The Best Toilet Paper For Most Rumps

White Cloud 3-Ply Ultra Bathroom Tissue is the best toilet paper because it feels good, gets the job done, dissolves easily in water, and is cheap to boot. It's also the top scorer in both Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping's rigorous head-to-head testing.

Last Updated: May 30, 2013
Added some information about tubeless toilet paper to the environmental pick section. It's a good idea but is currently not up to par in terms of ease of use and performance.

What you want from toilet paper

A good toilet paper will be comfortable, friendly to plumbing, affordable, and be durable enough to get the job done without tearing. You also need toilet paper to perform. By perform, I mean to clean up as much as possible with as few squares as necessary, and to leave you feeling good about your hygiene after it is done. If you would like me to be more specific, my editor calls this factor “grip.”

Another small thing you likely haven’t given thought to: the ease of tearing one sheet from another. If it’s too difficult to tear, you end up pulling down a ribbon of paper, or tearing out useless half-squares. Along those lines, anything that is frustrating about toilet paper is a bit more frustrating than problems you might have with other disposable household items, because you are trying to minimize inconvenience at sometimes very inconvenient moments.

How White Cloud performs and compares

In a word, perfectly. Not only is it cheap, it matches or outperforms every other brand both in the rigorous tests of Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping, as well as my own at-home testing.

…it is only 25¢ for each 100 sheets, which makes it the cheapest 3-ply toilet paper around.
White Cloud is affordable. By Consumer Reports’ calculations, it is only 25¢ for each 100 sheets, which makes it the cheapest 3-ply toilet paper around. For comparison’s sake, Quilted Northern Ultra Plush is virtually the same product, but costs 38¢ for 100 sheets–that’s about 50% more. Even crazier, Charmin Ultra Soft costs 41¢ per 100 sheets, yet is only 2-ply.

When it comes to performance, the major testing houses’ assessments matched our own hands-on impressions: White Cloud is soft to the touch without feeling decadent; it doesn’t break in use, yet consistently and quickly dissolves in water; it’s easy to tear off your desired amount; and has the “grip” you need.

Speaking of the major testing houses, there aren’t many sources for toilet paper reviews, but those sources that do test it are rigorous to the point that other tests are unecessary. When both Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping Research Institute conduct separate, independent tests and arrive at virtually the same conclusions, there’s little need for others to enter the fray.

Consumer Reports performed notable toilet paper tests in May 2009 (subscription required). To test strength, Consumer Reports used industrial instruments made by Instron to digitally measure the force needed to push a steel ball through sheets, along with the ease of tearing along perforations. They brought in panelists with highly developed sensory perception to gauge softness and pliability (how it feels when crumpled up) “in a temperature- and humidity-controlled room.” And Consumer Reports used a beaker, a magnetic stir bar, and a stirring plate to time how long it took each sheet to break apart, suffice to pass through plumbing without clogging.

You want toilet paper that breaks down, moves along, and eventually gets eaten up and repurposed by microbes.
If you are wondering whether disintegration really matters in a toilet paper, you can look into what the current market for “flushable” wet wipes has done to various sewer systems of the U.S.: in Raleigh, N.C., in Rochester, N.Y., in Lake Charles, Louis., and other locales. You want toilet paper that breaks down, moves along, and eventually gets eaten up and repurposed by microbes.

Good Housekeeping also put their Research Institute to work on toilet paper in late 2011. Good Housekeeping is less precise in explaining its tests, but they sought the same kinds of qualities as Consumer Reports: breakdown, strength, absorption, and thickness. GH also performed surveys of consumer testers, and asked for people’s thoughts on “which paper was the softest and gentlest.” Which is helpful, because it involves more butts than magnetic disturbance tools.

White Cloud 3-Ply Ultra was both the “Best Buy” and the top-rated product in Consumer Reports‘ tests. It also tied for first place with an “A-” in Good Housekeeping‘s reviewConsumer Reports gave White Cloud an “Excellent” in softness, strength, and disintegration, and a “Very Good” in tearing ease.

