POLL: How about that necessary roll?

There are many questions which plague mankind.

One of them concerns how properly to install a new roll of toilet paper.

Some people prefer the paper to distribute over the top of the roll.

Some prefer that it should come from underneath.

There are those people who use neither technique, of course.  Those are the types who are either running outside the cave, or who have some space-agey techno roll holder – like a spike with a glowing knob on top… whatever. 

And who knows what happens in China or Egypt… or France.


So… at your house…. what goes on with that roll?


How about that roll of paper?

  • Over the top (81%, 828 Votes)
  • From underneath (14%, 146 Votes)
  • Other (4%, 42 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,016

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Another poll possibility:
    IF household has a woman in it, do men ever change the empty roll?
    Yes / NO

    This might be testament to men who believe in miracles: toilet paper appears on the holders without any intervention!


  2. Mary Rose says:

    For the record, I’ve heard that people do the “under” method to discourage their cats from playing and leaving a whole roll unraveled on the floor.

    I get a kick out of your polls!

    And Tina, I went into the bathroom this morning after dh left for work and saw an empty roll. He was in a hurry, though. He usually does try to replace it. (just funny to see your comment!)

  3. mrsmontoya says:

    We have a household of 5 people and no one else changes the empty roll. I’ve given up doing anything consistent, I just focus on getting it replaced.

    My husband said one should have the roll so that it hangs from underneath if there are small children in the house; when it hangs over the top it is a temptation to little investigators who want to watch it unroll all over the floor.

  4. CB says:

    Tina, in defense of men, my husband replaces the toilet paper roll more often than I do AND he does it the proper way: over the top.

  5. Dave Pawlak says:

    IF household has a woman in it, do men ever change the empty roll?
    Yes / NO

    Depends on what you mean by “change”…my husband will take out a new roll, and set it on the cabinet right next to the empty holder, but will NEVER put the darned roll on. Even if it’s 6 inches away.

  6. Amy P. says:

    Oops…that last comment was by me…about Dave. Love you, sweetie! ;)

  7. Ruben says:

    Finally, here’s something with which I might have some competence to comment upon. I have heard that the from-underneath technique actually causes one to use a greater amount of TP than does the over-the-top technique. The rumor I have heard is that the TP companies do not want to let consumers know this, so as not to affect sales. I don’t know if this is true but I tend to adhere to the over-the-top technique just in case.

  8. John Enright says:

    Pardon me, Father, but this is the most obtuse question you’ve ever posed! ROFL!

  9. Dominic says:

    It’s just got to be over – though I’m feeling a bit embarrassed as I can’t recall changing the toilet roll for years; I guess it never happened when it was my turn :-)

  10. TP says:


    Toilet paper was created to go over the top. Look at the printing and quilting of various brands.

    However, pramatic mothers with little children putt it underside so that children will not run around with the toilet paper. If you were raised with a pragmatic mother with many children you may have grown up your entire life with underneth toilet paper and don’t know any better. Underneath rolls shows you come from a large catholic Family.

    Over the top toilet paper means that you are focused on the created cause of the item. In either case, you are good.


  11. Janet says:

    Cat owners and mothers of toddlers have likely learned the hard way to have the toilet paper dispense ‘under’ the roll. But over the top of the roll does otherwise seem more correct.

  12. Jim says:

    It was one of the great conflicts of our early marriage. My wife called me to task for installing the roll (note that I did not wait for her to do i!) from underneath. It was around that time that I learned the secret of domestic tranquility: To snap ones heels, salute, and say, “Yes, my dear. Whatever you say, my dear.”

  13. You chose your battles in the arena of marriage. That was one I entertained for a second. Now we just kinda put the roll wherever.

    I dont necessarily snap my heels LOL but I do make a hastey retreat when the circumstances demand.

  14. John Enright says:

    How does “other” come into play? Who could possibly vote for other? It seems to me that the roll can be place in only two states. Where is the third? LOL!

  15. Simon-Peter says:

    My toilet paper is kept vertically on a pole, so I don’t have this problem. Except of course, whether the sheet should come out clockwise or anti-clockwise! Although I do find people who roll their toilet paper out from underneath a bit strange.

  16. Frank H says:

    “Other” could be for those who don’t bother putting it on the roller, and just unwind it by hand as needed.

