If there’s one product that’s become the face of COVID-19, it’s the N95 respirator. But if there’s one other product that’s become a symbol of the crisis, it’s a need that’s far more pedestrian: toilet paper.
Toilet paper has been cleared off store shelves nationwide, in a derriere disaster that’s reached across the aisle to be properly memed by conservatives and liberals alike. But let’s be practical for a moment. How much toilet paper do you really need? Now you can calculate it, thanks to a new tool by FlowingData’s Nathan Yau.
Called the Toilet Paper Calculator, the system allows you to input the number of people in your home, the amount of wipes they do a day, the sheets they use per wipe, and how many sheets come in your roll of choice. Then the calculator crunches the numbers to explain, in plain language, “to last X days, you need Y rolls.”
Yau says he was inspired to build the calculator, “just from the experience of going to the store and seeing completely empty shelves where the toilet paper is. I get the feeling of safety and being prepared, but the TP was overboard and a weird disregard for everyone else.”
Now let me acknowledge the elephant in the bathroom: using this calculator absolutely feels strange. And to leverage it accurately requires a sort of personal introspection, and conversations with loved ones, that you might be better off avoiding altogether. It’s hard to imagine what could make a quarantine feel more cramped than someone suddenly auditing their spouse’s bathroom habits.
But even powered by estimates, the calculator effectively demonstrates that your toilet paper panic is probably unfounded. By my calculations, a family of four only requires about 2.5 rolls per week without rationing, so chances are that you can relax. Well, that is unless you, like me, have kids who think it’s hilarious to unspool an entire roll as some sort of cruel, nihilist prank. In which case, godspeed you posterior protector. Douse your person in Purell and prepare to battle your way through Costco.