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.

Join the Conversation


  1. Ever since Sheryl Crow told us we could only use one square, we just keep a box kleenex on the back of the tank and use one sheet. Its much easier than TP – no tearing required.

    As for the cat issue, my cat uses the litterbox, and does not need any toilet paper.

  2. @ Noturus;

    Kleenex is much too fragile. Falls apart when you try to clean off the Klingons. For a manly wipe, TP is much better.

    As far as the cat, they can be trained. The toilet is right there. One or two swirlies, and the cat will nover come into the bathroom again. ;)

  3. The “toilet paper spool” is known as a derder. The name was derived by countless happy children using the toilet paper spool, once emptied, being a favorite toy. There appears to be a natural tendency for a child from any culture to walk around the house with the toilet paper spool placed as trumpet to the mouth and saying, “der- der-der-der-der”. Hence the name.

  4. Great article..but I must respectfully disagree. Don’t you guys have kids? If the roll is over, a 1 1/2 year old can quickly and easily unravel the entire roll just by putting their hands on the roll and spinning. I’m just going to have to keep bucking the system I guess.

  5. So much effort to ignore so many salient facts. Right or left handed or ambidextrous? Dispenser on left or right of toilet? Dispenser located on wall forward of the seated guest or on wall behind guest and left or right of the water closet (the proper name for the water holding tank)? The height of the dispenser (some are mounted very low, others are high and still others are on a movable stand in situations where there is no wall mounted dispenser). Quilted two-ply paper or inexpensive rough paper? Name-brand or generic paper? Available lighting or visual acuity of the guest? Young or old? Blue eyes or brown? And of course, there are those who just do not use toilet paper! Just stand it on end on the top of the tank!

  6. As a service to my fellow man, I correct the problem when I see it. In hotels and other public restrooms, I switch every under-hung to over. You’re welcome.

  7. Our family opposed the mariage of my brother to an ‘under’ person and knew the marriage could not possibly last and in fact it didn’t.

  8. Every hotel in the world over-hangs. If under-hung, the little fancy-shmancy, artsy-fartsy folded pointed-end down (over) triangle can’t be seen. Case closed. ‘Nuf said. Anyone who under hangs is a cave-dwelling remnant of the leaf, corn cob, Sears catalog era.

  9. Lemme take a swipe at this…..I spent too much time
    in the land of “bombsites” instead of porcelain potties.
    Which hand do you use (with water supplied by small
    faucet) for wiping? (There ain’t no paper) And what
    direction? up? or down?

  10. Sigh…the rolly thingy you put inside the toilet paper roll is called the ‘spindle’.

    I only underhang when there is a cat in the house…the little b-sterds are always playing with the roll. IF you overhand it, then the cats play with it until they unroll it ALL! Then whatta ya do? You can’t use toilet paper mixed with hairballs.

    At least my dogs WON’T play with it so I can now have my toilet paper hung in a civilized fashion.

  11. FINALLY… do you know how many years I tried to tell my mother-in-law it goes OVER????? every time she would go to the bathroom she would change it back to under, even at MY house. I wish I had this article before the divorce.

  12. my goodness all this time and energy wasted on an issue that I’ve known the answer to since I was a wee (pun intended) little kid….. ;-)

  13. This article is about as nutty as articles get. However, it make more sense than any other article that I have ever read about ‘overhanging’ or ‘underhanding’ toilet tissue. Write on brother.

  14. Those who conducted this study certainly have no children. Were young’uns involved, the line of sight and convenience arguments (along with the completely arbitrary “good” and “bad” concepts) would have been instantly trumped by a child who found that he could simply spin the entire roll onto the floor below by running his hands across the roll in a “hamster-wheel” manner.

    Trust me, I got myself in it deep when I was about five years old by using this exact technique…

  15. Anyone who has children KNOWS that the only way to hang the roll is UNDER. Any toddler who strolls into the bathroom will eventually find the toilet paper and use it as a spin toy. If you hang the roll over it will all end up on the floor. However, if you hang it under it will just spin around – Yay!

  16. Something tells me that a toddler who knows how to put his hands on an over-hung roll and spin it down ’til it’s empty is smart enough to reverse his hands and spin UP on an under-hung roll…’til it’s empty.

  17. You better believe this ! It was on my check list for our hotel cleaning maids . Never could do anything about my own family bathroom though……seems I spent 1/2 my life righting the wrong .
    I will not allow a bar of soap anywhere near my home. Answer me one thing why do people leave that last portion on the TP roll ? Still wondering after all these years.

  18. Sorry, but the logic behind the article is flawed.

    The “End Result” image only follows if the force is applied incorrectly for the relative position of the paper on the roll on the right side of the picture.

    An application of force at the correct angle to the roll will tear the paper just as effectively whether it is rolled under or over due to the stress on the paper’s seams at the torque vector. The “trick” is simply applying force at the appropriate angle to tear the paper since the vector will vary according to the relative location of the dispenser in relation to the tearer. The height of the roll and the height at which the paper comes off of the roll will change that vector and in that respect under or over are significant variables in calculating the appropriate angle at which to pull on the paper.

    There are, nevertheless, two conditions under which the right-side of the “End Result” diagram will likely occur. The first is where the person using the toilet paper has a conditioned reflex for tearing the paper at only one angle due to a life of “over rolling” and that person cannot overcome the conditioning. The second is where the user has the mechanical coordination of a newborn infant.

