Consumer Reports: The Best Toilet Paper

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Our latest tests of the biggest national and store brands of toilet paper show that you don¹t have to pay the most for rolls that are strong yet soft. (At left, lab technician Awilda Cruz dampens toilet paper sheets weighted with lead shot to see which rolls hold up best under stress.)

At just 12 to 15 cents per 100 sheets, CR Best Buys Kirkland Signature (Costco) and White Cloud (Walmart) cost roughly half what we paid for three pricey performers from Quilted Northern, Charmin, and Cottonelle. That can add up to roughly $130 per year for a family of three.

Price isn't the only reason you might want to sidestep Charmin Ultra Strong. It was also ultra-slow to break apart in our disintegration tests, a concern if you have paper-crazy kids or a septic system.

Toilet-paper makers are also plying you with more sheets, more layers, and the added sanitation of wet wipes. More rolls made from recycled products also promise to be softer as well as greener. But weeks of testing shows that some promises are mostly puffery, and some wet wipes could give you a nasty surprise if they're flushed. Here are the details:
Greener still isn't softer

We tested Marcal's 1000 and Sunrise, as well as Seventh Generation, which use 100 percent recycled materials. All did well in our disintegration tests but were only so-so for softness. They've since been reformulated, in part for softness. But as our retest shows, green still involves some sacrifices.

Marcal's new Small Steps replaces its earlier green products. At 8 cents per 100 sheets, it costs roughly one-third as much as the reformulated version of Seventh Generation we tested. That and top performance in our disintegration tests make it a good low-priced choice among greener rolls.


But as with the latest Seventh Generation paper, softness and strength was only middling despite the changes.
More plies aren't always stronger

We measured how much lead shot dampened sheets could hold before they broke. The strongest were thickest and typically had two plies, or layers, compared with one for lower-scoring rolls. Quilted Northern Ultra Plush has three plies, but it was neither thickest nor strongest. And Scott Extra Soft single ply proved about as strong as many two-ply rolls.
More sheets might not be a bargain

At just 6 cents per 100 sheets, Scott 1000 delivered the most sheets for the lowest price. But because it was also the thinnest and wimpiest toilet roll we tested, you could wind up using more of this lower-scoring roll than you bargained for.
When "flushable" might not be

All three wet wipes were at least as thick as the sheets in our thickest rolls. That and their texture helped them ace our strength tests. But unlike even the most robust rolls, none of the wipes broke apart in our disintegration tests. And at $4 or more per 100 sheets, they're the priciest by far.

Our advice: Bag and toss wipes into the trash when you're done rather than risk taxing your toilet or septic system.

Other Ways to Save

Buy in bulk
You can save roughly 20 cents per roll, even with the usual 12 pack, compared with buying rolls individually. But "bulk" meant 36 rolls for the Costco Kirkland Signature we tested.

Question the claims
Even the slowest in our disintegration tests was labeled "flushable" and "septic safe." Look for rolls rated higher in those tests, especially if you have a septic system or small children.

Know what green means
Look for rolls that are 100 percent recycled. Greenpeace, the environmental-advocacy group, also rates paper based on the bleaching process (see www.greenpeace.org) to help protect ancient forests, wildlife, and water.

 

 

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