How Much Toilet Paper Do You Actually Need? This Calculator Aims to Help Coronavirus Stockpiling

It appears the outbreak of the new coronavirus has spurred fears not just of catching the illness, but also running out of toilet paper.

This has led to excessive hoarding and empty supermarket shelves, meaning many shoppers are now unable to purchase even the most basic supplies of toilet paper.

Enter the toilet paper calculator. Plug in the number of people in your household and the amount of time spent in isolation, and it will work out how much of it you need. The aim is to stop people from stockpiling more than is necessary.

As per the calculator, a family of four in isolation for two weeks will need around 16 rolls. It recommends 24 rolls for a couple spending six weeks in isolation. Eight people isolating for a month will need 67, and so on.

These calculations are based on the fact that each person will need around 0.27 rolls of toilet paper a day. So if you require more or less for whatever reason, there may be some extra mathwork involved.

The message is to always think of others and make sure they can get what they need—by making sure you only get what you need.

Shoppers wait to collect toilet paper at a Costco
A line of shoppers wait to collect toilet paper at a Costco store in Novato, California on March 14, 2020. An online calculator helps you work out how much toilet paper you and your family need to prevent excessive stockpiling. JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty

As the number of COVID-19 cases increases, one of the more unexpected side stories is the country's obsession with toilet paper.

Nebraskans have been swiping paper from interstate rest stops, while thieves have been breaking into cars to get their hands on a packet or two. Americans may even be entering other countries to stock up their supplies, with reports suggesting people were crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to buy toilet roll, along with water and other supplies.

As Newsweek previously reported, Newport Oregon Police Department had to urge people to stop dialing 911 when their supplies ran out. Their advice was to get imaginative.

"Seamen used old rope and anchor lines soaked in salt water. Ancient Romans used a sea sponge on a stick, also soaked in salt water," in a tongue-in-cheek Facebook post. "Sea shells were also used."

It continued: "When all else fails, you have magazine pages. Start saving those catalogs you get in the mail that you usually toss into the recycle bin. Be resourceful. Be patient."

Elsewhere in the world, shoppers have turned physical. In Sydney, Australia, more than one fight has broken out dwindling supplies of toilet paper as people stockpile supplies.

In response to the increased demand in toilet paper in the U.S., the American Forest and Paper Association (AFPA) released a statement assuring consumers the supply chain is still functioning as normal.

"This situation is highly dynamic and changing daily, and the industry is working diligently to respond to the spike in demand for tissue products due to coronavirus (COVID-19) purchases," said AFPA President and CEO Heidi Brock.

"Rest assured, tissue products continue to be produced and shipped—just as they are 52 weeks each year as part of a global market."

Empty shelfs of toilet paper
Empty shelfs of toilet paper are seen inside a store in March 18, 2020 in New York City. Authorities warn napkins, wipes and other substitutes are clogging sewer systems as Americans turn to toilet paper alternatives. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty