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January 11, 2008 12:37 PM   Subscribe

You walk into a public toilet stall. There is a metal toilet paper roll holder. One of two annoying situations is happening.

Either the bottom toilet roll is used up and the top toilet roll is still in its storage area.

Or the top roll is down and the bottom "roll" (even if it's just the cardboard tube) has not been removed, and the drag the bottom roll puts on the top roll causes the paper to break after one or two squares comes out.

It's a small annoyance, but a small annoyance I've had with these things for most of my life. Somewhere in the great Mefi User Database, there must be someone who just happened to somewhere along the line figure out the way to make these public metal toilet paper dispensers sing.

(Well, not literally.)

Any takers?

Bonus question: anyone develop a surefire way of preserving one's privacy when in a toilet stall where the door closes but won't lock?

Go ahead and fire all snark cannons for asking the question — but fess up, the answers'd be handy to you, too.
posted by WCityMike to Grab Bag (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
To keep the door shut, carry a golfing umbrella.
posted by Solomon at 12:40 PM on January 11, 2008

You put your knee against the door if it won't lock. Not too much pressure and not too little.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:43 PM on January 11, 2008

Oh and as for the paper, pulling it sloooowwwly helps.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:43 PM on January 11, 2008

I only have an answer to the bonus question. In some non-locking door situations (especially where the door tends to just swing free) I've taken a handful of t.p. and wadded it up, then basically shoved it into the gap between the door and the frame, or around the latch, so that the paper acts as a door jamb. Since people tend to be tentative about opening a closed stall door, it usually provides enough resistance to stop them from coming in until I can say "occupied".
posted by otolith at 12:49 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Um. You remove the core of the bottom roll from the dispenser. And then you push the top roll down. And then you use it.

I mean. Seriously. Is this for real?
posted by chrismear at 12:52 PM on January 11, 2008

My workplace has plastic (not metal) Cormatic dispensers. If the bottom roll is exhausted, pushing the empty roll down & in on triggers a mechanism that causes the next roll to descend & pushes the old, empty roll out of the way.

Can't help you with the second problem, but at least now you have access to some small amount of toilet paper.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:53 PM on January 11, 2008

And then you push the top roll down.

My understanding is that the top of the holder is locked to prevent the rolls being nicked. I think if it's really jammed in you're probably screwed.

The problem of the top roll pushing down on the bottom one too hard can sometimes be resolved by pushing upwards on the bottom roll, causing the top one to shift away from it slightly.
posted by teleskiving at 1:00 PM on January 11, 2008

If alone in the bathroom, I have found the "kick malfunctioning dispenser until the cover comes off" technique to be effective.
posted by qldaddy at 1:15 PM on January 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

In the ones here at work, when the bottom roll is finished, you push it back and the top roll drops down. Most of the time it drops right onto the finished roll and acts as described, but I've found that if you push up on it slightly and push the finished roll back, there's a little latch that's supposed to hold it just high enough.

Now there's a great post to add to my online identity's history.
posted by advicepig at 1:15 PM on January 11, 2008

Response by poster: > Um. You remove the core of the bottom roll from the dispenser. And then you push the top roll down. And then you use it. I mean. Seriously. Is this for real?

I mean. Seriously. Yes, it is for real. With all of the dispensers I've run into, there's been no way by which you could remove the core of the bottom roll from the dispenser; it was not easily removable. Sometimes I would have luck ripping the cardboard tube off if I could get a piece of the cardboard going, but even then, the spindle upon which the roll rested was still there. Similarly, the top roll often is hidden behind a metal door and does not automatically come down.
posted by WCityMike at 1:21 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

I always have a packet of tissues on me for toilet paper emergencies. But the only solution I've found for the door thing is to try a different stall.
posted by happyturtle at 1:25 PM on January 11, 2008

At a place I used to work if you put the rolls on one way (paper coming off the top on the wall side, IMS) you would get the "one square at a time" issue, but if you put them the other way you would not. Not that it helps you as a, um, consumer of toilet paper as opposed to a provider, but still.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:25 PM on January 11, 2008

The tips for getting the roll out work. To indicate you're in the stall, simply dangle something of inconsequential value over the door. People will get the message.
posted by acoutu at 1:34 PM on January 11, 2008

I reach up all ins, and turn the top roll manually, like a cat does when it's playing with the toilet paper roll. That's not a particularly elegant solution, but then, I'm not particularly elegant when I'm pooping, so. There we are.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:34 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Virtually every toilet paper dispenser I've ever encountered uses the same "lock" (same goes for paper towel dispensers) which features a vertical keyhole in a free spinning metal cylinder. While this looks like a real lock, it disguises a simple lever mechanism. Insert a screwdriver, scissor blade, small swiss army knife blade, nail file, etc., and turn. The dispenser will unlock and allow you to freely access the trove of toilet paper within.
posted by justkevin at 1:48 PM on January 11, 2008

I am also of the "manually open malfunctioning toilet paper dispenser" persuasion.

