How Consumer Reports tests toilet paper

Finding the perfect combination of strong and soft

Published: September 08, 2015 11:30 AM

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You think you’re picky about toilet paper? Consumer Reports uses machines and specially trained sensory panelists to determine which rolls combine softness, convenience, and strength.

How strong?

We stack and insert eight sheets of each toilet paper into an Instron, a device also used to test sturdier materials like fabric and plastic. It slowly pushes a steel ball through the sheets. The force required to punch through the paper is measured and recorded. Stronger paper can withstand three times as much pressure as the weakest ones before ripping. The Instron also determines how hard you need to pull to rip two sheets along their perforation, or the “tearing ease.”

How soft?

Sensory panelists check for softness in a temperature- and humidity-controlled room so the toilet-paper fibers are evaluated under controlled conditions. First they make light, circular motions over each sample with their fingertips. Next, they softly drag their fingers over the tissue in straight lines. Both tasks help them form an overall impression of softness. Then they test for pliability by gently manipulating the paper into a ball. The roughest, stiffest papers feel cracked, pointed, and ridged; the softest tend to be more pliable and conform smoothly to the hand.

Down the drain

Toilet paper can be a pain even after you use it. To find out what happens once it’s flushed, we check to see how easily it disintegrates. That gives you an idea of how well it will move through a home’s plumbing and septic systems. We put a 2x2-inch square from a sheet of toilet paper and a 2-inch stirring bar into a water-filled beaker on a stirring plate. The score is based on the time it takes for the sheet to disintegrate.

And the winner is ...

Only one toilet paper made it to the top of our tests, White Cloud Ultra Soft & Thick sold at Walmart, scoring a 77 out of 100. The next best, Nice Premium Ultra sold at Walgreens, scored 57, losing points on strength. To see how your favorite brand fared, see our full toilet paper Ratings and recommendations. And don't miss our story, The Dirty Little Secrets of Toilet Paper, which may confirm your suspicions that rolls are getting smaller.

What's your brand?

Let us know your TP preferences below.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the October 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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