In the midst of a global pandemic, we also find ourselves dealing with another crisis: a shortage of toilet paper. As we learn to navigate the world we now live in, it’s important to understand how we ended up in this toilet paper-less position. It’s also important to figure out how we can best use the toilet paper we do have.
As is the case for many Americans right now, you probably have some questions. Why is there a toilet paper shortage in the U.S.? How much toilet paper do I need? How much should I use? These are all relevant questions that breed doubt and concern when left unanswered.
During this time of uncertainty, people search for facts and concrete truths that they can rely on. Fortunately, there’s plenty of reliable information out there, and we’ve used it to set up a guide that will help you navigate this time of toilet trouble.
Here’s everything you need to know about using toilet paper wisely in the midst of a shortage.
Why Is There a Toilet Paper Shortage in the US?
Our current situation bears a striking resemblance to something that happened more than 4 decades ago. In 1973, Johnny Carson made a startling declaration on The Tonight Show. That night, he brazenly pointed out that there was “an acute shortage of toilet paper in the good old United States.”
In light of Carson’s statement, people feared they’d run out of toilet paper, and in a move similar to a bank run, flooded stores in search of excess bath tissue. It wasn’t long before shelves were stripped completely bare of any and all toilet paper products.
This was known as the Great Toilet Paper Shortage Scare, but there wasn’t actually a shortage of toilet paper. In fact, it was Johnny Carson’s statement alone that almost singlehandedly brought the entire toilet paper industry to its knees.
Panic Buying During a Crisis
Today, we find ourselves in a situation similar to the Great Toilet Paper Shortage Scare. Pandemic-induced panic buying has caused people to rush into supermarkets and drug stores in search of anything they can get their hands on.
Because of this, shelves that were once filled with toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and canned food, now lie barren.
“Toilet paper — or rather, the lack of it — turns out to reveal a great deal about who we are and how we behave in a crisis.” — The Washington Post
There has always been enough toilet paper. However, when faced with a crisis, people tend to panic-buy. In 2020, this has resulted in a lack of toilet paper for those who need it.
The Bottleneck in Toilet Paper Production
In pre-pandemic America, the total demand for toilet paper was split between 2 distinct groups of clientele. The first group was the households of residential Americans. The second group was made up of the businesses in which those Americans worked, shopped, and ate.
When COVID-19 hit the United States in March, the demand for commercial toilet paper fell hard while the demand for residential toilet paper shot through the roof. This happened because — as businesses were actively shutting down due to the pandemic — more and more people were staying at home.
Although the supply remained unchanged, this dramatic shift in demand created a bottleneck in toilet paper production. Suddenly, the commercial demand for toilet paper was virtually nonexistent and the residential demand has practically doubled. The industry simply couldn’t keep up.
While there’s enough toilet paper out there, much of it has been produced for commercial use and can’t be used in homes. This bottleneck combined with large-scale panic buying has created a shortage in consumer bath tissue.
How Much Toilet Paper Do I Need?
You may be wondering, “How much toilet paper do I need?” Well, the answer to that question is probably simpler than you think. In fact, it’s mostly just doing the math and calculating how long a certain amount of toilet paper — say a box of 24 rolls — will actually last you.
Even though you can do the math yourself, plenty of toilet paper calculators have quickly risen to prominence. By simply telling the program how many rolls you have and how often you use the bathroom, it will give you an estimate of how long your stock of TP will last.
For example, a box of Reel Paper has 24 rolls. If I have 24 rolls and use the bathroom 4 times per day, how long will it last before I need to reorder? For me, a single box of Reel Paper will last about 96 days.
If you know roughly how long so many rolls of toilet paper will last you, then there’s little reason to go out and overstock. This tool allows you to strategically schedule toilet paper deliveries to fit your needs. Doing so will save you storage space and allows you to avoid any unnecessary TP-induced stress.
Furthermore, leaving some toilet paper on the shelf helps make sure that there’s enough for everyone that needs it. It also takes some of the stress off of retailers and suppliers giving the industry a chance to bounce back.
At the end of the day, knowing how much toilet paper you need will help keep your stress to a minimum.
How Much Toilet Paper Should I Use?
So, the toilet paper calculator says your current supply of bath tissue will last you a whole 120 days. How can you make sure it will last you more than 120 days?
Fortunately, there are several ways to make your roll of toilet paper go further. When you start conserving toilet paper, you’ll find yourself changing rolls less often.
Eliminate Unnecessary Usage of TP
In a pinch, we tend to use toilet paper for things other than wiping. For instance, maybe you need to blow your nose and there aren’t any tissues around. You may also need to clean up a small spill that’s not really big enough to warrant a paper towel.
Be mindful of how and when you’re using your toilet paper. Cutting back on unnecessary uses will save you sheets in the long run.
Squash the Roll
Toilet paper rolls are always nice and round. Their roundness makes it quick and easy to effortlessly take 2, 3, 4, or even 5 squares at a time. However, this ease of use also makes it far too easy to use too much.
Squashing the roll a bit will make each spin less graceful. As a result, you’ll have to purposefully take sheets. When you do, you’re less likely to take too many.
Try Folding, Not Wadding
Oftentimes people will tear a few sheets off of the roll and wad — or crunch — it in their hand before they wipe. Although this is an effective technique, there is a better one.
Folding the paper in your hand will maximize the sheet’s wipeable surface area while reducing the number of wipes needed and sheets used.
Hide the Extra Rolls
This last trick is one of the simplest ways to decrease your toilet paper usage. All you have to do is only keep one roll in the bathroom at a time.
Only having one roll of toilet paper near the toilet brings a scarcity mentality into play. When there’s less TP immediately available, you‘ll automatically use fewer sheets in order to preserve the roll.
Which Toilet Paper Is Best for Septic Systems?
Since so many are people panic-buying toilet paper, they’re probably using more of it overall. With an increase in sheets of toilet paper per flush, there’s also an increased risk of clogging as well as sewer and septic tank backups.
A slow flushing toilet is annoying, but a backflow of sewage into toilets and drains can be disastrous. This is especially true during times of crisis when finding a plumber to come fix it is more difficult.
In order to prevent any sewage-related dilemmas, you have to be proactive in finding a solution. Choosing a septic-safe toilet paper is one of the best ways to solve these problems before they occur.
There are some types of toilet paper — especially sheets of thick, mega-fluff paper — that don’t break down as well as others. As a result, these sheets will sometimes come together and clog your pipes or septic system.
Luckily, bamboo toilet paper is completely biodegradable. This means that toilet paper-induced backups are highly unlikely because the paper breaks down well before a clog has the chance to form.
Given its ability to break down with ease when wet, bamboo toilet paper is certainly the best for septic systems.
Navigating a Toilet Paper Shortage
In times of crisis, people panic buy supplies leaving shelves barren. Along with canned goods, toilet paper is nowhere to be seen. Fortunately, there are ways to combat toilet paper shortages.
Understanding what caused the shortage is key to understanding when it will end. After that, calculating how much toilet paper you should use, finding ways to cut back on usage, and choosing septic-safe paper will keep your bathroom running smoothly.
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