I have decided to embark on a mission to reinstate the cardboard toilet tube as a valuable educational resource.

Confusion reigns in many parts of the UK as to whether it is safe to use toilet tubes. After all, who knows what dreadful diseases and germs are being inadvertently passed on to our precious little darlings… many of whom forget to wash their hands after going to the toilet. I believe the statistic is 40% of all five-year olds. They probably have quite a robust immune system when it comes to bacteria lurking in and around a WC.

Interestingly the same paranoia does not exist when it comes to using the cardboard tubes of kitchen roll. This smacks of double standards in that there is purportedly more deadly bacteria lurking on our counter tops and chopping boards than on our toilet seats.

Mercifully some local authorities are being sensible about the matter. A quick Google search found welcome news in East Sussex circular 181/2005:

“Egg Boxes and Toilet Rolls
It has been brought to our attention that there is some confusion as whether cardboard egg boxes and toilet roll sleeves can be used in schools. The health and safety team are led to believe that these items are not being used in some establishments because of fears over contamination and possible infection.

The Health and Safety Team at East Sussex follows CLEAPSS guidance which is stated as follows: “we do not believe there is a significant problem and doubt if pupils using clean looking egg boxes or toilet roll centres will be exposed to more bacteria than in ordinary day to day living.” It is recommended that sensible precautions are taken, such as a basic visual check for contamination on the boxes or sleeves, then there is no reason why such items should not be used.”

The Health and Safety Executive are also challenging the misconceptions around the hazards of toilet rolls and egg boxes. They now have a Myth of the Month Section and this subject is raised in August 2007.

There is also a genuine health and safety reason to hang on to a toilet roll tube. A US public health website recommends using toilet tubes as a test size for toys to see whether they represent a choking hazard to very young children.

From this litigious country comes more advances in toilet tube uses. NASA have approved a scientific piece of equipment, called a densitometer, which is made from toilet tubes and very useful when undertaking science investigations outdoors. It is used to measure canopy cover in woodland. You can find out how to make one on the Globe environmental education website.

Finally, if you are a Squidoo fan, then you may have seen one of their most popular lenses is all about ways of using a toilet roll tube. It gives many innovative ideas for reusing the cardboard tube including making logs by stuffing them with shredded newspaper and germinating seedlings. This lens is well worth a look as it will inspire teachers all over the world to start their toilet tube collections once more.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

mad February 4, 2009 at 22:23

three to five seconds in the microwave (watch carefully in case!!) should be enough to zap any bugs anyway……


CreativeSTAR February 5, 2009 at 08:34

I like that suggestion! Thanks.


mad February 6, 2009 at 23:04

BUT! not polystyrene eggboxes!!! LOL


SquiggleMum April 8, 2010 at 22:23

Thanks for this info. I’ve always used all kinds of recyclable cardboard and containers with my own kids – kitchen, bathroom, whatever. When it comes to germ spreading, I don’t think toilet rolls have a major part to play! Thanks for the encouragement to continue to re-use materials with kids.


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