I'm convinced, should that I lead even a moderately decent life, I will be greeted at God's great Golden Gates by St. Peter and a raucous mob of frustrated custodians.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:51 PM on January 11, 2008

I have found the "kick malfunctioning dispenser until the cover comes off" technique to be effective.

Hollering helps. And this usually takes care of problem number 2 because everyone will leave the bathroom entirely.

Speaking as someone who deals with the TP issue every time I use a restroom, public or otherwise (why are there not more women in this thread?) I feel confident saying that your dataset is not normal. Does this always happen at work or someplace you are aften at? If so, BYOP.

Carry a leatherman/multitool for getting rid of cardboard tubes. I do not have trouble with cardboard tubes even without tools, so I'm not sure where these supertubes are that you are encountering. I have almost never seen a TP dispenser where the second roll was locked away and totally inaccessible except by janitoral intervention.
posted by jessamyn at 1:58 PM on January 11, 2008

I will interject a point that I have noted over the years. The toilet paper barons have devised numerous designs of toilet paper dispensers for public bathrooms over the years. Most of them share two characteristics. They are very helpful to the owner of the establishment (easy to refill) and they are extremely user-hostile for those who use the stalls.

Most of the user-hostility would be ameliorated if the contractor installing the stall would do one thing: install the damn thing above the grab bar, rather than below.
posted by megatherium at 2:47 PM on January 11, 2008

Yeah, upon reflection the best strategy I can think of for your first question is to not notice there is a problem with the dispenser until you are in the middle of business, then notice and start muttering "god-damn it" under your breath. After you've muttered for a bit, you're going to want to pound on the dispenser mechanism until you hurt your pinky. Then suck it up and wipe with little pieces of those wax-paper seat covers that you find in many stalls, which, by virtue of being stiff and sharp-edged, will give you paper cuts on parts of your anatomy that you will, in all likelihood, never see and wish you never knew existed. Exit scowling.
posted by otolith at 3:09 PM on January 11, 2008

For the stall locking problem, I was always disappointed this didn't win on American Inventor. Alas, they are not available yet. Has anyone tried substituting a claw hair clip?
posted by Gable Oak at 3:26 PM on January 11, 2008

Um. You remove the core of the bottom roll from the dispenser. And then you push the top roll down. And then you use it.

Do you honestly think that if this were the case, the question would have been asked?
posted by ORthey at 3:51 PM on January 11, 2008

(why are there not more women in this thread?)

You rang? Keeping door shut (a constant problem on a college campus where KidsTheseDays keep busting the locks and the cheap-ass administration is lax about fixing them) -- lean forward and press fingertips of non-dominant hand against door. Or if you still feel insecure or that angle isn't, um, conducive to helping with the activity you're engaging in [hey, I'm a broad; what do I know from boyzone logistics?], then stick a foot up against the door. I vary it depending on mood and astrological alignments.

As for the TP, if you were raised not to kick or holler at other people's property and don't have a Swiss Army what-have-you, then you just grind your teeth, roll your eyes, and pull off 1-2 sheets at a time from that oh-so-distant top roll until you amass a stack of single sheets thick enough to do the job without grossing you out. Think of this as an exercise in cultivating non-attachment to the corrupting creature comforts of this vale of tears.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:38 PM on January 11, 2008

Small plastic or wood wedges will almost always hold a stall door shut. And they're small enough to carry in a pocket. Hardware stores sell them, sometimes in a small container right by the cash registers.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 5:03 PM on January 11, 2008


Okay, I gave this a great deal of thought, because first I felt that a Chip Clip would work well, but I didn't think they would open wide enough to use on bathroom doors (and probably not some hair clips, either).

So I thought about it, and I remembered how irritating it was when I baby-proofed our house for the kids, and how strong some of those kid safety products were. And I found THIS, which I think it would be a good, portable solution for bathroom doors that don't lock (especially the ones that don't go all the way to the floor).

You just slide it on the edges of the door and frame (rather like the American Inventor idea, though she hasn't been able to get her product to market), and then tighten the clamp! Voila!
posted by misha at 5:52 PM on January 11, 2008

Privacy is overrated - just leave the door open, and lock eyes with anyone who stops to watch. I bet they blink first.
posted by davey_darling at 6:10 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Carry a Leatherman. Use it to disassemble and correct the entire world if it offends you. In Vermont, where I live, they won't even let you in unless you have one. Don't take it to the airport.
posted by FauxScot at 5:47 AM on January 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks thus far for the useful advice. I wanted to interject that evidently one solution regarding getting rid of used-up cardboard toilet rolls is to give them a briefcase and send them to work.
posted by WCityMike at 10:11 AM on January 12, 2008

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