjacent to toilet paper but not direct slang terms for it
    • Most modern toilet paper in the developed world is designed to decompose in septic tanks
    • Toilet paper comes in various numbers of plies, or layers of thickness, from 1- to 6-ply, with more back-to-back plies providing greater strength and absorbency
    • Toilet paper products can vary greatly in the distinguishing technical factors, such as size, weight, roughness, softness, chemical residues, “finger-breakthrough” resistance, and water-absorption
    • Quality is usually determined by the number of plies, coarseness, and durability. Low grade institutional toilet paper is typically of the lowest grade of paper, has only one or two plies, is very coarse and sometimes contains small amounts of embedded unbleached/unpulped paper. Mid-grade two ply is somewhat textured to provide some softness and is somewhat stronger. Premium toilet paper may have lotion and wax and has 2-4 plies of very finely pulped paper. If it’s marketed as “luxury”, it may be quilted or rippled, perfumed, colored or patterned, medicated, or treated with aloe
    • In order to advance decomposition of the paper in septic tanks or drainage, the paper used has shorter fibers than facial tissue or writing paper. Manufacturers try to reach an optimal balance between rapid decomposition (which requires shorter fibers) and sturdiness (which requires longer fibers)
    • Another use for toilet paper is toilegami, which refers to a common practice by hotels to fold the first sheet of a toilet paper roll to indicate to guests that the room has been cleaned
      • The practice has been considered an emblematic example of a meme copied across the world from one hotel to another to the point that most of them now do it
    • There are recreational uses for toilet paper such as “TP-ing”, which is the act of throwing rolls of toilet paper over cars, trees, houses, and gardens, causing the toilet paper to unfurl and cover the property, creating an inconvenient mess
      • Children and cats may take to unrolling an entire roll of toilet paper by spinning it until it completely unravels on the floor, or as a game by children wadding up one end, putting it in the toilet bowl without tearing it and then using the flushing of the toilet to pull new paper into the toilet with the objective of flushing the entire roll down the toilet section at a time without the toilet paper breaking
      • Toilet paper pranks include musical toilet paper holders and inserts that are activated by the unrolling of the toilet paper and will loudly play an embarrassing song, calling attention to the person defecating
      • Other gags include custom toilet paper printed with jokes, stories, or politicians’ images
  • From toiletpaperhistory.net, wrapping and padding material known as paper was invented in China in the 2nd century BC, and there are “many evidences” that confirm that they used that paper like toilet paper as well.
    • The first modern toilet paper was created in 1391 for the Chinese Emperor family, and each sheet of toilet paper was perfumed.
    • It wasn’t until the late 15th century that paper became widely available, though mass manufacturing of modern toilet paper didn’t begin until the late 19th century
    • Prior to toilet paper, wealthy people would use wool, lace, or hemp to wipe, while poorer people would often use their hand when defecating into rivers, or cleaned themselves with materials such as rags, wood shavings, leaves, grass, hay, stones, sand, moss, water, snow, ferns, plant husks, fruit skins, seashells, or corncobs
    • In Ancient Rome, a sponge on a stick was a popular option. The tool would be placed into a pail of vinegar or heavily salted seawater after use
    • Other sources indicate that ancient Jewish practice included the use of small pebbles that would be carried in a special bag, as well as the use of dry grass or the smooth edges of broken pottery jugs
    • In 1857, Joseph C. Gayetty created the first commercially available toilet paper, which were comprised of loose, flat sheets of paper medicated with aloe. It was dubbed “Gayetty’s Medicated Paper,” with Joseph Gayetty’s name printed on every sheet. Sadly, this invention ultimately failed.
