Infographic Of The Day: The Great Toilet Paper Debate

Seriously: Which way should the toilet paper be oriented?!

I'll bet you scoffed at this headline before clicking it. And I'll bet you've thought about the debate it mentions almost too many times to count. But seriously: Which way should you hang the toilet paper in the dispenser?

The good folks at, being engineers as you may have guessed, put some rather intensive thought to the problem, and came up with this infographic. It all starts off with the under-reported history of toilet paper, which was apparently invented in the west in New York City (woot!) in 1857. But not before those clever, clever Chinese invented it in the sixth century A.D.:


As the infographic shows, the over/under debate seems to be on a lot of people's minds. But when you break it down, in our opinion, having the toilet paper fall over the roll is the only way that makes sense. Otherwise, the lack of any friction just means the toilet paper unspools and puddles onto the ground, creating a mess. And this debate has created a Wikipedia entry that's twice as long as that of the Iraq War's:


You're welcome!

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  • Dheath340

    Interestingly, I have been debating this for years and have even suggested there is a social issue here.  From my extremely unscientific, empirical evidence, males are normally underhangers and females overhangers.  For the most part, those males and females who did not comply had a very strong influence from a parent of the opposite sex while growing up.  The debate continues.

  • Diane

    Of course, under/over issues all depend on the 'ply' you're dealing with, and the type of dispenser (those sodden big plastic covered rolls are seriously annoying when there's little or no 'purchase' and the roll is placed in the 'over' position). Invariably end up with a small piece of paper and nothing else. Personally I'm loving the 3 ply. And, by the way, I'm an 'under' who does flip the roll when it's round the wrong way!

  • Swedish Female

    Absolute fantastic! :D
    I get so irritated when it's "under" that I usually change the position of it.
    I'm very surprised that only 50% of the population notice how a roll is placed..! That's amazing...

  • Christina

    Thanks for sharing. I'm the 1 out of 5 that gets annoyed when it's not 'over.'

  • Lyles

    Fun read, but I don't agree with the friction argument. Why would there be more friction when pulling the roll AWAY from the wall, and why is there no contact in the "under" case if the roll was big enough to touch the wall in the "over" case? Did the roll change size?

    If anything, I would argue that pulling it down would cause more friction between the inside of the roll and the horizontal bar that goes through it because that would be adding more downward force to the existing weight of the roll itself. When pulled in any other direction, it would either alleviate that downward force of weight or at least not add to it as much.

  • Guerry Doolittle

    I have long been an over hanger and I change those incorrectly installed.  However, I don't understand the reference to friction against the wall.  Even full rolls rarely contact the wall with most holders. Even if it did initially, wouldn't contact be short-lived as the roll diameter decreased with usage.

  • Fernando H Rosa

    Nit picking but, the article on Wikpedia about toilet paper orientation is only 20 pages long when printed in A4 paper, as opposed to a 58 pager for the Iraq War. So the proportion is not really double but more close to 1/3. Impressive that it's 20 pages long anyways though.

  • anonymous

    I may be nit picking as well, however, the infographic says the "discussion section" of the article on toilet paper orientation is longer than that of the discussion section of the iraq war.  It does not talk about the entire article.  All I get from the statement is that people talk about toilet paper more than they talk about the Iraq War, which is kind of funny to me.

  • Sumner Lee

    I flip the roll around to the correct orientation EVERY time I encounter a backwards roll.  (backwards being "under")  This article has validated my neuroses and I will be able to sleep better at night knowing that some 20% of people are like me...

    I will continue to flip the roll over 100% of the time, and now with confidence that my flip is backed up by a very nicely done infographic.