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. (Also – please let me know what you think of mega toilet paper rolls that don’t fit in the holder!)
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.
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 issue with Quilted Northern Ultra Plush? From reader e-mails I received with anecdotal information, it’s one of the brands that may be more prone to clogging pipes. The other brand most mentioned in this regard by readers is 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 super-finicky you may 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, if you ask me).
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
Earth-friendly attributes: Very Good
Comfort and DR (dingleberry-resistance): Good
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
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
Earth-friendly attributes: Moderate
Comfort and DR: Very Good
To complicate our experiment, our local grocery store put Cottonelle on sale this week!
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!
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