  17. Roland de Chanson says:

    O tempora, o mores! Ubinam gentium sumus? Quaeritur de volumine chartae hygienicae probe suspendendo evolvendoque! Quamdiu nos, nos in barbaris manebimus? Nonne proficisci, patres conscripti, maxime tempus est et a volumine ad codicem progredi? Quodsi ita sit, acta diurna Tempora Novi Eboraci commendare possim quia non solum magis vili pretio veneunt verum etiam iam antespurcata veniunt.

    [O such times and morals! Where in the world are we? The issue is the correct method of hanging and unrolling a roll of toilet paper! How long will we persist in barbarism? Is it not high time to set forth and progress from the roll to the codex? If so, I do recommend the New York Times as it is not only cheaper but comes presoiled.]

  18. Evelyn says:

    I would just like to testify to the fact that if your TP spins freely, it doesn’t matter whether it’s over the top. A skilled cat can still spin and shred it right on the tube. the mess is somewhat more contained, but the roll is still a total loss.

    If you want to use less, flatten the roll before you put it on the spindle. It will spin more slowly and you’ll have to pay attention to get enough.

    The cat is dead and my children are past that stage, so I enjoy a return to over-the-top.

  19. Tomas says:

    Father, I never thought of you as a holy roller…

  20. jaykay says:

    :) :) Heh, heh, heh: that is SO good, M. de Chanson :) :) I was entertaining a similar comment in relation to the Tablet (a.k.a. the Pill, basically the British Isles version of the NCR) but further comment along those lines is superfluous.

    Fr. Z asks: “who knows what happens in China, or Egypt…” Well, I can certainly say what happens in the more old-fashioned type of traditional hotel in the medina in Fez, in Morocco (or at least what did happen circa 1986, so maybe things have changed). A cold water faucet is what happens… And that’s it. Full stop. Nothing else. Dwell thereupon. But not for too long.

  21. Fr Steven Fisher says:

    I hope that in Lent people will not use quilted toilet paper, but rather cut newspaper into little squares and stick it on a spike. That’s what won us the war lads! Of course one would have to be careful what newspaper to use. L’Osservatore Romano, definitely not. For those of us here in England I would suggest The Tablet, it’s got to be useful for something. Or maybe all those copies of the Archbishop’s Pastoral Letter left over from Mass last week…

  22. Joanne says:

    “I hope that in Lent people will not use quilted toilet paper, but rather cut newspaper into little squares and stick it on a spike. That’s what won us the war lads!”

    LOL at this!!! That is SO funny. And besides, it’s good to have a little levity when discussing the great existential questions… ;)

  23. Joanne says:

    Hey, why did that box show up after that first sentence? (Just fyi, there were 3 exclamation points there!)

  24. Michael says:

    I voted “Other” because I never really think about which way I’m installing a fresh roll – the little rod goes through it, the whole package gets jammed into the holder.

    Amy: I share your pain. My family even goes so far as to put the new roll ON TOP OF THE DISPENSER without actually installing it.

    On a related note, we were babysitting some friends’ small children; they wanted to play Mass, and one of them went in search of a ‘processional cross.’ His choice? The freestanding toilet paper dispenser. I convinced him to use a broom instead.

  25. Paladin says:

    Anyone voting for “over the top” apparently doesn’t have cats in the house…

  26. Dino says:

    Doesn’t make any difference to me. However, in our house, my godson’s wife doesn’t think we should put it in the bathroom: “Someone might used it.”

  27. Brian Day says:

    I remember reading about this same poll question posed by Ann Landers/Dear Abbey (can’t remember which) many years ago. There was so much bickering over the “right” answer that the topic has been banned.

    On topic: I install over the top. My wife installs whichever way the roll pointed when she puts it on.

  28. Roland de Chanson says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf: And who knows what happens in China or Egypt… or France.

    Zut, alors, Monsieur le Curé! Ça c’est un outrage! En France, on utilise le bidet. Moi, je le con-fesse!

    Hey, Father! That’s an outrage. In France they use a bidet. I admit it. :-)))

  29. David Andrew says:

    In the future (and judging by the way things are going in this country at any rate) this may be a moot point.

    Once the spittle-flecked, swivel-eyed lefty environmentalist whack-jobs start thinking about it, they may just decide Sheryl Crow was really on to something:


  30. Roland de Chanson says:

    Fr. George: my favorite day of the week in romance languages—for being named after it so often—is miercoles, or mercredi, or mercoledi, or… you get the picture if you know romance languages.

    LOL! A friend of mine in high school was from a French-speaking area of Maine and he used to add “de merde” to almost anything he mentioned. Of course in that neck of the woods, the Québécois pronunciation prevails, i.e. “de marde”. Which leads me to think that “mardi” would be your other favorite day! ;-)

  31. Steven Andrews says:

    Two words: corn cob.

