Toilet paper is used every day by most people in America. Understandably, it isn’t something that we tend to talk about.
But, as with almost anything, when you start to think about it you realize that it is really interesting.
Here are ten of the most unusual and fun facts about toilet paper – and there’s a poll at the end so you can join in!
1. Who Invented Toilet Paper?
Well, it was the Chinese who invented paper so it is little surprise to discover that they were the first to use it in their personal hygiene practices.
The earliest recorded use of paper as a toiletry comes from China in the sixth century AD but it only became really popular from the fourteenth century when the Imperial Court of the Ming Dynasty started having it manufactured for the purpose.
In 1393 the Court ordered no fewer than 720, 000 sheets to be made to keep the royal seat clean. The astonishing thing is that each sheet measured the equivalent of 60 cm by 90 cm. That’s nearly 26,000 square miles of paper!
The Emperor Hong Wu was particularly delicate in his habits and ordered 15, 000 sheets to be made especially soft and perfumed for his personal use.
2. So What Did Folks Use Before Toilet Paper?
Well, what you used for your personal bathroom needs before the invention of toilet paper depended to some degree on your social status and your geographical location.
If you were wealthy then you might use wool, or a soft – and washable – rag. The Ancient Romans used sponges on sticks and then soaked in water.
If you were not so well off, then the most common thing to do was simply to grab a fistful of grass, leaves or straw to do what needed to be done.
In some parts of the world, going to the toilet always meant just going to the nearest river or stream and letting the current carry the waste away. Any wiping was done just by hand. That is why in India and some parts of the Middle East it is considered offensive to eat or pass food at table with your left hand – because that’s the one that you would use in the river.
In many European countries today, the use of toilet paper is considered dirty and unhygienic. In these countries the most common practice is a thorough, soapy wash and rinse afterwards using a ‘bidet.’ This is a sort of low basin with hot water tap and soap that you sit on and is usually placed next to the toilet for convenience.
3. How Many Sheets on a Roll of Toilet Paper?
In fact, the number of sheets on a roll varies depending on the manufacturer and the type of paper being used. It also depends on if it is one-ply or two-ply.
One-ply has a single layer of paper per sheet. Two-ply has a double layer for added strength and softness.
The average number of sheets per roll can vary enormously from as few as two hundred up to a thousand. In general, there will be more sheets if it is one-ply and fewer if it is two-ply.
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4. Toilet Paper Wedding Dress
This was a surprise to me!
There have actually been hundreds of wedding dresses made out of toilet paper – and many of them have really been worn to actual weddings.
It turns out that toilet paper can be a very adaptable and resilient material with special qualities that make it an interesting challenge for dressmakers to use.
There is even an annual competition in New York for the best wedding dress made from toilet paper. The prize is a lot of publicity for the designer and $2000.
5. Toilet Paper in Space
It may not be something that you thought about before but even astronauts need the bathroom.
The toilets that they use are different to earth toilets because there is only a very small pull of gravity (known as microgravity) and so a special vacuum and suction device is used for disposal of the voided matter. But toilet paper is still the wipe of choice for American astronauts when using the facilities in The International Space Station.
The paper is disposed of in special, sealed containers where it is compressed and destroyed on return to earth.
The End of the Roll…
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