After examining over 30 toilet paper brands, we bought the 13 best and put them through a detailed head-to-head testing process. As is typical, our testing is both objective and "in real life". We formulated and executed repeatable, comparative, objective tests, and collated the in-use findings of six different households. We've now tested for more than a year and a half, continuously examining for strength, absorption, cleanability, and softness/comfort. We developed an "effectiveness coefficient" that is used to accurately compare the actual value of each roll. Toilet paper value is a function of more than the sticker price. We are confident that our effectiveness coefficient will guide you to true function and value purchase decisions.
$13.09 at Amazon
$42.70 at Amazon
|$43 List||$55 List|
$18.79 at Amazon
$16.49 at Amazon
|Pros||Very effective, super strong, great value||Very absorbent, quite soft||Very effective, strong, decent absorption||Effective, good absorption, quite soft||Effective, strong, soft|
|Cons||Moderate dissolubility||Moderate to poor dissolubility||Poor value, below average dissolubility||Value||Poor value, poor dissolvability|
|Bottom Line||No compromises here; this is a strong performer overall and one of our top choices||Soft as a dream although it has the potential to be tough on older septic systems||It might be hard on older septic systems, but this is a good choice for those concerned with efficiency and performance strength||A great pick for those who prioritize comfort and effectiveness||Soft, effective, and absorbant but not a top pick for older plumbing systems|
|Rating Categories||Charmin Ultra Stron...||Charmin Ultra Soft...||Quilted Northern Ul...||Charmin Ultra Gentl...||Quilted Northern Ul...|
|Specs||Charmin Ultra Stron...||Charmin Ultra Soft...||Quilted Northern Ul...||Charmin Ultra Gentl...||Quilted Northern Ul...|
|Roll Dimension||Width: 5"||Width: 5.5"||Width: 3.8"||3.9" x 4"||Width: 3.8"|
|Sheet Dimension||4 x 4||4" x 4"||4" x 3.8"||4" x 4"||4" x 3.8"|
|Sheets Per Roll||264 mega or 341 (family mega)||328||142||286||142 (154 also listed on website, seems to be in error)|
|Product Responsilbility?||Amazon Climate Pledge Friendly certified. Forest Stewardship Council certified from responsible source||Amazon Climate Pledge Friendly certified. Forest Stewardship Council certified from responsible source||Forest Stewardship Council certified from responsible sources. Amazon Climate Pledge Friendly certified. Partnered with Arbor Day Foundation to plant 3 trees for every tree used in Northern Ultra production||Amazon Climate Pledge Friendly certified. Forest Stewardship Council certified from responsible source||Partnered with Arbor Day Foundation to plant 1 tree for every tree used in Northern Ultra production|
|Safe for Sensitive Skin?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Best Overall Toilet Paper
Charmin Ultra Strong Mega
After ordering products based on our test results, testers and users alike were unsurprised that Charmin Ultra Strong Mega topped the list. This product satisfies the majority of users. It is excellent for those looking for comfort as well as those looking performance. It topped the scales in our objective tests of strength and absorption and was nearly as soft and gentle as the gentlest in our review. While this Charmin product is more expensive than most, its effectiveness per sheet tilts the value equation back in its favor a little bit. We found that a single sheet from this roll will do what it takes four sheets of the least effective competitors to do. If you can adjust your usage habits accordingly, "expensive" options like this standard-setting Charmin product are not, in fact, much more expensive than the "value" options.
Our proprietary, mathematically-derived effectiveness coefficient can be thought of as a multiplier of sorts. This coefficient answers the question of how many sheets of the TP will it take to do the job relative to others? A lower number is better. In this regard, the Charmin Ultra Strong tops the charts. The value will be a function of the effectiveness, your associated usage patterns, and the actual cost per sheet. Diligent users can find better value with the more effective (albeit more expensive per sheet) options than with flimsy alternatives. The main drawback of the stronger options is that some plumbing systems will struggle with the robust sheets, especially if they come in big wads. We suggest making sure your plumbing can handle it before getting too excited about the robust Charmin Ultra Strong.