Good Housekeeping only had one item in the “Cons” list for White Cloud: “Sold only at (Walmart)” (which we will address in just a bit). As for its performance in the lab and among testers:

Absorbent, strong, and fast-dissolving, White Cloud Ultra is also a good value, costing significantly less than other comparable three-plies. It wasn’t as strong as other brands when wet though, and this TP earned just average softness scores from our consumer testers. Nonetheless, the rolls we looked at were high quality and offered plenty of square footage for your money, earning this Walmart-exclusive brand the distinction of being our top three-ply toilet (paper).

I also contacted the heads of other sites that might have something to say about toilet paper, including ToiletPaperWorld.com and PoopReport.com, to no avail. But as we stated earlier, it’s hard to get more conclusive than when Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping both agree that White Cloud is the best.

That said, we like to confirm their findings with our own impressions when possible to check for things like general feel that aren’t easily captured in technical tests. So I purchased most of the toilet papers in the top 10 of Consumer Reports‘ ratings and rotated them in my homes’ bathrooms. I also brought samples to friends for blind touch-and-rate tests, and did my own (kitchen-based) absorption and break-up tests.

After a few weeks of reading and testing, I was confident that White Cloud’s 3-ply Ultra was the pick most people would be content to have in their home. It’s a 3-ply that costs far less than even some 2-ply brands (about one-quarter of a cent, $0.0025, per sheet) and it performs as well as thicker brands, while never quite feeling like it was, as one friend put it, “so thick and soft that you feel guilty using it.” White Cloud is soft, very safe to flush, and has the “grip” that you hopefully don’t need all that often.

The Walmart Factor

White Cloud is a near-exclusive for Walmart stores. Right now, I can find it on Amazon, but if you wanted to procure it regularly for a reasonable price, you would need to buy it at Walmart. There are certainly alternatives to White Cloud if you find yourself entirely opposed to shopping for anything at Walmart. Take note, though, that toilet paper is a large-scale business, and that most brands in major stores are made by large corporations with many holdings.

Buying our secondary pick, for example, involves supporting a business owned by the controversial Koch Brothers (who have, incidentally, sued White Cloud over the quilt-like design of their bathroom tissue). There are certainly smaller brands, eco-focused manufacturers, and store brands from stores that present you with no complicated feelings. But among the brands someone in Buffalo, NY could reasonably expect someone in Houston, Tex. to be able to buy, White Cloud is what I would recommend.

Environmental Factors

As with so many industries, the push for environmentally kinder products has resulted in new toilet paper products, colorful green-hued packaging design, and no small amount of consumer confusion in the market.

With a toilet paper that performs well and disintegrates easily, you can do a lot to minimize your consumption.
The best you can do, when you’re dealing with something that you absolutely cannot recycle in the traditional sense, is to find a way to use less of it. With a toilet paper that performs well and disintegrates easily, you can do a lot to minimize your consumption. But you might also seek out toilet papers that are made from recycled paper, specifically paper headed for a landfill. Second to that, you might find paper harvested from trees grown in responsibly managed forests. And finally, you avoid recycled paper that has been recolored white with bleach, which pollutes air and water.

But as you might imagine, many “green” toilet papers go the route of fewer plies, and their strength, softness, or sheet-to-sheet tearing suffer for it. As Consumer Reports puts it:

Toilet papers made from recycled content fared worse. Several are at the bottom of our Ratings because of their roughness and middling strength and tearing ease. At least they offer excellent disintegration, making them an option for larger households or those with clog-prone plumbing.

I fall in the camp of buying higher quality consumables that I’ll hopefully use less. That said, White Cloud, listed as “Wal-Mart,” gets an absolute zero in Greenpeace’s recycled tissue and toilet paper guide (PDF link)—as does every major toilet paper brand that is widely available, save a few natural or “green” versions.

Also Great
It's not a top performer by any means, but it's also a good compromise between environmental conscience and bathroom experience. Consider your local store's green brands too, though.
The highest rated environment-minded paper that isn’t store-specific and that fares well with Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and holds the top spot at GoodGuide among toilet papers, is Seventh Generation, the 2-ply variety. It is available in many grocery stores and co-ops, and on Amazon, with a Subsribe & Save option. On its own product page, Seventh Generation notes that “There’s softer bathroom tissue out there,” and, well, they are right. I tested Seventh Generation for a while, and it is not as soft, gripping, or anywhere as cheap, especially at retail prices. It does disintegrate well, and it is not quite so problematic in tearing off as Consumer Reports rated it.

