I spend a lot of time in grocery stores.  They’re my leisure activity.  I love a good grocery store like a University student loves a good kegger.  Let me walk you through what a typical visit to the toilet paper aisle is like with me:

Karen: (subject strolling back and forth in front of toilet paper aisle)  Hmm.  HMMM.  I will buy this toilet paper.  It’s on sale.

Other customer:  Why are you telling me? I’m not concerned with what bathroom tissue you buy.

Karen:  Bathroom tissue? Bathroom tissue??!!   Aren’t you fancy. I wasn’t talking to you anyway, I was talking to myself.  Basically you were eavesdropping on a private conversation with myself.  Which makes you either rude or a spy. Are you a spy?  You seem very spy-like.

Other customer:  I’d prefer to be rude than suffer from logorrhea.

Karen:  Wha … what? Logorrhea?  I’m starting to understand the whole “bathroom tissue” thing.

Other customer:  (stares blankly)

Karen:  I’ve decided you’re not a spy.  You could never fit any cool spy stuff in that ridiculously small spy kit.

Other customer:  It’s not a spy kit, it’s my crayon box.

Karen:  Either way, kid …  I’m still buying the toilet paper that’s on sale.

Other customer:  You’re weird.

The End.

A similar scenario is likely to happen in the dairy, meat or cereal aisle.

This scenario is never likely to happen again because as of a few weeks ago I changed my attitude.  And my toilet paper brand.

All because of my never ending plumbing problems.

ONE thing you can do to decrease the chance of any plumbing problems is buy the right toilet paper.

And do NOT buy the wrong one.

I wanted to know which was which, so of course … I did an experiment.

If you have any sort of plumbing issues, the most important thing in toilet paper isn’t if it has lotion, isn’t if it’s thick, isn’t if it’s soft, isn’t if it’s on sale … the MOST important thing is …


Toilet paper that doesn’t dissolve just sits in a clump in your plumbing.  And if it gets caught on something like a jagged edge or corner in your pipes it will stay there for a longggg time, allowing more and more paper to get stuck and caught on it, creating, eventually a big mass of undissolved toilet paper blocking your sewer line.

And then one day you’ll flush the toilet and instead of the water in the toilet bowl going down, it will start to move UP.  Towards you. As you stare in horror, desperately trying to remember what to do (turn the water supply to the toilet off immediately) you’ll wonder why, WHYYYYYYYY is this happening to YOU?

Because you’re using the wrong toilet paper.

In the olden days this wouldn’t have been as large a problem but a lot of today’s low flush toilets just don’t have enough power to push the super luxurious toilet paper through.

So the experiment.

I went out and bought 3 brands of toilet paper.



I bought the cheapest brand possible at $5 for a whole whack of rolls.  It was my store’s own cheapo-brand.

I bought Charmin Ultra Soft which looked like a standard premium toilet paper.  I bought it because this particular toilet paper had a claim right on the packaging that it’s a “no plunger” toilet paper.  Meaning it won’t clog your pipes.  Presumably that means it will dissolve easily.

I bought Cottonelle Gentle Care with Aloe which looked more like a blanket than toilet paper.



I put 2 sheets of each of the brands into a glass jar.


Then I added 2 cups of water to each jar.


Then I let them sit for half an hour.

After half an hour I stirred the toilet paper up a bit to see how it broke down.


The results were amazing.



Both of Premium and Super Premium brands (Charmin on the left and Cottonelle on the right) barely broke down.  The cheap stuff broke down very well.

84% of households buy Premium and Super Premium brand toilet paper by the way.


The Charmin Ultra Soft which claimed on its packaging that it wouldn’t clog your pipes, did dissolve but not nearly as much as the cheap stuff.  After half an hour in water I could still pull out big globs of paper without it breaking.


The cheapest brand, as I suspected, dissolved away to almost nothing after half an hour.  All that remained after stirring it a bit were tiny little bits.  It almost broke down completely.  This toilet paper would not cause your pipes to clog.



The Cottonelle with Aloe and ripples?  This toilet paper almost didn’t break down at all. And even after soaking it in the water it was still strong and not at all interested in breaking apart.

You might think this is a lot of thought about toilet paper, but the day will come, mark my words when you’re staring a toilet bowl full of horrors and you’ll wish you’d given toilet paper more thought.

The least of your worries is an overflowing toilet before you can get the plunger to work.  The worst of your worries is sewer lines that need to be snaked at a cost of around $400.

