Who Invented the Tissue Paper? (Invention Timeline Explained)

Do you remember one of the things people hoarded back at the beginning of the pandemic? Sure, the canned goods and cooking supplies shelves were emptied immediately. But what surprises most of us is how people fought over tissue papers! These incidents revealed tissue paper’s vital and hidden role in modern-day society. It has become one of the essential toiletry products on the market.

Hygiene has always been a part of a human’s routine. But, have you ever wondered how they cleaned their bottoms before the invention of tissue and toilet paper? This article will trace the origin of tissue paper and the interesting things people used before its creation.

Who invented the tissue paper?

Scholars believe that the Chinese, who were also the developers of the pulp papermaking process, were the first people to use paper as a cleansing material. However, the first commercial tissue paper was invented by Joseph Gayetty. 

The tissue paper’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Ancient Humans
    Creative People

    Ancient humans have different creative ways and tools to clean themselves. There are records of people using rocks, leaves, and snow during ancient times. Some records show the use of animal furs and shells. Romans used sponges on sticks.

  • Chinese
    For Personal Cleansing

    The first known evidence of the use of tissue paper points to the Chinese back in the 6th Century. Travelers will comment about the unusual way Chinese people clean themselves after doing their business in the bathroom. According to the testimonies of some Arab traders, the Chinese do not wash with water. Instead, they just wipe themselves clean using paper.

  • Joseph Gayetty
    Medical Paper

    Tissue paper became a commercial product in 1857. Joseph Gayetty, an American inventor, tried to sell individual sheets of paper called “Gayetty’s Medical Paper.” 

  • Kimberly-Clark
    Kotex and Kleenex

    Kimberly-Clark, a paper manufacturer, invented the technology behind the use of cellulose instead of cotton in sanitary products. They released Kotex, a sanitary pad, and Kleenex, a disposable handkerchief.

  • Valmet
    Improved Versions

    After the second world war, Valmet manufactured tissue paper machines. The company invented a new technology that improved the quality and standard of tissue paper. As a result, their devices helped the tissue industry to be more efficient.

When was the tissue paper invented?

The Chinese first used paper as a cleansing material in the 6th Century. However, it was in 1857 when tissue paper was introduced as a commercial product.

A brief history of tissue paper

 We use tissue paper daily. It is one of the things that make us feel clean and comfortable. It may be hard to imagine a time when tissue paper did not exist but you might be surprised that its invention was not that long ago.

We can only guess how ancient people dealt with hygiene. What we are sure of is that they do not have the products and tools we have right now, so they need to be creative and improvise. Scholars explain that ancient people used materials readily found in nature to clean themselves. There are pieces of evidence to believe that ancient people used stones, snow, leaves, shells, and animal furs to clean themselves. The Romans used sponges on sticks to clean themselves after using the toilet. In 79 AD, Italians used hand-woven cloth as tissue paper.

A group of archeologists found Chinese hygiene sticks made of wood (primarily bamboos) with cloth wrapped at their poles. They examined the fabric and found traces of preserved stool in it. Archeologists believe that these sticks were used 2,000 years ago. It’s weird to imagine how they used these tools to clean their bums, but we must acknowledge them for being creative.

The first evidence of paper being used as a body cleaning tool was found in a text by Yen Chih-Thus in 589 A.D. During the Tang Dynasty, Arab travelers were weirded out that the Chinese were wiping their bottoms with paper instead of washing with water. In addition, the Chinese manufactured the first version of tissue paper in the early 14th Century. Although we do not know precisely who first used tissue paper, it is safe to assume that it started with the Chinese hundreds of years ago.

In 1857, Joseph Gayetty sold Gayetty’s Medical Papers, which were individual sheets of paper in packets. These Medical Papers were brown, thin, and rough. This is the first time tissue paper was introduced as a commercial product.

In 1920, more than 60 years after Gayetty’s invention, the company Kimberly-Clark improved the technology behind tissue paper production. They tried to use cellulose instead of cotton to make their products softer, more absorbent, and more rigid. As a result, they produced Kotex (a sanitary pad) and Kleenex (a disposable handkerchief) with the help of Frank Sensenbrenner and Ernst Mahler. They also developed soft pillows from several layers of tissue.

From there, tissue products became more popular worldwide. Companies continuously upgrade their machines and technologies to improve their products and meet the demands of the consumers. Thanks to them, our tissue products are softer, more durable, and absorbent. In addition, the products are now more eco-friendly and sensitive to the skin. 

