Hottest products of 2008: Triple-Ply toilet paper

In September, 2008, Georgia-Pacific took toilet paper further than it has ever gone before. With the introduction of Quilted Northern Ultra Plush, the world's first premium three-ply toilet paper, they not only broke tissue boundaries, but may have changed the "face" of America's bathrooms forever. Although this advance seems less impressive than a five-bladed razor or a micro-thin cell phone, it nonetheless represents a quantum leap forward in toilet technology. Thanks to the fine people at Georgia Pacific, Americans are no longer slaves to the two-ply dictatorship that has so long ruled their rear ends with an iron hand.

Toilet tissue has always been a touchy topic in my household. When I was growing up, my father only let us use one brand: single-ply Scott tissue. Although he endlessly swore that his loyalty to Scott was based on concerns about the septic system, my sisters and I speculated that he was actually motivated by some weird Puritan psychosis. After all, our neighbors, with similar systems, stocked super-soft two-ply paper, while we were stuck with the brutal scratchiness of Scott's tush-tearer. All in all, it just seemed a little too perverse to be easily blamed on plumbing.

After I moved out, I liberated myself from the cruel world of Scott toilet totalitarianism. Remembering the sensuous images of Mr. Whipple squeezing the Charmin, I soon tried out the sweet embrace of what was to become my new septic siren. Charmin was everything that I had always expected: soft, luxurious, and durable. I never looked back.

In preparation for this article, I recently bought a 4-pack of Quilted Northern Ultra Plush. Feeling the stares of my fellow shoppers, I strode bravely to the checkout. I could easily imagine what they were thinking, with their barely-concealed envy toward my super-soft tissue. They were wondering why I was so special, why my nether regions were deserving of a little extra TLC. I thought about explaining that this was part of something much larger than one man's needs; this was a research project that was going to explore the boundaries of American toilet tissue. Ultimately, however, I decided to keep my mouth shut. After all, no man is an island, except in the bathroom.

I have to admit that I'm impressed. Quilted Northern Ultra Plush, while thicker than Charmin, is much softer and more pliant. Charmin has a linen-y stiffness to it, like a freshly-pressed napkin. It is a crisp tissue, mutely declaring its competence and strength. However, in comparison to the cloudlike, kleenex-soft finish of Ultra Plush, Charmin feels like a paper towel. I hate to say it, but Charmin may be the new Scott.

I don't know if my flirtation with Qulted Northern will end up turning into a full-fledged toilet tissue tempest. Much will depend on my wife, whose paper preferences are almost as defined as my own. Still, with its sweet softness and slightly lower price, I can sincerely state that Quilted Northern Ultra Plush is, at the least, a reasonable competitor for the great Charmin!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He tends to be a little too obsessive about his favorite brands.

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