Toilet Paper Panic 2020 and past shortages

In the Western World, as Covid-19 became a reality to the citizens. People panic bought toilet paper. 4 March 2020 Australian’s woke to a toilet paper shortage. They were believed to be some people preparing for self-quarantine to wipe away Covid-19.
Another reason was partly due to misinformation that something relating to the manufacture of toilet paper coming from Covid-19 affected areas affects access. Such as trade between China and Australia had already slowed. However, this is not the case. Many of the toilet paper companies are fully self-reliant within Australia and don’t need imports.

History of toilet paper

Toilet Paper History Haunted hills podcast
People who remember the earlier version of toilet paper was individually wrapped some describe it as corrugated; some likened it to baking paper.
China record using paper for hygiene purposes as early as the 6th Century. They began mass-producing this style of hygienic paper in the 14th Century.
While toilets were invented in the 1596 toilet paper as we know it wasn’t developed until 1856. The joke about using our favourite hate-read as toilet paper has been around for a very long time with comics drawn and distributed.
1907 – Toilet paper uses to increase sales
Toilet Paper madness
Advertisement from 1915
Scott Tissue toilet paper ad 1915
In 1984 to let the Royal Flying Doctor service know the location of a patient out in a remote area above Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia – wrote “Help” using toilet paper. You can check out these images here. And here.

Before toilet paper

Nara period toilet paper.jpg
By Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

These are sticks found from Nara, Japan in areas previously used as toilets.  I’m hoping these sticks were like brushes and not toilet paper. Isn’t history grand?

Historical toilet paper shortages:

1943 toilet paper panic

The Brisbane shortage, for some reason, their supply was interrupted. Usually, it came from Tasmania.  To combat the deficit, they increased shipping and imported toilet paper from the United States.
The most interesting part of this toilet paper shortage was the advice given by the newspaper:
The newspaper could be substituted, providing it was cut to the same size.
Keeping in mind 1943 the toilets used old-style septic tanks, drop toilets or pans and collected by ‘nightmen’. The councils, the position was called a sanitary contractor.

1951 shortage

The Tasmanian Government was investigating a toilet paper shortage. They raised concerns about septic tank systems if people were to use alternatives to toilet papers.


Toilet paper panic 1974

A paternalistic article by the Canberra times published on 16 January 1974 scolded the housewives of  London and South East’s panic buying of toilet paper. For this, they threatened to ration. The toilet paper shortage occurred after  Japan reported a lack due to a global paper shortage. You can read the article yourself and decide for yourself.
Canberra Times (ACT: 1926 – 1995), Wednesday 16 January 1974, page 5
National Library of Australia
As a result of this global paper shortage in 1974, Adelaide’s phone book this year was not available until October.
The paper shortage caused a shift in social behaviour, up until 1974 all packages bought from a retailer whether it needed wrapping or not was patiently waited for by the consumer while the retailer wrapped up cardboard boxes.
I couldn’t think of a worse way to spend my time at the grocery shop. Waiting for a week or fortnights worth of groceries to be individually wrapped. We thought moving from plastic bags to reusable bags was tough.
The shortage showed the excess of this action and additional rubbish created especially when parcels wrapped already had packaging including shrink wrapping.
I wonder if any this will drive any other social changes?

1984 Election for toilet paper

In Nicaragua, the government received criticism for not ensuring enough toilet paper. This lead to a hotter political environment. Where the opposition ran on solving the shortage. There were campaign slogans and even jingles written. The Nicaraguan Democratic Force went as far with their campaign to drop toilet paper into provinces fighting the government at the time to win their votes on 4 November.
The government felt the war, food and fuel were more critical to resolve.
The government also was not reading their people correctly since the dictatorship had ended, and toilet paper became widely available in rural areas – the use of it adapted into routines.
Rival newspapers who disagreed with each other’s political views – one agreed with the people that toilet paper would endear the government or opposition candidate in favour to the people. The other article suggested that the rival newspaper could be used as a substitute for toilet paper while they solve the issues the more important issues – ending the war, ensuring access to food and fuel.
The Sandinista Government won the election with 66.97% of the vote. With José Daniel Ortega Saavedra as president. They wanted an overwhelming win of 80%.

