Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Toilet Paper

A couple of years ago, China surpassed the U.S. as the world’s leading producer of paper. Even though paper is generally thought to have been invented in China, the country’s meteoric ascent in the forest products industry has been nothing short of astonishing. China now produces in less than a month what Wisconsin (the leading U.S. state in paper manufacturing) produces in a year.

I once worked in a Fortune 500 paper mill that made toilet paper. Actually, we didn’t call it toilet paper. We referred to it as “bath tissue.” Also, we didn’t use words like feces or excrement or stool. Don’t ask me why, but the term the corporation used for poo was “insult.”

Our mill produced tons of toilet paper per day. Every day, three shifts, around the clock, 360 days a year. The only “down days” were: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Labor Day, Day after Labor Day and Fourth of July. Surprisingly, civilians seemed quite curious about the operation. Here are the answers to the five most common questions.

When was toilet paper invented?

While there is no hard evidence to support it, toilet paper is thought to have been invented in 14th century China, exclusively for the use of the royal family. Prior to the introduction of toilet paper, people got the job done by using water, fabric, animal hides, grass, leaves, tree bark, polished stones, etc. Toilet paper was first produced in the U.S. in 1857.

How is it made?

It’s made like any other base tissue sheet. It begins as a slurry—a mix of water and pulp (the preferred furnish is eucalyptus, due to its long fibers and high oil content)—that is metered onto a wire, then a felt, then onto a dryer, then scraped off and wound into “hardrolls.” These are trucked to machines that rewind them into “softrolls,” which eventually get rewound into “logs,” which are sent through a log-saw where they are cut into bathroom-size rolls.

What do consumers most desire in toilet paper?

Based on customer surveys, softness, strength, absorbency and scent (in descending order) are the four most desired qualities. Some rolls get embossed, others get printing applied to them, and others get dyed various shades of pastel. Despite the choices, white still remains the most popular color.

What are the most common complaints by consumers?

Other than not being soft or strong enough, the two biggest complaints are ply separation (where a double-ply roll comes apart, leading to mismatched sheets) and bad perforations (where the sheets don’t release as intended). If you grab a sheet and it tears instead of releases (leaving an attached fragment) it means the crew had failed to detect a bad perf blade.

What can a consumer tell about softness by squeezing the package?

Absolutely nothing. Those ubiquitous TV commercials that insist you can “feel the softness” through the polyethylene wrapper are a total, shrieking lie. The only thing you can determine by squeezing a roll is how tightly wound it is. And a roll’s “spool coefficient” is a whole other issue.

Moreover, if a roll wrapped in polyethylene feels “soft,” it means it is loosely wound, basically full of air. And not only do mushy rolls have nothing to do with softness, the surface of the most “squeezable” roll on the market could be as harsh as sandpaper.

Indeed, at my company, mushy, loosely wound rolls were classified as “defective.” They never made to the retailer. Instead, they were broken down and recycled, sent back to the repulper. So much for false advertising.

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book, “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories,” will be published in June. He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
Franklin Lamb
Hezbollah Claims a 20-Seat Parliamentary Majority
William Loren Katz
Oliver Law, the Lincoln Brigade’s Black Commander
Ralph Nader
The Constitution and the Lawmen are Coming for Trump—He Laughs!
Tom Clifford
Mexico ’70 Sets the Goal for World Cup 
David Swanson
What Else Canadians Should Be Sorry For — Besides Burning the White House
Andy Piascik
Jane LaTour: 50+ Years in the Labor Movement (And Still Going)
Jill Richardson
Pruitt’s Abuse of Our Environment is Far More Dangerous Than His Abuse of Taxpayer Money
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
Pardons Aren’t Policy
Daniel Warner
To Russia With Love? In Praise of Trump the Includer
Raouf Halaby
Talking Heads A’Talking Nonsense
Julian Vigo
On the Smearing of Jordan Peterson: On Dialogue and Listening
Larry Everest
A Week of Rachel Maddow…or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ronald Reagan
David Yearsley
Hereditary: Where Things are Not What They Sound Like