With new low-flow toilets everywhere these days — except in older San Francisco homes and business — many of our customers here at O’Grady Plumbing have been asking if they should downgrade the quality of their toilet paper, maybe going to Brand X as opposed to the plush two-ply soft-as-a-blanket varieties we all grew up with.
I wish I could say two-ply paper is the culprit of most toilet backups — especially in the case of new toilets that are down to 1.28 gallons per flush. And to be sure, thick toilet papers don’t necessarily do you any favors when your plumbing is already prone to plugging.
In fact, the Good Housekeeping Institute ran tests on the top brands, discovering that several Charmin brands, along with Quilted Northern and Cottonelle were particularly slow to dissolve.
So does this mean you should switch to the cheap, see-through variety of paper?
Not necessarily. I think the performance of a toilet has more to do with its design than what is put into the bowl. And a key factor would be the size of the throat of the toilet. It stands to reason that if the outlet is bigger and the water drops faster — thanks to a larger flapper hole to allow the water to dump quicker — the toilet will perform better.
However, if it makes you feel better, you can always perform this quick test:
- Take a square or two of your favorite toilet paper and drop them in the toilet.
- After a couple of minutes, see if there’s any change in the shape of that marinating paper.
- If it looks pretty much the way it did when it went in, the toilet paper might not be dissolving quick enough to get through the maze of sharp corners required for a good flush.
I wrote a fun piece in Maxim magazine a few years back where I discussed how to handle an emergency resulting from too much going into the toilet.
If you’re now in agreement with me that the thickness and ‘poshness’ of your toilet paper probably doesn’t factor into a clogged toilet scenario, check out the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s San Francisco toilet rebate programs for a list of qualifying low-flow toilets. These folks have tested hundreds of toilets and then rated them based on grams per flush. As an added bonus, you might qualify for a $125 rebate!
You can find that info online at sfwater.org/index.aspx?page=173.
About The Author: Paul O’Grady is the founder and general manager of O’Grady Plumbing — San Francisco’s multi-generational residential and commercial plumbing company. O’Grady grew up in the plumbing business and his company is backed by three generations of plumbers. At O’Grady Plumbing, he manages a team of master plumbers who build, repair, maintain and retrofit plumbing systems and equipment throughout San Francisco and San Mateo.