Associated Press
Kleenex tissues, a product of Kimberly Clark, sits on a shelf Monday, Oct., 25, 2010 in Atlanta.

Tissue paper manufacturers are now claiming that less is more. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal by Serena Ng, Kimberly-Clark Corp. introduced new Kleenex tissues that are 15 percent "bulkier" but come in boxes that have 13 percent fewer sheets.

Kimberly-Clark CFO Mark Buthman told the Wall Street Journal the improvement in the company's Kleenex and Cottonelle branded tissues balances out the fewer sheets in the boxes. The products are "providing consumers with better, stronger, tissue so you need fewer sheets to get the job done," he said.

"A P&G spokeswoman said upgrades to Charmin tissue make it thicker, softer or more absorbent," Ng wrote. "Georgia Pacific also claimed product improvements. Shrunken package contents often go unnoticed."

While consumers may not notice the fewer tissues, tissue and toilet paper manufacturers are noticing a lot about how people use their products. In another Wall Street Journal article by Ng, she lists, among other things, how Kimberly-Clark calculated how people use toilet paper. Apparently, the average number of sheets used per bathroom visit is nine, the average sheets used for "number one" is 6.6 and the average for "number two" is 13 to 14.

It isn't clear how accurate this information is, since it comes from a survey of 3,178 people and not by direct observation (thank goodness).

Ng also provided a link to where blogger Robert Atkins recommends keeping track of your own toilet paper sheet usage, so you can estimate how much paper to buy for and ration out during "serious hard times."

Perhaps, if the "bulking" trend continues, toilet paper companies may make Sheryl Crow's 2007 wish come true: "I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting. Now, I don't want to rob any law-abiding American of his or her God-given rights, but I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required."

Tissues, unlike toilet paper, still have a good alternative regardless of how much the companies "bulk up" the sheets: handkerchiefs.

According to Sydney, Australia's Green Lifestyle Magazine, handkerchiefs are better for the environment because they are reusable at least 520 times. Even with the cleaning required at each use, they use less water over the complete manufacturing-and-use cycle. Tissues require more energy to create and create more waste.

Green Lifestyle recommends buying vintage hankies to help the environment. This way, people can also blow their nose where grandpa blew his nose.

ABC Health & Wellbeing Australian Broadcasting Corp. notes, however, that tissues during a consumer's cold or other nose irritation may be more hygienic than handkerchiefs — if you throw them away right away. This hygienic advantage is only for other people, however. "Of course, touching your own used tissue or hanky won't affect you, as you already have (an infectious) virus," the article reports.

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