Toilet paper isn't something most people ponder about too often, but why it’s white may cross your mind someday. This bathroom staple hasn't always boasted its pristine white color; in fact, although the beloved toilet paper roll was invented in 1857, it didn't become white until the 1950s.
Who Invented Toilet Paper?
Using paper for sanitary purposes dates back to 6th century CE China, but toilet paper, as we know it, can be traced back to 1857, six years after the widespread adoption of the toilet itself.
A man named Joseph C. Gayetty founded The Gayetty Firm in New Jersey, where flat sheets of paper were mass-produced and packaged for sale. The factory's first paper was actually infused with aloe and dubbed the "therapeutic paper," but it didn't sell well and was eventually scrapped.
In 1967, the Scott Paper Company was founded in Philadelphia by Clarence Wood Scott, Thomas Seymour, and Edward Irvin. Here is where toilet paper was first manufactured on its signature cardboard roll. A decade later, toilet paper was perforated, making it easier to tear and use. Zeth Wheeler patented the design and founded the Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company.
Toilet Paper Changes Color
As the years progressed, more companies began selling toilet paper in various forms, but the roll was now the gold standard. By 1950, toilet paper was a major market and additional colors were introduced to give consumers more variety. Many people enjoyed matching the color of their toilet paper to their bathroom's interior decor. Still, this trend faded over time as concerns mounted over the health effects of the dyes.
Eventually, toilet paper returned to a bleached, white standard. Toilet paper itself is naturally off-white; the pulp used to make toilet paper is brown, but the glue that holds it together creates a white appearance. Bleach is added for aesthetics, but some people argue that the bleached toilet paper is softer and more absorbent.