In Search of Good Toilet Paper – Part 2

Toilet paper comparison

From left to right: Cottonelle Clean Care, Marcal Thick and Soft, Seventh Generation

I’m beginning to consider the possibility that the perfect toilet paper may not exist. As I wrote earlier this month, I’m on a quest to find the perfect t.p. that offers comfort, a reasonable price, and earth-friendly manufacturing. Unfortunately, these attributes can sometimes conflict with other important considerations.

We’d all love a brand of toilet paper that is soft, strong, and not prone to turning “linty” during use. (One Amazon reviewer referred to a certain toilet paper’s tendency to cause “dingleberries,” a term I laughed over for several days.) Cottonelle and Quilted Northern Ultra Plush get high rankings online for these attributes.

Quilted Northern Ultra is the #1 toilet paper on Amazon, in fact, with a near-5-star rating and more than 3400 reviews.

For more data related to these attributes, alert reader Elaine kindly pointed us to testing by Good Housekeeping. The institute performed extensive research, looking at factors like absorbency, strength, and softness.

Their top choices? Charmin Ultra Soft, Cottonelle Ultra, and once again — Quilted Northern Ultra Plush. Eureka! Might Quilted Northern Ultra Plush be the elusive, Holy Grail of toilet tissue?

Not So Fast, Kemosabe

The problem with Quilted Northern Ultra Plush? From reader e-mails I received with anecdotal information from real-life plumbers, it’s one of the brands most prone to clogging pipes. The other brand mentioned most was our household’s current brand, Cottonelle.

It stands to reason that the tissue’s strong/fluffy combination doesn’t break apart as quickly, so if your pipes are finicky you’ll probably want to choose something other than Cottonelle and Quilted Northern Ultra Plush.

Scott was a brand recommended by several readers for its sewer pipe-friendliness (a phrase we don’t get to use nearly often enough).

Is Earth Friendly Toilet Paper an Oxymoron?

I’d really love to make an environmentally-conscious buying decision, so I turned to the NRDC’s list of toilet tissue ratings.

Two brands caught my eye on this list — Marcal and Seventh Generation.

Several readers recommended the eco-friendly brand, Seventh Generation, which is manufactured from 100%  recycled paper — 80% of it the post-consumer type. It’s also the only brand that scored well on both the NRDC list, while ranking a respectable B-on the Good Housekeeping list.

Marcal Thick & Soft, also praised by readers, is made from 100% recycled paper, but only 40% of it is post-consumer. This might actually be a plus, as you’ll read below. In addition, Marcal’s parent company Soundview Paper is frequently recognized for its corporate values, ethical standards and environmental stewardship.

Of the three brands we tested, Marcal is also the “tallest” t.p. — about 3/8 inch wider on the spindle than Cottonelle. It also has the most sheets per roll — 360 two-ply sheets.

Could Seventh Generation or Marcal be our Ultimate Choice?

Hold On There, Maynard

Several readers alerted me to the possibility of BPA levels in toilet tissue made from post-consumer recycled paper; this is due in part to the recycling of thermal receipts — which have high levels of BPA — that get in the general paper stream. You can read more about this possible problem here, but even after trying to “absorb” the information it’s difficult to make an educated decision. The facts are as fuzzy as roll of cheap toilet paper about how much BPA one is exposed to when using these products, as well as the levels it might be considered safe for us be be exposed to BPA.

Marcal and Seventh Generation both have a slightly greyish color, and their two-ply paper comes apart more easily than one-ply Cottonelle, making them less DR (dingleberry resistant).

What About Cost?

Because toilet paper is a product we use every day, day in and day out, the costs can add up over time. The ultimate product would also be a good value.

It’s challenging to decipher the costs based on number of sheets per roll, but alert reader Judy sent in a handy chart to compare brands according to the square footage per package, the only real way to evaluate those confusing “double roll” claims.  Scott brand comes in at the top of this list for best value.