    • In 1879, the Scott brothers founded the Scott Paper Company, which offered the first toilet paper sold in rolls. However, they struggled to get the public to openly buy the product because Americans were so embarrassed by bodily functions. In fact, the Scott brothers were so ashamed of the nature of their work that they didn’t take proper credit for it until 1902
    • In 1871, Zeth Wheeler patented rolled and perforated toilet paper, and began selling the paper in 1897
    • By the end of the 19th century, more homes were being built with sit-down flush toilets attached to indoor plumbing systems. Because people required a product that could be flushed away with minimal damage to the pipes, widespread acceptance of toilet paper finally took hold
    • In 1935, Northern Tissue invented splinter free toilet paper
    • It was popular in the 1960s to buy colored toilet paper to match or complement the colors of one’s bathroom. Colors included pink, lavender, light blue, light green, darker green, purple, and light yellow. US manufacturers fully discontinued color paper lines in 2004, though colored paper remains commonly available in some European countries
    • In 1973, Johnny Carson allegedly created a toilet paper shortage in the US after a joke he told on The Tonight Show. 
      • From Snopes, which lists the rumor as a “mixture” of fact and fiction: “In December 1973, Carson made a joke during his opening monologue of The Tonight Show about an upcoming toilet paper shortage. While Carson was not the first to comment on the situation, [he] was blamed for causing a nationwide toilet paper shopping spree.”
      • 1973 was a rough year economically for Americans. In the beginning of the year, the stock market crashed and lost over 45% of its value. In October, an Arab oil embargo saw gas prices rise from $3/barrel to nearly $12/barrel 
        • After inflation, that equates to a rise from about $17/barrel to about $69/barrel (for reference, our prices today appear to range from $55-65/barrel)
        • The US experienced a period of economic stagnation that it hadn’t seen since the Great Depression
        • As a result, gas, electricity, and onions were heavily reported to be in limited supply, and Americans cultivated a “shortage psychology.”
        • The toilet paper shortage started with an unsubstantiated rumor in November 1973 with several news agencies reporting a tissue shortage in Japan. A republican congressman in Wisconsin, Harold V. Froelich, then released a series of press releases stating that “the US may face a serious shortage of toilet paper within a few months…we hope we don’t have to ration toilet tissue…a toilet paper shortage is no laughing matter. It is a problem that will potentially touch every American.”
        • The media took this and ran with it, setting the ground for a consumer panic. Johnny Carson’s reference to the shortage on his shown is oft-cited as the spark that ignited the legitimate shortage that followed. He said, “You know, we’ve got all sorts of shortages these days. But have you heard the latest? I’m not kidding. I saw it in the papers. There’s a shortage of toilet paper!”
        • Millions of Americans went on toilet paper shopping sprees, leading to some store owners setting limits on two rolls per customer. Some creative thinkers requested toilet paper as gifts to their baby showers.
        • The shortage last for four months. Toilet paper was bartered and traded, and a black market even emerged before the panic subsided in February of 1974
        • Carson issued a serious apology on his talk show, saying, “I don’t want to be remembered as the man who created a false toilet paper scare. I just picked up the item from the paper and enlarged it somewhat…there is no shortage.”
    • In 2015, Venezuela faced a similar crisis. Reports surfaced that the country’s government’s price controls may lead to a lack of toilet paper, the citizens panicked and induced their own shortage.
      • The situation got so out of hand that President Jorge Arreaza occupied a toilet paper factory, and issued this statement: “[We] will not allow hoarding or failures in the production and distribution of essential commodities. There is no deficiency in production.”
    • Wet wipes were first introduced in the UK in the 1990s. It was promoted as a flushable product but it has since been implicated in the creation of fatbergs (a congealed mass in a sewer system formed by the combination of non-biodegradable solid matter, such as wet wipes, and congealed grease or cooking fat
      • Since 2013, there have been a number of notable fatbergs that have been discovered and extricated from sewers in Great Britain, Australia, and the US
      • In September 2017, a fatberg of congealed fat, wet wipes, and waste was discovered under the streets in Baltimore, Maryland that caused the spillage of 1.2 million US gallons of sewage into Jones Falls
      • In February 2019, the largest fatberg in UK history, so far, was discovered in a sewer at Birchall Street in Liverpool. It weighed 400 tons and was 250 meters long. As of recording, it is still in the process of being removed, as it is proving to be difficult to break down using conventional tools and equipment
    • In many parts of the world, especially where toilet paper or the necessary plumbing for disposal are unavailable or unaffordable, toilet paper is not used. Many people also consider using water as much cleaner and more sanitary practice than using paper. Cleansing may then be done with other methods or materials, such as a bidet, a lota (a small water vessel made from brass, copper, or plastic used in parts of South Asia), rags, sand, leaves, corn cobs, animal furs, sticks, or hands
  • History of the holiday
    • It was tough to pin down the inaugural Toilet Paper Day, but I did manage to find a mention of it in an article from 2010 on theyearoflivingunofficially.com
    • The date was chosen to commemorate the first time toilet paper was ever sold on a roll, August 26, 1871
  • Fun facts and anecdotes!
