Over or Under?


There was a time earlier this year when I noticed the amount of space devoted to toilet paper in our local supermarket.  The toilet paper display had caught my eye in the past but the absurdity of it really struck me on that day. The sight impacted me enough that I wrote a post about it! (Only in America?)

Another toilet paper issue has surfaced in my life. While I was aware of  the debate over whether toilet paper should hang over or under the roll, I didn’t realize how much energy people had about it.

I personally side with the under camp, but began to wonder what other people thought. When we were planning some “getting to know you” exercises for a recent therapy activity, the staff decided to place a fun question among the serious ones.  We asked the participants if they were unders or overs and had them divide into two groups. I was surprised to discover that in a group of 15 people 12 were overs and 3 were unders. I had no idea that the distribution would be so skewed or that I would be part of the minority.

After a friend sent me the picture I will place at the end of this post, I decided to delve further into the topic. (Sometimes it is fun to investigate a topic that has no particular importance!)

Wikipedia devotes 5445 words to the issue and that number doesn’t include the 132 footnotes, 119 references and 13 recommendations for further reading.

I found these factors mentioned in various sources:

  1. Over keeps the flap further away from the wall, which may contain germs.
  2. Over is the way that hotels do it so it must be right. (Over allows hotel staff to neatly fold back the flap.)
  3. Over makes the pattern on the toilet paper look right.
  4. Over makes it easier to tear off the number of tiles you want
  5. Over makes it easier to find the flap.
  6. The patent on toilet paper displays it in the over position.
  7. Under makes it less likely it will unravel in an RV or during an earthquake
  8. Under keeps children and pets from unrolling it.
  9. Under is neater since the flap can be hidden.
  10. Under creates less kinetic friction

An engineering study found that 70% of the people they studied are overs and 30% are unders.  When looking at psychological factors, the researchers found overs to be overachievers who stay organized and take charge, and unders to be laid back, artistic and dependable. The study reported that 50% of people pay attention to the orientation of toilet paper, and that 20% have changed the orientation when they thought it was wrong.  The investigators estimated that the average American spends half an hour a year trying to find the end of the toilet paper roll and that endeavor is said to create a $300 million loss in productivity.

I believe I now know enough about toilet paper orientation, so to end this post I will share the picture I mentioned above.  My friend found this toilet paper dispenser in a “pizza joint” in Kenmore, Washington!

toilet paper

36 thoughts on “Over or Under?

  1. I’m an over for sure. Cause when I worked as a janitor the place used a contraption that allowed you to refill 2 toilets from one side of the wall, and if you kept it under it would always fall back into the holder whereas over came out to where it was supposed to be…
    Definitely over.


  2. I’m an over. What I’d like is an alternative to toilet paper altogether (eg, bathrooms set up to use water instead, but I guess water is yet another limited resource).
    I noticed at work the mountains of paper towels used every day after employees washed their hands. I thought about bringing in my own hand towel, but where would I put it? A wet hand towel in my desk drawer didn’t seem a good solution. I was really happy to see that at least one of the trash containers in the bathroom was labeled for paper towels only that would be recycled. That same building (UW/HMC across from Harborview Medical Center) even has bins for food compost! We have a lot of rethinking to do, and there are plenty of options. BTW, the tp hangs over in this building!) It will be interesting to see how the sanitation facilities that Amma is building in Kerala work out. I remember reading that in some poor areas, women’s choices were pay for use of a toilet, or just use the fields…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have never given it much thought either, although I do put it under. I have been amazed at the super strong opinions people have about it. I have discovered that I know numerous people who will change it when they see it done in a way that doesn’t match their preference..


  3. Great post, I’ve thought about this subject too. When I was younger I didn’t care one way or another, but recently I’ve noticed that I’m so irked by under that I will actually change it the other way round if I can. I don’t know why I do this. It’s crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this post – I like a mind that creates this sort of post! I’m definitely an ‘over’. In fact we’ve just been to stay at a holiday cottage and I subconsciously turn the toilet rolls round in both bathrooms. It’s also a subject my mum and I can’t agree on. Thanks for making me smile from https://cultivatingtime.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I put some of the psychological info in the post but look at the link that one of the readers put in their comments. I think it was wscottling. It was probably meant to be a joke but it was still interesting. It is so amazing how much energy some people have about the orientation.

        Liked by 1 person

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