Of the three brands we’ve been testing this month, these are our local costs for a 12-roll package from least to most expensive:

Marcal Thick and Soft – $9.99 or 83 cents a roll or .23 cents per sheet

Seventh Generation – $12.72 or $1.06 a roll or .35 cents per sheet

Cottonelle Clean Care – $10.95 or 91 cents a roll or .44 cents per sheet

The “Bottom” Line

We’ve personally tested Seventh Generation and Marcal this month, comparing it with our previous brand, Cottonelle. Here are our findings, based on a 12-pack of “double” rolls:

SEVENTH GENERATION might be right for you if you want:  A product that doesn’t use trees; is made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper; and has pretty good comfort qualities.
Number of sheets per roll:  300 2-ply sheets
Width:  4 inches
Cost:  Mid-range
Earth-friendly attributes: Very Good
Comfort and DR (dingleberry-resistance):  Good
Value:  Moderate

MARCAL might be right for you if you want:  A taller roll that fills up the holder; more sheets per roll and a low price; a socially-responsible manufacturer; a product that doesn’t use trees; and a lower percentage of post-consumer recycled content which might translate to lower BPA levels.
Number of sheets per roll:  360 2-ply sheets
Width:  4 5/16 inches
Cost:  Low
Earth-friendly attributes:  Excellent
Comfort and DR:  Moderate
Value: Very Good

COTTONELLE might be right for you if you want: A product made from responsibly sourced trees (certified by the Forest Stewardship Council); good DR qualities; a product that is soft and strong (and therefore most appropriate for sewer pipes not prone to clogging).
Number of sheets per roll:  208 1-ply sheets
Width:  3 15/16 inches
Cost:  Higher
Earth-friendly attributes:  Moderate
Comfort and DR:  Very Good
Value:  Moderate

To complicate our experiment, our local grocery store put Cottonelle on sale this week!

Cottonelle on sale

For now, we’ve switched to Marcal in two out of three bathrooms, with Cottonelle still present in the third.

Next we’re going to try Trader Joe’s toilet tissue, which was recommended by several readers. I’ll report back with our findings soon, knowing that you’ll be on “the edge of your seat” until then.

Big thanks to all of you who chimed in on the original post and shared many interesting suggestions around this topic. I’d love to hear if you’ve discovered a solution, so please keep those comments coming!

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Let’s Talk about Toilet Paper – Part 1

Toilet paper holder

My friends, I’ve decided to give our toilet paper choice a comprehensive review. Because toilet paper is an ongoing expense and a resource we use continually, I want to be sure we’re making an informed decision. Naturally, you’re invited to come along for the journey.

Last year, I finally got fed up with the store brand of toilet paper. Over the years the rolls had gotten thinner and shorter, and the paper seemed increasingly prone to disintegrating. One day I marched into the store muttering to myself, “You work hard, you make sacrifices for the family, and darn it, you deserve nice toilet paper.” I yanked a 12-pack of Cottonelle Clean Care off the shelf, and never looked back.

Cottonelle toilet paper

This wasn’t a frugal buying decision at all. At our local King Soopers, a 12-pack of Cottonelle is $7.49. With tax, it’s 67 cents a roll. We don’t belong to a price club, so the only way we save money is when it goes on sale—which is rarely.

The label is printed in nice, bold print. Yet for some reason, the text at the bottom listing the number of sheets per roll is printed in the lightest, impossible-to-read pale blue. Why do you think this is?

toilet paper info

With the aid of high-strength binoculars, I was able to read that a pack contains 12 rolls, each with 208 1-ply sheets per roll. It also lists the square footage (266.4) and square meters (24). This information could be handy for easily comparing brands—if only one could read it.

The package boasts that my 12 “Double Rolls” are equal to 24 “Single Rolls.” Like me, do you scratch your head when you read this? Since every toilet paper brand now considers its products to be double rolls, ours don’t seem particularly robust.

 

Magnifying the text on a t.p. roll

Aided by a magnifier, I found the Double vs. Single explanation on the package back in a font so small that Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Museum once used it to print the Declaration of Independence on the head of a pin:  “1 Double Roll equals 2.3 times the number of sheets as the leading ultra brand regular roll.” Ahh, now I understand.

Fancy T.P. and Sasquatch

Wait—what “leading ultra brand?” Are you telling me the leading ultra brand only has 90 squares per roll? I’m skeptical. Let’s keep our eyes open for pricey—but skinny—super-fancy t.p. rolls in the future. Will you let me know if you find this elusive, half-size luxury roll?

On the plus side, I also discovered this information in tiny elfin text: “Paper from responsible sources,” accompanied by a miniscule logo from the Forest Stewardship Council. Greenwashing? Not this time. A little research convinced me that the FSC is a legit organization which promotes responsible harvesting. Here are the principles of FSC-certified forests:

* Never harvests more than what grows back
* Protects biodiversity and endangered species
* Saves rare ancient trees
* Guards local streams
* Supports the local people
* Uses narrow skidding trails so as not to disrupt the rest of the forest
* Prohibits replacement by tree plantations
* Bans toxic chemicals
* Bans genetically modified trees (no GMO)

In the coming days, I aim to delve further into whether Cottonelle is the best choice for us—and if so, whether we can buy it cheaper elsewhere. All three of these attributes are equally important:

a. Comfort

b. As earth-friendly as possible

c. Reasonable price (would this be the right time to make a “cash flow” pun?)

