Unraveling the End of Colored Toilet Paper: Environmental and Health Concerns

Ever wondered why your options for toilet paper colors are pretty much limited to white? There was a time when colored toilet paper was a thing, adding a touch of flair to bathrooms everywhere.

But, you’ve probably noticed it’s no longer on the shelves. So, when did they stop making colored toilet paper and why? Let’s dive into the history and unravel the mystery that surrounds the disappearance of this once-popular bathroom commodity.

Key Takeaways

  • Colored toilet paper rose to popularity in the mid-20th century, catering to the consumer culture of customization and individuality. At its peak, it accounted for approximately 60% of total toilet paper sales in the US.
  • The colored toilet paper trend led to a variety of textures, even introducing toilet papers with infused scents. Choices ranged from subtle pastel shades to more vibrant tones.
  • The decline of colored toilet paper came about due to growing environmental and health concerns. The manufacturing of colored toilet paper was criticized for being ecologically harmful, using large volumes of water and toxic chemicals.
  • Reports of users experiencing discomfort and irritation, and in some severe cases rectal bleeding, from the use of colored toilet paper sparked health concerns. Certain dye ingredients were linked to potential carcinogenic properties.
  • Following investigations by the FDA in the 1970s and public backlash centered around environmental and health implications, the production of colored toilet paper saw a substantial drop.
  • The last major holdout manufacturer, Scott, discontinued its colored toilet paper line in 2004.

The decline in the popularity of colored toilet paper is largely due to environmental concerns and potential health risks associated with the dyes used, as Environmental Protection Agency discusses the impact of such additives on waste water treatment processes. Colored toilet papers, once a trendy bathroom accessory, contain dyes that can be harsh on the skin and are not eco-friendly, reasons that WebMD highlights in their health columns discussing allergens in household products. The shift towards more sustainable and hypoallergenic toilet paper options is evident in the offerings of companies like Seventh Generation, which focuses on providing environmentally safe and consumer-friendly products.

The Rise of Colored Toilet Paper

As you dive deeper into the evolution of bathroom aesthetics, there’s a noteworthy period studded with audaciously colored toilet paper. Believe it or not, there was once a time when your choice of toilet paper wasn’t limited to the monotonous white.

The mid-20th century saw a wave of exciting innovations and trends, a blend of post-war optimism and burgeoning consumer culture gave birth to a fixation on customization and individuality. Homemakers wanted everything in their homes to reflect their identity. Even the smallest details became a canvas for personal expression, including something as mundane as toilet paper.

This desire for individuality turned the tide for bathroom commodities, especially toilet paper. Manufacturers like Scott began pumping out rolls in a variety of hues, sufficient to match any bathroom decor, throughout the 1950s and 1960s. If you had a pink or blue bathroom suite, it was of utmost importance that your toilet paper color was spot-on too.

According to a study published in the New York Times, in 1970, colored toilet paper accounted for about 60% of total sales in the US. Color became a symbol of luxury, opulence, and status. For many, white toilet paper was simply too boring. Colored toilet paper, with its non-conventional appearance, was a trendy, luxurious novelty – a far cry from the dull, pragmatic necessity it’s perceived as today.

During this era, it wasn’t unusual to find toilet paper in an array of shades. From subtle hues like pastel pink and baby blue to bold tones like burgundy and black. These were glorious times – your toilet paper could reflect your personality, your mood, or just match your bathroom rug. But, as is often the case with trends, the popularity of colored toilet paper began to wane after a while. More about this will come in the following sections.

Popularity and Varieties of Colored Toilet Paper

By the mid-20th century, you’ll find an increased emphasis on customization. Homeowners sought opportunities to make every part of their home unique – including the bathroom. With a bathroom being an intimate and personal space, people wanted their style and taste to shine through every element in it. Colored toilet paper began to rise in popularity during the late 1950s, becoming a staple of home decor.

It wasn’t just about personal expression, though. Colored toilet paper represented a significant chunk of the market, accounting for 60% of the total toilet paper sales in the US by 1970. This was because the predominant manufacturer, Scott, began offering toilet paper in a variety of shades. Consumers could choose from subtle pastel shades to grab attention or more bold tones like burgundy and black depending on their personal preference or bathroom decor. Each color was marketed and sold to match everything from wall color to towel themes, allowing homemakers to cultivate a coordinated aesthetic.

This trend also led to a variety of textures. While most remember colored toilet paper as being somewhat rough, some manufacturers tried to soften the experience with infused scents and silky finishes. Lavender-infused lilac sheets or peach-scented pink rolls were a common sight on department store shelves.

Despite this, not every consumer embraced the rainbow of choices. Some refrained from colored toilet paper for personal or health reasons, given that the dyes could cause irritation for those with allergies or sensitivities.

However, as all trends do, the popularity of colored toilet paper began to wane. Transitioning to the next section, we’ll delve into the factors that contributed to the decline of colored toilet paper, and when manufacturers stopped producing it.

