History of Toilet Paper

Let’s face it, having toilet paper is nice. It makes doing our business a lot cleaner, more sanitary, and just improves our mood. Because we all know when the toilet paper runs out and there’s no more in the house, someone is making a run to the nearest grocery store for some.


Yet, toilet paper in its current form did not always exist. Plumbing Solutions, a local plumbing company in Lexington, believes it’s important to take a look at the history of toilet paper since toilet paper itself is a common item to cause clogged toilets and clogs further on down the sewer pipelines. It’s important to know what kind of toilet paper is appropriate for your sewer pipes and wastewater treatment or septic system.


Plumbing Solutions serves areas of North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina, specializing in new construction residential plumbing, which includes slab under plumbing, rough-in plumbing, sewer and water installation, and trim-out plumbing. We differentiate ourselves by providing fanatical customer service, clear, written service agreements, and quality control. Below, we’ll take a look at just how far toilet paper has come.



Toilet paper as we know it is a relatively new invention. Before recorded history, it’s safe to assume that humans used whatever nature provided as toilet paper, such as leaves, hay, wood shavings, corn sheaves, and even rocks. Also, most people lived near water, so it was super easy to go and take a dip or rinse off.


Later, as humans began to settle into towns, better options became available, such as rags and extra cloth bits that could then be washed.


Ancient China was the first to invent paper around 100 BC, which much improved upon the papyrus of the ancient Egyptians or parchment that was popular in ancient Rome and Greece. The first paper was made from chopped up bark (frequently from the mulberry tree). The hemp plant was also used. In 200 years, China began mass-producing paper to sell. We are unsure of the date, but perhaps while someone was reading while doing their business, this writing paper began to be used as toilet paper in China around the 6th century AD. This idea caught on, and for many, paper was used as toilet paper.


Still, the idea of using paper in the bathroom did not truly catch on. In the Middle Ages,if you were wealthy, you might have used wool, lace, silk, and other pricey fabrics. Many still used the nearby streams for cleansing purposes.


Early Americans used the Sears & Roebuck catalog. After all, it was handy, as many people read (and still do read) while in the bathroom, or the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Newspaper was used as well after it was read. If you’ve ever wondered why there used to be a hole in the corner of the Almanac, that was so the book could be hung up in the bathroom.


Mass-Produced Toilet Paper

Tired of the texture of paper, someone came along and decided to make it softer. That man was Joseph Gayetty, and in 1857, he invented what is commonly known as the first modern toilet paper. It was wet with aloe from the aloe plant to soften the paper. Soon, perforation was added in 1871, and it began to appear in hotel and drug store bathrooms.


However, considering the times, Americans were prim and proper and were embarrassed to buy it because this would tell others that they used the bathroom. In fact, toilet paper was still made predominantly from tree bark up until the 1930s where splinters were commonplace.


If it weren’t for the steadily increasing use of plumbing and the fact that indoor plumbing was becoming clogged with old-fashioned toilet paper, we may still be getting splinters today. However, American ingenuity prevailed, and the modern toilet paper most of us love was invented.



As convenient as toilet paper is, it is not used in many parts of the world, especially where people can’t afford it. Many people also consider the use of water more sanitary than toilet paper, and they continue to use rags, sand, leaves, and other natural items and then wash their hands afterwards.


As most of us know, there is a big difference between the name-brand toilet paper and the cheap toilet paper. Many processes and materials are used to make toilet paper, all of which are closely-guarded secrets of the toilet paper manufacturers. The major difference is the number of plies (or layers) used. Some are single; others are double.


Flushable wipes (although, now that is debated) were invented in the 1990s as a good compromise between water and toilet paper. However, these have been found to be harsh on sewer systems and are thus being discouraged. In addition, efforts to make toilet paper more biodegradable for septic systems are underway, making toilet paper with shorter fibers, while still making sure it is strong.


You may remember that toilet paper used to come in a variety of colors (ah, the good ‘ol days), such as pink, lavender, blue, green, purple, and yellow. However, this was more costly to manufacture and did not help the environment in any way with the dyes used.


Plumbing Solutions in Lexington for one is grateful for toilet paper and the modern advances to make toilet paper more environmentally-friendly. It definitely helps your toilet become clogged less often, which leads to fewer calls to your professional plumber for plumbing services.


Plumbing Solutions specializes in new construction residential plumbing in our service area. Our professional certified plumbers keep up with the changes in technology so we can continue to bring you the latest in plumbing innovations. We operate with tenets that govern all that we do, including offering fanatical customer service, written service agreements, and a quality control system to ensure your residential new construction plumbing is up to code and high plumbing installation practices. In all that we do, we operate with innovation, professionalism, integrity, productivity, and efficiency.


Our mission is to provide the highest-quality plumbing in the most professional manner to all of our customers. Operating on our reputation, we’ve dedicated our lives to helping you maintain your plumbing. When you have a plumbing emergency, we can help. Our professional plumbers are available 24-hours a day. Thus, when a pipe freezes or breaks, or your toilet is overflowing and you can’t get it unclogged, we can help. We offer a plumbing warranty on our workmanship for one year. When you partner with us, you’ll be taken care of. Call us today to get started!

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