This article is the archived version of a report that appeared in May 2009 Consumer Reports Magazine.
Our latest tests of the biggest national and store brands of toilet paper show that you don¹t have to pay the most for rolls that are strong yet soft.
At just 12 to 15 cents per 100 sheets, CR Best Buys Kirkland Signature (Costco) and White Cloud (Walmart) cost roughly half what we paid for three pricey performers from Quilted Northern, Charmin, and Cottonelle. That can add up to roughly $130 per year for a family of three.
Price isn't the only reason you might want to sidestep Charmin Ultra Strong. It was also ultra-slow to break apart in our disintegration tests, a concern if you have paper-crazy kids or a septic system.
Toilet-paper makers are also plying you with more sheets, more layers, and the added sanitation of wet wipes. More rolls made from recycled products also promise to be softer as well as greener. But weeks of testing shows that some promises are mostly puffery, and some wet wipes could give you a nasty surprise if they're flushed. Here are the details:
We tested Marcal's 1000 and Sunrise, as well as Seventh Generation, which use 100 percent recycled materials. All did well in our disintegration tests but were only so-so for softness. They've since been reformulated, in part for softness. But as our retest shows, green still involves some sacrifices.
Marcal's new Small Steps replaces its earlier green products. At 8 cents per 100 sheets, it costs roughly one-third as much as the reformulated version of Seventh Generation we tested. That and top performance in our disintegration tests make it a good low-priced choice among greener rolls.
But as with the latest Seventh Generation paper, softness and strength was only middling despite the changes.
We measured how much lead shot dampened sheets could hold before they broke. The strongest were thickest and typically had two plies, or layers, compared with one for lower-scoring rolls. Quilted Northern Ultra Plush has three plies, but it was neither thickest nor strongest. And Scott Extra Soft single ply proved about as strong as many two-ply rolls.
At just 6 cents per 100 sheets, Scott 1000 delivered the most sheets for the lowest price. But because it was also the thinnest and wimpiest toilet roll we tested, you could wind up using more of this lower-scoring roll than you bargained for.
All three wet wipes were at least as thick as the sheets in our thickest rolls. That and their texture helped them ace our strength tests. But unlike even the most robust rolls, none of the wipes broke apart in our disintegration tests. And at $4 or more per 100 sheets, they're the priciest by far.
Our advice: Bag and toss wipes into the trash when you're done rather than risk taxing your toilet or septic system.