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/ Source: TODAY
By Tracy Saelinger

At TODAY we take care to recommend items we hope you’ll enjoy! Just so you know, TODAY may get a small share of the revenue.Using interviews with specialists, online reviews and personal experience, TODAY editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! TODAY does have affiliate relationships with various online retailers. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.

Toilet paper. Everyone uses it, yet most of us automatically buy the same toilet paper month after month, without giving it much thought. So, we recently got to wondering: What would a germ expert do?

We turned to a bonafide germ expert, Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., a professor and program director at the University of Arizona, who specializes in public health research, and picked her brain on what you should be thinking about when you buy — and use — toilet paper.

Here's what we learned: It's all about the barrier.

When it comes to toilet paper, the thicker the barrier, the better.Getty Images stock

How to choose the best toilet paper

"Theoretically, the more barrier you have between your hands and the contamination you're wiping will have an impact on reducing the chance of germs getting on your hands," Reynolds told TODAY. "So, in that sense, two-ply is better. But, you could also use one-ply — you'd just have to use more."

She does caution, though: "It takes a lot to make a complete barrier, so theoretically, you can't use enough toilet paper to block everything that might be present."

Folks, it's time to buy toilet paper in bulk.

Even if you folded the toilet paper 10 times, Reynolds added, the "toilet paper itself is probably contaminated" from germs in the bathroom. (Yikes!)

Even with the best toilet paper: Wash your hands

No matter what kind of ply you use, you should also probably pick up some anti-bacterial soap. You have to really scrub those hands: "You can’t avoid washing your hands if you want to avoid contamination," Reynolds said.

Choose the toilet paper you like best

If you're concerned about sustainability: Most toilet paper nowadays is designed to biodegrade, Reynolds noted, though some companies may use more sustainable manufacturing processes than others.

At the end of the day, "it's really a personal preference," Reynolds said. "Aesthetically, what you like, in terms of scents and softness."

Point taken! Since a strong barrier can't hurt, we took Reynolds' advice to heart, and set out to find some of the thickest toilet paper out there. Who knew 3-ply existed?!

Here are some of the thickest, strongest, and best-reviewed we found:

The best toilet paper, according to guidance from our expert

  • 1. Quilted Northern Ultra Plush Toilet Paper, $26 for 24 supreme rolls, Amazon

This three-ply toilet paper earned enthusiastic — and hilarious — reviews ... more than 7,290 of them! One called it "the Cadillac of TP." Another: "My bum felt like it was on a cloud." Most importantly, people rave about how it doesn't shred (an important consideration for households with pets and kids). It is also biodegradable, according to the company, and is made in accordance to standards of the Sustainable Forest Initiative. One tip: The supreme roll is too large for some TP dispensers, reviewers noted, so if you have the same issue, you may want to try the double-roll size.

  • 2. Charmin Ultra Strong Clean Touch Toilet Paper, $30 for 24 family mega rolls, Amazon

This classic, two-ply workhorse gets solid Amazon reviews for its strength: "It doesn't fall apart when the going gets tough," one reviewer said. Charmin calls this version its "strongest two-ply toilet paper" with "washcloth-like cleaning and strength," and claims it is septic-safe. Again, if the mega roll is too large for your dispenser, you may want to try the double-roll size.

  • 3. Cottonelle Ultra Clean Care Toilet Paper, $25 for 36 family rolls, Amazon

If you prefer a ripple design to a quilt, then Cottonelle may be for you — the company says its Wavy CleanRipple texture "removes more at once" than the "leading brand." It's also septic-safe and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council for its environment-friendliness. It's one-ply, but don't let that scare you off: Reviewers say "the toilet doesn't get plugged up nearly as often," with it, and it is "very soft, yet strong." And, perhaps the highest praise: "It works like in the commercial."

For more expert recommended items, check out: