Regardless of your stance on the matter, you probably think it’s absurd that the “over or under” toilet paper roll debate ever existed in the first place. (Because obviously over is the right answer.)
Still, the question of the proper way to orient the roll on the hanger persisted. Arguments raged, relationships were forever shattered, and someone even made a Wikipedia entry dedicated to the subject. Times were hard.
According to Business Insider, toilet paper was originally patented by Wheeler’s own Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company in 1871, but the 1891 version was a new and improved model intended to cut back on toilet paper waste.
There may be a scientific argument for “over” rather than “under”—because, Geoffrey James theorized at Inc. in 2017, the “under” orientation could increase the spread of bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
“The moment when a restroom user’s hands are most likely to carry bacteria is when they reach for toilet paper,” James suggested. “If the toilet paper is hung ‘over’ their fingers only touch the toilet paper that they’ll be using, which will subsequently be flushed. However, if the toilet paper is hung ‘under’ there’s a good chance their fingers will brush the wall as well, leaving a deposit. If so, every subsequent restroom user who reaches for toilet paper runs the risk of not only of picking up the bacteria that’s been deposited already, but also leaving more for the next user to pick up.”
And so a verdict from deep in the past proves to be the final word on this hot button issue. So it is drawn, so shall it be hung.
Now that you know which way to hang your toilet paper, brush up on some slang for the stuff—and don’t forget to read up on some facts about toilets and some historically significant loos while you’re at it.
A version of this story ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2023.