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The use of soft, strong toilet paper is a contemporary luxury that is undoubtedly taken for granted. Ask any older family members about their earlier memories of toilet tissue and they will recount a stiff, hard, medicated and ‘unsympathetic’ material. 

According to Wikipedia the average American now uses one roll of toilet paper every two weeks. This is probably somewhere between  12 and 20 sheets of paper every day.


Although paper is known as a wrapping and padding material in China since the 2nd century BC it wasn’t until 589 AD that the scholar-official Yan Zhitui wrote concerning toilet paper. The use developed and during the early 14th century, it was recorded there was an annual production of ten million packages of toilet paper in one Chinese province.

Elsewhere, wealthy people wiped themselves with wool, lace or hemp, while the ‘less well off’ used their hand, or cleaned themselves with an assortment of natural materials depending upon the country, the weather or social customs. In Ancient Rome, a sponge on a stick was commonly used, and, after use, placed back in a bucket of vinegar. Sources indicate that ancient Jewish practice was the use of small pebbles, often carried in a special bag, they also mention the use of dry grass and the smooth edges of broken pottery jugs.

in the United States Joseph Gayetty is widely credited with being the inventor of modern commercially available toilet paper. His paper, first introduced in 1857, was available as late as the 1920s. Gayetty's Medicated Paper was sold in packages of flat sheets, watermarked with the inventor's name. Even in the 1940s this type of toilet paper was so rough and scratchy that many people used old newspapers, because the paper was softer.

Today’s tissue is made from a number of layers of varying coarseness and durability and has two to four plies of very finely pulped paper. It may be quilted or embossed, coloured or patterned, medicated, or treated with perfumes. The manufacturers try to reach an optimal balance between rapid decomposition which requires shorter fibres and sturdiness which requires longer ones.


The reflections along with the high and low lights on the metal support have to be carefully observed to make a convincingly shinny object. This is complemented by the simple yet basic form of the toilet roll. The hanging sheets have been offset to create a more dynamic composition. The pattern on this paper has to be plausibly rendered and repeated whilst the paper must be given the right degree of translucency.

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