  32. KK says:

    I knew it was only a matter of time before you raised this all important query. I believe this was the first Catholic Online poll question in 1995. As I recall, the results were a little more even. Can one conclude that a more traditional, Latin oriented audience tends to be “over the top”?

  33. tecumseh says:

    Years ago a friends brother in law was stationed with an Arab Army, the local Sultan had spent a fortune installing flush toilets. Only to have them ruined: his subjects prefered smooth sandstone rocks to toilet roll…!!!!

  34. I thought that this question had been answered in multiple columns over the years by Ann Landers and Dear Abby.

  35. This was a big debate at times in the Hallman household growing up. There were times when I would install it over the top, and I would go in the next day and it would be turned around. Stupid sisters.

  36. Tom says:

    Gosh! It must be over the top!
    Don’t people have a proper sense of ritual?

  37. Rachel says:

    I bet you could draw conclusions about the personality of a person based on how he installs the toilet paper.

    Over the top: bold, interesting, intelligent, good-looking
    Underneath: sentimental, timid, mushy-brained

    I won’t say which way I voted but I’m very objective.

  38. I find tht it depends on how the roll is placed vis-a-vis the toilet. In my former home I set it for underneath and could see no reason why anyone would want it other wise. It didn’t tear off properly if it was over the top.

    Where I live now the situation is the opposite and for the same reason.

  39. Luigi says:

    I load my paper in a manner that reminds me of the liberal anti-Catholics’ reaction to the dust up over the SSPX holocaust denier: OVER THE TOP.

    However you may load it, just be sure to use but one square at a time. It’s the only eco-friendly way to go. (no pun intended)

  40. Sandy says:

    All I can say is, thank you, Father, we sure need humor these days! It is civilized to have it roll over the top. I did hear a humorous story at a wedding about the cat thing, so I guess for cats and kids there must be an alternate :) I do remember this TP fiasco many, many years ago when my kids were quite young.

  41. Paul says:

    Those who have the toliet paper coming from underneath are wierd. ;-)

  42. Karen Russell says:

    Several people have already pointed out the virtues of “from underneath” in a home populated by small children and/or cats. My children are grown now, but I still have cats . . .

  43. Catherine says:

    Sorry to be a curmudgeon, Fr., but this isn’t a very dignified subject. I’ll pass on responding to this one….

  44. Gareth says:

    Our toilet roll holder fell off the wall about 10 years ago and I haven’t put it back yet. The toilet roll stands up on a small stool.

  45. joy says:

    When my cat was a kitten, we had to install from underneath in order to avoid the shredding/TPing the house issues, but he’s grown out of it now, so we’re back to over the top.

  46. Joan Moore says:

    Brian Day posted “On topic: I install over the top. My wife installs whichever way the roll pointed when she puts it on.”

    In my house, it is the opposite way – I install over the top. My husband installs whichever way the roll pointed when he puts it on. And, if it did not come pointed so as to be over the top, as soon as I see it – when I need to use it! – I will immediately uninstall and re-install correctly!!

  47. supertradmom says:

    In good trad fashion, we do not agree in our household how the toilet paper should be put on the roll. I tend to put it underneath, because we have two cats who do not bother it in that situ. The male person in our household puts in over the top, as it is easier to tear off that way, he claims. However, he is also the one who leaves the empty roll on the holder. Opinions do not always end in action…

  48. supertradmom says:

    p.s. Haven’t we all “gone potty” at this point with this discussion? British for “crazy” for the non-Brits…

  49. Paul H says:

    Interesting. It hadn’t occurred to me that a significant number of people would *intentionally* install the paper so that it comes out from underneath. (It’s much harder to pull it out and tear it off smoothly that way, isn’t it?)

    I have occasionally been to people’s houses where the paper was installed to feed out from underneath, but I usually just assume that they put it that way by accident. I have even on a few occasions reversed it for them, thinking I was doing them a favor. But judging by a few of the comments here, maybe I wasn’t. :-)

  50. PottyPooper says:

    Ah yes. I remember this question well. I first heard it in high school, when, either as a confirmandi or otherwise, we visited the Newman Center at the nearby college. Great way to introduce ourselves in a group… The vapidity of it all made me ignore religion throughout my undergrad career (and quite strongly, never attending).

  51. John Hudson says:

    Having seen the results, it is clear where lies orthodoxy. Those ‘from underneath’ heretics had better recant and reform.

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