Walmart Wipes Up Competition in Toilet Paper Showdown

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Consumers tend to be pretty particular when it comes to an item that ultimately gets flushed away. Survey results published last summer indicate that we’re more brand-sensitive regarding toilet paper than with banks, motor oil, DVD players, and other products. And which brand of TP do consumers rate the softest, strongest, and overall best?

Well, the particular consumers at Consumer Reports have just named White Cloud, a Walmart brand, as the top toilet paper in the nation.

Not only did White Cloud’s 3-Ply Ultra Soft and Thick toilet paper get the highest overall ratings of 25 different products, it’s also won as CR‘s Best Buy, costing 25¢ per 100 sheets. By comparison, the No. 2-rated toilet paper, Quilted Northen Ultra Plush, costs 38¢ per 100 sheets, and Charmin Ultra Soft and Ultra Strong (ranking #6 and #18, respectively) each go for 41¢ per 100 sheets. Another roll of White Cloud, Soft and Thick, came in fourth in the ratings and costs just 19¢ per 100 sheets. And if there was an award for decent TP at a cheap price, it’d go to Kirkland Signature, the Costco brand, which runs 12¢ per 100 sheets.

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Walmart’s White Cloud is described as “soft, strong, and an exceptional value” by Consumer Reports. Reviewers have less complimentary things to say about “green” TP. Toilet paper promoted as environmentally friendly tended to do poorly in tests because they were rough and not particularly strong. There’s also some skepticism regarding just how “green” these products are, leading CR to pass along the advice:

If a product that’s eco-friendly is your top requirement, look for toilet paper that’s made not just from recycled content or trees from responsibly managed forests but from fibers recovered from paper that would otherwise end up in a landfill or incinerator. And avoid recycled products that have been bleached white using chlorine, since that can pollute air and water.

Shoppers should also look carefully at product claims such as Charmin’s “biggest pack ever,” which CR discovered actually had 12% fewer sheets than a previous package. The shrinking and repackaging of products has been going on for years, of course, with everything from ice cream to orange juice, potato chips to cookies. And toilet paper: A CR reader noticed in 2010, for instance, that Northern’s TP had shrunk from 4.5 x 4 inches to 4 x 4 inches, and newer rolls came with 286 sheets, compared to 300 in the past.

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It’s that sort of dirty trick that rubs many consumers the wrong way.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.