Why do people hoard toilet paper?

Why do people hoard toilet paper? What panic buying is about and did it happen before in history? Check the article out.

Why do people hoard toilet paper?

Image by Christine Sandu, published on Unsplash.

One of the most common questions related to the currently ongoing global quarantine, due to the coronavirus pandemic, is why, oh why, are people hoarding toilet paper? Makes sense to accumulate food, water, medical supplies, absolutely understandable to hoard sanitisers and disinfectants (immoral! but understandable), or even soap, but why toilet paper?

“Urban Dictionary has coined the perfect term for toilet paper hoarders, spring breakers and others who fail to practice proper preventative measures amid the coronavirus pandemic: COVIDIOT.” – New York Post


First of all, is it an irrational decision? I am convinced that it is. Firstly, because toilet paper is not imported from far abroad and local production and distribution of it is strong in Europe and the US. Secondly, because it does nothing to virus, or the disease it causes.

“We’re seeing the same thing again as America hunkers down against the novel coronavirus, and of all of the products that are being snatched up the fastest, there’s one that’s in special demand: toilet paper.” – Time


Now, Time might have put the attention to the right subject, but is wrong to give it the title “In the Wake of the Coronavirus, Here’s Why Americans Are Hoarding Toilet Paper” (not to mention capitalising first letters of every word, is there a reason for this?). This isn’t only Americans – this happened all around the globe.

Toilet paper hoarding
While irrational, the TP rush certainly has been real and annoying. And this isn’t only an American thing. Image by Hello I’m Nik, Unsplash.

Panic buying

This obviously is related to panic buying. People rush to shops to buy things that are hard to live without, that are related to sanitary subjects, that can quickly run away, that are large and easy to spot in shops, and that are hoarded as reported by media. Put all those factors in one cauldron, stir, and you have a beautiful soft roll before your eyes, so delicate, so beautiful, so fragile that you just have to hoard it.

Don’t hoard toilet paper or hand sanitisers. For obvious reasons. Just don’t. Buy 1, maybe 2 packages of 8-rolls, but leave it at that.

Hand sanitisers

They have also been the victim of hoarding, although this is much more understandable. Again, do not hoard.

Why do people hoard hand sanitizers?
Photo by Martin Sanchez, on Unsplash.

Those little things often have lower than 60% alcohol volume and thus may be inefficient against the coronavirus. Buy distilled spirits and mix with vodka in 1/6 of the portion instead, you can refill the bottle.

Panic buying in the past

Now that perhaps is something that Americans might be a little more known for than usual. We have a brief description past panic buying on Social Science Space. They report that in 1973 there was a panic buying of toilet paper already, based on little than a rumour, jokes, as well as fear. The article links to an even more interesting article on Priceonomics, colourfully named “The Great Toilet Paper Scare of 1973”.

The Social Science Space cites article on The Conversation, which asked experts for an opinion on this.

“But why toilet paper? The question has been in the air for at least the past month, but it’s now become hard to avoid. We asked four experts for their thoughts.” – Social Science Space


Read the original article for the full opinion, but as summary, here is the wisdom you gain:

  1. Toilet paper symbolises control over taboo spheres of the body. Coronavirus pandemic starts fear in peoples’ hearts about losing control, and toilet paper helps maintain that control. (conclusion based on opinion of Niki Edwards, School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, on The Conversation)
  2. Reaction to stress and the disgust people have over cleaning taboo elements with anything else than toilet paper. They also use toilet paper as tissues, so they prepare for illness. (conclusion based on opinion of Brian Cook, Community Engagement for Disaster Risk Reduction project, University of Melbourne, on The Conversation)
  3. Toilet perfect can be viewed as the perfect product, one that you can buy in large quantities, one that does not spoil, and one that you can be certain you will use until the last shred of it. (conclusion based on opinion of David Savage, Newcastle Business School, University of Newcastle, on The Conversation)
  4. It isn’t only toilet paper that is being hoarded, most products are: food, sanitisers, masks. In case of the USA, I myself would also add ammunition. People are scared, and they bunker down. Moreover, toilet paper has little substitute, tissues or kitchen wipes are just something else. (conclusion based on opinion of Alex Russell, School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences, Central Queensland University, on The Conversation)


Why are people hoarding toilet paper? Because they’re scared, it’s a product in use during illnesses, it’s not easily replaceable, and it is a symbol of sanitary health and aesthetic cleanliness. That means, in short, that hoarding toilet paper, like everything, has an explanation. Even if it doesn’t help you with Covid-19 in particular.

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