Household sanitary products, and our constant access to them, is something we often take for granted. The COVID-19 stockpiling situation was a wake-up call for many, leaving people with the stark realisation of how much we depend on these products on a daily basis. However, sanitary products weren’t always as readily available as they are in the 21st century. Here, we explore some of the methods people have historically used in the place of what we now know as toilet roll.
Unbelievably, the concept of toilet tissue has been around as early as the 6th century AD. Archaeologists and historical researchers discovered in China that paper ‘toilet tissue’ was being used as a hygiene product, and even being mass produced and distributed by the 14th century. Prior to the Ming dynasty, it has been estimated that 10 million packages of 1,000 to 10,000 sheets of toilet roll were manufactured every year.
In other cultures, similar trends were catching on. For the Romans, a sponge on a stick was a popular option, while early Jewish cultures are reported to have carried bags full of small pebbles. The wealthy would use wool, lace or hemp, while others relied on leaves, grass, hay, moss or just plain water.
Toilet roll as we know it
It was in 1857 that Joseph Gayette invented what we now know as modern, commercially available toilet tissue. Manufacturing took many years to perfect, with produce as late as the 1930s advertising ‘splinter-free’ options – thankfully! In the 1940s, soft, two-ply, flushable tissue came to the UK market. And in 1948, WEPA joined the market, started by Paul Krengel and family in Germany.
WEPA was born as a paper product manufacturer specialising in quality household paper, baking paper, stationery, art paper, sandwich and lining paper. Since then, we have continued to invest in our manufacturing techniques to provide the very best in household paper across the UK and Europe.
Now one of the largest paper manufacturers in the EU, we have become leading private-label specialists in the consumer market. We are experts in high quality, sustainable and ecological products, and aspire to continually improve our offering every day.
To find out more about the options available to you 1,500 years after the very first toilet paper was discovered, visit our products page.