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Toilet paper is something that most of us take for granted nowadays, as it is an essential item that we use every single day of our lives, whenever we go to the toilet.
It is just another item on the regular shopping list, and there are so many types of toilet paper that you can even have a favorite brand or type, to suit your preferences and needs.
But…what happens when there is no toilet paper? Maybe there is a shortage or an emergency of some sort. Or maybe you’re stuck out in the wild, and you don’t happen to have toilet paper on you.
The fact remains, you might find yourself in a situation in which you have no toilet paper, and yet you still have to relieve yourself. So what alternatives can you use?
To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the best alternatives to toilet paper that you can use at any given moment, depending on the emergency or situation you are in.
Plus we’ll talk about a few other interesting things to do with toilet paper. Let’s get right into it!
What Did People Use Before Toilet Paper Was Invented?
So…nowadays people can’t imagine themselves making do without toilet paper. And yet, toilet paper has not always been a thing.
In fact, modern toilet paper, as we know it, was not invented until 1857, by Joseph Gayetty in the United States. It’s quite recent if you think about it. And before that, people simply used other things.
The Romans, for example, used a sponge that was attached to one end of a stick, and as toilets were public, this was shared between…everybody. Kind of disgusting, but it did the job!
Plus it was left in a bucket full of saltwater after every use, so that it would be “disinfected” and ready for the next user.
Ancient Jews, on the other hand, would use a small bag full of pebbles, dry grass, or even smooth edges of broken pottery! Anything to scoop the buttocks clean! Vikings, meanwhile, used discarded pieces of sheep wool, and Eskimos are known for using tundra moss, or handfuls of snow.
And sure, snow will be cold, but it’s essentially just solidified water, so it will definitely be good for cleaning yourself!
Colonial Americans used corn cobs, and pretty much anything they had nearby. And the French, refined as they are, invented the bidet, which is still found in most European homes nowadays!
Honestly? People simply used whatever they could. Those that were rich could spare some linen or fabric, and those that were poor would sometimes simply use their hands, and then find a water source.
Around the world, different cultures have used different methods during different time periods, and the variety is astounding.
It’s kind of fascinating to think about it really, as nowadays almost everyone uses toilet paper!
That being said, there are times in which the supply of toilet paper can break down, and people are left without for some time. For example, in 1973, there was a huge toilet paper shortage.
The reason? A TV host joked about there being a shortage of toilet paper in the United States, so over 20 million viewers rushed to go buy as much toilet paper as they could, fearing that they would otherwise be left without. And by the next day, most stores were completely sold out on it!
This happens quite often, mass hysteria will create shortages, when there shouldn’t be, just because people will stock up out of fear, leaving other people without the possibility of accessing the supply.
What we’re trying to say is that you never know when there is going to be no toilet paper in the shop, and it might catch you unawares, and you might then be left without toilet paper for a few days.
Instead of panicking, knowing the best alternatives will put you back in control! Plus, if you’re out in the wild surviving, or traveling, it’s good to be able to make do with the resources around you!
The Best Alternatives To Toilet Paper
Okay, let’s say you’re in an emergency situation, or out in the wild, and you don’t have any toilet paper. What are the best modern-day alternatives that you can use?
Here are our top 14! (In no particular order, just use whichever you are able to, or prefer!)
1. Flannel Squares
Flannel squares, which are usually eight by eight inches in size, are one of the most popular alternatives to toilet paper and are often referred to as reusable toilet paper. They are soft and convenient to use, and once they are used, they are washed, dried, and used all over again!
The best thing? You don’t even have to buy them, you can make them yourself out of old pajamas, sheets, shirts, and similar fabrics!
Invented by the French, the bidet is something that many people in Europe have installed in their bathrooms, and it takes away the need for toilet paper. They can be a bit odd at first, but they’re actually incredibly convenient and useful.
You essentially just use them to wash with water and soap, instead of using toilet paper. (However, some still use a bit of toilet paper, to dry off after using the bidet).
Some bidets, instead of being a separate appliance within the bathroom, are installed as a device within the toilet itself, making them even more convenient and comfortable to use! Plus, they’re quite affordable!
3. Portable Bidet
A “portable bidet” is just a cleansing bottle, full of water and maybe some gentle disinfectant product safe for your skin. That way, you simply squeeze the bottle to launch some water towards your butt when you’re going to the toilet!
It can be used in bathrooms, during travel, and out in the wild! So it’s pretty convenient.
4. A Spray Bottle
A spray bottle full of water is very similar to the portable bidet alternative, and it is essentially just used by spraying water to clean yourself after using the toilet. However, depending on the spray bottle, it might not have enough force to…you know, properly clean your butt!
Washcloths are great for wiping surfaces clean, and this includes your backside. You could then wash them and reuse them, similar to the flannel squares! Alternatively, you could also just use rags, making the most out of them before you throw them out!
6. Worn Out Socks
Do you know those old socks full of holes that you no longer wear? Or the unpaired socks that are forgotten at the bottom of your draw? Well, they make for great emergency “toilet paper”.
Just dampen them, and use them to wipe! You could then either wash them or simply throw them out, depending on how many you have spare and how long you have to make do!
7. Baby Wipes
Baby wipes are an incredible alternative to toilet paper. They are great at cleaning, are soft and easy to use, and can be carried with you anywhere you need. Just make sure not to ever flush them down the toilet! Throw them in the bin after use.
8. Mullein Leaves
Better known as the cowboy toilet paper, mullein leaves grow from a wild plant that is soft.
The leaves are fuzzy, and therefore comfortable to use on your buttocks. As long as you find yourself somewhere with a good supply of these plants, you should be covered!
9. Wooly Lamb’s Ear
Nope, we are not referring to an actual lamb’s ear. Instead, Wooly Lamb’s Ear is a leaf similar to the mullein leaves, which is soft and fuzzy, as well as being absorbent and full of medicinal properties.
It is great as an alternative to toilet paper, but also great for bandaging wounds, and helping prevent infection! In fact, many people choose to grow them in their garden, just in case they are ever in an emergency and need a good supply of these leaves!
10. Large Plant Leaves
You don’t necessarily have to look out for specific fuzzy leaves. Any large plant leaf will do the job when it comes to wiping your butt. Just make sure that the type of leaf you are using is not going to cause irritation, so avoid things like poison ivy, or leaves with sharp edges and similar!
Newspapers, magazines, leaflets, old essays or exams…all of these are, at the end of the day, paper. And sure, it is not toilet paper specifically, so it’s not soft, or the most comfortable to use, but it will certainly do the job!
Oh, and pro tip? Dampen the paper before use, so that it isn’t as rough on your backside!
12. Cardboard Toilet Paper Rolls
Who hasn’t been in the situation of running out of toilet paper at the worst possible moment, and ending up with just an empty roll? Well, this isn’t that bad.
You can simply use the cardboard empty toilet paper roll! We do recommend dampening it with water first, so that it is less stiff, and a little softer!
The idea of using snow is not exactly appealing, as nobody wants a cold butt. However, when out in the wild during wintertime, the snow really is the most hygienic alternative to toilet paper! It will efficiently wipe your backside and clean it at the same time.
14. Your Hands
If there are no alternatives nearby, and you can’t think of any solution…then just use your hands. It’s disgusting, and not exactly hygienic, but it’s better than leaving your butt unwiped!
Just make sure to look for the nearest water source afterward, so that you can thoroughly wash your hands, preferably with soap.
Using Reusable Toilet Paper
The use of reusable toilet paper is increasing in popularity, as more and more people are becoming eco-conscious, and want to limit their amount of waste and consumption.
Most popularly, reusable toilet paper is just flannel squares or similar pieces of fabric that are set to one side specifically for wiping oneself in the toilet, and then thoroughly washed and dried, before they can be used again.
However, many people are skeptical about reusable toilet paper, because…isn’t it dangerous? What if the fabric isn’t properly washed? Wouldn’t you risk getting an infection or disease of some sort?
And the truth is…yes. If not washed correctly, reusable toilet paper is not going to be a good idea. But the solution is simply to make sure that you are washing it correctly so that it is safe and hygienic to keep on using!
To help you out, here are the golden rules for when washing your reusable toilet paper:
- Use a strong disinfectant. We recommend chlorine bleach or vinegar.
- When disinfecting the reusable toilet paper, take your time. Let it soak for at least 30 minutes so that all the bacteria and dirt are properly killed off.
- Dry the reusable toilet by hanging it out in the sunlight. The UV rays will further disinfect the fabric!
- It is best to have one flannel shirt for each member of the family, rather than everyone sharing the same one!
Storing Toilet Paper For Emergencies
In case you haven’t ever noticed, most people are prone to mass hysteria when emergency situations or difficult periods of time take place.
For example, if people are warned to stay at home for some time, due to a natural disaster or bad weather, or a pandemic takes place, many people will quickly panic and bulk buy “essentials”.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, many people bought massive amounts of toilet paper to store in their homes, just in case, and there was therefore a shortage of toilet paper in the supermarkets.
Now, storing a good amount of toilet paper at home, just in case there is an emergency and you can’t buy more for a while, is a good idea. But it is important to know how much you need, more or less, so that you don’t go crazy and buy out the whole supply at the supermarket!
As a general rule, people only need around 100 regular rolls of toilet paper per year (50 rolls if the toilet paper is double). Of course, women usually use more toilet paper than men, and you should allow for personal necessities.
But 100 is the average, so it really isn’t that much! Meaning, there is no need to buy that much toilet paper in the midst of an emergency situation or mass hysteria.
Ideally, we suggest you pay attention to how much toilet paper your family uses in say 3 months, and that is the amount you should buy in the case of an emergency.
As it will mean you are sufficiently stocked up for three months, in which time the emergency situation will likely be resolved, or at the very least measures will be put in place so that you can access more supplies.
Once you buy your emergency toilet paper, you have to store it correctly, so that you ensure it remains usable for when you need it.
The most important thing to remember is that toilet paper has to be kept somewhere dry, away from moisture and water of any sort. Ideally, it should also be stored somewhere cool and dark.
The problem is, of course, that toilet paper is quite bulky and takes up space, so you can’t just hide it in a spare cupboard!
One of the best ways to store toilet paper is in the bathroom itself, but on a high shelf, on top of the door, or similar. So it’s away from the floor, where it might get wet, and it’s out of reach and out of the way.
For most people, toilet paper is an essential item, used in everyday life, without which going to the toilet would be a difficult and messy affair. However, toilet paper hasn’t always existed, and not everybody in the world has access to it.
In fact, a lot of people live without toilet paper, and during emergency situations or out in the wild, it doesn’t matter what you are used to, you simply have to make do.
There are many effective alternatives to toilet paper, depending on the situation and where you are. One of the most popular, which many people now use in order to reduce their waste and consumption, is reusable toilet paper such as flannel squares or washcloths!