Ask Laz: Toilet paper: Bigger cardboard rolls, smaller sheets, same price

Consumers are getting less bang for their buck when it comes to toilet paper.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Crandle writes in to say that many products have been downsized in recent years -- coffee, ice cream, etc. Almost always, it’s the same price for less product.

It’s no secret that some toilet-paper manufacturers have been sneaking bigger cardboard tubes into their rolls. Now, Crandle says, it appears that the size of individual sheets is shrinking.

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“The old standard for a single sheet of tissue was 4 and 1/2 by 4 and 1/2 inches, a nice square,” he says. “Some tissue companies have changed the length of the sheet to 4 inches, with a width of 4 1/2 inches, no longer a square.

“Most recently I noticed that the roll was looking different, smaller in width,” Crandle continues. “With my ruler in hand, I confirmed that the roll was narrower at 4 inches. At least I had a square again.”

What he also had, of course, was less toilet paper. By Crandle’s reckoning, this was a 26% reduction in surface area.

OK, first of all, there are a lot of important things going on in the world to worry about. Toilet-paper shrinkage probably isn’t high on anyone’s list (even Crandle’s).

But for consumers, any time you get less of a product without a commensurate drop in price, you’re basically getting cheated. So I’m with Crandle: This is a thing.

When Charmin was caught shrinking its rolls in 2013, its manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, admitted that there was indeed less paper per roll, but the paper was stronger. “You don’t need to use as much,” the company declared.


Be that as it may, many consumers might retort that they’ll be the judge of how much toilet paper they use. And if you’re going to shrink your rolls you might as well be tough enough to acknowledge it openly, rather than wait to be busted.

So is the size of each square also getting smaller, as Crandle believes? I can’t speak for all brands, but Consumer Reports came out with a toilet-paper report last year concluding that “cardboard tubes grow in diameter, the number of sheets per roll falls and the sheets get smaller.”

Consumer Reports’ favorite brand for posterior cleanliness was White Cloud 3-Ply Ultra, available at Wal-Mart. It’ll run you about 25 cents per 100 sheets.

In case you were wondering, the average American uses 46 sheets of toilet paper a day, according to Kimberly-Clark. Since each sheet is getting smaller, you’ll want to use each one as wisely as possible.

If you have a consumer question, email me at or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz.