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.
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.
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.
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 review. Consumer 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Toilet Paper Ratings, Consumer Reports (subscription required), April 2012
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."
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.
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.
White Cloud Ultra Toilet Paper, Good Housekeeping, January 2013Absorbent, 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
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 "
A Shopper's Guide to Home Tissue Products, August 5, 2009,
Best Toilet Paper Ratings, GoodGuide