I live in a sharehouse of three, and between us we currently possess six rolls of toilet paper. That's two rolls each. We didn’t stockpile, the supermarket shelves remain empty, and it’s unclear how the Australian government’s impending shutdowns will affect our ability to get more when we run out. Collectively, the three of us probably make a total of five trips to the toilet each day, and so—by the time the number of wipes per trip, sheets per wipe, and sheets on each roll are taken into account—we’re set to last another 40 days.
This is according to the online calculator howmuchtoiletpaper.com which, yes, calculates how much toilet paper you’ll need to survive the coronavirus lockdown. It’s hard to know how long this global shitshow’s going to continue, but if we assume it’s another six weeks before anyone in my household is able to acquire a fresh pack of rolls, then we’ll only have enough resources to make it 76 percent of the way. The final quarter, in that case, will likely be spent either developing MacGyverian methods of wiping our arse, or each chugging a packet of GastroStop and holding on for life.
The site was put together by two Londoners—software developer Ben Sassoon and artist Sam Harris—and offers a pretty straightforward, user-friendly service. You tell the calculator how many rolls you have and how many times you visit the toilet each day, and the calculator tells you how long you have until things start getting messy. If you want, you can tweak the finer details—how many sheets of toilet paper you use per wipe, for example—for a more reliable projection. Predict how long you’re going to be in quarantine for, and the calculator will predict how long you’re going to last.
Sassoon explained, in conversation with The Verge, that the website was originally cobbled together to provide a bit of “light-hearted humour”—but within days it had racked up millions of views. Now, he sees it as “a tool that can educate the masses and help reduce the stockpiling issues going on around the world.”
It could also be a way to highlight the absurdity of panic-buyers who’ve stockpiled years worth of loo roll over the past couple of weeks and left next to nothing for the rest of us.
“Our average user has 500 percent more toilet paper than they would need in a potential quarantine,” Sassoon points out. “We are hoping that people will use the site and see they don’t need to go out and empty the shelves.”