The real reason why toilet paper is white

Toilet paper has a critical job. Although it’s an essential bathroom item, thinking about it usually starts and ends with needing to buy or use some. Meanwhile, people spend hours looking for the perfect towel or shower curtain colors for their bathroom—but toilet paper is just plain white. So what got the white toilet paper trend rolling? Maybe these creative toilet paper holders were an inspiration.

How is toilet paper made?

First, it’s important to understand how to make toilet paper. Toilet paper is made from cellulose fibers that come either directly from trees or recycled paper, according to Jessica Carette, a chemist and Innovation Manager of Research and Development for the Cascades Tissue Group. The fibers mix with water to make pulp. Toilet paper creation comes in two basic parts: making the raw paper, and converting it to the end product you buy in the store, explains David Altemir, a consultant who works with toilet paper manufacturing plants in the United States. “The raw paper starts as wood pulp just as any other type of paper,” he says. Brands bleach wood pulp with hydrogen peroxide or chlorine to make it whiter. This bleaching process is more than aesthetic—it removes the substance lignin, too, softening the paper, according to Altemir.

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Never flush this down the toilet
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Never flush this down the toilet

Tissues and paper towels

While they may seem a little like toilet paper, they are not. The materials used to make tissues, paper towels and similar products do not dissolve easily and are far more likely to clog your toilet, as well as cause problems for your septic tank or at your water treatment facility.

Cat litter

Even if your cat litter says that it is "flushable," don't flush it. All cat litter is bad for your toilet. It lingers in your pipes, refuses to dissolve easily and interacts poorly with your sewer system. If the temptation to use the toilet is too much for a family member in charge of cleaning litter, then put a box of disposable plastic bags or similar poop-scooping solutions by the litter box so that it's less of an issue.

Disposable diapers 

Yes, disposable diapers tend to get covered in waste. Unfortunately, toilets were not made for any kind of disposable diaper: Trying to flush these diapers is an incredibly common cause of serious pipe clogs that need professional attention. Avoid this problem, and provide another option for dealing with diapers. Here are 10 more ways you never knew you were using the toilet wrong.

Tampons 

While the toilet is frequently a handy option to get rid of tampons and other feminine hygiene products, it's also a bad idea. Tampons can easily create clogs deep in pipes and should never be flushed.

Condoms 

Condoms are another case where convenience shouldn't trump toilet care. Throw them in the trash instead of flushing: Both condom materials (typically latex) and associated lubricants are bad for your plumbing.

Anything made of cotton

This includes cotton swabs, cotton balls, Q-tips, and any other associated product. Cotton is excellent at absorbing water, but it doesn't break down easily. The combination is a dire one for your plumbing. Make sure you know these 7 ways you're probably cleaning your bathroom wrong.

Any type of plastic

It doesn't matter if it's packaging plastic or a Band-Aid, you can't flush plastics down a toilet. Plastic doesn't dissolve and can cause many problems in your pipes—if they get that far after a toilet flush.

Dental floss

Yes, even small items like dental floss can cause trouble for your toilet. It's stringy, doesn't dissolve and can bundle around other objects to form larger clogs.

Food

Any type of food is off limits, no matter how soft it may be. The same is true of any leftover pieces, shells, bones or grounds that you want to get rid of. These belong in neither your pipes nor your garbage disposal. Throw them in the trash or compost.

Gum 

Water does nothing to get rid of gum, so it tends to stick around—literally. You don't want that in your pipes! If something does get clogged, check out these ways to unclog a toilet without a plunger.

Hair

If you're fishing hairballs from your sink or tub, don't dump them in the toilet: That's just moving the clog from one part of your plumbing to another. Throw it away instead.

Pills

TV makes flushing pills look dramatic and effective, but it's a horrible idea. If you have pills past expiration or just don't want them in your house, find a local medicine take-back program or grind them up and throw them away on trash day. Otherwise, those potent chemicals will get into sewer systems and even groundwater, where they can do untold damage. And don't even think about putting them down the sink instead. Here are 12 things you should never, ever pour down the drain.

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Why is toilet paper white?

Carette notes that cellulose fibers are also naturally white. The glue holding them together, however, is brown which goes away thanks to bleach, Carette says. So it’s not necessarily just the process, but also the raw material that makes toilet paper white. Plus, toilet paper from recycled paper uses mostly office waste or printer paper, which is already white, too, according to Carette. Although bleached virgin pulp produces the softest fibers to make tissue, unbleached and recycled fibers can also make high-quality tissue as well, Carette says. So the white color of toilet paper is more conventional than functional since toilet paper doesn’t necessarily have to be white to be soft and absorbent. There’s no argument about smooth toilet paper—but there is an answer to the debate about how to hang toilet paper.

Are there other toilet paper colors?

Although white toilet paper like this is the norm in America, color toilet paper was trendy in the past. In the 1950s, people would even coordinate their toilet paper with their bathroom color scheme. It reportedly died down, however, thanks to concerns about the safety of pastel dyes for the skin and the environment. Plus, color toilet paper increases the cost to make the rolls, Altemir says. Most toilet paper in North America is white because of consumer preference, according to Carette. But in places like South America and Europe, toilet paper comes in a rainbow of colors, even black, she adds.

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Gowns made of toilet paper to be given to brides in need
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Gowns made of toilet paper to be given to brides in need
A model is pictured backstage wearing a wedding dress made out of toilet paper before a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A designer is pictured backstage fixing a wedding dress made out of toilet paper before a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A designer is pictured backstage fixing a wedding dress made out of toilet paper before a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Models are pictured backstage wearing wedding dresses made out of toilet paper before a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A designer is pictured backstage fixing a wedding dress made out of toilet paper before a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A model is pictured backstage wearing a wedding dress made out of toilet paper before a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A model presents a wedding dress made out of toilet paper during a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A model presents a wedding dress made out of toilet paper during a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A model is pictured backstage wearing a wedding dress made out of toilet paper before a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A model is pictured backstage wearing a wedding dress made out of toilet paper before a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A model presents a wedding dress made out of toilet paper during a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A model presents a wedding dress made out of toilet paper during a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A model is pictured backstage wearing a wedding dress made out of toilet paper before a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A model presents a wedding dress made out of toilet paper during a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Models present wedding dresses made out of toilet paper during a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A model is pictured backstage wearing a wedding dress made out of toilet paper before a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A model is pictured backstage wearing a wedding dress made out of toilet paper before a fashion show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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If you want to try adding a pop of color to your bathroom with toilet paper, there’s still toilet paper brand Renova that sells various colors for more than the typical white variety. No matter your personal design taste, toilet paper is a must-have—but these extra 19 decorating tips can make any small bathroom look bigger.

Disclaimer: Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The post The Real Reason Why Toilet Paper Is White appeared first on Reader's Digest.

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