Essential Life Lesson #1: Over is Right, Under is Wrong

As part of our ongoing effort here at Current Configuration to make your life not only better, but also 10% more crunchy, we’re offering you this first installment of what will be an ongoing series of Essential Life Lessons. Kicking off this series will be a critical but even-handed examination of a common misunderstanding that occurs in a realm of many misunderstandings: the bathroom.

Put simply, there is a right way to hang the toilet paper, and a wrong way. Read on to determine the status of your own roll.


Toilet paper has a natural curve, a way of being that lends itself to certain orientations on the toilet paper spool.* If handled with skill and knowledge, it can provide an abundance of both sanitation and comfort, quilted together in each square of pillowy ply. If handled with clumsy ignorance, or worse, carelessness, it will beset the user with pain, filth, and frustration. Don’t let it end this way, with you curled on the tile floor of the stall, weeping in frustration, covered in wasted papier de toilette. To convince you, we’ve created some diagrams, harnessing the power of SCIENCE, to demonstrate the natural benefits of the over hanging method. First, we examine the optimal viewing benefits of the over hanging method.

Below are examples of the helpful and fruitful over-hung method on the left and the annoying and detrimental under-hung method on the right.

Right vs. Wrong

Free Sheetage Viewing diagram

Notice the dramatic difference in the amount of visible toilet paper. Ironically, it is the over-hung toilet paper that has both the most visible free sheetage and the least amount of sheetage free from the roll to do it. Now, this may not seem like a big deal on its own, but in these extra sheets lies your undoing. Observe.

Paper Positioning diagram

We here at Current Configuration, for the purposes of ease and expediency, do the one-handed tear (okay, really, it’s just me, but bear with me, er, us). The one-handed tear is a quick maneuver that takes advantage of the perforated squares, allowing your bundle of toilet paper to be liberated with one quick swipe of the arm. This is the foundation of bathroom ease, the cottony bedrock on which enjoyment rests in the restrooms of many nations.

Mechanics of the One-Handed Tear diagram

The one-handed tear relies on a quick and forceful motion directed either away from or towards the tear-er. The forces applied in this motion are great and, like the atom, are not to be trifled with. The natural curve of the over-hung method allows the roll to stand fast after a one-handed tear, but the under-hung method creates a calamitous tendency in the roll. This tendency can only lead to this:

End Result diagram

Wasted paper, frustration, the destruction of our forests. While we realize that it is possible to execute a one-handed tear on an under-hung roll, this is a game of sanitary Russian roulette. You are bound to lose eventually, and there is no re-rolling an unwound toilet paper roll. The results will only cause you grief. Don’t let this happen to you. Restroom attendants, janitors, maids, facilities crews, and responsible toiletowners take note: Don’t use the under-hung method for your toilet paper rolls. It leads to the destruction of our precious resources and the pillars of civilization as we know it!

*Does that thing have a proper name?

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Because you demanded it, we bring you the Overhanging Public Service Hanger Brochure.

381 Responses to “Essential Life Lesson #1: Over is Right, Under is Wrong”

  1. Andy says:

    Wonderful discussions. Yes always flush with the seat down – aerosol problem. Cats aside, and ours has not expressed an interest in the TR, the higher your eyeline is above the roll the more the advantage of over to under. Maybe the unders dispense from a sitting position and the overs from standing. Is this a female / male thing I wonder?

  2. Paulo says:

    This debate has been going on in my family for 3 generations. Well, not really a debate. We’ve always agreed that over is right and can’t understand why other people do it the wrong way.

    I recently published this list:

    http://www.apaulodesign.com/blog/2008/08/things-that-grind-my-gears.html

  3. Lonna Wolf says:

    Wish Sinfeld was still around. This would be a great episode. Lonna

  4. Yes says:

    This is the best article mankind has ever produced.

  5. lisa says:

    i always hang the toilet paper over.
    and if i see it’s been hung wrong,
    i take it out and flip it so it’s over.

  6. luke says:

    you guys are all stupid, just get a bidet.

  7. Doug says:

    I prefer the “under mode” because if I get up at night and don’t want to turn the light on (which wakes me up more,making a return to sleep more difficult) I can find the start of the paper much easier by simply swooping my hand under the roll and feeling the hanging part.

    Normally, when I tear the paper off it leaves no more than about half of one square hanging under. All I have to do to located the paper in the dark is to pass my hand under the roll and feel the one hanging square.