How about you?

Do you make your own toilet paper from recycled feed sacks? If not, would you be willing to share the brand of toilet paper you use? Do you buy it at the grocery store? Or do you get those Volkswagen-sized packages at Costco for a better price? Are you Single Roll, Double Roll, Triple Roll or Mega-Quintuple Roll user?

I look forward to flushing out all of the options with you in the days ahead.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Top photo: A.N. Berlin

 

Could You Pay Off Debt in 10 Months?

Pay off debt in 10 months and enjoy financial freedom | Happy Simple Living

All morning I’ve been thinking about debt, and how it drags us down.

Debt is a drag on our financial health – not only the interest we pay for things we bought in the past, but the outpouring of money it takes each month to make more than the minimum payment and eliminate the debt.

Debt is a drag on our energy. The Bible describes debt as a millstone around the neck, and I can remember feeling that way when my credit card balances were over $12,000. I thought I would never be free of the heavy feeling.

Debt is a drag on our relationships. Money is the #1 thing couples fight about, and being deep in debt just adds more conflict, pressure and stress.

Debt is a drag on our future. We can’t plan vacations, save for emergencies, or make improvements because we’re spending all our time and resources paying off those old balances.

A Ten Month Challenge

Today is February 23, and we have about ten months until Christmas. You deserve a wonderful present this holiday. I want you to experience the joy and freedom of paying off debt.

Could you divide your outstanding balances by 10, commit to paying 1/10 of the amount plus interest every month, and eliminate that debt altogether?

Could you put the card in a safety deposit box or under your mattress or somewhere where you won’t be tempted to use it at all in the next ten months?

If you owe on more than one credit card, could you get the scissors and cut up one of two of those cards? That’s what I had to do; I destroyed the cards so I couldn’t use them any more, which forced me to be good.

If your balance is too high to completely pay it off in ten months or if you owe money on several cards, could you commit to paying $200 a month or even $100 a month to eliminate a significant chunk of one of those balances?

I know that once I set a monthly goal for myself, I was better able to focus and commit to paying the monthly amount. $100 isn’t too much to scrape together each month, but paying down $1000 on a debt in ten months is a significant step forward.

I dug out of debt, and so can you. Step by step, you can become debt free and enjoy financial freedom.

How about you?

If you’re dealing with debt, what could you do about it in the next ten months? I challenge you to e-mail me at elizagcross(at)gmail(dot)com and state your 10-month plan. Our words and affirmations have power, and I will stand with you in your commitment!

If this is a problem area for you, I want you to vividly imagine waking up on Christmas morning and feeling proud that you made significant progress paying off debt this year.

If you formerly owed a lot of money and paid it off, will you share with us how you did it? I always love hearing your comments and strategies around this very important concept.

Here’s to getting rid of that heavy millstone, once and for all.

You deserve this.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo:  Eric Magnuson

The Great Dishwasher Controversy

White vinegar for clean dishes

A shot glass holds a little white vinegar for spot-free dishes

You might think that a blog about simple living wouldn’t get ensnared in scandals, but you’d be surprised.

I’ve penned two posts that generated lots of debate and mostly-negative comments. Both of these articles were written about that most contentious of subjects:

THE DISHWASHER

Since 2012 when I wrote these articles I’ve stayed silent on the subject — hoping that with the passage of time, the public would find someone new to focus on and the negative publicity would pass. I think the time has finally come to publicly apologize for my past mistakes.

My first wrong-minded post in July 2012 was gleefully entitled:

A Green, Clean and Cheap Way to Enjoy Spot-Free Dishes

In this post, I innocently wrote about how I’d stopped using rinse aid in the dishwasher dispenser and replaced it with white vinegar. Not only was vinegar much less expensive, but I was concerned about the chemicals in commercial rinse aid. Here’s the actual label from the product I formerly used:

Rinse Aid at Happy Simple Living

One reader insisted that the ingredients were “PROVED, HARMLESS substances” and called me out on my “wrong-headed conspiracy thinking.”

