What the media didn’t understand about toilet paper hoarding

Not only was it aggravating that some media referred to the people panic buying as “preppers”… but they all seem baffled by why people were stocking up on toilet paper.

Here’s my theory. I poop in my home less often than I poop at my work or other places. So does my wife and our kids mostly do their business at school. I did not yet have a stock of toilet paper in my preps. So when this all started going down, I knew I wanted to go stock up… but I honestly had no idea just how much my family would use when we are all at home 24/7 for weeks.

Are there any good rules of thumb in prepping about how much TP a person uses? Or some other formula to use?


  • Comments (12)

    • 11

      There was a fascinating Medium post from last month proposing that the shortage wasn’t from hoarding, but because so much demand suddenly shifted from commercial toilet paper to consumer toilet paper.


    • 8

      Re: Are there any good rules of thumb in prepping about how much TP a person uses?

      It depends on the size, make up, and… uhm, diet of your household (input correlates to output, in both volume and quality).  If its doable, just keep track of the spent rolls (if you happen to recycle that is a minor variation, easy to count up each week, write a date one the spent rolls if you want to go overboard!).  With two people and one bathroom it was easy for me to track for two weeks and then estimate out.

      I might have accidentally bought 6 months worth without realizing it… (I didn’t even “hoard” more than 2 extra 9-packs! I just usually buy 3 months worth at a time and just happen to only buy TP 4 times a year under normal circumstances).

      • 5

        I think the biggest factor is going to be the number of women in your household.  Keep in mind we use it every time!  It’s also going to depend on the severity of their monthly menstural cycle which varies wildly and changes with age.  I promise I use more TP than my husband and son combined.  I think monitoring your own household use for a few weeks is the best course.

      • 7

        That’s a really good point. And if you consider that kids are staying home and if they’re on the younger end of the spectrum , they are probably using more tp than they should. That would def contribute to a spike.

      • 8

        Ha, I just buy a case @ Sams Club once a year.

      • 5


    • 8

      This might sound kinda silly, but when you replace your current roll, mark the day on a calendar or write the date on a piece of tape. When the roll is done, note the date. This is, roughly, the basis for your frequency of use for your household.

      If you have a good idea of your household’s frequency of use for a single roll, you can figure out how long a pack of toilet paper will last your household.

      For example, suppose a single roll lasts 1 week. Suppose you have a two 4-packs (that’s 8 rolls. 4 in each pack). You could expect your toilet paper supplies to last roughly 8 weeks.

      Now, this doesn’t account for a couple things.

      This doesn’t account for times of increased frequency due to illness or simply because you ate that thing you know you shouldn’t have eaten. tisk tisk! LOL 😉 You may want a few extra rolls, just in case.

      The other thing is this: Double-ply toilet paper with all its soft, cushy goodness and pretty pretty designs isn’t going to last as long as single ply. Single-ply will last you longer, but you may have to use slightly more for… (shall we say?) adequate coverage. Ahem.

      Eight weeks is nearly 2 months. Over the course of a single year (yes, I’m sticking with the example number because math!) you’ll require 52 rolls for basic use, plus a couple extra rolls for times of illness (if once a year) or unsettled tummy matters. So,… maybe 60 total for a year?

      Edit: If you have more than one bathroom, consider either doubling how much stock you need OR closing off one of the bathrooms.

      Anyway, that’s what I’ve got.

      • 5

        Never thought about that. Double ply not lasting as long as single ply. Kinda wonder if there is more double ply on store shelves because you’ll have to replace it more often than single. Thus the companies make more money? A little genius gotta say.

    • 5

      On Your Mark, Get Set, HOARD!

      It’s a shame the media associates hoarding with Preppers.  Developing a significant food and survival supply program does not occur overnight.  It takes time and investment.

      But I did have an epiphany about the media warnings regarding ‘hoarding’ as I observed the pandemic evolve.  Here is my out-of-the-box take:  During a pandemic or the like, the First Official Notification that people should START HOARDING, starts with the media advertising NOT to HOARD.

      Those Preppers not yet fully stocked as they might like to be, should consider the anti-hoarding media warning as the signal to START buying in bulk.

      When the first anti-hoarding public announcements begin, that signals the LAST BEST TIME that the food and supply DISTRIBUTION systems are likely to be functional.  As the pandemic spreads, and the situations grow more dire, the distribution system starts to fail causing fewer supplies and less food to make it to the local stores.  Hopefully Preppers can avoid a necessity to hoard at that time, but that is the last best time to fill one’s shortages.

      Yeah, I guess it sounds mean, but its a cruel world that we’re planning for, especially when our distribution system starts to fail.  If all Americans set aside food and supplies in the event of an emergency then hoarding would not be a big issue.

      • 11

        Nice observation/hack about knowing it’s time to last-minute buy when “they” say “don’t hoard!”

        We did a lot of press interviews in late February / early March as the panic buying exploded. Got so tired of having to repeat to lazy journos: “People panic buying truckloads of toilet paper are hoarders — not preppers. Preppers are at home, not in line for hours at Costco with lots of other sick people.”

    • 8

      My hypothesis is that a) consumers were told earlier this year just how dependent we were on China for everything we use, and b) the media ran images of shoppers in Hong Kong stocking up on toilet paper.  In light of that, American consumers did what American consumers do in such situation – hoard what they believe is going to be in short supply.

      • 5

        I once crossed the foot border between Hong Kong and “main” China, and even before COVID, there was a pattern of mainland chinese going to HK to buy western products, particularly home consumables. I was amazed at how many elderly people were lugging diapers, formula, and so on across the border.