The tissue paper timeline

  1. Recorded History
    Found in Nature

    Ancient people were very creative. Since tissue, cloth, or paper were not yet present during their time. They used materials they found in nature to clean themselves. Some scholars listed shells, rocks, leaves, wools, and sponges.

  2. 6th Century
    Something Like Tissue

    In the early 6th Century, the Chinese used thin paper to clean their bottoms after using the toilet. It is the first recorded use of paper that resembles the purpose of tissue.

  3. 1857
    First Tissue Paper

    In 1857, tissue paper or toilet paper was introduced as a commercial product. It was marketed by the inventor Joseph Gayetty as “Gayetty’s Medical Paper.” The first version was brown, thin, frail, and rough.

  4. 1920
    New and Improved

    More than 60 years after the first version of tissue paper was commercialized, Kimberly-Clark released a new and improved version. They used cellulose instead of cotton to make their tissue papers, making them softer, more absorbent, and more rigid.

  5. 1960
    Aesthetic Tissue Paper

    In an attempt to please consumers, tissue companies released pastel-colored toilet papers. Colored tissue papers were designed to match the theme and design of consumers’ bathrooms. Plus, it’s fun to pick toilet paper of your favorite color!

Where was tissue paper invented?

The use of paper as a cleaning product was first recorded in China. However, the commercialization of toilet paper was first introduced by Joseph Gayetty in New York.

The importance of tissue paper

  • It’s convenient 

    Using tissue paper is very practical. You can easily travel with it since it won’t take much space in your bag, it’s light, and you can dispose of it afterward.

  • For make-up

    Most girls use make-up to look prettier and more confident. Tissue is used by make-up artists to set the make-up and is also helpful in wiping it off afterward.

  • Avoiding scratch

    Try to wrap your precious pieces of jewelry in tissue paper before putting them inside your jewelry box so you can avoid misplacing them. The tissue will also protect your jewelry from external damages like scratches and dents.

  • Hygienic

    Since tissue paper is disposable, using it will reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria.

Tissue paper by the numbers

  • 19With the proper use and disposal, tissue paper is also an instrument for stopping the spread of the covid 19 virus. 
  • 8-9On average, a person uses 8-9 sheets of tissue paper every time he uses the toilet. So, a single person uses around 57 sheets of tissue paper every day.
  • 100Tissue paper is a 100% sustainable material from natural resources. Tissue paper is also safe for our environment. 
  • 1,376,900The most expensive tissue paper costs a whooping price of $1,376,900! It’s made of 22-karat gold.

Five facts about the tissue paper

  • Toilet paper is not that common

    70%-75% of the people on Earth do not use toilet paper to clean their bottoms after using the toilet. Some cultures prefer soap and water, while others avoid it due to a lack of trees (which are used for paper making).

  • One-ply is better than two-ply

    Yeah, marketing tricked us. Two-ply layers have 20 thickness paper while one-ply has 13 thickness. So, two-ply is not two times thicker. Plus, one-ply toilet paper lasts longer and breaks down quickly in the septic system.

  • Start your art

    You can collect tissue rolls and create your personalized art or Halloween costume! It’ll be a fun activity for kids, so try not to throw your tissue rolls immediately. 

  • Thieves!

    This is a bit embarrassing, but data shows that 7% of Americans steal tissue and toilet papers from hotels, restaurants, and public restrooms.

  • A lot of trees

    On average, a person uses 100 rolls of tissue per year. So in a lifetime, an adult person can use over a thousand rolls of tissue which takes almost 400 trees to make.

FAQ about the tissue paper

  • Where is tissue paper used for?

    Tissue paper has a lot of uses in daily life, and most of the time, is it used for sanitary purposes. 

  • Is tissue paper necessary?

    Yes. It is necessary to have tissue paper every day. Suppose you come across a bathroom without toilet paper or a  table without a napkin. It’s best to be prepared.

  • How safe is tissue paper?

    Tissue paper has undergone many tests, one of which is the microbiological quality which results in low bacteria counts. So, it is safe to assume that tissue paper is safe except for those with sensitive sinuses and allergies.

  • Can I use tissue paper on my face?

    Yes. Tissue paper companies have developed their products, making them more sensitive for facial use.

  • Is using tissue eco-friendly?

    Yes. Using tissue is a practical choice for you and is good for mother nature because it is 100% compostable. 

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