PNG images: Toilet Paper

Toilet paper is a tissue paper product people primarily use to clean the anus and surrounding area of fecal material after defecation and by women for cleaning the perineal area of urine after urination and other bodily fluid releases. It also acts as a layer of protection for the hands during these processes. It is sold as a long strip of perforated paper wrapped around a paperboard core for storage in a dispenser near a toilet. Most modern toilet paper in the developed world is designed to decompose in septic tanks, whereas some other bathroom and facial tissues are not. Toilet paper comes in various plies or layers of thickness, from one-ply all the way up to six-ply, meaning that it is either a single sheet or multiple sheets placed back-to-back to make it thicker, stronger and more absorbent.

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During the early 14th century, it was recorded that in modern-day Zhejiang province alone there was an annual manufacturing of toilet paper amounting in ten million packages of 1,000 to 10,000 sheets of toilet paper each. During the Ming dynasty (1368–1644 AD), it was recorded in 1393 that an annual supply of 720,000 sheets of toilet paper (two by three feet in size) were produced for the general use of the imperial court at the capital of Nanjing. From the records of the Imperial Bureau of Supplies of that same year, it was also recorded that for the Hongwu Emperor's imperial family alone, there were 15,000 sheets of special soft-fabric toilet paper made, and each sheet of toilet paper was even perfumed.

Elsewhere, wealthy people wiped themselves with wool, lace or hemp, while less wealthy people used their hand when defecating into rivers, or cleaned themselves with various materials such as rags, wood shavings, leaves, grass, hay, stone, sand, moss, water, snow, maize, ferns, many plant husks, fruit skins, or seashells, and corncobs, depending upon the country and weather conditions or social customs. In Ancient Rome, a sponge on a stick was commonly used, and, after use, placed back in a pail of vinegar. Several talmudic sources indicating ancient Jewish practice refer to the use of small pebbles, often carried in a special bag, and also to the use of dry grass and of the smooth edges of broken pottery jugs (e.g., Shabbat 81a, 82a, Yevamot 59b). These are all cited in the classic Biblical and Talmudic Medicine by the German physician Julius Preuss (Eng. trans. Sanhedrin Press, 1978).

 

The 16th-century French satirical writer François Rabelais, in Chapter XIII of Book 1 of his novel sequence Gargantua and Pantagruel, has his character Gargantua investigate a great number of ways of cleansing oneself after defecating. Gargantua dismisses the use of paper as ineffective, rhyming that: "Who his foul tail with paper wipes, Shall at his ballocks leave some chips." (Sir Thomas Urquhart's 1653 English translation). He concludes that "the neck of a goose, that is well downed" provides an optimum cleansing medium.

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