Origins of ordinary things: Toilet paper

When was the last time you heard of someone using leaves to clean themselves? It is highly unlikely that you will remember because if someone cleaned themselves with leaves after a long call, they would be too embarrassed to admit it. This is the modern age and most learned people have graduated from plucking leaves for ablution. They make use of toilet paper.

When was the last time you heard of someone using leaves to clean themselves? It is highly unlikely that you will remember because if someone cleaned themselves with leaves after a long call, they would be too embarrassed to admit it. This is the modern age and most learned people have graduated from plucking leaves for ablution. They make use of toilet paper.

Toilet paper is a product of wood. It is soft, simple, ordinary and relatively cheap. However, the process is quite complex. According to the online forum, How Products Are Made, to make toilet paper, trees have to be cut, debarked, logged, chipped, and then cooked for about three hours to obtain pulp.

 

Afterwards, the pulp is washed, bleached and then mixed with water to make paper stock. The paper stock is sprayed to remove water, creped to make it soft and then put into machines to wind it and slit it, making it the paper log that is toilet paper.

 

This is not to say that toilet paper is a modern invention. It existed way before there was enough technology to manufacture it in large quantities. According to an article “Toilet Paper History-Complete Historical Timeline” written by Toilet Paper world, an internet wholesale distributor of paper products and cleaning supplies, toilet paper dates as far back as 14th century China.

 

The first toilet paper is said to have been used by then Chinese Emperor and founder of Ming dynasty Zhu Yuanzhang. It was only available to the royals.

Because it was scarcely used, not much was documented about toilet paper until the 19th century, particularly in 1857 when American inventor Joseph Gayetty introduced the first packaged toilet paper. This is according to the article “Toilet paper was first used by the Chinese” by Daven Hiskey, an author of general knowledge. At first, it was used for medical purposes such as cleaning sores.

Now the use of toilet paper sounds like the most basic thing. However, according to buzzfeed, a news source, up to seventy-five percent of the population in the world does not use it.

For some, it is because of religious, traditional or even personal beliefs. For example, the article “Toilet Paper-The History ‘Behind’ It” by The Plumber, an online platform that provides general plumbing education indicates that in India and the Arab world, people use their left hand and water to clean themselves after pooping. They believe that toilet paper does not leave you adequately clean.

Another reason why people do not use toilet paper is because the large percent of the world population is poor and thus, toilet paper is considered a luxury. They opt for alternatives such as crumpled up pieces of paper.

Still, this is far removed from the ancient cleaning materials such as wood shavings, leaves, grass, clay, hay, stone, sand, snow, maize husks, fruit skins and sea shells.

Ancient Romans used sponges attached to long sticks. They dipped the sponges in salt water. It sounds sophisticated and sanitary until you learn that those sponges would sit in the salted seawater waiting for the next user. Eek, right?

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