There are more moderate green bathroom tissue options, such as Scott Naturals and its “Tube-Free” option. They may some day soon push other brands toward more recycling, less bleaching, and less overall use of fresh-harvested trees. For now, though, tube-free creates this kind of experience, as Consumer Reports sees it:

When we put one (tube-free) brand on a standard toilet-paper holder to take it for a “spin,” it wasn’t as easy to unravel, and the paper didn’t tear off as easily. The roll was also harder to place on the holder.

Scott Naturals Tube-Free rated a 57 out of 100 in Consumer Reports‘ ratings (compared to 91/100 for White Cloud), and Scott tissues, in general, lack for strength. I also didn’t see Tube-Free versions of Scott at my local Walmart, Target, or Wegmans grocery store, but I can’t be entirely certain I didn’t miss them.

When White Cloud Green Earth is more widely available (it was not at two Walmart stores I visited), I will consider it for an update of this post. In the meantime, consult the NRDC, Greenpeace, and GoodGuide ratings to see if your store has an eco-conscious brand that might best Seventh Generation.

The Competition (which is softer, but with less grip)

The closest competitor to White Cloud 3-Ply, both in third-party testing and in my own opinion, was Quilted Northern Ultra Plush. It costs one dollar more for the same 12 double-roll package at Walmart, and more at other stores, but on Amazon you can get 48 rolls for 25 dollars, which puts it on the same price footing. It rates nearly as high in Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping tests, and is just as safe for plumbing and septic systems as White Cloud. And it is absolutely the softest toilet paper I have ever felt in my hands.

Also Great
While it's too soft for some people and can lack "grip," Quilted Northern is a great alternative for those who like their toilet paper as gentle as possible.
So why wouldn’t I recommend a paper that was softer than White Cloud? Because Quilted Northern is so smooth as to not have the kind of grip you might want, on occasion. There’s also the issue of leftover pieces. “Leftovers” are an issue cited in some Amazon reviews of Quilted Northern, and Quilted’s reputation for this even inspired the truly surreal Charmin Ultra 2010 “pieces left behind” Super Bowl ad (in which Quilted Northern is the “Rippled Brand.”). Moreover, Quilted Northern exists in that realm my friend defined: so soft and plush as to feel wasteful to certain minds. If comfort and softness are your main criteria, though, Quilted Northern is in a class of its own.

As for the many other brands—Charmin (whose Ultra Soft costs more than Quilted Northern per sheet), Cottonelle, Angel Soft, Scott, and the innumerable store brands—very few come close to the unique price, comfort, and practical performance of White Cloud. Buy White Cloud in larger packs, and the pricing advantage becomes even more clearly defined.

The real competition for White Cloud is customers who don’t live near, or shop at, a Walmart, or don’t want to have White Cloud delivered. In those cases, I would suggest Target’s Up & Up brand, which disintegrates and tears well, is very cheap per sheet, and works fairly well for a two-ply. The other differentiating factor is those looking for something much more environmentally friendly (in the traditional sense), which we addressed earlier in this post.

Wrapping it up

But buying a large quantity of a good quality toilet paper makes a lot of sense—it saves money, and there is almost no chance you aren’t going to eventually use it. And when you use it, it should work, and work well. Do your butt a favor and take White Cloud 3-Ply out for a spin.

