The most surprisingly contentious subject? Toilet roll orientation


Behold the very small, very insignificant hill that I am willing to die on: toilet paper should always hang over the top of the roll rather than under it. Whenever I come across a toilet roll that does not conform to this orientation I feel strangely irritated and get an almost overwhelming urge to fix the damn thing.

I do not feel like a complete loo-ser admitting to this pet peeve in public because, guess what? There’s a decent chance you have strong feelings about toilet paper too. It’s a surprisingly fraught issue: there’s even a dedicated Wikipedia entry on “toilet paper orientation” that is more than 2,000 words long and contains 66 footnotes. When the writer of the popular “Ann Landers” advice column was asked her opinion on the subject in 1986, she replied “under” – an assertion so controversial that it generated a record-breaking 15,000 letters in response, along with several follow-up columns. “Would you believe I got more letters on the toilet paper issue than on the Persian Gulf war?” Landers (a pen name) complained in a 1992 column.

Landers’ opinion on the subject, to be clear, is very much the minority view. Surveys demonstrate that most people are very much Team Over – including Oprah Winfrey. Illustrations from a toilet paper roll patent registered in 1891 also suggest over is the correct orientation. And if that doesn’t persuade you to change the way you roll, may I direct you to a Toilet Paper Personality Test developed by a relationship expert called Dr Gilda Carle. According to Carle, “People who roll over are more dominant than those who roll under.”

While those on Team Under may be more submissive, they could be more marketing-savvy. Earlier this year, a TikToker went viral by claiming that toilet paper manufacturers have tricked the masses into favouring the over orientation because it results in “30% more toilet paper” being used. While the video has had more than a million likes, it contained zero citations, so I have no idea whether it’s credible or not. But now this is out of my system, it’s time to start working on my next column: a treatise on how, if you put your ketchup in the cupboard instead of the fridge, there is something deeply wrong with you.