    • More than 7 billion rolls of toilet paper are sold yearly in the US. Americans use an average of 23.6 rolls per capita per year
    • The average American uses 50 lbs of tissue paper per year, which is 50% more than the average person of other Western countries or Japan. This may be explained by the fact that people in other countries use bidets or hoses to clean themselves
    • Americans use an average of 8.6 sheets of toilet paper each time they go to the restroom
    • One tree produces about 200 rolls of toilet paper and about 83 million rolls are produced per day
    • Global toilet paper production consumes 27k trees daily
    • Millions of trees are harvested in North and South America leaving ecological footprint concerns
    • It takes 37 gallons of water to make a single roll of toilet paper
    • Friction from toilet paper contributes to and exacerbates the 23 million annual cases of hemorrhoids, UTIs, and anal fissures
    • During Desert Storm, the US Army used toilet paper to camouflage its tanks–this is a fact I found listed in several places, but I wasn’t able to find anything to corroborate it or to explicate what that looked like
    • About 4 billion people in the world do not use toilet paper
    • An average of 666 rolls are used every day in the Pentagon
    • 7% of Americans admit to stealing toilet paper rolls from hotels
    • When asked what they’d bring if they were stuck on a deserted island, 49% of people said they’d bring TP before food
    • Renova is the most expensive brand of toilet paper in the world. From Portugal, the paper is three-ply, perfumed, available in red, black, blue, and green, and is apparently a favorite among celebrities like Beyonce and Kris Jenner. It’s about $15 for a 6-roll pack
    • On the International Space Station, they still use regular toilet paper but it has to be sealed in special containers and compressed
    • Women tend to wad paper, while men tend to fold. Women wipe from front to back, and men just wipe however they want to
    • From a 2016 AskReddit thread, titled “What is your ‘there’s no toilet paper’ horror story?”, here are some of the better answers
      • “I’m Venezuelan… Do I have to say more?”
      • “Every time I have a ‘there’s no toilet paper’ situation I turn it into “I need a replacement pair of socks’ situation.”
      • “Got food poisoning while staying on a friend’s couch. In the middle of the night I went to the bathroom about to burst from both ends. There was no toilet paper, so I searched for about 15 minutes everywhere in the house for any paper product. There wasn’t anything. I was really sweating at this point because I just couldn’t hold it anymore. I ended up grabbing some old wrestling magazines printed on newspaper that my friend had lying around (she’s a hipster) and using that. It wouldn’t flush, so after I was done, I had to fish it out of the toilet and throw it out.”
      • “One day, when I was a kid, I had to take a huge shit at little league practice. Of course, we were at a baseball field with not a single restroom around. So I went behind the dugout and took the biggest shit a 6 year old has ever taken. Obviously, there wasn’t any TP. So I tried using grass, to no avail. At the end of practice, everyone was checking their shoes to make sure they hadn’t stepped in any dog shit. And as you would guess, it was me they were smelling.”
    • In July 2019, a man was caught on camera stealing toilet paper from a Fresh Value Marketplace in Trussville, Alabama. The toilet paper was on pallets on the sidewalk by the store, and a man in a hat, white wifebeater, and jeans, smoothly steals four packs of toilet paper and yeets out of there
    • In 2006, a town employee in the Bavarian village of Fuchstal accidentally ordered two truckloads of toilet paper. When the first vehicle rolled up to the small town of 4k people, the authorities realized the mistake and managed to cancel the second truck, but the village was left with the logistical problem of storing the paper
      • Officials set up a four-person team to distribute the toilet paper in several public buildings, filling the attic of the local storage building as well as all available closets and cabinets in local schools, the town hall, and the firehouse. 