Best Bang for Your Buck
Amazon Brand Presto Toilet Paper
The Amazon Brand Presto toilet paper is a great option for those looking for a well-balanced, cost-effective product. Presto paper earned an overall above-average score in our metrics but stood out in our strength and dissolve tests — two paper characteristics that are respectively paramount to personal hygiene and the wellness of one's plumbing. As far as strength tests go, Presto gave an across-the-board good performance with the exception of the wet phase of the tests in which it did relatively poorly, bringing down the rest of the scores slightly.
Testers were mixed in their assessment of the softness of Presto paper thus making literal the old adage about opinions. However, the overall score for softness was about average for the class. As for the effectiveness and absorption of the paper, Presto's performance was above average showing some conflicting results wherein its ability to absorb liquids brought it down some in its ability to effectively clean up wet test materials. Despite its minor discrepancies, Presto delivers an all-around quality product at a very competitive price making it a great value for thrifty shoppers.
Best for Comfort
Charmin Ultra Soft Mega
Charmin Ultra Soft Mega bathroom tissue is exactly what the branding suggests — it is among the softest in the class. But, Charmin has other notable attributes as well. For example, this paper's strength, effectiveness, and absorption scores are all well above average in a very competitive class. It's worth noting that the Ultra Soft's absorption results set the bar for the class. More than being high quality, this TP offers consumers good value as well.
This Charmin Ultra Soft bathroom tissue is fully functioning and effective. However, it had some irritating shortcomings. For instance, when starting a new roll, the perforated edge of the paper tends to tear and often separate the plies. Also, we had to use two hands to tear off the paper needed when in a seated position. These are minor issues to be sure but frustrating nonetheless. All told, Charmin Ultra Soft lives up to its name, making it the go-to for soft wiping experience.
Best for Older Plumbing/Septic Systems
Angel Soft Double
The Angel Soft Double toilet paper is near the upper echelon of products for its all-around good performance. However, it should be noted that it tops the chart in our dissolve metric. For this reason, we have given it special recognition for the appeal it will have for those with less than robust plumbing. While this high dissolution rating is certainly a bonus for those with touchy toilets, this TP remains a solid, average, well-rounded choice. All of our testing households liked it and compared it favorably to the other top scorers. In our objective testing for absorption, this Angel Soft was nothing special. In similar testing for strength, the Angel Soft is surpassed by only a few options.
Our assessment of Angel Soft's cleanability has it performing about average. Similarly, softness was about average. One tester pointed out that it is "a step up from the lowest scorers here" and that it "rolls/tears a bit [more than the others] when it gets damp." All told, Angel Soft is a good choice for those a little concerned about their plumbing but still want a decently performing product.
Why You Should Trust Us
Nick Miley and lead tester Genaveve Bradshaw have spent the last year researching and testing a variety of health and wellness products including air purifiers and juicers. As active toilet paper users for a combined 67 years, Nick and Genaveve are keen to find the best products that balance price value and performance. Toilet paper usage is an intimate experience that touches each person differently — our team took this reality into account while researching and testing. In the following review, we dive into the nitty-gritty particulars of methodology and share the results with our readers in a comprehensive yet easy-to-digest format.
First, we purchased all of the products we tested at retail prices just like a typical consumer and distributed them to our team. We ran several repeatable tests that measure strength, absorption, dissolvability, softness, and cleaning effectiveness as well as conducted an office-wide anonymous survey to gather opinions about comfort and effectiveness. Beyond that, we took our work home, testing the toilet paper in our bathrooms and on camping trips. After weeks of testing, data entry, and analysis, we are confident that the information provided in this review will help you buy the right paper for your loo.
Analysis and Test Results
If we learned one thing from our analysis, it is that intuitive and subjective preferences are in line with the results of our objective testing. To put it another way, the TP we like is the stuff that performs best in our tests. We are quite excited about consumers using our objective measures to secure a high value when making informed toilet paper purchases. With so many products on the market, all with mystifying pricing schemes, confidently ascertaining value is difficult. Our testing helps ease the demands of this essential but admittedly mundane purchase.
