Of the small annoyances that pit spouse against spouse and parent against child, many take place in the bathroom. Toothpaste cap off, toilet seat up and toilet paper that unrolls the wrong way. There are two camps on how toilet paper should be dispensed: from over the top (in front of the roll) or from underneath (behind). We asked Consumer Reports' Facebook fans about their preferences and overwhelmingly they voted for the top down approach. We don't take sides at Consumer Reports but we're definitely picky about toilet paper.
In our toilet paper tests, we use machines and specially trained sensory panelists to see which rolls combine strength, softness and convenience. To test strength, we stack and insert 15 sheets of each toilet paper into an Instron, an apparatus normally used for sturdier stuff. It slowly pushes a steel ball through the sheets. Stronger papers can withstand three times as much pressure as the weakest ones before tearing.
In our softness tests, sensory panelists feel the toilet paper with their fingertips in a temperature and humidity-controlled room so the fibers are evaluated under controlled conditions. To test how fast the paper disintegrates, reflecting how well a paper will move through your pipes, we put a sheet of a paper and a two-inch stirring bar into a water-filled beaker set on a stirring plate. The time it takes for the sheet to disintegrate provides the score.
Walmart's White Cloud 3-Ply Ultra Soft and Thick aced all three of these tests and also tore with ease, earning it a CR Best Buy. Two other Walmart house brands also made the recommended list as did one from CVS and Quilted Northern. Homeowners with chronic plumbing problems may want to steer clear of Charmin Ultra Strong, which got the worst disintegration score. Another variety of Charmin and one from Quilted Northern did only fair on that test.
The 25 toilet papers we tested varied not only in performance but in price, plies and sheets per roll. Some brands make green claims and an offering from Scott is tube free. There are lots of choices in the toilet paper aisle but how you hang it is up to you. To join the debate, visit our Facebook page.
—Mary H.J. Farrell