Listen up: most popular toilet paper brands are not vegan! Surprising, right? While a common assumption is that toilet paper is entirely plant based, many of the leading name brands are not cruelty-free and include animal derived ingredients.
When formulating conventional toilet paper, manufacturers were faced with a tricky situation: how do you create a soft and strong tissue that does the job, but degrades in water? Their solution was to integrate animal-derived gelatin. Today, gelatin, stearic acid and stearic acid derivatives are the most common animal-based ingredients. They are typically made from beef and pork. Once you start looking out for them, you’ll find they are used in many food or personal care products. All three serve as “glue” in holding together other ingredients in all sorts of edible products like confections, desserts and pharmaceutical pills. In the case of toilet paper, the “glue” is needed to keep the paper fibers together.
Cruelty-free is a term used to describe practices around the product development cycle. It can be applicable to grocery items, cosmetics or cleaning supplies. Essentially, cruelty-free brands do not engage in animal-testing before distributing their products to stores. Softening agents used by toilet paper companies to produce their tissue, such as bleach and formaldehyde, may be tested on animals for skin-safety.
For years, scientists have made the generalization that animals will respond in the same way to medicines and chemicals as humans. This has led to millions of animals being tested on per year, especially in biomedical research, but also with cosmetics and other products. Within the different testing facilities, animals are exposed to harsh ingredients and chemicals that can lead to chronic pain, itchiness, mutations, and even death. On top of this, the generalization that animals are similar to humans is more often proven false; animal’s biological systems differ in many ways and are therefore proven to be an ineffective practice for testing new products.
It is crucial to remember that while a product may be cruelty-free, it may be owned by a larger corporation that does support animal testing. This includes funding scientists to conduct research on ingredients using animals, or donating to other groups that participate in animal testing. If you are unclear about whether a product is cruelty-free or not, your best option is to choose something that is guaranteed to be.
Gelatin is often included in toilet paper formulas because it acts as a binding agent for the fibers in the paper. Many name brands will not directly come out and say whether or not they use animal material in their toilet paper ingredients, but this is often because they do. In order to guide you in making cruelty-free purchases, we have included a few companies that do not have guaranteed vegan products:
Kimberly-Clark: The parent company of toilet paper brands such as Scott and Cottonelle. This company still participates in animal testing and does not advertise their products as being vegan or cruelty-free.
Charmin: Owned by Procter & Gamble who still test on animals. Customers report them saying they “may” include animal derivative material in their products.
These companies are just a few examples of why it is important to be aware of where you are buying from, and ultimately, the sourcing practices you are supporting. Despite this, doing research before purchasing from a new brand is hard to do because this type of information is difficult to access.