It is challenging to shop for toilet paper value, and it's a tall order to seek the "best bang for your buck". First, toilet paper is sold in a wide array of configurations. You can buy one roll at a time or in giant packages. You can get some sort of volume discount, or it can only seem like that is the case. Next, there isn't any standard size of the roll. "Standard" rolls from one company can be different from those of another company. And then there are a plethora of roll-size options. You'll see "double", "mega", "family mega", and "supreme", among others. Naming conventions vary from one company to another.
Further muddling the quest for value is the varying effectiveness of different products. As noted above, we found that one sheet of a great product can do the work of four sheets of the lowest quality product. If you can adjust your usage patterns for differing effectiveness, you can get the best value from something other than the absolute cheapest product.
With all the variables in the assessment of a cost-effective TP purchase, you might assume it is hopeless to compare. There is some good news though — a square from each type of toilet paper is essentially the same size. Yup, all TP squares have, more or less, the same dimensions. The largest differs from the smallest by just a few percentage points. This simplifies matters considerably because, when comparing the effectiveness of various toilet papers, you can correctly assume that each square is the same size.
With the above assumptions and findings, plus some discipline in your usage (i.e., use the minimum amount of tissue for the given job), you can calculate the real "best value" toilet tissue. It is a labor-intensive process but is one you can do with price, sheet count, and our "effectiveness coefficient". Try this step-by-step process to find your best value.
First, determine how much toilet paper you can store at any given time. Buying in bulk is, generally, the best value, but we can't all store hundreds of rolls. Narrow your shopping to package sizes that you can store. Next, intuitively weed out the products that are obvious outliers. The most expensive choices will probably remain too expensive, even after a critical analysis. The same goes for the least expensive choices; the absolute budget TP is likely not worth the time, money, and storage space.
Once you have narrowed your choices, identify the cost per sheet — or per 100 sheets, which is how prices are often broken down online. Make sure your denominator is the same for every product, and then identify the GearLab "Effectiveness Coefficient" for your selections. For example, product A cost 13 cents per 100 sheets and has an Effectiveness Coefficient of 4 while product B costs 34 cents per 100 sheets and has a coefficient of 1. Now, multiply the cost by the Effectiveness Coefficient for each product to get an approximation of the true cost. Product A appears very inexpensive, but it is far less effective. Its cost for a given amount of function is 52 (13x4). On the other hand, product B scores 34 (34x1). Thus, product B, used with some discipline, is a considerably better value than product A despite the initial purchase price.
Intuitive assessments of function and value validate our mathematical approach and vice versa. What we propose with the use of our proprietary "Effectiveness Coefficient" isn't inherently unique, nor is it fully necessary. Critical thinking and actual value-oriented use of toilet tissue will support many of the same conclusions we have made mathematically.
With toilet tissue, strength matters. We tried a host of testing methodologies. The best and final test we developed is to spread a sheet or stack of sheets over a canning jar, holding it in place with the canning jar lid ring.
We then drop a small permanent marker (about the same diameter and shape as a finger) from 16 inches high. We start with one sheet of each type of TP and add sheets to the count until the aggregate effectively blocks the penetration of the dropped Sharpie. Our findings in this test correlate almost exactly with concurrent subjective testing. As part of our subjective tests, we tear sheets with our hands, back to back, and comparatively rate them.
We perform a similar strength test on wet toilet tissue. We suspend the TP in the same fashion, wet the product with a fixed amount of water, and then add scale calibration weights until the paper fails.
The Charmin Ultra Strong is considerably ahead of the subsequent top performers in the strength test which displayed a pronounced resilience in the wet paper drop test. Next up but over a point behind is Quilted Northern Ultra Soft and Strong — it also did well in the wet test but wasn't too shabby in the dry test either. Cottonelle Ultra Comfort and Amazon Brand Presto are above-average performers of note. Both of these products displayed decent results in the seated tear and the new roll tests.
