There are just a few things in life that we consider absolutely essential: food, water, air, a roof over our heads, clothing on our backs, and of course, one of the most important things of all – toilet paper. For just a moment, try to think about what life would be like without toilet paper. Pretty unpleasant. Right? Luckily for all of us, we live in an era in which toilet paper is available in abundance. This was not always the case.
Humans have known it is important to wipe for as long as we have been around. However, we did not always have something as easy, convenience, and disposable as toilet paper to do it with. Even today, some communities and culture use other means of wiping besides toilet paper. For example, in India using water is considered more sanitary than toilet paper.
Modern, commercially available toilet paper was first introduced in American in 1857 by one Joseph Gayetty. The original advertisements for the product read, “The greatest necessity of the age! Gayetty’s medicated paper for the water-closet.”
It is currently estimated that seven billion rolls of toilet paper are sold annually in the United States. The average American uses 23.6 rolls per year.
Before the invention of this modern toilet paper, there were a number of alternatives available. The ancient Chinese used short bamboo rods with cotton rags to take care of wiping. Of course, cotton rags were a luxury item, so this was on available to the very rich.
Rough forms of paper started seeing use in Europe in the 12th century as papermaking mills become more common in France, Spain, and Germany.
Quite tragically, early American settlers were known to use corncobs in place of modern toilet paper. A lesson can be drawn here. What we now hold as essential was once considered a great luxury. Boy, have times changed!