TMI Thursday: TP Philosophy

Toilet paper usage is a highly under-discussed philosophical issue that I have decided to bring to the forefront of our TMI Thursday work.

Over or Under?

Over or Under?

I find this issue to be important enough that I will refrain from my usual joking around, and play this completely straight.  With that in mind, let us proceed.

A quote from Wikipedia:

Although paper had been known as a wrapping and padding material in China since the 2nd century BC, the first use of toilet paper in human history dates back to the 6th century AD, in early medieval China. In 589 AD the scholar-official Yan Zhitui (531–591) wrote about the use of toilet paper:

“Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes”.


Wealthy people used wool, lace or hemp for their ablutions, while less wealthy people used their hand when defecating into rivers, or cleaned themselves with various materials such as rags, wood shavings, leaves, grass, hay, stone, sand, moss, water, snow, maize husks, fruit skins, or seashells, and corn cobs, depending upon the country and weather conditions or social customs. In Ancient Rome, a sponge on a stick was commonly used, and, after usage, placed back in a bucket of saltwater.

Uhhhhh can we say OOOOOUUUUUCCCCHHHH???  Stone??  Sand???  Wood shavings?  Good lord.  My ass can’t even handle the single ply stuff, let alone one of those things.  I can’t even imagine.

“Hey Bill, gotta shit.  Looks like the bathroom is out of rocks.  You mind grabbing a handful of pebbles for me on your way in?”


Oh wait, I was supposed to play this blog entry “straight” – sorry about that.

Where was I?

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that I faced a philosophical issue when I was on my trip to London recently.

Wait wait wait.  Hold on.  I’m getting way ahead of myself.  Let me take a step back again.

So, let’s talk shit basics.

Step 1:  Pull down your pants/underwear

Step 2:   Sit on the toilet – preferably with the seat down

Step 3:  Flex the muscles that control your anal sphincter

Step 4:  Do a crossword puzzle, read a magazine, etc

Step 5:  Shit magically drops out of your butt-hole and into the toilet

Step 6:  Grab some toilet paper and wipe

Step 7:  Repeat step 6 until no more shit is left

Step 8:  Flush

(and no, we are not going to talk about the philosophy of the courtesy flush.  This is an entry about TP – let’s give it the time it deserves.  Ok??)

So, let’s examine step 6 & 7. 

My question is:  how much toilet paper do you take when you wipe your ass?

My answer is:  it’s different every time.

I mean, depending on the consistency and quantity of crap, it all varies.  At first I grab a nice handful and do a scouting run.  Depending on the results, I will vary my usage.

  • The drippier the result, the more I use, and the more I crumple the TP.
  • If the crap is fairly hard, I might not need to wipe again (although I always do, just in case I missed something the first time).  In this scenario I usually just use 2-3 squares folded neatly.

We all do this kind of thing.  There is really no question about it.  In fact, it really sucks when you have to use an alien bathroom and the toilet paper dispenser doesn’t work quite like you want it to.  This means you can’t follow your normal TP philosophy.  An example is when the toilet paper roller isn’t well oiled and it’s hard to get any more than 1 square at a time. 

I f’n hate that. 

Or how about when the roller is TOO well oiled, and when you pull off your expected amount, a huge pile of TP forms on the ground, as the roll comes… well….. completely unrolled. 

This brings up so many other questions, such as, do I really want to wipe my ass with TP that’s touched the floor in a public bathroom?  Probably not…. but I also don’t want to be that guy who leaves a huge pile of TP sitting on the floor.  It’s wasteful, it looks nasty, and it’s embarrassing if the guy in the next stall over notices (I mean, who wants to look like they suck at pulling toilet paper off a roll??)

As you can see, I’ve put a lot of thought into this.

Anyway, it might be time for me to get to my point….

Recently, I took a trip to London.  On that trip, I learned that public bathrooms in that city are fantastic.  Clean and well maintained.  In fact, some of the bathrooms in the malls there were treated better than the one I use at work!  It was fantabulistically grand.

Except for 1 thing

The toilet paper dispensers were all fucked up.

While everything was normal in my hotel room, in public areas, they all had the same kind of toilet paper dispenser.  And they all did the same god-damn thing.

They rationed toilet paper.

Apparently there must be a shortage of toilet paper in the UK, because these fuckers were calibrated exactly the same.  When you grab some TP from the dispenser, it will only give you 2 sheets of toilet paper, with exactly 2 squares each.  You see, there’s no roll, just a big pile of pre-sized TP sheets.

What the hell??

Did someone decide that we’re not smart enough to decide how much toilet paper is appropriate for our own ass?  How did they decide that this was the perfect amount of TP for each wipe?? 

I’m sorry, but 1 size does not fit all!!

Let’s consider this for a moment.  By controlling the serving size of the TP, they have actually altered the physics of wiping. 

Really?  C’mon.  It’s just toilet paper.  How can you start bringing up lofty topics like physics when talking about wiping your ass?

Because if there were a Journal of the Physics of Ass-Wiping, I would be the editor.  You see, it is physically impossible to create an effective crumpled ball of toilet paper from separate sheets containing only 2 squares.  If you are REALLY bored and want to know the science behind this, go here.

Oh whatEVER.  Suck it up buddy and wipe your ass.

Shut up and pay attention. 

