As a child I was told to take 3 squares of TP and fold them over parallel, so that they overlapped perfectly. This would be the right amount to get the job done, without breaking, and not waste excess. In the golden age of consumption, that worked well.
Fast forward 50 years. Now, while I like Ultra Strong Charmin, because it never lets me down, there are many reasons for using a less tenacious TP product. One is the 150-year-old historic plumbing in our B&B, which can’t cope with this impervious material, and we have some soft stuff meant for mobile homes that we use in there. Another reason is reducing our green environmental footprint, which means using less product, and lighter weight to boot. Some of us are budget conscious, and are trying to reduce the cost of the paper products we use – and sometimes we visit public restrooms where they have taken this to the extreme. All of these can lead to demoralizing failures in preventing critical finger penetration of what may as well be cotton candy when wet.
There is a reason for this. It is not that cellulose fibers are any weaker than they were 50 years ago. It’s that modern paper plants shoot out rolls at highway speeds, and each fiber tends to line up in the direction of the roll. The root issue is fewer fibers of course, but this is made even worse by fewer fibers going crosswise — and it’s those crosswise fibers that give tear strength. Failure mode is not so much a rupture, as it is a tear along the roll direction. It takes extra effort, and heavier gauge, to make those fibers lay so as to give crosswise strength.
The classic right-angle way to deal with this is to lay two square sheets cross-wise to each other, imitating a weave pattern. However, this is pretty much just too ridiculous a plan for most of us to get into. There is a simpler way.
Just rip off 3 sheets and fold the ends in at 60 degrees to the middle sheet. You end up with a 3-way cross ply structure that is remarkably strong. Use this and you can cope with whatever TP life gives you, and maybe think about killing fewer trees to take care of life’s little messes.