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A Look at Toilet Paper and How It Has Impacted Our Lives

Today there are many Americans that are visiting their local grocery store and finding that the toilet paper aisle is completely empty. That’s because, as the time of this writing, the coronavirus is in full swing and a panic regarding the foreseeable future has spread throughout the nation. For one reason or another, this panic manifested itself in people hoarding and buying vast amounts of toilet paper. And while some experts, even at the height of some lockdowns, were unsure why people went for the toilet paper, the fact was that in the first weeks following the declaration of the national emergency, toilet paper became a highly valued item. So we thought we’d take a look at how toilet paper was developed and other toilet paper scares in U.S history. 

Since the dawn of times human beings have had a need to clean themselves after using the restroom. In those days, people would simply make due with whatever items might be at hand: leaves, a rock, and even newspaper (once the printing press was around). So about 150 years ago a little marketing turned a simple product into one of the most necessary commodities of every American household. Early versions of toilet paper came in boxes and were aloe-infused sheets of hemp. These sheets were first marketed as a solution for hemorrhoids. Yet, as printed materials became commonplace and sent through the mail people began using things like their Sears catalog to wipe their bum and saw the idea of spending extra money on sheets to wipe off was unnecessary. 

Then came the Scott brothers. Yes, the name Scott might seem oddly familiar to you, as Scotts toilet paper remains one of the most widely popular brands. Interestingly enough, the Scott brothers were a bit shy about what they did and took them some time to properly take credit for it. Two brothers named Clarence and E Irvin Scott popularized the concept of toilet paper on a roll. The brothers began selling directly to hotels and drugstores and were soon far more popular than the hemp sheets had been a few years before. And yet, even as the popularity grew people were quite sheepish when it came to talking about these products. 

Eventually, people got over it and toilet paper became a household staple. And when the toilets became more prominent in every American household, that’s when the toilet paper industry really took off. By the end of the 19th century, most homes had sit-down flush toilets tied to indoor plumbing systems. And once indoor plumbing was here to stay and demanded a material that would not clog, the toilet paper roll would be part of every American home. 

When Toilet Paper Softens Up 

First there was Scott, then there was Charmin. You might remember Charmin as the brand that has the cute bears in its ads. It first started with the logo of a beautiful woman. Behind the ad was to associate this soft toilet paper with femininity and beauty, and this removed some of the stigma that still remained around it.  By the 70s, of course, toilet paper was a beloved and major commodity. Charmin also had the great idea of marketing on a pack of four rolls. A few decades later Charmin switched from the beautiful lady logo to the cuddly teddy bears you see today. 

The Toilet Paper Scare of 1973

The year 2020 has not been the only year where people rushed to stores to stock up on toilet paper. In 1973, the country saw several shortages hit its economy. The stock market crashed that year and lost a vast amount of value. It was known as one of the worst declines in history. The price of oil also skyrocketed and thus saw huge changes in prices and led to the gasoline shortage. And as the story goes, the toilet paper shortage of this year began with an unsubstantiated rumor. It began with news reports of a tissue shortage in Japan. Then a Congressman from Wisconsin released a statement that claimed there was a pulp paper shortage in his community. The story was then sensationalized and the media ran wild with it. Then, the final spark set it ablaze. This was Johnny Carson making a joke about it one night in his late-night show. Consumers flew to the stores and began buying it off the shelves. Madness ensued. And for about 4 months, toilet paper was hard to come by anywhere in the U.S. 

The Plugging of Pipes During Times of Crisis

And so as toilet paper developed, it became more sophisticated as far as its ability to dissolve and not cause clogs in the piping system. As the Coronavirus panic ensues in March of 2020, people are using paper towels, tissues, and disinfectant wipes to make sure their surfaces are clean and virus free. And yet, reports started coming in that many of these cleaning towelettes are being tossed into the toilet. This, of course, is a big no-no, as it will more than likely cause a severe clog in your toilet. The result has been a surge in backed up sewer lines. So here is a quick reminder of items that should NOT go into your toilet:

  • Paper towels
  • Even ‘flushable wipes’
  • Napkins
  • Baby wipes
  • Disinfectant towels 

New Age Plumbing is Here to Help

Here at New Age Plumbing, we are here to help in your time of need. Sometimes, clogs happen and while following the above precautions will help in preventing a clog, your plumbing system might still need some repair. So whether you need toilet repair or a look at the effectiveness of your plumbing, give us a call.

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