Here’s the Right Way to Hang a Roll of Toilet Paper
Let's finally settle the oldest debate known to mankind.
It’s perhaps the most contentious disagreement in the history of human civilization. It’s been argued over by married couples, family members, co-workers, and roommates. It’s got it’s own Wikipedia page that’s twice as long as the one for the Iraq War. Ask three people and you’re likely to get three different opinions. And everyone is passionate about their views. Even people who are too polite to discuss politics will start screaming “FAKE NEWS” if challenged over their beliefs. It’s one of the most divisive issues of our time, and we wish we were kidding.
We’re talking, of course, about the Great Toilet Paper Roll Debate. Should a toilet roll hang over the top, or hang under the bottom?
It’s not just an issue of aesthetics. Americans spend 30 minutes per year just looking for the end of a toilet paper roll, which results in $300 million lost each year in productivity. Can we ever come to a consensus and end the madness?
Bill Jarrett in Grand Rapids, Michigan, thinks so. For years he’s been lobbying for the American people to come together and pick a direction already. “My final goal in life is to put an end to this most winnable debate and declare a ‘National Toilet Paper Hanging Way,’” he says. He’s in his 80s now, and we’re no closer to an answer.
It’s time for our national nightmare to end. We’ve sifted through all the evidence, the science and the psychology and the passionate arguments from regular people and self-proclaimed “experts,” and we’ve assembled evidence to support both sides. Let’s take a look and then make a decision.
The Case for Over
1. It Won’t Make You Sick
Researchers at the University of Colorado revealed in a shocking study from 2011 that bathrooms aren’t nearly as hygienic as we want to believe. No, really! Apparently, people are sloppy about washing their hands. And they’re certainly not focused on making sure their hands are clean when they’ve finished their business and are reaching for toilet paper.
Here’s what the study told us: “Using a high-tech genetic sequencing tool, researchers identified 19 groups of bacteria on the doors, floors, faucet handles, soap dispensers, and toilets of 12 public restrooms in Colorado—six men’s restrooms and six women’s restrooms. Many of the bacteria strains identified could be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces.”
So when the loose end of toilet paper is dangling under the roll, that means it’s been rubbing against the bathroom wall, which is infested with all sorts of nasty bacteria. Every time you use the bathroom, you could be putting bacteria directly on your… please don’t make us say it. You get the idea.
2. You’re in the Majority
If you believe in democracy, and that the majority’s decision represents the will of the people, then you have to go with over. As it happens, 70 percent of people have gone on record saying that toilet paper should always be hanging over rather than under the roll. And they’re not willing to compromise on this worldview. One in five people get furious and indignant if they encounter toilet paper that’s hanging the wrong way.
Want further proof that more people prefer over to under? Have you ever been to a hotel where the toilet paper hangs under? No, of course not. And as HGTV host Sarah Richardson has said in an interview, “Hotels can’t be wrong—they replace toilet paper more than anyone.”
3. It’s What the Inventor of Toilet Paper Intended
Seth Wheeler from Albany, New York first patented the design for what would become modern toilet paper roll. And as you can see by his original illustration, the roll is intended to hang off the front. You’re going to argue with the freaking inventor of toilet paper? That’s like trying to argue with Buzz Aldrin about what walking on the moon really feels like.
The Case for Under
1. It’s Cat and Dog Resistant
If you own pets, you’ve experienced the horrors of a bored or mischievous animal deciding to unravel an entire roll of toilet paper for sport. This is easy enough if the roll hangs over, but almost impossible if it’s hanging under. As a Quora user pointed out, “A Cockapoo is capable of pulling toilet paper through an upstairs hallway, down the stairs, around the living room, and under the dining room table. That’s a lot of toilet paper.”
2. Because Ann Landers Said So
When advice columnist Ann Landers was first asked the Over/Under toilet paper question in 1986, she concluded that under was the obvious choice. She received over 15,000 responses from readers, more than for any other single topic in Lander’s multifaceted career. Some protested her stance, arguing that under-hanging toilet paper was akin to madness. But just as many readers thanked her for finally bringing some common sense to the public debate.
“Pulling the paper from the top forces the roll more tightly into the dispenser, compounding the problem,” one reader wrote to Landers. “But when the roll is pulled from the bottom, it unwinds smoothly, with the end hanging free and easy to find.” Can’t argue with that.
3. It Means You’re Not As Uptight
Dr. Gilda Carle, a relationship therapist based in New York, surveyed thousands of people to see what their toilet paper preferences revealed about their personalities. What she discovered was that people who insist that their toilet paper roll over are more likely to be bossy overachievers. But those who let their toilet paper slide lazily under tend to be more relaxed and laid back and “seek relationships with strong foundations.” In general, Carle says, those “who roll over are more dominant than those who roll under.”
So where does that leave us?
We’re either a super-chill cat lover who just wants to take life in stride or a pushy germaphobe that believes in mob rule? Honestly, neither side has an airtight case. But then we discovered the toilet paper philosophy of Brian Wecht, a theoretical physicist who was interviewed on the topic and had some surprisingly convincing insight.
In his words: “When something spins, it creates rotational kinetic energy: the energy of motion.” Whether you face the hanging end of a roll of toilet paper towards the wall or away from it, “the rotational kinetic energy you impart on the roll is the same, and it requires the same amount of torque. They’re mirror images of each other, which means the amount of energy you have to expend is the same.”
In other words, as Wecht concluded, “It doesn’t matter.”
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