I later went back and updated the post, after hearing comments like this one from our helpful reader Kelsey:

“DO NOT PUT VINEGAR IN THE RINSE AID COMPARTMENT!! I came across an article about dishwasher tips and homemade detergent. The woman suggested putting vinegar in the rinse aid department. She posted an update saying that after a few years of doing this, she started having problems with her dishwasher and called a repair man. During the home visit she told him that she had been putting vinegar in the rinse aid department. He said vinegar is helpful but it’s BAD to put it in the rinse aid compartment because it wears down and destroys the rubber and internals. Instead, he told her to put a small cup on the top rack of the dishwasher and put in small amount of vinegar in the cup.”

I decided to heed her warning. I, too, began pouring a little white vinegar (about 2 teaspoons) in a shot glass and putting it in the top rack of the dishwasher.

Vinegar shot glass

Yes, that is a Hooters shot glass — which happens to be the only shot glass I own.

This method works great, and the dishes come out sparkling clean with no spots, no chemical smell, and no worries about delicate rubber dishwasher gaskets and the like.

History Repeats Itself

Fast forward to November of 2012, when I for some reason decided to slosh back into the subject of washing dishes. Some of us never learn.

This time, my post was:

A Simple, Time-Saving Dishwasher Tip

In this most-controversial post, I naively suggested grouping silverware together in the basket so it was pre-sorted and took less time to put away. What was I thinking?

Loading the dishwasher at Happy Simple Living blog

One comment neatly sums up readers’ thoughts on this idea:

“Just look at the spoons in the picture above, a lot of them are bunched together, and they might not get any water or soap and would come out cruddy. The silverware takes 2-3 minutes as it is, not a huge amount of savings.”

Chastened, I had to agree that the potential time savings wasn’t worth the possibility of cruddy spoons (although just between us, I do still group the forks and knives together that way. )

How about you?

Have you tried white vinegar in lieu of rinse aid?

Do you use a Hooters shot glass or something more classy?

Do you secretly group the spoons together in the silverware basket?

Have you ever been accused of being a conspiracy theorist?

Do you have any dish washing tips to share?

When are they going to invent a dishwasher that unloads the dishes for us?

Hugs and happy Presidents’ Day,

The signature for Eliza Cross

 

 

Announcing the 2015 January Money Dieter of the Year

Jennifer - the January Money Diet Queen

Jennifer – the January Money Diet Queen

Figuring out who should win the 2105 January Money Diet Gift Box was a huge challenge, because so many of you participated our our month-long spending break with enthusiasm and generosity.

In fact, I never could have chosen one winner based on my feelings because I love each one of you. Instead, I adopted a more methodical approach. I tallied the number of comments throughout the 31 days, and took special note of readers who enthusiastically participated in the challenges. I also marked extra points for participants who shared ideas and encouraged others.

A clear winner emerged through this exercise, and I’m proud to announce that Jennifer is our 2015 January Money Dieter of the Year. Here’s what she had to say at the end of the diet:

“Thank you so much for the great advice and motivation! We were able to catch up on monthly bills and even pay ahead on some. It has been awesome! I am grateful for the new habits that we are forming together as a family.

I do plan on splurging just a tad and start out by taking two more bags to The Salvation Army. Then we will have a family dinner out to celebrate our hard work this month. I want to make sure that we keep ourselves in check but also reward ourselves when we do a job well done!

Congratulations to all who joined and made it!”

Jennifer will receive a goodie box with a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card, $25 cash, pantry staples like bean soup mix and organic quinoa, signed copies of three of my cookbooks, homesteading supplies like soap, candles and eco-friendly cleaning supplies, and more.

Thanks so much to each one of you who participated this year, and I hope you’ll join us next January when we undertake this challenge again.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

100 Little Steps Add Up to Great Things

2015 January Money Diet comes to an end

It’s officially the final day of the 2015 January Money Diet.

I logged in to my bank’s website yesterday, and was pleased to see over $1000 remaining in my checking account. A month of very limited, essentials-only spending means that all my money doesn’t evaporate by the end of the month — what a concept!

If you’ve followed the diet, perhaps you’ve seen a similar benefit to taking a spending break.

Our fellow dieter Laura shared this comment yesterday:  “With the money we saved this month and from selling a few things, we were able to put an additional $800 towards the student loan!” Hurray!

I am so proud of everything we’ve accomplished together this month. You have been the most engaged, generous group of money dieters yet, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you.

Since January 1, we’ve undertaken many efforts to stretch our money: we’ve been resourceful, we’ve used up what we already had, we’ve fixed things, we’ve planned our meals, we’ve saved energy, we’ve rediscovered the public library, and we’ve reviewed our ongoing monthly expenses.

