Updated September 2022
Most people probably don’t think too much about toilet paper … until there’s a shortage 😅 like there was during Covid. This article considers material, toxicity and bleaching methods of toilet paper 🧻.
The average American uses 3 rolls per week, and collectively Americans use close to 8 million tons of toilet paper per year according to Consumer Reports. Since it’s something we use so often on our intimate parts, we should consider toxicity because toxicants can be transferred dermally.
Considering that 27,000 trees are cut down daily to make toilet paper, and a single roll requires 37 gallons of water to make, it is certainly a topic that needs to be discussed from an environmental standpoint. As reported by Mamavation “Paper production like toilet paper, paper towels, baby wipes, tissue paper, coffee filters, & writing paper are incredibly toxic to the environment and depletes forests [many are old-growth & endangered forests]. In fact, this industry is the 3rd largest polluter.
Thousands of chemicals are used to process commercial paper products like baby wipes & toilet paper. Women in particular are susceptible to absorbing toxins through their private areas. One of the worst chemicals used in the processing of toilet paper is chlorine. So it’s important to be cognizant of what chemicals touch our most porous area because toxic substances can easily enter into our skin and get into our bloodstream. Selecting toilet paper that does the least amount of harm to both our bodies and the environment is wise.
Toilet paper has also been suspect in chronic irritation of the vulva. In a 2010 study, they found that toilet paper may be the blame for chronic irritation of the vulva because formaldehyde was found present to improve the strength of the toilet paper. Formaldehyde is also found in toilet paper and is a known carcinogen.
3 key areas where toilet paper can cause you harm:
1. Bleaching with chlorine, which produces dioxins. Dioxins, according to the WHO “can cause reproductive & developmental problems… & also cause cancer.”
Chlorine dioxide is sometimes used instead of chlorine for bleaching. It is much less toxic, but still not 100% non-toxic. Most bamboo papers use chlorine dioxide.
2. Recycled paper often contains bisphenols (BPA & BPS). This is an example of #whengreenistoxic and why you should not recycle receipt paper. BPA is a known endocrine disruptor linked to infertility, cancer, early puberty, etc. These chemicals affect health even at low quantities.
3. Mamavation tested toilet paper for fluorine levels (which indicate posible PFAS) & found: 24% of toilet paper tested had indications of PFAS. Of those with detectible levels, 50% of the products with detectable levels of organic fluorine were bamboo products.
4. Phthalates can be found in scented paper towels. They are linked to hormone disruption, obesity, infertility, cancers, diabetes etc.
More info from Mamavation, which I used this as part of my research: https://www.mamavation.com/brands/toilet-paper.html. It explains the different bleaching processes and issues with conventional TP. It also has lists of better and worst brands, but I created my own lists incorporating additional and conflicting research I did.
#MyTopPicks for Best Toilet Paper
I considered both toxicity and eco-concerns for my selections. At first I thought bamboo was a great choice, but now I’m not so sure because I have learned that the processing on bamboo requires lots of chemicals. I discuss it in my diaper post and fabric post.
Mamavation says “Unfortunately, there isn’t really a clean bamboo bleaching process that doesn’t have at least a little bit of chlorine derivatives. We recognize this so are deciding to put the sugarcane/bamboo blends as “best” because they would contain less contamination by adding the sugarcane. Sugarcane is much cleaner as well.” But someone else told me that sugarcane might use lots of pesticides. I couldn’t find more information on the internet, so you’ll have to decide how you feel about sugarcane.
Unbleached bamboo would avoid the chlorine derivatives, but isn’t organic. Also, Mamavation didn’t believe that hydrogen peroxide could be used on bamboo unless it was a blend. But several bamboo brands do claim to use HP. So if they really do use HP that could make them a better option.
To narrow down options even more, check out Mamavation’s report on PFAS in toilet paper. But be aware that like BPA, the levels could vary depending on which batch gets tested. https://www.mamavation.com/beauty/indications-of-toxic-pfas-forever-chemicals-found-in-toilet-paper-report.html
Best Recycled TP
* Who Gives A Crap recycled paper TP They test for BPA, which is a risk of recycled paper (but can’t guarantee of course). It is affordable and soft too. They also make a bamboo version discussed below. And they compare them here.
Best Bamboo TP
* PlantPaper rolls are made of FSC Certified, organically grown bamboo pulp harvested in China. TCF bleaching.
* WHOLEROLL Organic Bamboo Toilet Paper (TCF, using hydrogen peroxide for bleaching). Remember that organic is not a regulated term for this type of product.
* Mother Earth Organic Bamboo toilet paper. Claims to be made of 100% organic bamboo and sustainably packaged with recycled boxes and cores. No pesticides or fertilizers used, and whitened by ECF bleaching. Remember that organic is not a regulated term for this type of product.
* Tushy unbleached 💯 Bamboo Toilet Paper. Tushy also makes bidets.
* Fanny Unbleached 💯 Bamboo Toilet Paper. Fanny gives more info about no pesticides and is slightly cheaper but was sold out when I needed to order, so I got Tushy.
* NooTrees Bamboo, 3ply. FSC certified, made without BPA’, dyes, chemicals or fragrances. 100% chlorine free; uses oxygen, ozone or hydrogen peroxide instead. Amazon Associates link: https://amzn.to/3BOmsFS
* Who Gives a Crap (bamboo). ECF with hydrogen peroxide for bleaching. Note that they also sell recycled TP which is not the same as their bamboo.
* Bim Bam Boo (bamboo; ECF with hydrogen peroxide as the primary compound, but also includes oxygen and chlorine dioxide. Amazon affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3nU2Loi
* Cloud brand is 100% bamboo but I hear it sells like adhesive and isn’t soft.
Best Sugarcane Blends:
* green2: Bamboo and sugar cane, someone told told me they use hydrogen peroxide for bleaching.
* Caboo Bamboo Sugarcane Bathroom Tissue: Bamboo bleached using ECF and sugarcane bleached using TCF. Someone told told me they use hydrogen peroxide for bleaching.
* ECOS Treeless Bamboo & Sugarcane Toilet Paper: Likely bleached using ECF for bamboo.
* Public Goods: Bamboo/sugarcane bleached with ECF. Bonus points for non-GMO ingredients.
* Seedling by Grove Collaborative: Bamboo & sugarcane blend. Bamboo likely bleached using ECF.
* Reel: bamboo; ecf.
* Pure Planet Tree Free Bamboo & Sugarcane Toilet Paper.
* Tree Free Green 2 Bamboo & Sugarcane Toilet Paper.
Did not respond :
* Rebel Green
Paper Towel/ Napkin Options:
The only available options I’ve seen lately are Caboo and who gives a crap, which are bamboo and sugarcane. Who gives a crap is cheaper. Brandless has napkins made of a sugarcane blend, and sometimes it’s possible to find their paper towels too. Grove makes a bamboo type (see their toilet paper above).
I haven’t found any unbleached/ the equivalent of Tushy or fanny standards. Bim Bam boo is 💯 bamboo, but it appears they stopped making them.
The very best option would be reusable option such as these organic cotton ones. Just be sure to sanitize them (link is to my disinfecting blog post).
As far as green options and green washing, here is an NRDC report. Keep in mind this is only about sustainability, not toxicity, and they didn’t include all the brands I looked at, but some are included.
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do you know the bleaching process of brandless ??
They say “Our tree free products are ‘bleached’ using hydrogen peroxide, not with any harsh chemicals.”