The Unraveled History of Toilet Paper

Toilet paper, a common household item that many of us take for granted, has a fascinating history that stretches back centuries. In this brief exploration, we’ll unravel the story of how toilet paper evolved from humble beginnings to the ubiquitous product we know today.

Ancient Origins of Hygiene

The use of paper for hygiene purposes dates back to ancient China, where it was first recorded in the 6th century AD. However, it wasn’t until the 14th century that specifically manufactured toilet paper was mass-produced in China. The Ming dynasty even boasted a luxurious version of toilet paper, perfumed and reserved for the imperial family.

In other parts of the world, people had to make do with various materials, such as leaves, grass, and even their hands. Ancient Rome employed a sponge on a stick, which was cleaned and reused. These practices, though creative, were far from ideal compared to the toilet paper we have today.

The Birth of Modern Toilet Paper

Fast forward to the 19th century, and we see the emergence of modern commercial toilet paper. Joseph Gayetty is widely credited with introducing the first commercially available toilet paper in the United States in 1857. His “Gayetty’s Medicated Paper” was sold in flat sheets and was a far cry from the rolls we use today.

The patent for roll-based toilet paper dispensers was granted in 1883, a milestone that paved the way for the widespread adoption of this convenient product. The Scott Paper Company played a pivotal role in popularizing roll-based toilet paper when they began marketing it in 1890.

The Evolution Continues

Toilet paper’s manufacturing process underwent refinement over the years. In the 1930s, Northern Tissue boasted that their toilet paper was “splinter-free,” highlighting the importance of product quality. The widespread adoption of flush toilets further increased the demand for toilet paper, as it needed to be sturdy enough not to clog plumbing systems.

In Britain, softer two-ply toilet roll was introduced in 1942, eventually leading to the creation of the famous Andrex brand. Moist toilet paper, also known as wet wipes, made its debut in the United Kingdom in the 1990s, offering an alternative to dry toilet paper.

Today, toilet paper comes in various ply options, with premium versions featuring lotion, wax, and even antibacterial additives. The choice of texture, color, and design has also expanded, with some brands offering patterned and scented options.

Environmental Considerations

While toilet paper has come a long way in terms of comfort and convenience, it’s essential to consider its environmental impact. Toilet paper production consumes vast quantities of trees, leading to deforestation concerns. Recycled and alternative materials, such as bamboo and sugarcane byproducts, offer more sustainable options.


The history of toilet paper is a journey from ancient practices to modern convenience. From the resourcefulness of early civilizations to the innovations of the 19th century, toilet paper has become an essential part of our daily lives. As we continue to use this product, it’s crucial to be mindful of its environmental impact and explore eco-friendly alternatives for a more sustainable future.