Actually, that’s not the worst. The worst of your worries is spending thousands of dollars replacing your sewer lines that keep getting clogged when all you needed to do was buy better (worse) toilet paper.



  1. Mel says:

    Fabulously useful post! When I taught middle school art, I found a recipe for paper mache clay using toilet paper, and indeed, the cheap stuff IS the right answer for that as well!

  2. Rachel San Diego says:

    That’s our Karen… Always on the forefront of groundbreaking (pipe-clogging?) research!

    Nicely done. I TP my hat to you, lady.

  3. allyn says:

    thank you for devoting your life to answering the big questions all of us are not admitting we really want to know!

  4. Shirley says:

    As a rural homeowner on our own septic system, I can tell you I bought Cottonelle ONCE!

  5. Suzanne says:

    I thank you and our sewer line thanks you. Our home was built in 1950 and every time we have guest for the weekend we have sewer problems. In fact this last Christmas my husband and brother-in-law spent the day in our front yard trying to clean out the sewer line. Not the day any of us had planned on.

  6. Jenn says:

    Thank you!! We are in a septic tank and field system and it’s great to know this!!!

  7. Karen says:

    Thanks Allyn! That’s what I’m here for. That and eating chips. ~ karen!

  8. Rhonda "Smartypants" Davis says:

    Um, I may have missed something while otherwise unclogging my toilet; however, how do I, pray tell, know which TP is the preferred choice? You live in Canada, m’dear, and I live in Oregon (Ory-gun) and I’m sure your cheapest brand is not the same as the cheapest brand here. Or, am I wrong? I do know which two brands NOT to buy, so thanks much for that info. 😉

  9. Karen says:

    Thanks Mel! That’s funny, I was thinking about paper mache when I was doing this experiment! ~ karen

  10. Karen says:

    It’s an INSANELY important topic that no one seems to know about! I have no idea why this hasn’t been discussed or showcased more. It’s bizarre really! ~ karen

  11. Karen says:

    It doesn’t matter. Just buy whatever is the cheapest and it’s likely to be the one that breaks down the fastest. If you’re unsure do a test yourself. Just buy a small amount, put it in a jar of water for half an hour and mix it up. It if falls apart, it’s good, if it stays pretty much together you know it’s going to clump. ~ karen!

  12. Pam says:

    Problem with the cheapo brand is that is ALSO breaks down when you’re wiping your rear end or even dabbing gently at your front end :). I’ll go for the premium brands every time. And flush well.

  13. Dagmar says:

    Please welcome me as a specialist on this topic. I live with most of my digestive system removed, due to a gastrointestinal disease. Having said that, I visit washrooms, A LOT of washrooms; which means knowing a little about toilet paper. And indeed the thinner ones are much better. I have found that the Costo brand called Kirkland Signature are fantastic. They are soft but don’t clog. They don’t have fancy lotions, so they don’t cause any unwanted itching or side effects. Plus, they are a good value. The only issue is that most people cannot walk into the Costco stores and buy just toilet paper. That, unfortunately I cannot give any advice on.

  14. Pam says:

    P.S. I’ve also noticed that with the cheapo brand (which a friend buys) you end up using twice as much as you would of the so-called premium brand. That’s no bargain….and with twice as much TP going down the drain I don’t know that one is ahead of the game.

  15. Karen says:

    I’m guessing the first time you get a $1,000 repair bill you’ll rethink that sentiment, lol. But that’s just a guess. ~ karen!

  16. Barbie says:

    Yes! We only buy Scott …. Breaks down great! Great post…. A lot of peeps just don’t realize this!

  17. Karen says:

    It’s not about the cost of the toilet paper Pam. It’s about the fact that the cheap stuff won’t ruin your pipes and clog (no matter how much you use). The thick, plush, expensive stuff does not dissolve or break down. The post isn’t about the cost of toilet paper. It’s about the cost of repairs using the wrong toilet paper will lead to. Like I say, continue to use the premium if you want. Go nuts. Maybe you have superior pipes. But it’s not the right choice if you have even slightly questionable pipes or substandard toilet and will, without question, lead to problems. ~ karen!

  18. Karen says:

    Yes! Thanks for the reminder Barbie. If you’re in the U.S. Scotts is a great choice! Excellent toilet paper that breaks down incredibly well. ~ karen!

