Does Toilet Paper Expire & Degrade in Storage?
Author: Anne Cowart | Editor: Omar Alonso
Review & Research: Jen Worst & Chris Miller
One of the strangest aspects of the the recent global health escapade and the panic it caused in much of the world was people's mad rush to hoard toilet paper. No one really knows why people decided to take this action, but it made for some unbelievable personal collections. The question soon became does toilet paper expire or not.
People lined up by the hundreds to buy dozens of packs of toilet paper before it was unavailable. While the shortage was temporary, people didn't know that then. The result was that many people had more than a year's supply of toilet paper in their homes.
In one famous case, a couple attempting to profit from the panic were denied a refund from a retailer after trying to return the TP after the panic and shortage subsided. So, with many people stocking up on more TP than they needed, it begs the question; Does toilet paper expire? Or can you store it indefinitely?
What Is the Shelf Life of Toilet Paper?
The average American uses around two rolls of toilet paper a week, or approximately 84 rolls yearly. So, a family of four would use around 336 rolls annually. TP is available in different packaging sizes, with singles to fours, 9's, 18's, and 36's being the common quantities available at retailers nationwide. It also depends on the toilet paper roll dimensions, with thicker sheets and more sheets becoming more common per roll.
So, if you've stocked up on a year's worth of toilet paper or more due to panic buying, the natural question to ask is if it will degrade, dissolve, or expire during the holding period. After all, not all Americans are preppers, and most of us don't need a year's worth of toilet paper hanging around a small apartment or taking up space in the closet.
The lifespan of TP varies depending on several factors. In some cases, when properly stored, it could last for decades. If it's not stored correctly, its lifespan could depend on the type of toilet tissue used to manufacture the roll. The roll could last for years if you have the TP stored properly.
Does Toilet Paper Naturally Dissolve?
Manufacturers design TP to dissolve naturally in wastewater and sewage systems. This is why toilets often unclog themselves. Toilet paper needs to move through sewage systems without creating clogs in your pipes, septic tank, and council sewers. If we're talking about if toilet paper dissolves in the open air outside of the toilet in storage, that comes down to how it's stored.
Suppose you keep the TP in its original packaging. In that case, it will be many years before it starts to break down in an open-air environment, let alone stored away in a cupboard away from direct sunlight and moisture.
Single toilet paper rolls wrapped in paper packaging might not have the same lifespan as plastic ones. The roll might get wet, exposing it to the air rather than an airtight plastic package. Those factors play a role in how long it lasts.
Does Toilet Paper Get Moldy or Attract Mildew?
Like any other fibrous material, TP will attract mold if stored in a moist or humid environment. So does toilet paper expire in this sense? It can. Even if you have a tightly packed plastic package of four rolls, moisture could penetrate the packaging and cause mold spores to grow on the inside, ruining the toilet paper.
If a paper-wrapped TP roll gets wet, it may grow moldy, especially if it's stored in a dark place. Many bulk packages of toilet paper featuring 18 or more rolls have inefficiencies in the packaging allowing moisture to enter and causing mold growth.
How Do You Store Toilet Paper Effectively?
So, how do you store toilet paper to ensure it lasts as long as possible? If you have more rolls than you need or are prepping for the next pandemic and building your TP stores, we have the right strategy for you.
But, to be honest, it's a bit of a waste of time going to great lengths to store bulky packs of toilet paper, especially if you don't have room for it in your home. That space would be better served by storing food and water rather than TP.
However, let's get back on track and give you some tips on how to store TP for the long haul.
Keep the Toilet Paper in the Packaging
For the best results with storing your toilet paper, keep it in the packaging and don't separate the rolls. Unless you're buying huge bulk packages, the sealed packaging it's sold in at the store gives you an airtight or near-airtight seal, keeping out moisture that might attract mold growth.
When buying it at the store, check the packaging to ensure it has no holes in it. Don't remove it from the packaging to stack it on shelves, that's a waste of time, and you open the door for the possibility of being affected by moisture.
For instance, what happens if the roof leaks and the moisture gets on your TP stash? It would have a better chance of surviving in sealed packaging.
Keep It in Plastic Airtight Containers
Another option for storing single rolls or for storing the rest of the packet after you remove a roll from a multi-pack is to keep it in an airtight plastic container somewhere out of the way. This is the best option as there's no chance of air or moisture getting at it.
You can buy a large clear plastic container with a snap-on lid from the retailer where you buy the TP and use it as a storage bin. There's no chance of flood water getting at it, and your TP lasts for years using this method.
Store It in the Right Place
We recommend storing the TP in a dry, dark space in your home. Sunlight will degrade the paper, especially direct sunlight; heat does the same thing. So does toilet paper expire in this sense? Yes, and once again it's about how you're storing it.
So, don't leave it out in the shed, as the lack of insulation in the structure means it gets hot as an oven on sunny days, degrading the TP. Keep it in an airing cupboard or stashed out of sight and away from the light in another closet somewhere in the house.
The room or cupboard should be dry and have an average relative humidity of no greater than 55%. Storing in a humid area, even in manufacturers' packaging, is risky. You're inviting the moisture into the pack, where it condenses on the interior walls and starts to dissolve the toilet paper. When you go to use it, it will either be moldy, stuck together, or break away in chunks.
Buy Packs with Fewer Rolls
Another option is to buy smaller packs with fewer rolls. As mentioned, TP has plenty of roll options, from singles to 36's and more. We recommend going with the four packs. The packaging will be tighter, and there's less chance of defects allowing moisture to penetrate the packaging and cause problems.
However, this strategy has a downside – the price; typically, you get a sizeable discount for buying larger packs, with 4-packs being the most expensive option because they're the most popular product.
How Long Does Toilet Paper Last in Storage?
How long can you store toilet paper? If stored properly in the plastic wrapper, in an air tight container, in low humidity, in a temperature controlled environment, toilet paper could last up to a decade. As each of these variables is compromised the shelf life of toilet paper decreases.
What Are the Alternatives to Using Toilet Paper?
Why bother with the hassle and expense of buying toilet paper in the first place? If you buy a bidet, you'll never have to worry about using toilet paper again. Bidets are already in use in Eastern countries like India and China, where they don't rely on toilet paper. In fact, TP is almost exclusively a western thing; the rest of the world runs on bidets.
A bidet is a device connecting to the water line running into the toilet tank. It runs a jet under the toilet rim or seat that aims toward the same place where you wipe. You use a control box positioned on the side of the toilet to activate the water jet and clean you off after you finish.
A bidet might seem awkward at first glance, and it feels strange the first few times you use it. However, when you see the saving you make in a year, you'll never look back. Considering the average cost of a 150-sheet roll of TP is $0.84, and the average American uses 100 rolls a year, that saves you $84 per year, or $336 per year for a family of four.
Flushable wipes are a terrible choice as a toilet paper replacement. Not only are they much more expensive than standard TP, but they also don't dissolve like TP, causing blockages in pipes and sewer lines. It's better to stick with standard TP or go with a bidet.
Does Toilet Paper Have a "Best Before" Date?
No, TP doesn't have a best-before date. Its shelf life depends on how you store it. Keep it in an airtight container or sealed packaging for the best results and the longest lifespan.
So, Does Toilet Paper Expire?
Toilet paper doesn’t expire in the sense that it’s no good any more or becomes risky to your health to use. But it can slowly degrade and lose some of its beneficial properties over time. There are ways to slow this process down drastically that we’ve discussed above. So does toilet paper expire? No. It has a really lengthy shelf life if you keep it in its plastic until you’re ready to use it.