Consumer Reports Ratings: Best Value in… Toilet Paper?

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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.

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  1. Coopers_Dad says:

    We also live by the Charmin coupons in (seemingly) every other monthly coupon book mailed by Costco. (I tried the much less expensive Kirkland brand, but my family nixed it as thinner and less soft! I had too agree and used 50% more sheets as a result, eliminating–pun intended–most of the savings.)
    Although the Charmin coupon usually is “limit one”, remember that all the coupons in each booklet have the same barcode. Scan one coupon from the mailer and EVERYTHING in your cart that’s coupon-eligible receives the savings.

    So…in the manned checkout lane where you’re asked to surrender the coupon to the clerk, hand over just one and save that Charmin coupon for a repeat purchase later during the coupon savings period. (Or simply use the self-check lanes, where you are not required to surrender the coupon after scanning it.)

  2. I’m a Quilted Northern man myself, and will always buy it regardless of the much cheaper alternatives nearby. The tush does not cow-tow to frugality it seems.

  3. I know it’s a sh*tty subject, but still good to know.

    And to Coopers Dad, if I tried to buy more than one giant pack of toilet paper I’d need to buy a bigger house first (not sure if that would be a good trade off).

  4. Coopers_Dad says:

    Too true!! Don’t forget the cost of upsizing the Prius to a Suburban too.

  5. We use the Kirkland brand. Seems to work well enough.

    Too bad about the shrinking sizes here. I guess they figure if all the food and drink manufacturers are shrinking their sizes, then we must be eating and drinking less and therefore ‘going’ less so we need less TP.

    Or they are just like the others and trying to mask a price increase. *sigh*

  6. If you are shopping Costco, compare Costco’s Kirkland brand to Charmin. It’s more cost effective than coupon Charmin and has more square feet. Square feet in the package is usually listed somewhere near or under the sheet count.

  7. This is hilarious. My husband insists on buying the squishy soft toilet paper too.

  8. Yeah we do some creative coupon finagling to get our TP. Not the super softest but better than most and at a great price. 🙂

  9. Charmin is the brand in our family as well. I guess we all have costco has the commonplace. We do look for those coupons every other month and buy them. Nowadays you don’t even need to take the coupons since they scan master coupon automatically at the register. We tried Kirkland once and nixed it as well.

  10. I think Consumer Reports should add the taxes we indirectly pay to subsidize Medicaid and/or emergency visits of uninsured and under-insured Walmart workers. (Unlike Costco, which while not unionized, provides great wages and benefits to its workers) Then its products would come up dead last !

  11. I go to Costco so much I know the “nice” cashiers and the “mean” cashiers. The nice ones even have a copy of the ads tucked away to scan for you if you forget. I do like the new policy of just scanning one coupon and having it apply to the entire order. No more origami while waiting in line!

    The Kirkland brand TP was tested as well, and did do okay (#7 out of 25) with a lower cost than most. I do like most Kirkland products now for value, can’t believe they make aged scotch now. Quilted Northern Ultra Plush tested very thick and soft as well.

  12. This sounds very strange, but not too long ago humans were using water to do their deeds. You can install Single Function Hand Shower in your family toilet and get rid of paper wastage for rest of your life. Go green and save trees.

  13. I’ve recently become a fan of Kirkland’s Moist Flushable Wipes. They are much nicer and more efficient than any brand of tp when needed They are sold in a box of 10 packages holding 60 wipes each.

  14. As usual the significant fact of all of these tp products with the exception of seventh generation is that VIRGIN forests are used to produce the paper to wipe your ass.
    So in this case you can wipe your ass while you kiss the boreal temperate forests goodbye and all the life they support. Buy 100 post consumer recycled paper please!

  15. Costco’s Kirkland Signature Bath Tissue is second to none when it comes to strength and softness. Seriously. When I read this I’m always wondering what people are doing with it that it doesn’t prove strong enough… or perhaps it’s me that’s not using it correctly? 🙂 Regardless, when you factor in the price, Kirkland Signature takes the crown, every time.

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