Cast your mind back to the last time you saw, let alone used, colored toilet paper. It’s been a while, right? Most brands stopped producing colored toilet paper years ago, and not just because our bathroom decors started to change. Almost overnight, colored paper went from being the height of vogue to the cause of everything from fungal infections to cancer. Some people refused to buy it (the claims, not the toilet paper – the paper they were all too happy to continue buying). According to them, the claims were nothing more than an excuse by toilet paper manufacturers to save millions of dollars a year on dye. But what’s the truth? If you have a secret passion for magenta toilet paper, are you safe to indulge it?
The Strange History of Colored Toilet Paper
During the 1950s, color coordination was king. If your towels didn’t match your tub, or if your tiles didn’t match your sink, you were no one. Unsurprisingly, this was when colored toilet paper started making big waves. Were a 1950s housewife to walk into a store and see only white paper, there’s no telling what she’d do. Blue, yellow, green, pink… all the colors of the rainbow were represented and providing it matched the rest of your bathroom, it was A-OK.
And then the ’80s came along and suddenly, all those bright, rainbow-colored rolls started to disappear. Doctors began issuing frightening tales about what could happen if you found yourself tempted by a vividly hued roll. Environmentalists were all too eager to tell us what our colored toilet paper addictions were doing to the seas. As the final nail in the coffin, we stopped caring quite so much about whether everything in our bathrooms matched.
By the turn of the millennium, you could still find the occasional roll of colored paper if you kept your ear to the ground and had the right contacts, but by and large, most of those pretty colors had been replaced with a sea of white. Most people were happy enough with the change. But a few still felt a sense of nostalgia for the old days. Now, it seems like the tide is slowly starting to turn. Colored toilet paper is still few and far between, but a growing number of the young and the trendy are starting to seek it out. Are they wise to do so? Unlikely.
Health concerns aside, one of the main reasons for the decline in colored toilet paper from the 80s onwards was a change in our decorating habits. Somewhere around 1985, we grew sick of gold and avocado and began yearning for the simple pleasures of an all-white bathroom. As sunrisespecialty.com (www.sunrisespecialty.com/colored-toilet-paper) notes, the change in design meant that colored papers simply weren’t a good fit anymore. A colored toilet paper positioned against an all-white design looked brash and retro, and not in a good way either. Even in homes that still embraced the full-color spectrum, the idea of a colored toilet paper seemed dated.
A Health Risk?
While changing styles had a lot to do with the decline in popularity of colored toilet paper, the real clincher came with the reported health risks of using it. As Hunker notes, the synthetic dyes used in colored toilet paper carry numerous health risks. Some of them are minor and easy enough to treat (providing you consider a urinary tract infection minor, anyway), others are a greater cause for concern According to non-stophealthy.com (www.non-stophealthy.com/colored-perfumed-toilet-paper-is-dangerous-to-your-health-heres-why-you-shouldnt-use-it/), just a few of the unpleasant side effects you can expect from using colored toilet paper include:
- Urinary Tract Infections – Colored toilet paper is said to cause enough irritation to trigger UTIs. Unless you’re happy to go from one course of antibiotics to the next, that alone is probably sufficient reason to give it a miss.
- Fungal Infections – If you developed a fungal infection at the height of colored toilet paper mania, it was just par for the course. The synthetic dyes and perfumes used to fragrance the paper were clearly never meant to come into contact with skin, as evidenced by the fact that for a brief period, almost every other gynecological examination involved the question ‘Do you use colored toilet paper?”
- Cervical Cancer – If UTIs and fungal infections weren’t enough reason to give up colored toilet paper, this next one certainly is. According to some studies, colored toilet paper can have a devastating effect on the reproductive system and even increase the risk of cervical cancer.
- Rectal Problems – Using toilet paper laden with synthetic dyes and artificial fragrances can cause rectal irritation and inflammation, two things very few of us would willingly sign up for.
Ultimately, no toilet paper is completely environmentally friendly. Or even slightly, in fact. As a single-use paper product that’s made using a wasteful manufacturing process, it’s never going to score points for sustainability. But when you look at colored toilet paper, the situation gets even worse. Flushing all those synthetic dyes down the toilet isn’t going to do the oceans any good at all, and neither are all those synthetic fragrances that all too often accompany them. Even if you leave the impact on the world at large to one side and focus closer to home, the consequences of using colored paper can be dire. The high dye content makes the paper agonizingly slow to decompose, creating the possibility of your own little environmental nightmare. If you rely on a septic system, be especially cautious.
Gone… But Not Quite
So, they’re bad for the environment, bad for your health, and, thanks to a price tag that far exceeds anything you’d pay for a standard white roll, bad for your wallet. Little wonder, then, that most people were happy enough to switch to white paper in the ’80s. Yet despite the concerns, a few people still clung to those rainbow-colored rolls. Even when Renova starting charging $16 a package for their colored toilet rolls, certain individuals continued to fall over themselves in their haste to snap them up. And apparently, sales have now started to rise, largely as a result of a return to the fashions of the 60s and 70s. But is being at the cutting edge of fashion really worth the fungal infections, the UTIs, and the rectal irritations? Obviously, no one can make the decision for you. But if $16 gets you nothing but irritation and an annoyingly color-coordinated bathroom, we’ll be sticking to white.