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Sources

  1. Toilet Paper Ratings, Consumer Reports (subscription required), April 2012
  2. Richard Stradling, Now not flushable: flushable wipes, Charlotte News & Observer, May 27, 2009
    It turns out that flushable wipes don't break down either, Crews said. ... "Some of them disintegrated a little bit, but a little bit is not good enough," he said. "If it doesn't break down like toilet paper, you probably shouldn't flush it."
  3. Evan White, Diapers Down The Drain In Ontario County, 13 WHAM (ABC affiliate in Rochester, NY), March 21, 2013
    "Unfortunately, wipes are also part of the problem affecting pumping stations and the main treatment facility, according to Degear. Once it gets to the plant, we have a bigger problem because it gets into the bar screen and it gets into the settling tanks," said Degear.
  4. Theresa Schmidt, LC wastewater officials: 'Toilets are not trash cans', KPLC TV 7 (NBC affiliate, Louisiana), May 16, 2013
    The city has a biological treatment system which means microscopic bugs eat the waste -- but they can't consume plastic or latex items and strong chemicals and drugs can hurt the bugs. And regarding items that purport to be flushable or biodegradable, Heise said, don't believe it. "They clog up just like a wrapper would from a candy bar," Heise said. He said test it by pouring water on toilet paper versus a flushable wipe. The paper disintegrates; the wipe is a lot sturdier.
  5. White Cloud Ultra Toilet Paper, Good Housekeeping, January 2013
    Absorbent, strong, and fast-dissolving, White Cloud Ultra is also a good value, costing significantly less than other comparable three-plies. ... The rolls we looked at were high quality and offered plenty of square footage for your money, earning this Walmart-exclusive brand the distinction of being our top three-ply toilet paper
  6. Septic System Do's and Don'ts, Wind River Environmental
    "The best thing to do for your septic system is to be sure not to flush anything other than human waste and toilet paper "
  7. Natural Resources Defense Council, A Shopper's Guide to Home Tissue Products, August 5, 2009
  • http://485i.com Brian Van Nieuwenhoven

    So I’m guessing this site, in many ways, ain’t gonna be for people who live in NYC

    • Michael Zhao

      You could get the Quilted Northern, it performs similarly. It’s just more expensive.

      • http://485i.com Brian Van Nieuwenhoven

        I mean, these are costs we often can’t even control, we have a selection of what we can get here, and we can’t travel to buy anything in bulk because we don’t have cars and we don’t have space. I know you get that. We just pay out the nose for our 4-packs no matter where we go – pharmacy, bodega, etc.

        But that said, the Quilted Northern is reviewed as extra soft, perhaps crumbly. That seems like a problem? I find that I do prefer bathroom tissue that has strength and does not tear or ball up. I do not like cheap 1-ply tissues but I’d take that over crumbly tissues. I find that, given the small number of brand options in most NYC stores, Charmin Ultra Strong (red packaging) is widely available and does the job well. The few times we were forced into picking up other options, we’ve found ourselves unhappy. But I don’t think Quilted Northern is one of the ones we’ve tried yet.

        • http://TheSweethome.com Joel Johnson

          I live in a loft in Brooklyn, so have more storage space than many city dwellers, but you can always order online in bulk. It’s way cheaper than bodega paper, even if you have to plan ahead a day or two. (I’ve got enough TP and paper towels in my storage closet to last six months, probably.)

        • Michael Zhao

          $20 for a 36 pack (about 30¢/100 sheets on Amazon with free Prime shipping). It’s 3-ply and earns top marks in both CR and GH’s testing. I think you’ll be satisfied.

        • Kevin Purdy

          As you might have garnered from the text, toilet paper is, indeed, quite provincial, and sometimes regional. I tried to pick a few options that had the most geographic reach. Charmin Ultra is only just behind the White Clouds and Quilted Northern in Consumer Reports’ testing, and suffers only for disintegration. Trader Joe’s, if that is near you, is also well-liked by fervent reviewers.

          • http://485i.com Brian Van Nieuwenhoven

            Yeah, Charmin Ultra does have that problem a bit, you seem to have to be delicate with it. Now I’m interested in switching… thanks!

  • wpfleischmann

    Your intended Amazon link for Seventh Generation on Subscribe-and-Save goes to a different product; please correct.

    • http://TheSweethome.com Joel Johnson

      It appears to be correct for me.

    • Kevin Purdy

      I don’t get that; I arrive at the Subscribe & Save option for Seventh.

      • Michael Zhao

        I changed it out. Sorry, should have responded.

  • MrHaroHaro

    I guess I’m the only person in the world that actually hates soft toilet paper. (I feel it just smooshes what you’re trying to clean. I prefer the scraped clean feeling of “regular” toilet paper.)

    • SickSix

      The good ol’ John Wayne toilet paper: rough, tough, and takes no shit off anyone.

  • Jacobo Fortunato

    Nary a mention of Scott Tube-Free?!
    (www.scottbrand.com/products/toilet-paper/tubefree)
    I’ve been using it since it came out. Soft. No tube at the end. Magic.

    • Kevin Purdy

      Good point. Tube-free is probably a thing that’s going to show up in a few other brands. As for the Scott version, I added a bit to the post about how it fared in CR’s ratings, and my own (relative) lack of access to it. Thank you for bringing it up!