For liquid clean-up tasks, you want your TP to be highly absorptive. All the TP here reviewed take up liquids quickly. As such, the rate of initial absorption is virtually indistinguishable between the different products. The amount of liquid absorbed, though, is significantly different across the different products. We test this by weighing the dry sheets first and then again after they are saturated with water, subtracting the two values from one another to determine the water uptake. The most absorbent sheets soaked up twice as much liquid as the least absorbent.
The most absorbent products in our test were Charmin Ultra Soft, Charmin Ultra GentleCare, Charmin Ultra Strong, and Quilted Northern Ultra Plush. At the other end of the spectrum, the minimalist Scott 1000 holds half as much liquid as the leading tissues.
How well does a type of TP collect what it needs to collect? Assessment of this was purely subjective. That being said, we are confident in our subjective assessment of cleanability. Interestingly (but perhaps unsurprising), perceptions of cleanability are correlated with perceived and tested tissue strength. By and large, stronger products clean better.
The Charmin Ultra Strong and the Quilted Northern Ultra Soft and Strong clean the best but are a point apart with Charmin earning a perfect score. The Charmin Ultra GentleCare, Cottonelle Ultra Comfort, and Quilted Northern Ultra Plush are up there too. Conversely, the Scott 1000 received an abysmal rating that shows just how much one sacrifices with this brand to save a little coin.
We aggregated the comparative softness assessment of about a dozen testers. We found notable agreement and are confident in our ranking of respective toilet paper softness.
The Charmin Ultra GentleCare is ahead of the rest. Even when we blinded testers from the brand messaging associated with toilet papers, it was clear that the Charmin Ultra Gentle option was one of the two softest products in our review. If you seek maximum comfort, look no further. It also scores quite high in the effectiveness evaluation, delivering leading performances in both the wet and dry tests. It is also well above average in its absorption properties.
Next is Charmin Ultra Soft. The next echelon, at least a little behind these two super comfortable options, are Charmin Essentials and both top scorers. Predictably, Scott 1000 is the least soft in our test. One tester pointed out that Scott 1000 is "definitely the scratchiest".
The dissolve metric is an analysis of how well a particular bathroom tissue breaks down in the toilet. Four products stand out in this regard. These are Scott, Presto, Angel Soft, and Seventh Generation in order of their dissolvability according to three tests performed in our laboratory.
To make a comparative yet practical assessment of a bathroom tissue's dissolvability, we use three standardized tests for each product. First, we do a "still dissolve" in which we put 10 squares of TP in water and note the consistency after 5 minutes. Angel Soft and Scott demonstrated a remarkable willingness to break down without any agitation. Next is the shaken dissolve test. In this test, we put 10 squares of TP in water and shake the container vigorously for one minute, then we pour the liquid and paper over a sieve noting what remains. Here we see that Scott is once again a leader. However, Angel Soft, Presto, and Seventh Generation are all tied as close seconds to Scott. Finally, and perhaps most practically, we conduct a flush test which entails placing 20 pieces of TP in the toilet bowl and letting them sit for one minute. The toilet is then flushed and any remains are noted. Few products had trouble with this test, least of all the four class leaders, Scott 1000, Presto, Angel Soft, and Seventh Generation.
Septic or Environmental Concerns?
The Seventh Generation 100% Recycled toilet paper is for those purchasing for septic health or environmental concerns. It is among the most significantly recycled products in our test and is the 2-ply product that we'd recommend for older plumbing or septic systems. Many products have recycled content in them, but of those we tested, the Seventh Generation 2-ply is the best in this regard. The Scott 1000 is our first choice for those with septic concerns. The other positive attribute is that both are highly dissolvable, providing little resistance to going down on the first flush.
Choosing toilet paper isn't super complicated. However, it is important because you use it daily and both comfort and effectiveness play into your satisfaction with your purchase. In some households, you go through enough toilet paper to render potential savings in the hundreds of dollars per annum. Therefore, you want to make calculated conclusions about which bathroom tissue to purchase. With good intention and review of our findings and metrics, we are confident you can secure toilet tissue that is the absolute best for your needs and budget.
— Jediah Porter, Nicholas Miley, & Genaveve Bradshaw
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