EVER WONDERED about the history of toilet paper?

People have used some form of toilet paper for centuries.
People have used some form of toilet paper for centuries. (By Jeff T. Green -- Associated Press)
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Monday, June 1, 2009

If you're like most people, you take toilet paper for granted. After doing your business, you casually pull a length of paper off the roll. Then, a few wipes later, you're up and ready to go. Of course, if your mom or dad is in the vicinity, you will undoubtedly hear those words that kids love so much: "Don't forget to wash your hands and flush the toilet!"

Since most schools do not include the history of toilet paper in their curriculum, it's up to me to enlighten you. First, we should begin with a definition. According to Wikipedia, toilet paper is "a soft paper product used to maintain personal hygiene after human defecation or urination." I guess the folks at Wikipedia never shoved toilet paper up their nostrils to stop a bloody nose or used it to squash tiny spiders.

Toilet paper has had an odd history. Do you remember that the Romans invented plumbing thousands of years ago, only to have it forgotten for centuries? Well, it appears that something similar happened with toilet paper.

The first recorded use of toilet paper appears to have occurred in China around A.D. 851. After that, nothing much was written about the practice until the 14th century rolled around. During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) special sheets of toilet tissue were fashioned for the imperial court. They were made of soft fabric that was cut into squares two by three feet in size.

The rest of the world wasn't as lucky as Chinese royalty. Here is a partial (or should I say painful?) list of what was used before toilet paper caught on:

-- Romans in public baths used a saltwater-soaked sponge on a stick.

-- English nobility used pages from books.

-- Common folk in the Middle Ages used straw, hay and grass.

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