I know, not exactly hard-hitting consumer news. But actually toilet paper is important to me, and ever since I got a “real” job I’ve been buying Charmin Ultra Soft toilet paper. I don’t even check the price, I just buy it in bulk and revel in the luxurious softness compared to the industrial-grade junk I used to buy.
In the May 2012 issue, Consumer Reports ran their scientific lab tests on 25 different varieties of toilet paper (subscription required for full article) to find the best combination of price, softness, strength, disintegration, and tearing ease.
The findings? First, the hidden shrinkage by retail brands that we’ve seen in various products like orange juice cartons (59 oz. instead of 64 oz.) has spread to toilet paper. Sheets have been made smaller, and rolls are smaller as well. The right way to calculate value is by square feet, but who does that?
The top overall pick was the White Cloud 3-Ply Ultra Soft and Thick brand sold at Wal-mart, which performed well in all categories while maintaining a good price of 25 cents per 100 sheets. The cheapest Scott brand (1,000 sheets per roll!) performed poorly and cost 8 cents per sheet. But if you’re having to use three times the sheets, who cares?
The top green pick was the Seventh Generation brand, which is made from recycled content and did alright in most areas except strength but still had a good price of 22 cents per 100 sheets.
My beloved Charmin Ultra Soft came in 6th, done in by a poor showing in disintegration tests and higher-than-average cost. But wait. The 30-roll megapack at Costco is usually $17.99. Every few months the coupon packet has a $2 off coupon, which is the only time I buy it. Each “Jumbo” roll has 231 double-ply sheets, which works out to after-coupon cost of only 23 cents per 100 sheets. The quoted retail price in Consumer Reports is 41 cents per 100 sheets. I rarely shop at Wal-mart, so it seems that my toilet paper buying habits are still within acceptable frugal parameters.