    If you do the other method, where the paper comes over the top,there are two problems.One is that I can’t find the paper’s start point in the dark. The other is a daytime visual thing-it looks better if the start of the paper is kind of out of the way (against the wall) than for it to be jutting out farther into the room, i.e.,taking up space in mid-air.

    My wife, on the other hand, prefers the over- the- top method.

  8. davidbdale says:

    That someone like Doug can still cling to his utterly discredited under-subordination after such a cogent proof as yours makes me weep for mankind.

  9. Ned says:

    It seems the writers of this never had small children (or intelligent cats!) The over method may make it easier for adults. But it also lends itself to an easy hand-over-hand method for small children to quickly and efficiently transfer the entire roll of toilet paper from the roll to the floor.

  10. jon says:

    Over is good… unless your cat decides to play with it; they can pull the whole roll off in seconds.
    Under makes it impossible for the cat to unroll, & they’ll quickly lose interest!

  11. Lana says:

    don’t you people have any thing legitimate to worry about?

  12. cdb says:

    Whoever hangs it up gets to decide!!

  13. Lynden says:

    Prior to just having a disagreement with my fiancee about this issue, I decided to google it to put an end to the discussion. Much to my dismay though, i figured out that her way of hanging the paper is right way (according to the majority of comments above) and my way was wrong. However, by wanting small children some day and maybe owning a cat as well, I hold faithful to my “underneath method”.

  14. Glenn says:

    Ok I can see the logic behind all of the arguments for and against. I do have a solution to the debate. Now I reckon this solution will satisfy all your requirements and more.

    The solution, buy some of this toilet paper instead. Its toilet tissue but not on a roll. Yes you read right there is no roll. So no right or wrong way about unravelling it.

    You can see more here: http://www.dwsupplies.com/premium-flat-pack-multi-flat-toilet-tissue

    You can get some attractive dispensers for them too so you can keep your “toilet paper” clean and tidy and nicely hidden away.

    http://www.dwsupplies.com/premium-flatpack-bulk-pack-toilet-tissue-dispenser

    So what do you think?

  15. Mike says:

    There’s a catch, if you 1. care for young kids who can easily wipe their own, 2. find the one-hand unroll important, and 3. favor teaching your kids rather than just placing obstacles in front of their wanton destruction.

    If you use cheap-O toilet paper (with a thin cardboard core that doesn’t hold its circular shape) and have one of those tension roll holders that doesn’t roll easily, and you install your rolls with the loose end hanging over the front, when you pull from the last sheet, the high friction causes sheets to come off one at a time (unless you help the roll along with your other hand). With the loose end under, they roll off freely.

    One day I’ll teach them the two-hand trick and train them to be over/under agnostic (like the functional rest of us with better things to do), but for now, it’s either under, or I have to wipe for them.

  16. Martin says:

    Stumbled over this while looking for something to do with electricity over current. Regarding toilet tissue however, I have tried and tried to explain to my mother for years that over is better (and my father tends to agree).

    I suppose it’s really quite sad that we (the human race) argue about the silliest little things such as this but maybe this is what makes us human. Regardless this article is brilliant whether you treat it seriously or just as a laugh. Top marks!

  17. Carol says:

    “cdb says:
    January 11, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Whoever hangs it up gets to decide!!”

    This is the rule in our house. It’s a great rule because it also solves a secondary toilet paper problem: The person who uses the last of the roll and then doesn’t replace it, leaving someone else stuck on the pot with no toilet paper. Since we disagree about the over/under debate, we each are a lot more eager to be the one to replace the roll. In spite of what Doug says, I believe the vast majority of people find it easier to find the end of the t.p. with the Over method, even in the dark.

  18. John says:

    Amen. This is been my pet peeve as long as I can remember! When the free sheet is coming down in front it is easy to bring your hand down and spin it until a sheet frees itself enough for a tear.

  19. George B. says:

    The over the top method was prefered by Scotty on Star Trek. It made it faster to wipe out
    cling-ons around Uranus.

  20. JC says:

    Being the father of two small boys I simple cannot understand the over argument. There is nothing worse than getting up in the morning and, in the normal workday morning fug I usually find myself, discovering that some small child has visited in the middle of the night and for fun desposited the entire roll on the floor.

    Bah humbug.

  21. Adam says:

    There is one place the UNDER-METHOD is best.

    In my childhood bathroom the toilet paper was holder was located on the wall, next to the toilet tank.

    When the toilet paper is behind you on either side the UNDER METHOD is correct.

