Mind your PQs – or why French toilet paper is pink!

This question popped up in my brain the other day as I was doing the weekly shop in the supermarket. There were a few packets of white toilet rolls, but all the rest were pink. And, if you’ve been to France, you’ll know that it’s not a particularly nice shade of pink.

So – why?

Well, toilet paper (commonly known as PQ here – from pécu which is short for papier cul ie bum paper) goes back to sixth century China. However, it only became widely used in France in the 1960s! Bit of a time lag there. It had been around since the beginning of the twentieth century but was most definitely a luxury item. Newspaper was used, and then for a time, that dreadful shiny stuff that was no good at all if you remember!

At one time, toilet paper was made from virgin wood pulp. The WWF protested against this, and these days more recycled pulp is used. The vast majority of the toilet roll tubes are made from recycled paper. Recycled paper pulp tends to be a grotty grey so either needs more bleaching or dyeing a stronger colour to make it more appealing.

Pink is just a regional preference, although I can’t find out who started the craze for this colour in France. The idea behind coloured toilet paper was to make it match the décor in the bathroom. I cannot believe for a moment that anyone would paint their smallest room Grotesque Pink so I’m not convinced that rule holds for France. Germans prefer paper with motifs I’m told, Americans plain white.

As often happens, the French are going against the general grain by sticking to dyed toilet paper when the worldwide trend is for white paper. It has been suggested that dyes cause irritation in sensitive areas, and of course there are the environmental concerns. Whether the pink dye is better than the bleaching that produces white toilet roll is debatable. It’s more expenisive though. Sadly, unbleached toilet roll is not readily available anywhere since apparently consumers don’t like its brown tinge. Ironic really.

Toilet paper is evolving. There are now scented papers, 3 and 4 ply papers, quilted, even glow-in-the-dark paper. But the pace of evolution is slower here. We still like our pink PQ.

0 Replies to “Mind your PQs – or why French toilet paper is pink!”

  1. I can’t bear dyed toilet paper. I would prefer to buy unbleached, but it is virtually unobtainable in France. So I stick to white. Unfortunately, I unwittingly bought some which was scented as well. I loathe that artificial perfume, which the French also put in scented candles.

    If you do find a national chain that sells unbleached, please let me know.


    1. I certainly will, but Creuse loves its pink paper still. I’ve bought scented by mistake once or twice too, ghastly stuff. Who thinks these things up?
      Bien cordialement,

  2. That shiny toilet paper was made by Jeyes, I believe and I encountered it at my grandparents house (where we lived for a while) back in the 60s. I certainly didn’t like it and couldn’t really understand it as it clearly didn’t work, not at all like the soft tissue paper we had at home. I’ve since heard it referred to as “John Wayne toilet paper”. Why? ‘Cos is rough, tough and don’ take no shit from no-one !

    Sorry for the late reply to your post rammer query. I bought ours (which I thoroughly recommend) from Drivall in the UK. Too heavy to deliver here, it was delivered to some friends in England who were due to come and visit us. http://www.drivall.com/fencingtools/fencingpostdriver.htm

    1. I love the John Wayne toilet paper description! Hadn’t heard that before, but boy, is it spot on!
      Thanks re the slammer – have sent the link to the muscley one in the partnership. I’m the superviser. Hope you’re getting the good weather in your part of France – looks like spring might nearly be here.
      Best wishes, Steph

  3. Here recycled loo roll is quite big – the Swiss are very into recycling everything – but it doesn’t have a brown tinge and looks just like common or garden loo roll on the lower end of the price scale. Otherwise we’re big into motifs – I rather like the one with daisies and we get Santas at Christmas. There aren’t a whole lot of colours – last time I looked just white or peach? Why peach, I wonder? It’s not unpleasant and certainly better than French pink!! You could probably write a Phd on international bottom wiping practices!!

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