Knowing how to confidently compare the prices of bath tissue to get the best deal has become a big topic in light of shrinkflation, soaring costs, and frequent product shortages. What makes comparison shopping super challenging is that size, weight, and ply vary greatly from one brand of toilet paper to another. Product labeling can be confusing if not downright mysterious!
Over the years I’ve received thousands of money-saving tips from readers—many of which I’ve shared in books, newsletters, and this column. And there are plenty that I’ve not shared for a variety of reasons, but mostly because they don’t work. Some don’t work so poorly, they actually end up costing time and money, not saving anything. One of those tips still makes me laugh. It goes like this:
“Start with two empty toilet paper tubes and a new roll of 2-ply toilet tissue. Carefully separate the two layers of toilet tissue, re-rolling each of the layers onto an empty tube to create—ta-da!—two rolls of paper for the price of one.”
Not only does this take an unbelievable amount time (yes, I tried it) unless you own a toilet tissue rolling machine of some kind, the result is a ginormous, ridiculous mess of toilet tissue that is so thin, it takes at least twice as much to get the job done.
Don’t do that, OK?
How to Compare Bath Tissue by Price
Learn how to comparison shop for toilet tissue. Then memorize the simple steps so you can do this kind of comparison on the fly. And when you find it on sale at a lower price that you can afford, stock up.
Standards? What standards?
Comparing prices on toilet paper is confusing because no two rolls or packages are alike. There are no set standards for toilet paper (and I’m not suggesting there should be). We can’t compare roll-for-roll because roll sizes vary greatly from one manufacturer to another.
Some companies offer double-rolls, jumbo rolls, or even 1000-sheet rolls—all of which are pretty meaningless when trying to make a reasonable price comparison. Same with comparing the number of sheets per roll.
There is no set size for a sheet of bath tissue! To make things even more confusing, some rolls are 2-ply (layers), super ultra-plush with 3-ply while others come in with a skimpy 1 layer, sometimes referred to as single-ply.
Price-per-square-foot for thick (3-ply), regular (2-ply) or thin (1-ply) is the most reliable method for comparing toilet paper prices. Most manufacturers these days reveal both of these measurements on the product label. You may have to search for it, but somewhere you should be able to find this. Just remember that the number of square feet takes into account the “plys.” One sheet of 2-ply represents the same sq footage as two sheets of single ply. This is the reason it is not a realiabel comparison to compare by number-of- sheets in that roll.
Do the math
So you thought all those math classes you took in school were for naught? Finally, they’re about to pay off. The goal is to discover the price per square foot (denoted as “sq ft” or “ft2”) of the products you are comparing. Do this by dividing the price of the product by the total number of square feet.
If the product label reveals the number of square feet contained therein, you’re in luck. Do the math.
If the label shows how many square inches of the product are contained in the package, divide that number by 144 to get to the number of square feet. Now divide that number of square feet into the price.
If the store’s shelf label reveals the price per 100 sq. ft., divide that price by 100 to get the price of one square foot.
As I write, Costco’s Kirkland brand two-ply toilet tissue in the 30-roll package contains a total of 1,425 sq. ft. of product for $21.99, or 1.5 cents per sq. ft. ($21.99 ÷ 1425 = $0.015).
Right next to that brand is the Charmin 30-roll package of 2-ply containing 805 sq. ft. of paper, for $31.49, or 4 cents per sq. ft. ($31.49 ÷ 805 = $0.039).
Given those two choices, it’s a no-brainer which is cheaper: 1.5 cents versus 4 cents per sq. ft.? Easy! Kirkland brand toilet tissue wins big in this comparison (although there are some who believe vehemently that Kirkland loses when it comes to quality and—gasp!—the perforation between sheets is not as pronounced).
The product labels make it easy to compare because both of these products are two-ply. You can do this same kind of comparison with any brand of bath tissue in any store.
Once you know to compare the price of toilet paper by the square foot, it will be simple to know with certainty which toilet paper is the best deal on any given day—not the highest or best quality, but the best price. It doesn’t matter if you’re comparing a 30-roll package of ultra-soft jumbo two-ply product with one that’s 4-rolls of single-ply. The price per square foot will give you the answer you’re looking for.
As always: Buyer beware!