  19. Connie says:

    This just happened to me TODAY! I was horrified and thought well what did I do to cause this? My bathroom is after all 42 years old so maybe I need a new stool. I use Charmin because I like the way it feels on my bum but I do not like what happened when I got up this morning.
    I would bet its the toilet paper. Thanks for the timely post. Silly me, I never even considered the tp.


  20. Milton says:

    I have often said that plumbing is something you never think about until it breaks. THEN it becomes the most important thing in your life. Your experience seems to confirm this same observation. Thanks for a great post!

  21. Pam says:

    LOL. I realize it’s not about the cost Karen. But maybe I’ve been lucky as I’ve been in the same house for over 26 years, with an original toilet which is probably almost 40 years old, and I’ve never had a major problem yet. Yes, I’ve had a few clogs but a rubber plunger solved the problem.

  22. stephbo says:

    That was exactly my thought! I’ll take the higher quality “takes a little longer to break down but won’t leave me with unpleasant things on my hands” toilet paper any day.

  23. stephbo says:

    Also a tip–don’t flush baby wipes or dental floss. We had some old pipes that apparently had some tree roots poking through. Those things snag and cause problems.

  24. peg says:

    i will test my store brand tomorrow.I won’t buy “charmin” to expensive at my grocery.(almost to thick ) Thanks for getting us to think about stuff that doesn’t seem important but is. 😀

  25. Mark says:

    Really good demo Karen, good information to know.

    A few years ago (when I was replacing 60 yr old toilets with low flush 6L models), a plumber told me that I would not be happy unless I replaced the cast iron waste stack at the same time. This is because cast iron is rougher inside, and there is not enough water to transport all the solids along that rough cast iron without the occasional clog. It wasn’t a problem as it was a complete remodel of the house and I was planning on relocating fixtures anyway, but it was good information to know.

  26. Shannon says:

    Thanks for this post. We have suffered from clogs in the past. My current favourite is Cascades. It has post consumer recycled fibre and it starts to break down rather quickly. It is also not too bad on the tooshie either. Unfortunately our local Costco did have it last time so we bought the Kirkland brand. Doesn’t breakdown as fast and I have read that it is not great for the sewer system. Have you heard anything about that?

  27. jen says:

    Pinned…to my ‘It Works’ board 😉

  28. Muff Hackett says:

    I live in Squamish BC – our District has addressed this very question:–_mmwDP7g8

  29. Marla says:

    Right on! My house (1924) had old pipes, and I found, at great expense, that the cheap stuff is the best.

  30. Kathy says:

    You get the best notions and then follow with 4 star experiments. The toilet went glug while I was in the shower. That is not as heart stopping as the bowl about to overflow but it still means plumbers. It was tree roots that cracked a cement sewer line. The fence comes down for the heavy equipment to dig a 5-6 foot deep trench and that starts 3-4 days that I wouldn’t curse on anyone. No sign of the main sewer line at the end of my property and they dig up my neighbors yard to almost the corner of her house. The tree was on her property but who knew where the sewer line was hiding. Yeah it was 5,00.00 and they only take fences down 🙂 So I will test my toilet paper in the morning. I wonder if flushable wipes ever dissolve often used on little kids.

  31. Elaine says:

    I don’t know what we’d do without you, Karen, doing all this important research stuff so we don’t have to … and more importantly, avoid potential problems. So, thank you for this informative post!

    What bothers me is I’m sort of naive when it comes to advertising and tend to believe companies WAY too much. (Meaning that if a company says on their label “never clogs” or something similar, I’ll buy it.). From now on, I’ll pay more attention and buy the cheap stuff even if I have to replace the roll more frequently, it’s a heck of a lot better than a plumber’s bill. I’m going to pass this information on to my married children. Again, thank you!

  32. MissChris SA says:

    Whoever thought human waste disposal and it’s requirements could make such an interesting read!!!

    I will have to test our local brands as well – will let you know the results!

    Have a great day!

  33. B.L.H. says:

    25 years or so ago, my daughter did a Science Fair project titled, Is Your Charmin Harming? It was basically this same experiment, with the conclusion that Charmin probably was not the best choice for our environment. It did not dissolve very well.

  34. Dagmar says:

    And no one said that you can’t double it when wiping. It really just “comes down” to flushing tp or something that is as thick as a shop towel. ?

