National Toilet Paper Day: A Brief History

Ancient civilizations had creative ways to maintain health and proper hygiene after going to the bathroom. The first recorded use of a paper hygiene product occurred in China in the 6th century. By the 14th century, China was mass producing their early version of paper wipes. Japan would use flat pieces of wood, much like our modern tongue depressors and Greece used pessoi, which are simply long pieces of ceramic.

In Ancient Rome, public toilets were the only formal place to go to the washroom. Lacking modern paper products, their preferred method was using what is called a tersorium, made from a natural sea sponge attached to the end of a stick. It was not unusual for these tersoria to be shared – soaked in saltwater or vinegar between uses to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and prevent infections.

Few options available for early settlers to Canada

It’s easy to forget that there was time when toilet tissue didn’t exist in Canada. For early settlers to Canada, they would use local leaves, moss, grass, hay, fabric scraps or even corn cobs if needed. Water could also be used, depending on their access to it. It really came down to whatever was at hand and soft enough to get the job done.

It wasn’t until the invention of modern plumbing systems and networks in the 18th century that the use of paper products would be possible and the best option for the global population.

The proliferation of modern toilet paper

Joseph Gayetty created the very first toilet paper from “aloe-infused sheets of manila hemp” in the U.S. in the late 18th century. In 1890, two American brothers, Irvin and Clarence Scott would perfect what is known today as the toilet paper roll and sell it through their company, the Scott Paper Company. It would go on to be produced in several colours, from blue to pink and include various patterns on the paper itself. Considering the first day it was ever sold on a roll was on August 26, it became the origin of National Toilet Paper Day.

In Canada, by the 19th and early 20th century, toilet paper became more readily and widely available across the country with several brands and manufacturers to choose from.

The importance of access to toilet paper

Today, access to personal hygiene products is a basic human right. Even so, many Canadians don’t have regular access to toilet paper. For that reason, the need for toilet tissue donations is critical at food banks across Canada. In the lead up to National Toilet Paper Day on August 26, 2023, Bunzl Canada has partnered with local food banks and its valued vendors to highlight and address the critical need for personal hygiene products and other non-food essentials, which many Canadians from coast-to-coast struggle to afford.

Bunzl Canada will donate REGARD and DuraPlus brand toilet tissue to help further expand the reach and impact of the initiative, while Essity, Kruger, and Kimberly-Clark have committed substantial donations of toilet tissue as well. A collective donation of 27,000 rolls of toilet tissue will be delivered to food banks across Canada ahead of National Toilet Paper Day.

For more information on how individuals and businesses can help reduce food insecurity and contribute items of greatest need, please contact your local food bank.

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