I’ve written about this before, but as I visit people’s homes I am often dismayed that they STILL HAVE NOT LEARNED. So I’m going to write about it again.


Its not just me, lots of people hold very strong opinions about toilet paper orientation. In the 80’s, American newspaper columnist, Ann Landers, (correctly) wrote that toilet paper should have an over orientation and received over 15,000 letters on the subject, it was one of her post popular columns.

Sociology professor and writer of  “Bathroom Politics: Introducing Students to Sociological Thinking from the Bottom Up”, Edgar Allen Burns, got first-year sociology students to examine the way toilet paper should be hung as a way of illustrating social constructivism. Other sociologists and psychologists use this activity to show students the difference between minority and majority orientation.
The toilet paper debate has even made it to prime time television. All in the Family saw Archie yelling at Meathead for hanging the toilet roll under. In a 1995 episode of The Simpsons, where the kids are taken by Child Protective Services, Marge refers to her home as a “squalid hellhole” where the toilet paper is “hung in improper overhand fashion”.
The book Why Not? by  Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres believes that the debate is about symmetry and they compare having an under orientation with peeling a banana from the bottom, or driving from the back seat of the car. I agree! It is obvious that when the paper is hung in an under orientation the pictures on the paper are upside down, this is not what the manufacturers intended because they know that it should be hung in an over fashion.
File:ToiletPaper Boo WrongWay.jpg
My old Alice Springs newspaper, The Centralian Advocate, has even weighed in on the debate claiming that over is more economical and therefore it is better for the environment for rolls to be hung over.
There are lots of statistics on the subject, allow me to share a few. A 1999 survey by Cottonelle showed that 68% of people preferred over. Another survey by Cottonelle on the 100th anniversary of Thomas Crapper’s death showed the figures had jumped to 74% over. The results of the later survey were announced at the Academy Awards, I kid you not. This survey also indicated that overs were more likely to notice, be annoyed at unders and change the roll’s orientation at a friend’s house. The survey also showed that men were more likely to notice and be annoyed than women (not in this house).
There are even results based on class and politics. A survey by Sinrod (1989) showed that 60 percent of people who earn $50,000 or more prefer toilet paper to be over and 73 percent of those who earn less than $20,000 prefer it to be under. Another study shows that politically conservative people prefer under where more left wing people prefer over. Really!

Can you judge the traits of a person based on their toilet roll orientation? It seems so. Gilda Carle, a therapist and Cottonelle consultant, has the following theories:
If you roll over, you like taking charge, crave organization and are likely to over-achieve.
If you roll under, you’re 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.

And lastly, how do the rich and famous do it?

  • Oprah claimed on her show that she was under, 68% of her studio audience disagreed with her.
  • Paul Burrell, the butler to the Princess of Wales, shared that the royals have an over orientation.
  • Tori Spelling is on record saying that “over is more chic”.

Stay tuned for other scintillating debates such as should the toilet seat be up or down?


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