If your plumbing works off of a septic system or you’re just curious about these types of things, then you may want to know: does toilet paper dissolve?
Most toilet paper brands are made to dissolve in the flushing process so that it doesn’t clog septic systems. Check the label of your toilet paper for the words ‘septic safe’ if you’re worried about your brand of toilet paper.
You have your quick answer, but there’s some science behind it that you might want to know about it in order to get the best toilet paper for your plumbing. Let’s dive into that below.
Does Toilet Paper Dissolve?
All toilet paper will dissolve in the water eventually. However, some brands of paper dissolve faster and more completely than others.
If your home has its own septic system, it’s especially important that you get toilet paper that dissolves well. This kind of paper is usually labeled as being ‘septic safe’.
Septic safe toilet paper can also be helpful if you have an old plumbing system.
Now, let’s first figure out what it means for toilet paper to be septic safe.
Septic Safe Toilet Paper
Septic safe toilet paper is designated as septic-safe because of how rapidly it dissolves in water.
Dissolving rapidly is important because it keeps the pipes and septic system from getting clogged and backed up. If your septic system clogs, then you have to get it pumped, which is not fun to deal with.
If you live in an apartment or home in a city that has a centralized plumbing line, septic safe toilet paper can still be beneficial to you. Since it dissolves so rapidly, septic safe toilet paper is less likely to cause clogged pipes or backed-up plumbing.
Regardless of the type of plumbing you have in your home, buying paper that is ‘septic safe’ is a great way to ensure your plumbing works as efficiently as possible.
Testing Your Toilet Paper
As you can tell, the main thing to consider about the type of toilet paper you buy is time. Specifically, the amount of time it takes for the paper to dissolve in water.
Luckily, there’s a quick test you can do to determine how long it takes for your toilet paper to dissolve.
You need three things for this test:
- Your toilet paper of choice
- A clear container
Take a few sheets of your toilet paper, about as much as you would use in one trip to the bathroom, and push it down to the bottom of your container.
Next, fill your container about 3/4 full of water. Swirl the water around for a few seconds to imitate the toilet flushing.
Then, let the mixture sit and time how long it takes for your toilet paper to dissolve. It should take about twenty minutes for it to start to break down. Stirring the water with a spoon every few minutes will let you know if the fibers of the paper are broken down yet.
The amount of time it takes for this experiment to cause the toilet paper to dissolve, is roughly how long it will take your toilet paper to dissolve in your plumbing system. This can also affect whether a clogged toilet will eventually unclog itself.
I did this test with the brand of toilet paper I have at home. Here’s a picture of the results at the beginning, ten minutes, twenty minutes, and then twenty minutes plus a little more agitation of the water.
Your toilet paper should dissolve in twenty minutes or less. If it doesn’t, you may want to consider buying a different brand of toilet paper that’s better for your plumbing system.
The Science Behind Toilet Paper
When it comes to the science behind toilet paper, there’s really only a couple things that we need to discuss.
First, we’re going to talk about what toilet paper is usually made out of.
Then, we’ll show some different things that manufacturers do to make their toilet paper more or less dissolvable.
Let’s dig in.
What It’s Made Of
Toilet paper is usually made out of just that, paper.
The process usually uses two different types of paper: recycled paper and new wood.
For recycled paper, they chop up the old paper, treat it with some chemicals to turn it into a fibrous sludge and remove the inks, then they repress it into toilet paper.
A relatively similar process is used for the new wood but instead of starting with paper, it starts with raw wood material.
Most toilet paper brands use a combination of recycled and new materials but there are some that are 100% recycled. These types of toilet papers tend to dissolve a lot faster than the brands that have a mix.
Why It Does and Doesn’t Dissolve
As mentioned above, something that makes toilet paper dissolve faster is when they are made from 100% recycled material. This is because the wood fibers used have already been broken down and dissolved before.
Another factor that determines how quickly toilet paper dissolves is thickness. Not surprisingly, 1 ply paper dissolves pretty quickly in comparison to the plush 4 ply toilet papers (yes, they exist).
If you’re willing to go as thin as 1 ply toilet paper, it’s the best for septic systems and plumbing pipes.
Something that manufacturers commonly add to their toilet paper is lotion. Now while this may make your bathroom experience more enjoyable, the lotion holds the paper fibers together for way longer than paper without it.
Lastly, we have biodegradable toilet paper. If you’re like me you’re probably wondering: “wait, not all toilet paper is biodegradable?” Not quite.
While toilet paper is made from many products that are biodegradable, the manufacturing process sometimes adds things that aren’t biodegradable, such as chemicals used in the manufacturing process, lotions, and perfumes.
And some similar products, like toilet seat covers, may include plastics.
Some brands of toilet paper are made eco-friendly and avoid the use of chemicals in the manufacturing process entirely. There is also bamboo toilet paper that is biodegradable, septic safe, and more sustainable than traditional toilet paper.
If you don’t want to pay the extra for the eco-friendly brand, just making sure that your toilet paper is unscented and has no lotion will keep it more biodegradable and easier to dissolve.
Does all toilet paper dissolve?
All toilet paper should dissolve. One of the main differences between different types of toilet paper is how long it takes for them to dissolve. Different brands are thicker than others (e.g. 2-ply, 3-ply, etc.) and some add chemicals or lotions, and all of these can increase the time it takes to dissolve.
How long does it take for toilet paper to dissolve?
It usually takes toilet paper about 20 minutes to dissolve, but it depends on the brand of toilet paper. You can test how long it will take for your brand of toilet paper to dissolve, by timing the amount of time it takes for the fibers to break-down when left in a clear glass container filled with water.