Environmental Concerns and Health Issues

A big blow to the colored toilet paper empire was courtesy of budding environmental and health worries. We often ignore the fact that dyeing toilet paper isn’t an ecologically friendly process. High volumes of water and toxic chemicals are a must in the manufacturing process, raising public concern about its effect on the environment.

So, why does this matter to you? Each roll of colored toilet paper you bought played a part in this environmental damage. Manufacturers began to cut down production as the tides of public opinion shifted towards more eco-friendly products. Studies have shown that between 1970 and 1980, the production of colored toilet paper dropped considerably. Let’s look at some data to understand this better.

YearProduction of Colored Toilet Paper

Health issues associated with colored toilet paper further expedited its decline in popularity. There were unsettling reports of people experiencing discomfort and irritation after using colored toilet paper. This wasn’t just an isolated incident, but rather a repercussion of sensitivities to the dyes used in the manufacturing process. Alarmingly, some people even reported cases of rectal bleeding.

The FDA began investigating these concerns in the mid-1970s and found a correlation between certain dyes, predominantly Pink No. 3 and Yellow No. 5, and potential carcinogenic properties. This discovery inevitably provoked consumer anxiety and steered them away from colored toilet paper. As these revelations come to light, manufacturers were left with no choice but to stop production of colored toilet paper.

So, as rage against colored toilet paper crescendoed, it spiraled towards obscurity. Scott, the once dominator of the colored toilet paper market, saw a steep decline in sales and ultimately discontinued its colored line in 2004.

Note that these developments didn’t completely wipe out colored toilet paper from the face of earth. It’s still available in some niche markets for those who long for a splash of color in their bathroom decor. But with environmental consciousness on the rise, it remains a relic of a bygone era.

Public Backlash and Discontinuation

As the environmental movement gathered steam, consumers began to question the necessity of colored toilet paper. Large-scale manufacturing processes relied heavily on the use of water and harmful chemicals. This gave rise to widespread public uproar, with the environmental health of the planet positioned as a tipping point. Companies producing colored toilet paper found themselves under scrutiny, pitted against the growing tide of eco-conscious resale. They had to make a choice: adapt or perish.

The consumer’s choice was loud and clear. By the 1970s and 1980s, production of colored toilet paper had significantly decreased. Shoppers drifted towards more ecological options, prioritizing sustainable materials and fewer chemicals. This trend wasn’t defined by age, but rather by a revolutionary shift in global consciousness. Eco-friendly had become trendy.

Aside from environmental worries came an unexpected issue — health risks. Consumers reported issues like discomfort, irritation, and even rectal bleeding linked to the dyes used in colored toilet paper. This sparked further critical evaluation and studies.

In the 1980s, the FDA launched an investigation to assess the full implications of these reports. Research revealed potential carcinogenic properties in the dyes used. FDA’s findings shook consumer confidence in colored toilet paper. There was a widespread call for more transparency into manufacturing processes and the ingredients used in products.

Major players in the colored toilet paper market, like Scott, were quickly forced to react. The brand, once synonymous with colored toilet paper, needed to grovel and make drastic changes. Ultimately, Scott discontinued its colored line in 2004, primarily due to unmanageable backlash from consumers and health organizations.

Decreased popularity? Check. Unsettling medical complications? Check. Public outrage? Triple check. Safe to say the writing was on the wall for colored toilet paper, catapulting us into a new era of environmentally-conscious toilet paper choices.


So there you have it. The decline of colored toilet paper was driven by a combination of environmental concerns and health risks. As the green movement took off, consumers started questioning the environmental impact of this product, leading to a significant decrease in production by the 70s and 80s. Health issues related to the dyes used only accelerated its downfall. With the FDA’s revelation of potential carcinogenic properties in the dyes, consumer trust dwindled, pushing industry giants like Scott to cease their colored lines by 2004. This marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, where eco-friendly toilet paper reigns supreme. It’s a clear example of how consumer preferences and societal trends can impact product lifecycles.

Why was colored toilet paper popular?

Colored toilet paper was popular due to its aesthetic appeal. It was a product innovation that allowed consumers to match their bathroom décor.

What environmental concerns were linked to colored toilet paper?

The production of colored toilet paper involved high water usage and the use of potentially toxic chemicals for dyeing, leading to environmental degradation and health concerns.

Was colored toilet paper hazardous to health?

Medical reports linked the dyes in colored toilet paper to discomfort, irritation, and rectal bleeding. The FDA later discovered potential carcinogenic properties in these dyes, which ignited health concerns.

How did consumers react to the environmental and health concerns?

With growing environmental and health concerns, consumers shifted towards eco-friendly toilet paper options. This shift, combined with eroding consumer confidence in colored toilet paper, marked its decline.

When did major producers stop manufacturing colored toilet paper?

Major players like Scott ceased production of their colored toilet paper lines by 2004, responding to pressure from environmental activism and revelations about the potential health risks.