How does your toilet paper roll?

Oct 29, 2023
Our Starts at 60 blogger dives into the quirky world of bathroom habits, where the over vs. under toilet paper debate can reveal more about than you know. Source: Getty Images.

Have you ever been in someone’s bathroom and swapped the toilet roll around on the holder? I certainly have, more than once and it happened recently. I like the toilet paper to roll over the top, not under. It bugs me and I promise I am not OCD.

Healthwise the over position reduces the risk of accidentally brushing the wall or cabinet with one’s knuckles potentially transferring grime and germs.

I have asked friends what they prefer with their toilet roll on the hanger and it is mind-boggling how passionate we are about how it rolls.

This hotly contested debate on personal preferences continues over dinner table conversations.

History of toilet paper

It is a contentious issue as to when toilet paper was originally invented however there has been much research:

  • Leaves were used by Neanderthals about 40,000 years ago.
  • Dating back to at least 50 BC the Chinese began using sheets of paper made from cotton linen rags, soaked in water, pounded into swollen pulp formed into sheets and dried. Hygiene sticks were also found made with bamboo and wood resembling spatulas with the ends covered in cloth
  • Common items used were rocks, sticks, straw, hay, leaves, rope, corncobs, wood shavings,coconut shells, linen, and French lace to paper.
  • During the Greco-Roman period, the wealthy ancient Romans came up with a communal sponge on a stick. In between uses, it sat in a bucket of salt water or vinegar. For the less fortunate their options included moss, leaves and pieces of ceramic called pessoi.
  • Ancient Egypt’s poorer homes had wooden stools with a hole in them, the wealthy limestone toilets. Today a bidet is the preferred option as toilet paper is viewed as unsanitary.
  • Materials used depended on socioeconomic status, weather conditions, social customs and location.
  • King of England Henry VIII used the softest lambswool and cloth while everyone else used the Roman communal sponge method.
  • In 1857 the inventor of toilet paper Joseph Gayetty placed Gayetty’s Medicated Paper on shelves packaged as flat sheets, watermarked with his name.
  • 1871 Seth Wheeler from the USA thought to wrap the paper around a tube.
  • In the 1890s the Scott Paper Company of Philadelphia produced toilet paper on a roll.
  • 1891 Wheeler put a patent on the perforated lines on the roll with detailed drawings that depicted the break-lines for each sheet showing the paper going over the roll.
  • Finally, in 1928 Holberg paper company considered women's needs and produced the softer ‘Charmin’ toilet paper.
  • 1930s economical 4 roll packs were produced.
  • 2023, we stand in the supermarket aisle and check out how many sheets per roll, how much it costs per sheet, what ply, softness, strength, as well as environmental factors.

The psychological aspects of over or under

Psychological studies have grown to determine if there is a correlation between personal preferences on how the paper hangs and the personality behavioural traits of people. According to one researcher over’s are more organised and characterised as over-achievers, and the under’s are characterised as ‘laid back’, artistic, and dependable.

Relationship therapist Dr Gilda Carle, devised a Toilet Paper Personality Test and looked for a correlation between the over and under poo paper preference and an individual’s personality.

From a random sample of 2000 men and women aged 18 to 75 of different ethnicities, they were asked how they rolled their paper under or over and on a scale of 1 to 10 how assertive were they in their relationship with others.

Dr Carle discovered that over’s are more dominant than those who roll under and are more likely to be in leadership roles and have a take-charge attitude. While the under’s are more submissive, tend to be more agreeable, flexible and empathetic. Dr Carle also warned that if there are two overs in one household, it could lead to conflict.

On the other hand, if you have two submissives, under’s, nothing will ever get done. I had to laugh at this as maybe couples can say in an argument, darling the house is untidy as I am an under!

In 2008 it was found that 75 per cent preferred paper over. Top celebrity, Oprah Winfrey declared on one of her talk shows: “Let me say that I, Oprah Winfrey, am an over girl myself”, although she stated she tended to be more concerned about her husband remembering to replace the toilet paper rather than how he puts it on the holder.

Compatibility question

I wonder how a compatibility question would be received on a first date: How do you hang your paper, under or over? It may be the end of a potential second date or the secret to a longer-lasting relationship.

As someone said to me, who cares at least we have paper rather than straw and leaves.


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