    To correctly and accurately tear the allotted 3 sheets, you reach back with the back of your fingers facing the wall, and your thumb facing down, once you have your fingers on the third sheet you press the pale side of your wrist into the roll, (to stop the roll) and gracefully tear in whichever direction your body would like.

    When the roll is hung with the over-method, You should use the two-hand method which may mean turning the pelvis slightly, and increased dingle-berries.

  22. David says:

    I once used a public bathroom and was reaching for the start of the roll which was placed in the under direction. When I grabbed the end and pulled, I found that the last user had left a sample on the end and I had my hand in some strangers feces. I don’t know about anyone else but that cured me as to what direction the roll should hang. Over is the only true direction whether you have children (who by the way are more likely to leave a sample on the roll) or pets (who can be shut out by closing the door).

    Now excuse me while I go sterilize my hands

    Sorry for the typos.

  23. Pete says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I printed out the brochure and posted it above the toilet paper roll for my fiancee to see. She uses the under method, despite my pleas that the over method is more practical. Well, it took about 5 seconds for the paper to come down in a tyrannical storm of emotion. Wow! Powerful stuff. But us over-achievers do not give up easily. It will be posted again. No doubts.

  24. Lucas says:

    That very very true. If people could just learn things.

  25. colin says:

    This is the first time, and I can’t even remember how I got here, but whatever, i loved David ‘s March 11, 2009 at 9:26 am comment which threw me into fits!

  26. A most excellent argument, I don’t think I’ve seen a better one yet and I’ve seen quite a few of them over my years in the renovation industry, good stuff!

  27. >.< Odi says:

    .< :P :P :P :P :P

  28. lame says:

    I never once in my life noticed, nor did I even consider the possibility of an advantage in the placement of a toilet paper roll. also tldr 95%. Its the fuckin’ same, either way. Still makes no difference, just don’t be a retard.

  29. tndal says:

    It is blatantly obvious that the OP has never had a cat as a pet.

  30. Roy says:

    Please tackle the wipe standing or sitting debate next!

  31. Qwerty says:

    Ah…this is nice. Do we really need to into the sitting/standing debate though? After all whether you sit or stand to implement the toilet paper doesn’t really have any effect on your housemates.

  32. Chris says:

    I’m sorry, but my scientific analysis (not yet written up or published, alas) indicates exactly the opposite result from yours: namely, “under is better.” I note, however, that you are using different criteria than I, and that you have not specified the hardware with which you conducted your experiments. Frankly, sir, your technique is sloppy.

    In essence:

    All toilet paper dispensing hardware reduces, in essence, to a cylindrical roller which passes through the toilet paper tube and is mounted with its axis horizontal and its body free to rotate around that axis. Actual hardware falls into two primary categories — consumer (i.e. “home”) and commercial (i.e. “office” or “public”).

    In the consumer category, a dispenser typically consists of a single roller capable of dispensing a single roll of paper. My research reveals two important subcategories or configurations: in the first, the roller is held firmly in space and is not free to move except for rotation around its axis as already described. For proper operation, the roller is mounted at a distance from the wall which exceeds the radius of a typical roll of paper. In the second, the roller is not firmly supported and may move relatively freely — most often by “swinging” pendulumlike from a hinged support, so that its distance from the wall is variable. In the first configuration, rotation of the roller, and the paper it holds, are impeded only by the nearly negligible friction of the roller in its bracket, a contact point which moreover seems likely to be designed specifically to minimize such friction. It is for this reason that gravity can induce a runaway cascade-and-pileup phenomenon if an excessive “tail” of paper hangs from the roll — on either side of the roller, front (“over”) or back (under)! In the second configuration, friction is often sufficiently low in the “hinge” portion of the bracket, to allow the roller to always hang as close to the wall as possible, under the influence of gravity and subject to the thickness of the paper remaining on the roll. In so doing, a fraction of the weight of the paper roll comes to bear horizontally, against the wall, increasing static friction to the point where an excess tail of paper can no longer induce a cascade. This effect, too, applies regardless of the direction in which the paper is mounted, “over” or “under.” Thus far, we see no clear advantage to either the “over” or “under” mounting preference.

    Note, however, that in the first (“firmly held”) configuration the roller and paper may be partially indented into a cavity provided in the wall for that purpose. In this scenario, there is no change in the mechanics of the “over” case — but in the “under” case, a small proportion of paper may contact the lower lip of the wall cavity, ever-so-slightly increasing static friction and thus resistance to cascade effects. This represents a slight advantage for “under” mounting, but it seems likely that the effect is negligible or nearly so.