  35. Josephine says:

    When the thicker toilet papers came out I thought I was in heaven. Until I thought about it. Our house was built in 1878. We quickly stopped buying them. A couple of weeks ago my mother-in-law’s sewer backed up. Told hubby to find out what toilet paper she was using as the last time I was there I thought it was quite thick. Yes she had to pay someone to clean her line.

  36. Denise Hosner says:

    I have a friend in Wisconsin who will only buy Scott tissue because nothing else dissolves. When I visited, I was not allowed to flush the “flushable” Equate brand of wipes. (walmart).

  37. Marna says:

    Good to know! I have wondered how well the tp of today was compared to many years ago. My husband and sons were always causing overflows, was probably the tp. Thanks

  38. Danee says:

    Living in rural Spain, I’ve lived in places with what is called a “green” toilet. the squeemish might need to look away now, what it is, is a hose pipe that runs down hill and away from the house (fairly large but still a hose pipe like an irrigation pipe) to an area of a particular kind of tree or cactus. NO toilet paper must ever be flushed down that pipe, the cacti “eat” the waste but can’t ·eat the paper, so what you do is have a little foot operated waste basket in the bathroom. My husband and I, without ever talking about it, always put the paper “dirty-side-down”, we also took turns taking out the garbage. The upside to all this was after the waste was eaten the water leached out into a grove of avocado trees, huge avocado trees, so full of avocados that after a couple of months of eating them for breakfast lunch and dinner, we would run into town and Mclove on a little McD——! Now we live near a village with a city water system and no avocado trees, I actually have to go to the store to buy avocados.

  39. Sharon Jones says:

    Wow, thank you for this post. I have a bowel problem, thus spend lots of time in the bathroom. I have until reading your article preferred good quality toilet paper, (it is kinder to ones’ s derriere). Will reassess the toilet paper next grocery shop.

  40. Paula says:

    Septic, very old septic here so this is great info for us, too. Thanks Karen.

  41. Kevin says:

    Two words: Japanese bidet.

    Hygenic, use tons less paper, and helps if you have personal plumbing problems.

  42. LuAnn says:

    Dear SmartyPants,
    I live in a 90 year old house for the last 26 years and I’ve found Scott tissue works well with my old pipes. Learned that years ago from issues with our old motorhome as well.

  43. How many years ago are we talking? At one time it was the Eaton’s catalogue 😉 Before that, big soft leaves (watch for poison ivy).

  44. Tara says:

    Oh Karen, you’re always so timely with your posts! My husband and I put our house on the market earlier this month and we bought an RV that we’ll be living in full-time when the house sells as we venture across the United States and one of the things I was afraid of was giving up my luxury toilet paper from living in our home but this gives me the courage to venture into the one-ply world that will be RV living soon!

  45. Julie says:

    Hey Shannon…I’m wondering about Kirkland as well…I hear bad things about it here in Fredericton NB…

  46. Ronda says:

    Luann, we live in a 60 year old house, rurally.
    We too only use SCOTT Tissue, for the same reasons.
    The original Scott tissue, not the cushy stuff.

  47. Eileen says:

    We have septic pipes and had a serious backup when we bought the house, ten years of other peoples Stuff, yuk. Anyway, now: two tips, use SINGLE ply toilet paper, whatever brand, most likely store brand and Second, if you have a septic system, put a package of yeast powder in the septic once a month. You can either divide it up and flush it down each of your toilets or you can put it directly in the septic, should you have access to it easily. We not talking the little packets you use to make bread. It comes in 1 lb packages of yeast powder. We buy it at a discount store, locally. It’s about $6-8 and it breaks down the bacteria, etc. in the septic.

  48. Also Scott paper has like three times more sheets on it which by far makes it the thriftiest! I’m obsessed with sharing this info to everyone including you! Love your blog!

  49. Ann says:

    Such a fun and timely post.

    I am a good customer at Kroger’s, one of our big local grocery chains. They send out targeted coupons to good customers monthly. One of those coupons is often for a free 6 pack of the store brand of bathroom tissue. I love that cheapie stuff. I have gone for the cheapie stuff now for years cause I hate how the really thick stuff just sits in the bowl and seems to take up so much room. And it wouldn’t do for anyone to not flush just once and come back to use again before flushing cause that premium stuff just seemed so bulky sitting there in the water. I have never had the cheapie stuff break apart in my hand or cause me to not feel clean enough. And I don’t often have to use any more than I would of the premium.

    Bless you for taking on such a real task of evaluating toilet tissue!!

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