Who Invented Toilet Paper?

Who Invented Toilet Paper?

, by Maeve Reidy, 5 min reading time

It's something that everybody (we hope!) uses, but where in the world did toilet paper come from? And who invented it?

It's one of those things that we use (usually) multiple times a day. But have you ever wondered who came up with the invention of toilet paper?

The first paper-like substance was papyrus which was invented some time in the Third Century BC in Egypt. But the first true tree-fibre+water paper was actually invented during the Eastern Han Dynasty in China by a court official called Ts'ai Lun. The exact date it was invented is unknown, but it is generally thought to be around 105 BCE.

Paper came to be used for many purposes, from writing on to padding and packing materials, but it was the Chinese scholar Yan Zhi Tui who wrote in 589 BCE:

Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries, I dare not use for toilet.

Jan Zhitui

By the 14th Century, the Ming Dynasty were reported producing thousands of sheets of "easy-to-use" 600mm x 900mm sheets of toilet paper, primarily used by royal families and rich people!

It's questionable whether at this stage it was referred to as "toilet paper" as the toilet hadn't even been invented! That honour belongs to Sir John Harrington who, in 1596, invented the world's first flushable toilet (although it didn't have an "S" bend to keep those noxious fumes away!) and installed one in his home in Somerset, England, before installing one for his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I at Richmond Palace, England.

Sir John Harrington

 

The first commercial toilet paper was invented by Joseph C Gayetty in 1857 in New York, and remained one of the only commercial brands of toilet paper available from 1857 until 1890 when other toilet paper manufacturers got in on the act. Manufactured from banana fibres (manilla hemp), it was lubricated with aloe and was marketed as "anti-hemorrhoid medicated paper". But it was still sold as flat sheets.

Gayetty medicated toilet paper

By 1871, Seth Wheeler became interested in the aesthetics and looks of toilet paper. He invented the first rolls of toilet paper, as well as cast iron round dispensers for it, and set up the APW Paper Company in Albany, New York.
Seth Wheeler Toilet Paper
Despite all these advances, the quality of toilet paper can't have been terribly good, as in 1935 Northern Tissue discovered a "linenising" process for their toilet paper, and proudly advertised it as "splinter-free" to their American customers. Which must have been a relief!
In 1942, St Andrews Mills in Walthamstow, UK, created the world's first 2-ply toilet paper. Initially marketed as Androll the brand soon became known worldwide as Andrex.
the history of toilet paper
Despite being first invented over 2,000 years ago, it's only in the 18th, 19th and 20th Century that huge strides have been made in the refinement of the toilet paper we know and love!
These improvements continue into the 21st Century. With more and more of us consciously choosing eco-friendly and sustainable options, toilet paper is no different.
FIG sugarcane toilet paper is one such sustainable and eco-friendly option. It is manufactured from sugarcane byproducts, after the valuable sugar has been extracted. This byproduct, called bagasse, would ordinarily be dumped or used for fuel ... not very eco! The naturally short fibres of the sugarcane ensures that the resulting toilet paper is extremely soft and starts breaking down 4 seconds after flushing (current industrial standard is 19 seconds!) The manufacturing process is markedly less intensive than traditional wood-paper toilet paper, making sugarcane toilet paper a true Eco-Hero!
Contact Box Depot to find out how to be your own Eco-Hero!
sugarcane toilet paper

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