    Commercial hardware is significantly more complex, usually consisting of a complete enclosure of metal or hard plastic, often containing two or more rolls of paper and an intricate mechanism for allowing a new, full roll to come into play in replacement of an emptied one. There are sufficiently many configurations of this kind, that it is impossible to enumerate them here; suffice it to say that in at least one observed (and still observable — contact this author for details and visitation information) case a clear preference is observed for the “under” mounting when combined with deliberate “misrouting” of paper through the dispenser.

    To wit, the [need make-and-model citation here –ed.] paper dispenser consists of a steel housing just big enough to contain two rolls of paper of a size considered “large” for consumer purposes but not falling into the “truly humongous” (sic) range associated with heavy-duty commercial/industrial uses. The upper half of the housing is completely enclosed, but the bottom half is open on the side facing away from the mounting surface (i.e. wall). Two rolls of paper are loaded (by means unknown) onto two rollers mounted one above the other in the the standard orientation relative to the wall. Instead of being held in a fixed bracket, however, the ends of both rollers are held by friction into a pair of tracks in the side panels of the housing, such that the lower roll is accessible for use through the aforementioned opening in the housing, and the upper is held more than two roll-radii above the other so as to allow clearance for the lower roll to rotate freely.

    That is the theory. In practice, it is difficult to obtain just the right degree of roller-to-track friction, namely, great enough to hold the roll in its proper vertical position (particularly to keep the upper roll from contacting the lower and thus impeding its rotation) but also little enough to allow the rolls to rotate freely. The key factor in defining “freedom” with respect to rotation is that the tensile force on the paper’s “tail” necessary to induce roll rotation does not exceed the tensile strength of the paper itself. To put it plainly, it’s a Bad Thing when the roller is so hard to pull that the paper tears off before enough comes off the roll to be of use.

    In the case of the particular situation observed in my research, it so happens that the paper used is for “septic tank” use, and is (therefore?) of exceptionally low tensile strength. Moreover, the rolls are of sufficiently large diameter as to make inter-roll clearance extremely minimal — and as a final fillip, the unit’s roller-to-track friction coefficient is rather greater than optimal. Therefore, under usual operating conditions it is impossible to pull off a useful amount of paper from the accessible, lower roll.

    However, when the rolls are mounted in the “under” configuration — and only in that configuration! — it is possible to effectively double the tensile strength of the paper in the lower roller and successfully extract a useful amount of paper. One pulls out the tail of the upper roll and passes it behind and under the lower roll, then pulls out both rolls’ tails together. Somehow this technique allows the paper to come off the lower roll without tearing, such that one can obtain a sufficient amount of paper for normal use. Clearly, the “cupping” or “wrapping” of the rear-and-bottom of the lower roll of paper, by the tail of paper from the upper roll, moving in the same direction, has a significant and crucial effect on paper dispensing capability in this unit. Further research is required in order to establish the specific mechanism(s) responsible: does the pressure of the tensed “upper paper” against the back of the lower roll strengthen the lower paper? Does the “cupping” of the rear-and-bottom of the lower roll by the paper from the upper, result in a lifting force that reduces friction between the lower roller and its track, allowing it to rotate more freely? Further bulletins as events warrant.

    Note, however, that this technique for obtaining a crucial improvement in paper dispensing capability works only when the paper (the lower roll, at least — but really both, since inevitably the upper roll becomes the lower, with time) is mounted in the “under” configuration. When mounted in the “over” configuration, wrapping upper paper around the back of the lower roll would result in the upper and lower paper layers moving in opposite direction, actually reducing dispensing capacity still further.

    In conclusion, while no significant advantage to either mounting preference is observed in home/consumer dispensing environments, the “under” preference is a crucial prerequisite for eliciting acceptable dispensing capability from at least the [make-and-model citation needed –ed.] dispenser.

    I look forward to publishing this material, complete with diagrams, in the near future. I shall be sure to cite your own presentation as an inspiration for going ahead with publication.

  33. Jeff says:

    Over is the correct method from a sanitary perspective.

    Keeps people from touching the wall with crap-fingers.

  34. roy says:

    up until recently i was always an over guy. recently i found that if you hang it under, the textured side of the paper (presumably the side i would disperse my stool onto) is facing downward. if you hang it the other way the textured side would be facing up and you would have to turn it over at this point in order to fold or wad it up as desired. simply, when hung facing the wall there is no need to turn the paper over before folding.
    this recent discovery has also caused me to think of possible reasons that certain people are taught to hang the toilet paper certain ways. i wonder if there is a possible link with lower income families who cannot afford fancy smooth textured paper, making my whole argument irrelevant.

