The average American uses nearly 21,000 sheets of toilet paper a year – roughly the length of 23 football fields. No wonder toilet-paper manufacturers want you to reach for their rolls. But when it comes to toilet paper, names and labels don't mean much. Our latest tests of 21 toilet papers found an "extra soft" toilet paper that wasn't as soft as others; an "ultra strong" toilet paper that was pretty weak; and one "great value" that was neither great or much of a value.
We tested the biggest national and store brands of toilet paper and found that you don't have to pay the most for rolls that are strong yet soft, though the cheapest toilet papers were neither strong nor soft.
Rolls are shrinking. Since 2009, we've tested bathroom tissue several times, We looked at nine current products and compared the number of sheets and the size of the sheets to earlier versions, using double rolls as our benchmark. (It's the most popular size.) Shrinkage ranged from 9 to 23 percent. One brand kept size constant, but decreased the number of rolls per package. And once one company downsizes its product, others tend to follow so that their products don't appear more expensive. We didn't check thickness, though.
Offerings are increasing. Even as companies shave sheets, they're expanding product lines to include "mega," "triple," and "jumbo" sizes in addition single and double rolls. That makes comparison shopping harder and more confusing. It's also increases the odds that a consumer randomly buying toilet paper will buy a specific brand.
Re-imagining the roll. Rolls that do away with the cardboard tube was the latest thing in toilet-paper marketing when one brand debuted it. But no other brands have jumped on this bandwagon. When we put the tubeless TP on a standard toilet-paper holder took it for a "spin," it wasn't as easy to unravel, and the roll was also harder to place on the holder. Talking about toilet paper holders, note some rolls are so bulky they may not fit, especially in older homes.
Beware of wipes. The packaging may say that wipes are flushable or safe for sewers and septic tanks. But based on our past testing, we beg to differ. It took at least 10 minutes for the wipes we tested to break down into small pieces in our mixer filled with water, which is more churning than they'll get in waste pipes. When we left the wipes in water overnight, some disintegrated, some didn't. So if you use wipes, toss them into the garbage can not in the toilet.