Snow Soft toilet paper from Aldi, November 2020.
design history pragmatic historian product packaging

Scented Toilet Paper, Pastel Toilet Paper

Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, when people were faced with a lockdown for several weeks, there was a run on toilet paper, paper towels, and facial tissue. Entire sections in stores where these were kept were empty. Strict limits were put on the number people could purchase at any given time.

For months, there were gaps on the toilet paper shelves. Where there used to be several options for purchase, you were lucky if there were two types to choose from.

Toilet paper production appears to have rebounded; the shelves are once again full and there are multiple options and no limits on purchasing.

During the toilet paper drought, we purchased a brand that was new to us.

Snow Soft toilet paper from Aldi, November 2020.
Snow Soft toilet paper from Aldi, November 2020.

On the surface, a toilet paper called “Snow Soft” indicates that it’s going to be as soft as snow, right? But, if you live in a place like Minnesota that regularly gets snow, you know that snow is rarely soft. It’s made of crystals, after all, and they have a reputation for pointiness, which makes this kind of a strange name for toilet paper.

It was certainly soft enough, but, hola! Upon opening the package, I was greeted with a very strong scent. This toilet paper was perfumed, which brought me back to my childhood. Gen Xers, do you remember scented toilet paper when you were a kid?

Looking more closely at the packaging, I noted that the manufacturers had added “Micro Sensations,” a mix of royal jelly and honey, both made by bees, to the toilet paper. Except, this toilet paper didn’t smell like honey. In fact, it’s funny that the packaging doesn’t mention bees. While the marketers didn’t seem to be concerned about the incongruity of crystalline snow being called soft, it was probably a step too far to mention bees, which leave a mental image of your bottom being stung. Ouch!

I see there is also a misspelled word on the package.

Back of Snow Soft toilet paper packaging explaining the Micro Sensations process, November 2020.
Back of Snow Soft toilet paper packaging explaining the Micro Sensations process, November 2020.

If you read the bottom mustard-colored section on the back of the package, it says, “Royal Jelly & Honey trough a dehydration process are dried and mixed with natural diluents to form micro-capsules that are sprayed on the toilet paper during its production creating Micro Sensations┬«.” I believe the word trough should be through.

Ah, product packaging, you are so entertaining!

It’s been so long since I’ve experienced scented toilet paper that I can’t pinpoint when manufacturers stopped habitually perfuming it. Definitely an improvement to lose the scent, both for our noses, which are constantly being bombarded with overpowering manufactured scents, and our environment. How many lab-invented chemicals do we need floating around in our atmosphere and water system?

My brother and sister-in-law reminded me of another past attribute of toilet paper. This blast from the past came from the birthday card they sent me.

Birthday card showing an old woman holding two rolls of pink toilet paper up to her eyes like binoculars. Copyright Sacha Goldberger, 2013, www.marianheath.com, Wareham, MA 02571. October 2020.
Birthday card showing an old woman holding two rolls of pink toilet paper up to her eyes like binoculars. Copyright Sacha Goldberger, 2013, www.marianheath.com, Wareham, MA 02571. October 2020.

It shows an old woman holding two rolls of pink toilet paper up to her eyes like binoculars.

PINK toilet paper! Yes, there used to be pink toilet paper, as well as toilet paper in other pastel colors. I remember pastel blue, green and yellow. This was at a time when designers were encouraging people to be all matchy-matchy in their bathrooms, with matching throw rugs and tank and toilet seat covers and disposable Dixie cups and toilet paper.

About those throw rugs and tank and toilet seat covers …. These came in sets and had a high pile, like shag carpeting. There’d be a bath mat and a rug that fit around the bottom of the toilet. The toilet seat and tank covers would be shag, too. The pile was so high that when guys would lift the seat to pee, the pile would prevent the seat from staying up and the seat would fall, with the result being pee on the toilet seat cover. The rug at the base of the toilet would also regularly get pee on it. Because these sets were shag, they were rarely washed, Imagine the yuckiness. Blech.

When I was discussing this with my brother (the one who gave me the birthday card), he spontaneously remembered how people would stack coffee cans (they were metal then) and cover them with wallpaper to create a toilet paper holder. They’d have to cut both ends off the cans and file down all the sharp edges when attaching them to each other so you wouldn’t slice yourself to ribbons reaching for the last roll. (Crafts from the past!)

That memory reminded me that there used to be crocheted cozies for rolls of toilet paper that were kept on the back of the tank. Often, these cozies had a plastic doll’s head on a crocheted body, with a large crocheted skirt to hide the roll. Like shag toilet seat covers, these were rarely washed, so they’d accumulate dust.

I’m glad we’ve gotten rid of scented and colored toilet paper, shag rugs and toilet seat covers, and crocheted toilet paper cozies. I think our bathrooms are healthier for it.

 

 

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