      • Jacobo Fortunato

        Nice! The CR write-up contains the quibbles I’d predict it would, except they’re wrong about it not tearing off easily—that’s not an issue. Once you get the hang of it, getting the roll onto a holder is not really an issue either. The legit quibble is that it doesn’t roll smoothly, as one might surmise. I love getting to the end and not having to dispose of anything. It’s ace.

        • ctchrisf

          but what do I use to start my fire in the fireplace?
          those tubes are great kindling.
          Kidding, tubeless seems the way to go down the road.

  • Kent Wang

    What’s the best toilet paper available in the UK? White Cloud, Quilted Northern are not available. There seems to be an importer on Amazon for Charmin but they want £50.

    The best toilet paper I’ve tried is actually when I was living in China, Nepia 400. It was really smooth, not too thick.

  • R. L. Heinrichs

    Luxebidet.com (and other manufacturers) makes a $60 (+/-) retrofit bidet, plastic apparatus that fits between the toilet seat and the bowl; it easily connects to the water supply line, but does not interfere with normal toilet flushing; pulling an on/off lever causes a recessed tube in the back to drop down and squirt a strong water jet to thoroughly clean the anal area; this unit has reduced our TP household consumption by 95%; moreover, it minimizes the aggravation caused by wiping to zero; it is a product for every household

  • blkdoggy421

    (eyes squinting) So……… is this an actual article or advertisement made to look like an actual article.

  • danguss

    Oh my god, none of these even remotely compare to Cotonelle with Aloe & E. It’s by far the best TP…

    • wahinewahine

      In what way? Softness, etc? Do tell.

      • danguss

        They’re soft but they’re smooth, not all fuzzy, and they feel sort of “not dry” even though they aren’t moist in any way. Quilted Northern is a nightmare in comparison. If you’ve been forced to use rough paper to wipe earlier in the day, this stuff actually kind of makes it *feel better.*

  • John White

    Interesting overview of the market. Is facial tissue on the roadmap?

  • Scott

    With a staple like TP, unless you’ve got some kind of rump condition or you’re a Saudi oil guy, value must be weighed more heavily than subjective things like softness or grip.

    http://www.walmart.com/ip/Scott-Extra-Soft-Bathroom-Tissue-Double-Rolls-264-sheets-24-rolls/23621018

    At 17 cents per 100 sheets (more than 30% less than White Cloud), Scott Extra Soft is much better value. It’s only 1 ply, but it’s like paper-towel-thick. Also you get more rolls and more sheets per roll with each package. I also like that each package is really 6 4-packs, so once you break into one, you don’t have all the others collecting dust or falling onto the bathroom floor for however long it takes to get through them all.

    • danguss

      You don’t have to be rich to be able to afford to pay a couple of dollars more for something you have to use every day…

      • Scott

        You don’t have to be rich to be able to afford to pay for lotto tickets, cigarettes, and a lot of other complete wastes of money, you just won’t get rich any faster.

        • danguss

          All things much more expensive than comfortable toilet paper. I tried to come up with a comparison to something even more ridiculous to call a “waste of money,” but TP is actually the most extreme exaggeration I can think of.

  • IceTrey

    Why would germs, viruses and fungus that had just been inside you be anymore dangerous when it’s outside you?

  • JesusHC

    Charmin Plus for the win. Strong, soft, cleans well and feels good. Also, yes, you need the fresh wipes too.

  • http://edwardsung.com/ El Sabor Asiático

    For some reason, Walmart Neighborhood Markets (or at least, the one near me) only stocks the 2-ply version of White Cloud. That sucks, since I really hate going to the behemoth regular Walmart.

  • ctchrisf

    I found the Ology brand at Walgreen. Made from readily renewable sugarcane husk & bamboo. Honestly I like it as much as my old standby Charmin.
    Although never tried the walmart brand nor will I break my 5 year ban on walmart to try it.
    http://www.drugstore.com/ology-300-sheet-bath-tissue-12-rolls/qxp459182

  • David Joyce

    This isn’t Digg. It’s the Sweethome. Are you lost?

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      This guide was featured on Digg a year ago. Disregard his nonsense! Haha