Toilet paper shortage 1986

In Poland in 1986 Toilet paper was rationed to ten rolls. The minister for Chemical and Light Industry answered when the toilet paper shortage would end? Considering they were 100 million rolls short of demand, he asked for patience. He said a new factory was in construction, and six paper mills contracted for refits, but it would take about three years to complete. Imports quickly sold out as they arrived.
People brought in their waste paper for the government to recycle and rewarded citizens with toilet paper rolls. Recycling centres also accepted newspaper in exchange for toilet papers. Poles rarely took monetary compensation instead of TP. Poland had b This had been the case since the war since the 1968 Invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Toilet paper panic 2020

Coles CFO Leah Weckert said the toilet paper demand created a 20 – 30 demand on inventory. She told the sales to equate to each Australian having three rolls all to themselves.

Flared tempers created viral videoes. People experienced others trying to take their shop. Even from right outside their house happened to a self quarantined couple in South Australia.


It has brought out the worst and funniest in us all. Memes are going crazy, and will probably send us all mad before this is over.

Criminal cases surrounding toilet paper

Surprisingly there are many and one that deserves its own blog post – check back for that in the coming days.

In 1922, travellers stealing toilet paper from the Perth Railways and other essentials. South Australian railways also confirmed a similar experience.

Travellers steal toilet paper while journeying on Perth's railways in 1922 Haunted Hills Podcast Toilet Paper Panic

1931 – Confidence Artist tried to use a wad of toilet paper as money.

Con artist uses toilet paper as money 1931 Toilet Paper Panic Haunted Hills Podcast

1950 – Stole 8250 Pounds Sterling leaving toilet paper and a brick for weight.

8250 stolen by swapping with toilet paper and brick Haunted Hills Podcast

1961 – Murdered in a fight that started over four rolls of toilet paper.

Is the Toilet paper panic 2020 a result of criminal activity?

Rumours and pictures surfaced of exorbitant prices even as of 20 March 2020 there were still crazy prizes for toilet paper listed online.

Above some seller is attempting to sell 48 rolls for $7069.00. If paid to Who Gives a Crap would build a bucket load of necessary toilets which increase hygiene, health, safety and security plus the consumer would have approximately 14,000 boxes of 48 rolls for that price—just putting it in perspective.

Below the picture shows that another eBay seller is selling 48 rolls of toilet paper for $20,000 for 24 rolls.

Toilet paper panic
As you can see, some people are trying to profit from the current situation, which their “ingenuity” has caused the shortage because the production is still occurring and restocking is the issue.
On 19 March 2020 Peter Dutton the Australian, Minister for Home Affairs, said he would crackdown on people who are selling hoarded supplies at an insane profit.
Well, technically the action of selling hoarded supplies at an extreme profit is not kind.
Profiteering is making or seeking to make an excessive or unfair profit, especially illegally.
Price gouging is charging customers too much money for the products perceived or actual worth is technically not a crime in Australia. I guess Minister Dutton must be looking at changing that?

Hoarding hurts members of our community

So does this graphic.
Hoarding excessive amounts and creating shortages hurts the people in our society—especially those who live payday to payday or below the poverty line. People who live below the poverty line are usually the best budgeters because they have to meet their needs on the meagre amount of income. This causes reliance on shopping for their essentials on every payday. It is a need that day, they are out. Some of us have the luxury of not having such a controlled budgetary system and can have bulk supplies. Think of those who cannot afford to buy in bulk. It is costly to live in poverty.


Many people have weak or compromised immune systems for many reasons they represent about 20 per cent of our community. The reason we need to stop the spread, stay home and reduce contact is to save their lives. Eighty per cent of us who get it while unpleasant will recover. We need to start thinking more about each other and taking a little more care during this global crisis.
So, check in on them – from afar. Ensure these people have what is needed and let them know they’re missed and loved. Avoid large crowds, stay home if you’re sick, avoid unnecessary travel and for goodness sake wash your hands. Always, but especially now.
I wish the 1 metre – 1.5 metres had always been a rule – I’d prefer it, and I know it would have saved some people confusion over which bodies to place their hands. (Yeah, there has been a lot of news since 4 March 2020.)

Listen to the Haunted Hills Podcast here.


Alternatives to toilet paper

How the Brits went soft on toilet paper

Coming up:

Quarantines of history

Epidemics/pandemics of history.