I am always frustrated by toilet paper prices.  Thanks to different sizes of packaging — number of rolls, sheets per roll, regular or double, etc — toilet paper is just not something that’s easy to compare.

Of course, toilet paper is also one of those things I rarely think about until we’re almost out. In which case, I’m forced to simply choose the best deal that I can find and hope it’s not too bad.

Not knowing, though, frustrates me. Most other grocery and toiletries items are easily compared. A tube of toothpaste compares to a tube of toothpaste — and they’ll tell you precisely how many ounces are in each, right there in the ad.

But seeing some toilet paper on sale doesn’t really tell you everything. You have no idea of sheets per roll of either one, just roll count. And, yes, perhaps that’s getting a little overly detail-oriented. But it’s just frustrating to not be able to compare without getting out the calculator.

So, I did what any sensible — by which I mean irrationally obsessed — person would do and broke out the calculator. I was bound and determined to compare apples to apples, which meant finding out sheets per roll and/or square footage.

Like I said, irrationally obsessed. But haven’t you ever wondered? (If not, just placate me and say you have.)

The real trick to comparing such things online is being able to zoom in on the packaging. Not all product descriptions will list sheets per roll and square footage. But all the packages have that information on the front.

In the end, I found that Soap.com had the best tools for viewing that information. So then I just had to find the exact packages on sale in the weekly circulars.

Once I had that, it was just a matter of some number crunching.

And, yes, reading over this post, I do sound a little manic. But I’m still glad I finally broke down those numbers.

Why?

Well, Charmin’s so-called double roll is only 176 sheets, compared to 150 in a regular Angel Soft roll. Quilted Northern is a little closer at 225-245 per roll. But that’s still significantly less than twice an Angel Soft roll.

Once I figured out the roll differences, there was almost no comparison.

It helped that Angel Soft was on sale at Fry’s, 88 cents for a four-pack. (That’s 15/100 of a penny per sheet for those of you playing along at home.) But even its normal price of $2.49 (or 4/10 of a penny per sheet) is better than a lot of the other brands when they’re on sale.

Of course, people have different preferences. Some people swear by a particular brand. As long as it’s two-ply, I don’t care. But I understand that brand loyalty does sometimes weight the scales a bit. And with something as personal as “bathroom tissue”… well, who can blame you?

That said, I’m making a trip to Fry’s tonight to stock up on 4-packs of Angel Soft. While this calculator play was educational, I’d rather not have to do any more toilet paper math for awhile.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Guest January 25, 2012 at 11:49 am

Hmm, I'm a bit confused. I was taught to use price and the square foot amount because tricky manufacturers can, and have been adjusting the size of the squares- which means you might end up with less total feet, but more tiny squares?

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Abigail Reply:

I did consider that, and I probably should check square footage. But when I checked, the sheet size was pretty similar. But I'll update you folks — I know you'll be on the edge of your (toilet) seats — if I find that isn't true.

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Abigail Reply:

I did consider that, and I probably should check square footage. But when I checked, the sheet size was pretty similar. But I'll update you folks — I know you'll be on the edge of your (toilet) seats — if I find that isn't true.

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2 pamela January 25, 2012 at 1:20 pm

i don't understand the problem. Find what you like. Buy enough of it on a deep discount sale to last until the next deep discount sale. No more math issues

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Abigail Reply:

Pamela,

I don't have a deep allegiance to any particular brand, so I just buy what's on sale. And the whole point of this little scenario is that I never knew if I was getting all that great a deal. I certainly never knew if I got the best deal, simply because the suckers are so hard to compare.

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Abigail Reply:

Pamela,

I don't have a deep allegiance to any particular brand, so I just buy what's on sale. And the whole point of this little scenario is that I never knew if I was getting all that great a deal. I certainly never knew if I got the best deal, simply because the suckers are so hard to compare.

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3 Hops January 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Several times in recent months I've trekked to the store all ready to purchase such-and-such a brand of toilet paper that was on sale (and could be purchased even cheaper with coupons), only to feel like I'd stepped into another dimension when the double rolls, mega rolls, OMG-you've-never-seen-a-roll-this-big rolls from the ad turned out to be the saddest, puniest things imaginable in person. Hopefully your Angel Soft won't disappoint!

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4 Deedee January 25, 2012 at 9:04 pm

:-) Fun post!
We have a brand we prefer and there are certainly cheaper brands but oh well. We just look for sales on that brand and stock up when they are on sale. That's the good thing about toilet paper…it does not expire or go bad so you can stock up with the good sales.

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5 Donna Freedman January 26, 2012 at 10:30 am

As DeeDee noted, you really can stock up — in fact, I haven't bought toilet paper for at least three years and I still have four packages of the stuff.
Granted, I traveled a lot during two of those years, but still…That's a lot of TP and it didn't take up *that* much room. (I kept it in a small bookcase in the corner of my bedroom.
Thanks for sharing the new math. :-)

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6 Anon January 26, 2012 at 10:55 am

At Safeway, every price tag shows you the cost per square foot in small print. Not so great for comparison shopping between stores, but it's helpful nonetheless.

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7 Tammy January 27, 2012 at 8:21 am

I liked this post and yes, like you toilet paper is one of those items I have not figured out how to shop for and feel I am getting a deal. Thanks for the help.

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8 bareheadedwoman January 29, 2012 at 12:08 pm

I'm so jealous; at least your math is sound. i do a rough, thoroughly unscientific estimate: scotts lasts 5-7 days, Angel 3 days, marcel 4 days, cottonelle-doesn't-fit-on-the-roll-and-is-subject-to-cat-absconding-loss, otherwise 5-7 days.

yipe; we don't get TP at 88 cents a pack….ever…even the dollar store, dollar store brands are 99 cents (and one roll lasts one day). About once a month one of the two larger local supermarkets will run decent sales on national brands but those are on superpacks that they have a hard time moving and stock is usually small packs and/or single rolls (ever pay 3.49 for an Angel 4-pack…on sale?). Even with super couponing, the best I've ever been able to do is 45 cents a roll in a 20 roll pack…

With the limited sizes we get (and sometimes really funky brands in the one-off stores) guesstimating by the roll is the most my math-handicap brain can handle. But i'm really glad you pointed out the difference in sheets between angel/charmin and quilted northern; I never noticed how significant it was.

Everything is sneaky like that now, those old 8 oz cans of tuna are now actually 7oz…the 16 oz of X is the same package you've bought for 20 years but now the fine print says 12 oz. Hidden inflation has become absolutely ridiculous.

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9 jestjack February 21, 2012 at 4:14 am

Just went thru a similiar situation with paper towels. WHAT a nightmare to try to compare…absorbency issues…number of sheets….coupons….then throw in the "pick a size" option and this becomes a calculus final exam question…..CHEEZ!!!

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10 Emily Guy Birken February 22, 2012 at 8:39 am

I thought it was just me who couldn't figure out how to compare tp. I, too, forget about toilet tissue purchases until I'm standing in the paper product aisle because we're down to one roll at home, and then looking at the mega 24-packs versus the 4-packs versus double rolls versus blah blah blah makes me break out in a sweat. I usually just pick up whatever size package that will keep me away from dealing with this dilemma for the longest. Good to know that this is reducible to math!

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11 LHonly July 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm

If you choose this slick stuff that my wife buys or some other brand. Choose some other brand. Her brand is high school brand-cheap motel brand-corn cob brand only slicker.

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