Which toilet paper is best for your bottom and the environment? Our test ranks 14 rolls on softness, environmental impact and more.
You’ll be relieved to know you don't have to spend big for loo rolls that are both strong and soft. But taking care of your bottom line is not the only thing to bear in mind, with ply count and green claims factors to consider too.
Standard, long or luxury roll – there are plenty of options when it comes to toilet roll length. But which has the most paper on it?
‘Standard’ roll length isn’t actually standard and varies between manufacturers. For example, one long roll in our test was 25m while another was just under 40m. That’s a big difference.
Value is hard to judge – is length the most important factor to you, or softness? Fortunately, our test found the longest roll was also one of the softest: the EarthSmart 100% Recycled Paper Toilet Tissue Long Rolls. It isn’t the cheapest in our test, but it’s relatively inexpensive at $5.69 for pack of six; that’s 95¢ per roll. At 39.1m long, this toilet paper will cost you 2.4¢ per metre.
If you want a cheaper toilet paper, then the Kiwi Soft Printed Toilet Tissue is a good option, at just 37¢ per roll. And it’s just as soft as the EarthSmart. The only downside is that it takes longer to disintegrate, so not great if you have ageing pipes.
How much paper is on a roll is affected by the ply (how many layers of paper). The EarthSmart toilet paper is only two-ply, meaning in terms of area of paper on a roll, the award for most paper goes to Sorbent Thick & Large Hypo-Allergenic as it’s three-ply.
Most of the products in our test had accreditation for sustainably sourced materials. This means the fibres used (for example, wood, bamboo or sugarcane) were grown and harvested in a sustainable way. These certifications are usually on the front and back of packaging.
Without a certification, any sustainability claim is open to interpretation. We haven’t assessed the value of each certification programme, only if the packaging claims one.
The FSC is an international non-profit third-party organisation that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests.
FSC accreditation is not a guarantee that the whole product is from a sustainable source, especially with the FSC MIX label. But it does indicate that the virgin fibres used in the product come from forests managed to high environmental and ethical standards.
There are three FSC classifications.
FSC MIX is for products that are a mixture of timber/fibre with a minimum of 70% from an FSC-certified source.
FSC-certified materials are from certified forests, recycled materials, and/or FSC-controlled wood, which does not include the following:
FSC RECYCLED means all timber/fibre used is recycled material. However, up to 15% can be from manufacturing scrap that’s put back into products, such as faulty product.
FSC 100% is when all of the material is from FS-certified forests that have been audited by an independent third party to confirm they meet FSC’s standards.
PEFC is another common label signalling the product is produced to high ecological, social and ethical standards. It is a third-party endorsement, so not all products will have it. There are two classifications: PEFC Certified, where at least 70% of wood comes from PEFC-certified forests and controlled sources, and PEFC Recycled, where at least 70% of material is from recycled sources and controlled sources.
This is New Zealand’s government-owned eco-labelling programme that assess the lifecycle impact of a product, from manufacturing to packaging, and is a good assessment to look for.
Recycled fibres are less damaging to the environment than using virgin materials. It also helps keep waste out of the landfill.
Unfortunately, paper products can only be recycled so many times before the fibres become too weak. This means virgin materials are commonly added to give strength.
Virgin fibres have not been used in any other product, such as straight from wood pulp.
Recycled fibres come from pre- or post-consumer products, such as unused office products.
Toilet paper is one of only three things you should flush down the loo (pee, poo and toilet paper) because ageing sewerage pipes (city and private) mean anything else can cause costly and inconvenient blockages. How quick toilet paper disintegrates is important because a fast-disintegrating product means less chance of blockage.
It may not be paramount on your mind while shopping for toilet paper, but it is an important thing to consider. We test how long it takes each toilet paper to disintegrate, and score the ones that quickly dissolve high, while those that take a long time get a low score.
If disintegration time is over 4 minutes it scores 0.
Two- or three-ply? ‘Ply’ refers to the layers of paper. Products with three layers are generally stronger and softer than two-ply products.
Elemental chlorine-free (ECF) bleaching: Paper has to be bleached to make it white but elemental chlorine gas by-products can be harmful. ‘ECF’ means that a safer chlorine compound was used.
Pack size: Bulk packs and jumbo or king-sized rolls require less packaging and cut down on transportation resources. The downside to jumbo rolls is that they don’t fit all toilet roll holders.
Packaging: Most toilet paper is packaged in thin plastic. This plastic can probably be recycled but you’ll need to check if recycling facilities are available in your area. Some manufacturers are starting to use paper, which can be placed in your kerbside recycling bin or at recycling depots. The cardboard inner cores can also be recycled.
Features: Prints, scent, embossing and quilting are added for aesthetic reasons. Embossing and quilting require a small amount of glue and may provide extra comfort, as may lotion. These features require extra steps and resources, which all have an environmental cost. Hypoallergenic products don’t contain inks, fragrances or glue.
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