How much toilet paper you really need for a coronavirus quarantine

The U.S. is a few weeks into the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and by now people are starting to act like we're living in some kind of post-apocalyptic Mad Max world, only instead of running low on water or gas (as was the scenario in the pre-Fury Road movies), we now live in a world where hoarders with the most hand sanitizer, oat milk, and toilet paper are at the top of the heap.

While this panic-buying is evidently fueled by a shortage mentality that, in fact, creates the scarcity it seeks to avert, the fact is, even if you were to come down with coronavirus, it is not a gastrointestinal ailment. Nor do coronavirus symptoms typically involve runny noses, so suffering from the virus itself should not increase your need for toilet paper or any other paper product. And should you, ill or otherwise, be affected by a quarantine — well, you're probably looking at about two weeks. Therefore, all the toilet paper you'll be needing to get through this crisis is just the same amount you would ordinarily use in any two-week period. The question is: How much toilet paper does that really amount to?

A look at the toilet paper numbers

In case you're too panicked to remember how long a roll of toilet paper usually lasts you, luckily the kind folks at VICE have crunched the data on how much paper it'll take to cover our butts, so to speak. While toilet paper rolls and sheet counts may vary, for the sake of this estimate 500-sheet rolls of two-ply paper were used.

It was first necessary to establish the average amount of "events" per week. According to a Scandinavian survey, it turns out that the average number of number twos is about 1.714 per day (what .714 of a poop is doesn't bear imagining). As men tend to use toilet paper only for this purpose, that means a man will need to use toilet paper, oh, let's say 14 times per week (12 poos, plus a little extra for good luck). Women also need it for peeing, which they do on average of seven times per day. 7 x 7 = 49, plus 12 for that other thing (since women poo, too) = 61, plus one more just because = 62 toilet paper events per woman per week.

The number of toilet paper rolls that will see you through coronavirus quarantine

So how many sheets of toilet paper does each "event" require? Your mileage may vary, and most likely will from one event to the next, but no less an authority than the Massachusetts Institute of Technology determined that the average number of sheets per use is 8.6. Back to the calculator: men need 120.4 sheets per week, while women need 533.2. This means that for a two-week quarantine, a man will be good to go with a single 500-sheet roll, but a woman may require just over two rolls. (Maybe she could buy two, then get a man to donate what's left of his half-used roll?)

Since toilet paper is usually sold in packs of at least four rolls, one of these should certainly see you through a coronavirus quarantine in a household of one, and most likely a household of two, too. And should you wish to maximize your toilet paper supply, both a nuclear physicist and a mathematics professor have concluded that wadding the TP when you wipe is far more efficient than folding it (via the Dollar Shave Club blog).

What you can do if you actually run out of toilet paper

If you had the bad judgment to run out of toilet paper right before it became the hottest commodity since Popeye's chicken sandwich... well, that's tough. But not the end of the world, despite the post-apocalyptic scenario currently being played out at your local Walmart (most likely in the toilet paper aisle). Should the shelves be bare of TP, no need to track down a poo paper scalper and pay exorbitant prices. You could first check the Kleenex aisle — if there's any left in stock, snag a few boxes of this, since your bum will never know the difference.

Even if the Kleenex sells out, though, there are still numerous toilet paper alternatives to turn to in the event of an emergency. There may no longer be a Sears Roebuck catalog that can allow you to recreate the whole old-timey outhouse experience, but recyclers, rejoice! At long last you can finally put all that junk mail and those mile-long CVS receipts to good use.