Saturday, September 16, 2023

The Great Toilet-Paper Panic

The Covid-19 run on toilet paper in 2020 happened because everyone went home to work, and bought and used more of the high-grade consumer toilet paper. That stuff is manufactured by an entirely different production scheme from the thin industrial grade paper that workplaces use, so the shortage happened only in the good quality toilet paper produced for people who are paying for their own.

There was another run on consumer toilet paper in 1973, caused more by the fear of a shortage than a real need, although it was exacerbated by hoarding, just like in 2020. This is the perfect example of a self-fulfilling prophesy. Some notes for younger folks: back then, every night owl watched The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson because we only had three channels and it was the only late night comedy/talk/variety show. Shopping bags were all made of paper. Mrs. Olson was the fictional spokesperson for Folgers coffee. (Thanks, WTM!)

On a tangential note, it's amazing how little toilet paper you use after the kids grow up and move out. My house has three bathrooms, and I like to keep them all reasonably stocked with paper. But I only use one bathroom. I recently ran low and went to the half-bath to get toilet paper, and realized that the stock in there was very different. The rolls were several years old and much bigger, both in length and width. A perfect illustration of the grocery shrink-ray.


gwdMaine said...

I remember a time when there was so much toilet paper people would string it up in the trees of their enemies. Anyway, if you think about it, anything can be toilet paper if you're brave enough.

DJ said...

I had to replace my toilet paper holder a few years ago because the rolls are now 3/4 inch narrower and the rolls won't stay on the holder. So much for standardization.

Bicycle Bill said...

DJ, you should have been able to merely replace the spindle on the holder rather than replace the whole holder.  
As for why the core is now smaller in diameter, I assume it's to allow the manufacturers to make 'double' and 'triple'-roll paper – or rolls with the thicker,'quilted' paper – without making the roll grossly larger in overall diameter, which would thereby fail to fit some of the old semi-recessed or enclosed toilet paper roll holders.
Just as an aside, this is the one I use.


WTM said...

The TP shortage of 2020 caused me to try a portable bidet, which works very well and I now use it in preference to TP. A large pack of TP (Costco-brand) will last me at least 5 years now.

Bonus Historical Oddity:
Everyone thinks that 'TP' stands for toilet paper, which it does today, but that is merely coincidental. Back in the days of yore, when toilet paper first became commercially available, it was referred to as comfort tissue, was sold only in drug stores, and came in two-packs. In those same days of yore, people would not call a pregnant woman pregnant; she was referred to as 'expecting' or 'with child'. The same morality/mentality caused extreme embarrassment when buying such a 'sensitive' product in public, so the buyer would just tell the clerk, inquiring as to what was wanted, 'Two, Please', and the clerks quickly came to learn that as socially-acceptable code for comfort tissue. 'Two, Please' of course quickly became TP, and the rest is scatological history.

chich said...

I once saw an article that said 'splinter free' TP wasn't available until sometime in the 30's. They were tougher back then :P

DJ said...

Bicycle Bill: No spindle on my old holder, it gripped the roll from each end. And the tubes are not getting smaller in diameter, the roll itself is narrower.