Many of you generously gave things away, and decluttered your drawers and shelves in the process. We considered the beauty of a simple home, and collectively agreed that less is the new more.

Some efforts produced big results and others are small, but financial stability comes as a result of many efforts and thoughtful decisions, practiced faithfully over time. If we continue what we started together in this first month of 2015, I promise that these steps will add up and produce real, lasting change in our finances.

Thoughts About Spending

Many of us — including me — will continue to stay on a modified version of the money diet in the coming days. As needs arise, we will inevitably shop again. Perhaps we might ask ourselves these questions before handing over our hard-earned money:

Do I love it?

This is now my mantra for every single clothing purchase. Do I love this? Do I feel great when I wear it? Will I want to wear it for years to come? Do I need it? I no longer buy something just because it’s a good deal. I have to love it. Consequently, my wardrobe has shrunk quite a bit. For one thing I don’t go shopping that often, and when I do, I don’t often find clothing that I truly adore. But interestingly, my smaller cache of clothes is evolving into a better selection of nice pieces that I truly love to wear.

Can I plan for the purchase?

If your old hot water heater suddenly breaks, you’ll have to raid your emergency savings account and make a fast buying decision based on what’s in stock locally. On the other hand, if you know your water heater needs to be replaced and you have the luxury of a little time, you can research the best quality models on Consumer Reports (at the library, of course). You can figure out the exact size you need for your family, and choose whether you want a tank or an on-demand heater. You can comparison shop, and watch for sales. Best of all, you can save up the money for the water heater, and replace it before your old one breaks and causes damage and stress.

Can I wait?

I have a weakness for the light fixtures made by Rejuvenation. The designs are classic, the quality is first-rate, and the products are priced accordingly. For a few years I’ve been lusting after an Art Deco semi-flush light with reproduction slipper shades for my office. I created a custom search on eBay, and several times a week I receive e-mail notices about Rejuvenation light fixtures that are listed for a fraction of their original price. My exact fixture hasn’t been offered yet, but the hunt is part of the fun. In the mean time, I have a simple overhead light in my office that illuminates the room just fine.

By being willing to wait, I used this method nine years ago to purchase the exact energy-efficient ceiling fan I wanted for our kitchen at a deep discount; you can see the old and new fixture here.

Will this purchase lower our overhead?

Certain purchases might quickly pay for themselves in future savings — a rechargeable lawnmower that you use instead of paying a lawn service, for instance, or quality scissors that you use for kids’ haircuts.

Denver Water is currently offering rebates up to $150 for certain models of high-efficiency toilets. Some of the models are priced below $150, meaning that if I can figure out installation I can replace our privies practically for free and in turn save water and money. However, I’ve read that some models can require multiple flushes under certain conditions — which would cancel out the environmental and monetary advantages. Guess who will be researching toilets next month?

Can I innovate instead of spending money?

I love the Budget Living section of Apartment Therapy, where readers show their amazing hacks to transform spaces for little or no money. Lois at The Eco Grandma frequently posts about her own and others’ adventures in repurposing on her Thrifty Thursdays feature. Make it and Mend It has tons of DIY ideas. Figuring out a solution for little or no money can be not only fiscally rewarding, but personally satisfying.

How About You?

Did you achieve any specific results as a result of your participation in the January Money Diet? If so, we’d love to hear your experiences in the Comments section.

If you have excess cash left over as a result of saving all month, I challenge you to go stash it immediately in an inconvenient savings account, pay off debt, or invest the money before it drifts into the slush fund.

As you may remember, I have a special Happy Simple Living gift box for one lucky January Money Diet participant. The box includes a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card, $25 cash, pantry staples like bean soup mix and organic quinoa, signed copies of three of my cookbooks, homesteading supplies like soap, candles and eco-friendly cleaning supplies, and more.

I don’t know how I’ll choose just one of you, but early next week I will give away the box to one dieter who has participated in this 31-day challenge with heart and soul and achieved good results.

Let’s Continue What We Started

Although our month-long experiment is coming to an end, I look forward to continuing this journey with you in the year ahead. I’ll be sharing ideas and posting about my money-saving strategies in the coming months, and I encourage you to do the same.

If you have any ideas about how to improve next year’s January Money Diet, I’d love to hear from you at elizagcross (at) gmail (dot) com.

Hugs and high fives to each and every one of you,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. If you survived the 2015 January Money Diet, you’re entitled to post this badge wherever you like. (To copy, right-click the graphic with your mouse and save the image):

2015 January Money Diet graduate