Toilet paper is one of the last things you’d assume the grocery store would ever run out of, but back in early 2020, at the start of the pandemic (some 15 years ago, according to my brain) TP rationing was suddenly a thing. The dire bathroom situation has improved, but for anyone still wanting to carefully ration their TP supply, this custom toilet paper tracker keeps tabs on its usage.
The purpose of the device isn’t to encourage frugal wiping; by all means, the number one priority after a pit stop is to use as much TP as needed to get the job done properly. But if someone in your home is regularly reaching for a toilet plunger, there’s a good chance that over-usage is an issue, and no one’s going to volunteer to serve as your family’s toilet paper traffic cop.
The device’s creator, Vije Miller, goes into more detail about its creation on their website, but in addition to a plastic frame that appears to be 3D printed, the sheet counter is powered by an ESP8266 running NodeMCU. It relies on a pair of neodymium magnets and a hall sensor (a device that detects the presence and intensity of a magnetic field) to keep tabs on the rotation of a roll of toilet paper.
It sounds easy enough until you realise that the number of rotations doesn’t directly correlate to the number of sheets rolling off the end. Every rotation of a full roll of TP yields four sheets, on average. But when it gets down close to just the cardboard roll, that drops to just a single square per rotation. Taking that into consideration the square count isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s close enough to provide a rough idea of when toilet paper usage spikes, and who’s potentially to blame.
The person on the throne sees their TP usage stats displayed on a simple two-line LCD, but that data is also graphed and shared publicly on ThingSpeak where anyone with an internet connection and a browser can monitor the day to day TP usage in the Miller household. And you thought everyone posting their Wordle progress on Twitter was oversharing.