Why you still can't find toilet paper amid COVID-19

Finding toilet paper during the coronavirus pandemic can be like panning for gold.

While panic buying and hording has made the shortage worse, it's not the cause.

Millions of Americans are now under stay-at-home orders.

This means that they're not using the bathroom at work, school, restaurants or gyms.

These places typically buy commercial toilet paper -- a different product than what you get for your house.

Commercial toilet paper and consumer toilet paper also come from different sources.

And paper mills in general don't keep a lot of product in storage.

Toilet paper is bulky and low cost, so it's not worth the expense to hang on to inventory.

Over the years, manufacturers have created a made-to-order supply system closely orchestrated to demand.

But now demand for consumer toilet paper has skyrocketed.

While the demand for commercial toilet paper has dropped.

So why can't people just switch to commercial toilet paper?

For one thing, it can't fit. It usually comes in huge rolls, too big for most home dispensers.

For another, changing the way a commercial toilet paper business operates can take time.
And if the stay-at-home orders are lifted, then they might face a similar a problem with their commercial market.

The scenario is also playing out with other products.

Shortages have occurred with hand sanitizer, canned food products, produce and dairy and dry goods such as pasta.

Until the pandemic is over, paper mills are running nonstop to try to meet the growing demand.

One company estimates people will need 40% more than normal.

So it's very possible the shelves will continue to be sparse for months to come.