You see, your options are pretty much limited to the “fold and wipe” when you only have 2 squares to work with.  This is a problem when you are traveling long distances overseas and your digestive system is unhappy with the overall situation.  Why?  Because it could mean that your ass is a wee bit more drippy than usual.  Or a LOT more drippy than usual.  Or just a freakin’ faucet. 

So?? It’s not like you’ve never encountered that problem before.  Quit your complaining and wipe your ass like a man.

You aren’t paying attention.  Stay with me here.

So, wet shit soaks through thin sheets of TP, which is why the crumple works so well.  By crumpling the TP you  increase surface area, as well as the distance between your hand and your shit.  These are 2 very important concepts, because……

When you can’t do the crumple effectively, you know what you get?


Or in this case, shit all over my hand.

This is not exactly a preferred result of ass wiping.

Oh stop, why can’t you put together a whole bunch of those sheets and form a nice crumpled ball?

Physics my dear inner-voice, physics.  It’s because the sheets aren’t connected. 

In order to form an effective crumple ball, you need at least 5-8 sheets.  When the sheets aren’t connected, and you crumple them up, it doesn’t guarantee they are going to stay together.  It’s not like they’re glued together.  No, you see, it takes very little force to jiggle 1 or 5 of those single serving sheets free from the crumple ball.  And when I say “very little force,” things such as gravity, or a slight northeast breeze on the western plains of Mongolia, are enough to jiggle things free.

What does that mean?


and even worse?

A shit covered piece of toilet paper sitting on my lap.



When visiting London, there were many cultural differences that I observed, but it was the variance in their ass-wiping philosophy that was the most shocking.

After a week, I was finally able to identify the driver of the philosophical difference: diet

The lack of fiber in the British diet eventually made me super-constipated.  Hard shit means less toilet paper usage.

I guess that explains why the British always have pained looks on their faces.


TP Philosophy


11 responses to “TMI Thursday: TP Philosophy

  1. It’s totally a Commonwealth thing. We have those stupid napkins instead of tp at some places in Canada., although at least it’s not rationed. and then a huge chunk falls on the ground (and stays there, esp. at the bar — who wants anything that’s touched a bar bathroom floor?)

    The rectangles (and not squares) in Germany were completely confusing for the tp count b/c there was more tp per sheet. You’re going to have to practice some bathroom math before you ever take a trip there.

    Whoa. Yer like a TP expert or something. You should be on MSNBC sharing this data!!

  2. Now I know what I’m getting you for Christmas…

    Wood shavings toilet paper.

    Why do you hate my ass so?

  3. Um. I can’t believe I read this whole thing. I mean, part of the time, I was laughing, another part kind of cringe gagging and the rest? Just hoping to get to the end. You outdid the TMI and it was awesome.

    Isn’t that the point of TMI Thursdays? The 2 g’s! Giggling and gagging!

  4. Yikes… all I have to say..

    That’s an excellent word. Very descriptive of the situation

  5. the sponge on a stick method is oddly intriguing. i just don’t trust any of the sticks i have ready access to

    You don’t trust sticks? What are they going to do? secretly poke you in the no-no spot? 😉

  6. I definately favor the “over the top” tp roll placement. It makes it easier for me to set the roll, well, rolling and then I can stop it when I’ve unrolled the exact amount I’ll need.

    I, too, favor the crumple method. The only drawback is you can’t do the ‘fold over and re-wipe’ maneuver once you’ve crumpled.

    Crumple once, and you’re done.

    You bring up so many great points. The fold over is definitely a staple of butt wiping. I’ve nearly mastered the crumple re-fold and wipe. Once I get the technique straight, I’ll re-post here.

  7. A number of the bathrooms I went to in the UK contained the normal “America” dispensers…however they were decidedly less clean than the toilets you describe. Perhaps the strangeness of the dispenser is dependent upon the cleanliness of the public bathroom?

    Perhaps we need another trip back to London to investigate this. I’m thinking we leave immediately.

  8. I must have control over my toilet paper usage!!! Damn Brits! 🙂

    Seriously! I think its a cultural problem. No wonder the french hate them 😉

  9. You know what I hate when you shit and then wipe and there is nothing on the TP. Where does it go???

    That certainly is a great question. I always feel a bit unfulfilled when that happens to me.

  10. This is priceless. I have a reputation for using a TON of toilet paper, but hey, at least my ass is clean. And? Now I can say “hey, I’m just celebrating the fact the I don’t have to scrub my Areas with a pine bough”

    In Europe I learned to carry pocket-paks of tissues and they were worth their weight in gold.

    One more thought: Snow may be the most efficient paper alternative because when you wipe, your asshole will automatically freeze and clench up, thus confining the cleaning area, and keeping any more detritus from spreading.

    Wow. Just wow.

  11. A friend of my one of my brothers really confuses people…. there have been occasions where you go into his bathroom and there is no TP. Only the observant will notice the industrial sized baby wipe dispenser. Yep, thats pretty much all he uses since he states that it is so much better. He sometimes buys TP for the less observant people.

    This is probably due to him going to a military school for HS…. We in the military (read, Army and Marines….) love us some baby wipes, though we sometimes try to man them up (Army PX’s sell Hooah wipes…. which of course are rebranded baby wipes). They are the ultimate solution for field sanitation..

    Hooah wipes. That is the funniest thing I’ve heard in a while. Nice.

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