      • Ordinary citizens showed little interest in the paper, as it turned out to be a gray, single-ply brand that tended to yellow and grow brittle under prolonged exposure to sunlight
      • It took the village 12 years to get through all of the toilet paper, with the last roll used in March 2019
      • There was an upside–the town saved over $1,130 because the price of wood went up the following year, which lead to higher prices for toilet paper
      • The village has already placed its next large order of toilet paper, however the paper this time would be white, two-ply, and not delivered all at once
    • In 2017, German non-profit Goldeimer took to pulping Nazi federal election pamphlets and turning it into toilet paper, as well as any other material the group deemed hateful, as part of a “hate is for assholes” campaign
      • They’re quoted as saying, “In Germany, hatred has once again taken hold of the political climate. This is somewhat unfortunate. That is why Goldeimer is calling for a hate-free campaign. Up until the federal election, all campaign material that incites hatred and causes hurt will be taken out of circulation. Afterwards, from the crude slogans, we will make a velvety-soft special edition toilet paper.”
      • All money raised was donated to the CURA organization, which aids victims of right-wing violence
      • The paper, dubbed “Shitty Paper-Made from hate”, sold out in less than 24 hours

Activities to celebrate

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  • From checkiday.com, you can celebrate the day by going to the bathroom and using toilet paper! 
    • If you are feeling creative, you can try your hand at “toilegami”
      • I included a link to an article on origami-resource-center.com that has diagrams for various forms of the practice
    • If you are feeling a little mischievous, you could go “TP-ing”
    • There is a constant debate on how to hang toilet paper on a roll. Should the part that is torn off hang under or over the roll? In past polls, “over” has a slight advantage, but the debate rolls on. You could take your own poll with coworkers and friends. You could also pay attention to how the roll is oriented in the bathrooms you visit today
    • Visit a store and check out all the types of toilet paper they have. There probably is everything from cheap one-to-two ply sheet paper, to four or more ply sheeted premium toilet paper
    • This is an excellent day to treat yourself to a package of the best toilet paper you can find
    • If you want to read up more on toilet paper, you can check out the Toilet Paper Encyclopedia (except that that domain name is no longer attached to anything)
  • Use hashtags #NationalToiletPaperDay and #ToiletPaperDay on social media
  • From cleanitsupply.com
    • Buy your toilet paper in bulk so that your chances of running out are significantly reduced
    • Sign up for automatic delivery of your toilet paper and have an almost endless supply
    • Forget the auto delivery or bulk purchases and buy the world’s largest roll of toilet paper! Which can be found at the Ripley’s museum in Branson, Missouri. The roll is 10 feet high and 8.5 feet across, weighs two tons, and contains a million square feet of “squeezeably soft toilet paper.” It is said that it would last a person for 1900 years. The roll was allegedly created to commemorate Toilet Paper Day
    • You could also consider getting the world’s most expensive single  roll of toilet paper, made from 24 carat gold that is said to be a safe and usable “quality three-ply toilet paper. As you use the toilet paper 24 carat gold flakes will fall onto the floor and your behind taking you to another level of sophistication.” The cost is a measly $1.3M for a single roll that will come to you gift wrapped and hand delivered with a bottle of champagne
    • You can use toilet paper for wiping or blowing your nose, cleaning your bathroom mirror, wiping up small spills, cleaning eyeglasses, removing makeup, as a cover for toilet seats in public restrooms, drying your hands in lieu of paper towels or a hand dryer, or as protection for your hands when grabbing the germy restroom door handle to exit
    • You could also celebrate by making a craft with or without the kids
    • Google “toilet paper crafts” and you won’t believe how many websites pop up. CountryLiving.com will show you how to make a bird feeder or an advent calendar with empty toilet paper rolls. 
    • DoSmallThingsWithLove.com has a mini Beaker from the Muppets that younger kids will adore. 
    • With Halloween just around the corner, visit CraftingAGreenWorld.com for bat decorations or directions for making homemade napkin rings for your daughters’ next tea party. 
    • If you happen to have a large amount of empty toilet paper rolls, get organized with a desk caddy that will hold writing utensils and so much more on RedTedArt.com
    • Why not use National Toilet Paper Day as an excuse to make something really special outside of the bathroom?


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