  35. Paul says:

    And the war wages on. It seems a side has officially been chosen:
    http://www.beautyinchaos.com/cgi-bin/know.cgi?d=tproll

  36. Stinky says:

    What are you people talking about?

  37. a girl says:

    i just dont wipe. or use your damn hands. you should be washing them afterwards anyways! PROBLEM SOLVED!!

  38. ropey says:

    BURNING IS TOO GOOD FOR ALL UNDERHANGERS!

    Ropey

  39. Tonyc says:

    So little left to fill your minds!

  40. Joel says:

    Clearly the over-hangers have it. I am very pleased, having always thought we were in the distinct minority.

    Please tackle the folding versus crumpling issue. I have been told that this is a personality issue, however I think folding is far superior.

  41. Seems that with all that’s wrong in the world people are worried how to hang toilet paper. GET A LIFE!

  42. beck says:

    So for those who are horizontilly challenged.
    I hang my rolls vertically. Yes, on a pole-like dispenser. So the rolls stack.
    The paper feeds through a slit, so as to tear easilly, and you can see when you are going to run out of paper. You can even become festive around holidays and stack different rolls (solid colors or patterns to fit the holiday spirit!)
    Hey, IT IS an IMPORTANT ROOM AFTER ALL!
    :>)

  43. Riz says:

    Clearly this is a side discussion from a MENSA topic, for those who don’t understand we apologize. ‘Overhanging’ is obviously a sign of superior intellect.

  44. Paul says:

    Under. No problem when tearing, because if you have a loose roll you’re supposed to secure it with pressure from your wrist, not pull the thing with reckless abandon! :) I suppose if one were ignorant of the proper tearing techniques, it’d be easy to get confused about the proper way to hang the roll.

  45. Steven says:

    So far, most of these discussions and arguments have been from the persons point of view. How about the TP’s point of view, as I mean, how was it DESIGNED?! Upon inspection of a square, you will notice that the TP is not the same on both sides (referring to a quality brand TP assuming intellects use a softer TP). The outer layer of the TP is the quilted side, the side used for absorption, just like the Bounty paper towels. So, how does one fold the TP when sitting next to a roll? Pull, fold OVER, and OVER, with the quilted side out. This would be most easily done with the roll placed on the spool in the position known as UNDER, or facing the wall. This should cease this debate. Now, I will move on to the CREATION or EVOLUTION theory and explain this for you… ….To be continued….

  46. John Crapper says:

    IT DOES NOT DEPEND ON THE TOILET PAPER, IT DEPENDS ON THE DEXTERITY IN YOUR HANDS. SOME PEOPLE LIKE MYSELF ARE BETTER AT GRABBING IT FROM UNDER.

  47. Carissa says:

    Plus, if improperly “under hung”, the toilet paper tends to rest against the wall! Ugh! How unsanitary!

  48. Kellie says:

    There are sanitary issues with EITHER method of hanging the TP. The amount of TP being used doesn’t need to be man-handled to grab hold of it. Rather than gripping around the ribbon of TP – gather it on the side closest to you. This can be done very easily with either method. However, when the roll is hung under it can be done with one hand using the wrist to stabilize the roll at the point of pulling it. How in the world do you use a one-hand method with the TP hung over and not end up having to re-roll the darn thing (YUK) due to losing control of the roll while you pull. Don’t be delusional, it happens 9x’s out of 10! Either that or you’re using the elbow or knee to stabilize it when you pull – too much effort. Get in and get out, it’s the American way.

    As adults… do we use our fingers we have just made unsanitary to flush the toilet and put the lid down, or do we use our wrist? I for one use my wrist because I am an adult & I know how germs are transfered. Same goes for the toilet paper.

    As for children… better sanitize each time they leave the bathroom because you know they have touched everything in the room with their hands, INCLUDING the toilet paper roll (back, front & sides). Or, like most adults just wash your hands before leaving the bathroom then it’s not an issue. And DON’T TOUCH THE DOORKNOB with your clean hands!

  49. mooby says:

    mmmm…what about those of us that just sit the roll on the cistern lid? then you simply pick it up and tear off however much you need. Of course, there are problems with this method – if you stand to wipe there is the risk of dropping the roll down the toilet. Plus, if one family member is right-handed and the other left-handed arguments may be begin over the side of the toilet to leave the roll on…

Leave a Reply

Some comments get held for review by the spam filter, no need to re-post if you don't see your comment appear. I'll get to it soon.