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Toilet paper is a tissue paper product used by humans primarily for the ablution of the anus and surrounding area of fecal material after defecation and by human females for cleaning the perineal area of urine after urination and other bodily fluid releases. It also acts as a layer of protection for the hands during these processes. It is sold as a long strip of perforated paper wrapped around a paperboard core for storage in a dispenser by a toilet. Most modern toilet paper in the developed world is designed to decompose in septic tanks, whereas some other bathroom and facial tissues are not. Toilet paper comes in one-ply all the way up to six-ply, meaning that it is either a single sheet or multiple sheets placed back-to-back to make it thicker, softer, stronger and more absorbent.
The use of paper for hygiene purposes has been recorded in China in the 6th century AD, with specifically manufactured toilet paper being mass-produced in the 14th century. Modern commercial toilet paper originated in the 19th century, with a patent for roll-based dispensers being made in 1883.
Although paper had been known as a wrapping and padding material in China since the 2nd century BC, the first documented use of toilet paper in human history dates back to the 6th century AD, in early medieval China. In 589 AD the scholar-official Yan Zhitui (531–591) wrote about the use of toilet paper:
"Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from the Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes".
During the later Tang dynasty (618–907 AD), an Arab traveller to China in the year 851 AD remarked:
"...they [the Chinese] do not wash themselves with water when they have done their necessities; but they only wipe themselves with paper."
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Ehrlich, Robert (1997), "5.9 Dropping two rolls of toilet paper", Why Toast Lands Jelly-Side Down: Zen and the Art of Physics Demonstrations, Princeton University Press, pp. 97–98, ISBN
Goodwin, Peter (1985), Physics can be fun: a sourcebook of practical problems, J. Weston Walch, pp. 64–69, ISBN
Harkay, J. Russell (2006), "Roll Out: Toilet Paper Physics", Phenomenal Physics: A Guided Inquiry Approach (3rd ed.), Lulu.com, pp. 135–140, ISBN
- Needham, Joseph (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 1, Paper and Printing. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.
Walker, Jearl (1975), The Flying Circus of Physics: With Answers (1st ed.), Wiley, pp. 32, 235, ISBN
De Beaumont, Sally; Tanner, Amoret; Rickards, Maurice (2000), Encyclopedia of Ephemera, UK: Routledge, pp. 190–191, ISBN
Knuth, Donald E. (October 1984), "The Toilet Paper Problem", The American Mathematical Monthly, 91 (8): 465–470, doi:10.2307/2322567, JSTOR 2322567
Richard Smyth (2012). Bum Fodder: An Absorbing History of Toilet Paper. Souvenir Press Limited. ISBN .
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