The Common Housekeeping Conundrums series is an ongoing exploration of perplexing issues of both serious and trivial varieties that are encountered while caring for the home.
The debate has raged since the advent of modern toilet paper: Should the end hang away from the wall and over the top of the roll or should the end hang next to the wall and under the bottom of the roll? The debate is so ubiquitous that the search term “toilet paper debate” yields over 2,230,000 search results from one popular search engine!
A surprising number of surveys have been conducted on the topic. Which orientation is preferred by most people?
The over orientation is consistently preferred. In surveys conducted by toilet paper manufactures (e.g., Cottonelle, Quilted Northern), authors, and a museum, between 51% and 73% of respondents indicated they prefer their toilet paper hang in the over orientation. In one survey, a surprising 27% of respondents reported switching the orientation of a roll hanging in a friend’s home!
Benefits of each orientation
While I think most people hang their toilet paper over or under out of habit, several reasons to intentionally choose each orientation have been cited.
- It is easier to locate and grasp the loose end.
- There is less risk of your hand brushing up against the wall, potentially transferring germs.
- Housekeeping staff can fold the loose end into a “V” (or an alternative shape) to indicate that the restroom has been cleaned.
- Some brands of toilet paper contain imprints or images that display correctly when the end of the toilet paper is hung over the top of the roll.
- There is less risk a young child or house pet will grasp the loose end and unroll all of the paper by batting at the roll.
- The appearance of the roll is tidier, given the loose end is hidden from view.
- Recreational vehicle users report toilet paper rolls unroll less often when hung with the loose end behind the roll.
Proponents of each orientation have claimed that their approach saves money as a result of less toilet paper being used. (I searched for a well-conducted study on the topic but was unable to find one.) Likewise, it is unclear which orientation makes it easier to tear the paper. Adherents to each orientation have claimed their way is easier.
Despite being inconsequential, the question of how to hang toilet paper often generates strong reactions. If the debate is causing tension in your relationships, consider one of the following solutions.
- Tilt-A-Roll – A dispenser that readily turns the roll from over to under or vice versa with one easy turn.
- Lotus Smart One – A dispenser designed for businesses that dispenses single sheets of toilet paper out of the front of the unit.
- Two dispensers – Install two dispensers. Hang a roll in the over orientation on one and a roll in the under orientation on the other.
- No dispenser – Just sit the roll somewhere!
Personally, I hang toilet paper in the under orientation. I find it easier to tear when it is hung this way. My husband installs rolls in the over orientation (he says the paper tears more “precisely” in this orientation). If you’re interested in reading more on the topic you can take a look at my sources: ToiletPaperWorld.com and the Toilet Paper Encyclopedia.
Is there a compelling reason to choose one orientation over the other? Which do you prefer? How did you come to prefer this orientation?