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Illustration: Connor Willumsen

The Battle for Your Toilet Paper Is On

Pandemic shortages gave eco-friendly brands a boost. One reason it may last: They’re figuring out softness.

Early in the pandemic, toilet paper shortages pushed weary Americans to the fringes.

Out of necessity, millions tried rolls made from recycled paper or bamboo. And what they found surprised them. These alternatives were actually soft, far from the sandpaper-ish versions they grudgingly used at their office or in a public restroom. That revelation is shaking up what had been a stable — even boring — category that racked up about $10 billion at U.S. retailers last year.