Over or Under: The Great Toilet Paper Conundrum

Most hotels, our Sandman locations included, have an industry standard of putting toilet paper rolls in the “over” position, as this orientation creates an appealing appearance, allows easy access to toilet paper squares, and  provides a more sanitary dispensability for guests.

However, did you know that toilet paper orientation is actually a contentious topic around the world?

One would think that something as simple as TP would have a controversy-free past, but according to dozens of surveys on the topic, the way in which people choose to hang their roll, finds a large number of stubborn, unwavering ‘over’ or ‘under’ supporters everywhere.

What Is The Great Toilet Paper Conundrum?

Essentially the debate stems from the two ways in which you can hang your toilet paper on its roll holder. In the ‘over’ position, the loose end hangs in front of the toilet paper roll, like so:

Whereas in the under position, the loose end hangs behind the roll of paper like so:

It’s hard to imagine, but if you have one preferential way of doing this, you may automatically assume that everyone else does the same. Not so.

A survey conducted by KRC Research and Consulting in 1995, found that roughly 59% of those polled preferred the over position, while 29% preferred the under position. In another survey by the American Standard Brands, even designers, contractors, dealers, distributors and bath and kitchen reps were divided on the topic, with 1,826 people preferring over, and 1,256 preferring under.

Perhaps one of the most famous examples of the precariousness of this topic occurred when famed advice columnist Ann Landers answered a reader’s question about the subject in her historic advice column.

On a normal day in 1986, a reader asked Ann which way they should hang their toilet paper, and Ann responded with ‘under’. Unknowingly, her published answer garnered thousands of responses in protest to her decision, prompting her to publish another response a week later saying that the toilet paper should be in the ‘over’ position. However, after posting her ‘over’ answer, she received thousands more responses in protest. Later in life, Ann referred to this subject matter as one of the most controversial topics in her column’s history.

So What’s the Rule with the Roll?

Any hospitality specialist will tell you that the ‘over’ position is preferred for several reasons. Namely, the over position:

  • Reduces the risk of toilet paper gathering dust from the walls or interior of the toilet paper holder.
  • Allows the user to see the loose end easily.
  • Allows hospitality experts to properly fold the loose square in to an appealing triangle shape (this indicates that the room has been cleaned recently).
  • Is the way that most toilet paper companies manufacture their toilet paper patterns and embossments for viewing.

Yet, the ‘under’ supporters have quite a few valid arguments of their own. Namely, the under position:

  • Hides the appearance of the loose end for those who prefer a completely “whole” look.
  • Reduces the risk of complete roll unravelling by pets, toddlers, or sloppy tearers.
  • Is more aerodynamic and allows the paper to be dispensed faster (this relates to the concept of momentum).

Wait… There’s More

If these arguments weren’t enough, there are many psychological theories that have been developed on this topic too. Some equate the orientation debate to simple personality quirks, much like the way people peel bananas or to how they drive their cars.

Some argue that the roll has no official ‘over’ or ‘under’ position, as it is a uniform cylindrical shape with no concrete top or bottom. That is, the way you view ‘over’ and ‘under’ is purely a matter of perspective.

One famous therapist and consultant for the Cottonelle brand, Gilda Carle, even associated character traits with each orientation. She said:

  • If you roll over, you like taking charge, crave organization and are likely to over-achieve.
  • If you roll under, you are laid-back, dependable and seek relationships with strong foundations.
  • If you don’t care – as long as it’s there – you aim to minimize conflict, value flexibility and like putting yourself in new situations.

Well, no matter if you’re ‘over’, ‘under’, ‘up’ or ‘down’, at least you can rest assured that Sandman always aims for the best toilet paper placement possible (we proudly roll ‘over’), in addition, we also always ensure squeaky clean standards for rooms, washrooms and everything else in between.

Besides, though this topic is flush with controversy, don’t you think it’s more important to be the type who can ‘spare a square’ instead?

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