  19. Your logic is ridiculous.
    Let’s go thru the points:
    1. Viewing angle: a no factor. You can see how much paper is left by looking at the edge of the roll. The over or under is a no factor. This point is useless.
    2. Tearing: as Joey said, if the force is applied at the proper angle, the tear should be equally efficient no matter what type of positioning, over or under. I will concede that for tearing the over might be slightly better than the under, but not much difference. If using the under method, I find it easier to hold the roll still with the other hand.
    3. Wasted paper: are you kidding me? That picture is completely biased. From a physics point of view, gravity plays an equal toll on the paper no matter of over or under. The paper can scroll down equally no matter what position you use. If you move your over picture just 45 degrees clockwise you will get the same result as the right hand side picture. And if you move the right hand side picture 45 degrees clockwise, you will get the same result as your left hand side.

    My personal belief is that the under method is just more natural, seems like everything in life uses the under scroll method.

  20. I think this is a perfectly great article, and I found it by searching. With the exception of the cat example (we have three but they’re all old and most places have a door on the bathroom anyway that can be CLOSED!) and the toddlers, I can’t see ANY reason to ever go under. It kind of p’s me off when I have to search for the end of the roll, especially if I’m in a hurry. Some guy actually invented a holder that you can turn around for your own preference just because his wife was a moron and insisted that the roll was going under. With a contraption like that, you don’t even have to take the roll off, just twist it and the roll goes the other way. Cool invention, and the only thing I would suggest is that if you are at someone else’s place and they just happen to like under, switch it back once done (or the other way around if YOU happen to be the under person).

  21. Based on the endorsements by Dear Abby and Anne Landers, and buoyed by the fact that many children (and some adults) over-spin, I have always supported the “under” method. ‘Nuff said.

  22. Based on endorsements by Dear Abby and Anne Landers, and buoyed by the fact that many children (and some adults) over-spin, I have always supported the “under” method. ‘Nuff said.

  23. I feel quite passionate about this issue and will rehang rolls found hung incorrectly at friends and family’s home (but not commercial establishments, eewwww!). Fortunately, no one in my home feels the need to change the empty roll of TP so I have 100% confidence in what to expect in the ergonomic portion of my bathroom experience.

  24. A sound and rational treatise on tp. I am a “remnant of the leaf, corn cob, Sears catalog era” mentioned by another commenter. Because of that experience, my generation invented toilet paper, just as we invented tv, cell phones, and iPods because we were bored. There are few of us remaining who know the rules of etiquette of the outhouse, or which sections of the Sears catalogue to use first, or that when using corncobs, you shake well before using. Future generations may have to learn from bears how to defecate in the woods. In Iraq, small smooth stones are often used for wiping, or the bare hand and a bucket of water, tp being unknown.

    The REAL question is folding or wadding. I’m a folder, neatly folding the hockey-tickets to maximize area and paper thickness, then re-folding to reveal a clean surface to wipe again. My son is a wadder. He crushes the tp into a wad, gets one wipe per wad, and frequently uses so much paper the toilet stops up. He refuses of change or learn. I’m beginning to believe it’s genetic. What say you?

  25. I have always adhered to the logic of this life lesson until I met my cat Bella. Bella wakes me up in the middle of the night while she plays with the roll, unrolling it with her claws and shredding the toilet paper all over the floor. The under method has saved me and has saved Bella from being put out in the snow.

  26. Us of the corncob era remember to use a red cob first then a white cob…to see if you’ll need another red cob!..and kids don’t sound “der-der-der” in the spool, they say “doot-do-dooo!”

  27. This is what made the determination for me: When I was 18 years old (a long, long, long time ago) I read a magazine article that provided this statistic: “Over” hangers make 34% higher wages than “under’ hangers. That did it for me. I also made sure to marry an “over” just to be sure.

  28. Substituting “Kleenex” and the ilk, for regulation toilet paper is a bad move…the absorbancy and water-solubility properties of each are not the same so, much to Sheryl Crows’ greenwashing efforts, you would end up using more paper, and likely clog your septic system easier and more often…

  29. (continued)

    And you’d use more water, likely having to flush more, to get the Kleenex to go down the freakin’ pipe…

  30. In all my 40 years I have never once thought about this until tonight. It is quite perplexing that anyone should have an opinion as to which is right or wrong. All of the reasons I have seen for either way are stupid and can be argued in either favor forever with both sides sounding just as ridiculous. I only care that it is there when I need it regardless of over-under, single-double ply, lotion-quilted. When you have to use your socks or left hand that is what bothers me. My paradigm of this crazy existence does not think this is an important factor that I shall think about again however, if for some reason I am brought into a conversation about it I will sit back and wonder with amusement at the clods around me. Also, who really gives a crap about the toilet seat being up or down? Give me a break. If you sit down without looking you are stupid. It seems to me that if you are that stupid you would really complain about the lid being down. That would be much messier and would require the same amount of energy and brains to correct. Please respond, if I am the crazy one then I need know.

  31. The reasoning behind ‘under’ was a 70’s thing.. in an era of avocado, maroon and pink bathrooms!! Yeugh!! it was thought to look more ‘spacious'(no really!!).. Over hang is best and I squeeze the roll so it is oval and then it is easier to tear and less likely to spool off the roll with the help of small paws. As far as seats go, in our house we have ‘soft closing’ loo seats so it’s never an issue..£24 well spent @Costco..

  32. Under is clearly more sanitary- the front side of the ‘under’- the side facing you when you tear, that you will be most likely to wipe with is less exposed to the elements since its been covered by the whole roll on top of it. My roll hangs under a mirror where the ‘over’ paper not only collects dust but also my boyfriend’s whisker cuttings. what’s the matter with you people anyway

  33. I’ve noticed sometimes each side of a roll can have its own texture. In any event, I take the roll off of the hanger and roll it around my hand. No wads clogging up the potty here.

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