The Journey of Toilet Paper: A Brief History

Can you imagine a day without toilet paper?

Of course not, right?

In most western countries toilet paper is one of the most basic necessities. Last year during the first coronavirus outbreak, everyone panicked and started buying packets of toilet papers. Have you ever wondered when toilet paper was actually invented and what did people use before toilet paper?

Interestingly, Asian and Middle East people still do not care much about toilet paper to finish their daily business. Rather they prefer water to clean after using the bathroom. But the history of toilet paper is actually very fascinating.

In this blog, we will discuss all the surprising facts and history of toilet paper. So if that is something you want to know more about or if the topic triggered curiosity in you, then read this article till the end.

When was the Toilet Paper Invented?

Toilet Paper

Toilet papers originated in the 2nd Century B.C., in China. However, the first use of it is recorded from the 6th century. Chinese manufacturers then started to make toilet paper commercials in the early 14th century. The company produced thousands of perfumed toilet papers for the imperial family of the Hongwu Emperor in 1393.

However, paper became widely available in the 15th century. But, the western countries did not use toilet paper until 1857. By the year 1930, these papers made their places in every bathroom.

Life Before Toilet Paper

Life Before Toilet Paper

Archaeologists and anthropologists have spent a lot of their time researching toilet papers and finding the dirty truths. According to researchers, before toilet paper was invented, the people of ancient Rome used tersorium to clean up.

What is tersorium?

A tersorium is a stick attached to a sponge that is soaked in saltwater or vinegar. Tersorium is mentioned in many Roman kinds of literature. In the letter of the famous philosopher, Seneca tersorium was indicated. He wrote it to the Roman official Lucilius, regarding German gladiator’s suicide, who died due to a stick with a sponge on the top, shoved into his throat.

tersorium- toilet paper

Tersorium had a fair influence during that era. In the public bathroom, there was a water source where people used to dip and clean their tersorium

Other than that the archaeologists have also discovered the ancient Greek and Roman toilet paper known as pessoi. A pessoi is a kind of broken ceramic vessel which was used by people to finish their bathroom business. Researchers have found the trace of human feces which indicates that the ceramic pieces were used by ancient Roman and Greek people to clean their bum.

The people of Greece took it too far, they used to even inscribe their enemies names, to indicate that they are cleaning up their shit on the enemies’ name.

However, due to the hard surface of the pessoi, the butt area also might get damaged, which may lead to irritation and even problems like haemorrhoids.

Similar to tersorium, the Japanese used a wooden stick known as chuugi to clean inside and outside of their anus. They quite literally used to shove the stick into their buttocks to clean. Ouch, right! Interestingly, the method was widely popular in that century.

Another creative alternative to toilet paper was “hygiene sticks.” They were used in China in 1992. During the research, archaeologists found seven wooden or bamboo sticks wrapped with a cloth. In further research, they found out that that cloth was 2,000 years old. They also tested the sample of the faeces on the cloth and confirmed that they contain similar parasites as in human excreta.

hygiene sticks

Other than that, ancient people also used other materials to clean or wipe out after finishing their bathroom job like grass, stones, seashells, leaves, stones, animals furs, snow, water, etc. The people of middle age also used materials like hay, straw, moss, pieces of tapestry, and sedge.

In one of the satirical poems of the famous novelist, François Rabelais, in the 16th century, he wrote about the Western world’s toilet paper and called it ineffective. The poet-novelist concluded the poem that saying that the goose neck is the best option to clean your bum.

There were many historical texts that mentioned the use of sticks and spatulas in ancient Japan and China. However, it is found that during the sixth century A.D., the written pieces of Yen Chih- Tui is used as toilet paper. Researchers have found many papers in the tomb that have traces of human faeces in them. Those papers were although mostly used for rough work.

ancient toilets papers

In 1393, there was mass production of rice-based toilet papers, that was produced for the Chinese Royal family. On the other hand, the Western countries took more than 400 years to introduce toilet paper. In the year, 1857, the Western world also started the mass production of toilet paper. It is the same year when Joseph Gayetty invented the Medicated Paper and try to educate Americans to quit the use of corn cabs, rugged newspapers, and other alternatives of toilet paper.

Due to the postwar scenario in Japan, Japanese women started to store huge piles of toilet paper in 1973. It was due to the fear among middle-aged people who believed that soon they would be drawn into a recession period and had to face environmental degradation, inflation, and oil-related crisis.

So far we have discussed a detailed history of toilet paper, when it was invented, how it became popular, etc. We have prepared a list of alternative toilet papers that were used by other cultures and countries.


They used rosewater and wool to finish their bathroom business.


Greeks used clay to wipe up their bum.

Coastal Regions:

The people in the coastal region used coconut husk and mussel shells to clean up.


The ancient Europeans generally used hands, but they also used warm water fountains.

Islamic Cultures:

Islamic people use their left hands with little water. This is the reason they found it disrespectful when someone greets with the left hand.

The Eskimos:

The people of Eskimos used to snow or moss to finish their toilet business.

The French:

French was the first to invent a bidet without using modern plumbing.

The Vikings:

The people of Vikings used wool.

The Colonial American:

They used the core centre cobs from corn ears that had been shelled.

The Chinese:

In 14th Century Chinese invented toilet paper.

History of Medieval Toilet

History of Medieval Toilet

The starting of the Medieval Toilet started after the ending of the Roman Empire in 467 A.D. The whole nation went into chaos. Due to no ruler, wealthy lords started to take over the place and war began to happen. The average citizen was lucky to survive and eat. However, amid the crucial situation, there were also some people who could afford luxury living and this is the same period when medieval toilets were invented.

The waste shaft of the medieval toilets is built in the exterior of the fort into rivers or channels. Some of them are also designed with an internal castle into the courtyard.

Some chambers also have a protruded castle wall that hung over and let do gravity the work to carry the faeces downwards. Along with the convenience, the toilet walls also creates a barrier to the enemies in times of war.

The disadvantage of Medieval Toilet

isadvantage of Medieval Toilet

The toilets are not practical in design. It is also easy to clean the toilet with water. Unfortunately, water would make it even messier. Since all the wastes are ultimately collecting downwards, the toilet area also stinks. And to resolve the stinking problem, people have to rely on some aromatized herbs. The human waste was later used by the farmers to use as fertilizer.

During that period, people used a bunch of hay which later consider medieval toilet paper. Apart from all the demerits, medieval toilets were an important invention in history, which later modified as the standard toilets in the mid-1800s.

How to Use Toilet Paper?

China was the first country to use toilet paper. But the mass production of toilet paper took around 800 years. However, toilet paper back then was different from the toilet paper we are using today. According to the Toilet Paper World publication, coloured toilet paper came on the market in the 50s. It definitely helped to decorate your bathroom according to the colour combination.

But all of a sudden, all the coloured toilet paper just disappeared. This is because many doctors and environmentalists have shared that the coloured ones are bad for the environment and also the chemicals used in the toilet papers can cause problems to the human.

How to use toilet paper?

  1. Make sure, you are in the sitting position for the process. Pull out some toilet paper from the roll. Then lean to reach your butt cheeks and wipe it out.
  2. Then again take some more tissue, and crumble it into a square shape. Follow the same process as above.
  3. Now take another piece of toilet paper, and fold it into squares. For this process you can take a small piece of paper and then repeat the step 1 process again. Ensure to put gentle pressure while following the process.
  4. The last step is to use a wet wipe. People often skip this part, but it is the most necessary one. The process ensures to clean the area perfectly and help you to ignore itching and odour.
  5. Once you are done, flush. And then wash your hand thoroughly.

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