The 23 Best Alternatives to Toilet Paper

The 23 Best Alternatives to Toilet Paper

Nadia TamaraA Little Bit of Everything, Bug Out Bags, Camping, Do It Yourself, Emergency Preparedness, Hygiene, Water, Wilderness Survival 1 Comment

Homesteading and self-reliance

There may come a time when toilet paper becomes a luxury item. For those of us living in the Western part of the world, a shortage of TP probably sounds like a disaster. But have no fear! Many people have lived without it for centuries. In fact, the majority of the world doesn’t use toilet paper currently and they’re doing alright. Not to mention that it’s an extremely wasteful and environmentally unsustainable practice, especially if the whole world chose to use it.

In order to prepare for a real disaster, we have to remember what our most important needs are. Our priorities should be our health and nutrition. Proper hygiene goes hand-in-hand with that.

Going number one and number two is not optional so being prepared in this regard is vital.

There are many items you can use in place of toilet paper and I’m sure you’d get very creative if your resources were cut short. Let’s discuss some of the best alternatives!

What can be used instead of toilet paper?

Water-based products

Water is one of the best alternatives to TP but it’s super important that you first make sure the water you’re using isn’t contaminated. Water-related illnesses represent the world’s leading cause of death, according to the World Health Organization. Although the majority of those affected are in developing countries, water-borne diseases are common worldwide. In a “beep hits the fan” scenario, water can easily be contaminated through sewage backup and/or flooding.

The bidet is one of the most popular plumbing fixtures and toilet attachments used in many countries throughout the world. It hasn’t become popular in the United States for some reason, but it is indeed one of the cleanest methods of washing your bum. Many of those who get used to bidets say they will never go back to using toilet paper.

If a bidet is not an option for your home (or you’re out in the wilderness), you can fill up a water bottle and cut a small hole in the lid. Squeeze the bottle to make a pressurized stream to clean yourself well. Consider adding a couple of drops of gentle essential oils to make it smell more pleasant- just don’t use anything minty like peppermint or tea tree oil.

Water can be in short supply during an emergency. You may have to prioritize it for cooking and drinking and learn to recycle it for sanitation or use other resources.

In any case, if you have clean water available it may be one of your best options but I highly encourage you to have a back-up plan.

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Paper-based products

This is a neat invention! These paper coins are lightweight and can be reconstituted with 1 tablespoon of any liquid (preferably water). They will instantly grow into a wipe which you can bury afterward since they are biodegradable. If you buy them in bulk, you can get a great deal. Store some of these in your Bug Out and Bug In Kits, keep some in your car and your hiking backpack.

Coffee filters not only work extremely well, but they’re also cheap and large quantities can be stored in small spaces.

More and more I’m seeing environmentally-friendly companies wrap their toilet paper rolls in tissue paper instead of a plastic wrap. Save these papers as an alternative if the TP runs out. It might be a little scratchy but it works! Don’t flush it though.

If you made it to the end of the roll, your saving grace will be the cardboard tube. Try to thin it out a bit and soak it in water for a second to soften it up.

Those old receipts in your wallet might save you from a sticky situation…you just never know! [You can thank CVS later!]

During the Depression, it was common for people to use the Sears Catalog as a TP alternative. Newspapers, old phone books (do people still have those?) or any paper, will work best if it’s first soaked up a bit in water- it’ll be softer that way! It might leave your bum with an ink stain but it’ll do the job regardless. Glossy paper will not work.

Funny enough, an Australian newspaper printed extra sheets in response to the toilet paper shortage in March 2020.

Paper towels, napkins, and Kleenex tissues are a great option for TP. It’s not a cost-effective substitute (nor environmentally friendly) but it’s absorbent enough for a quick alternative. I recommend keeping pocket tissues in your Go-Bag and purse or car. They serve multiple uses and not just for the bathroom.

Cotton-based products

Female sanitary napkins are usually thick, highly absorbent, and made from cotton that is gentle to the skin. Don’t ever flush these down the toilet.

Wet wipes, although not always made from cotton, are one of my favorite alternatives to TP. In the same way that they thoroughly clean a baby’s bottom, they can be used to sanitize yours. They shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet but they have multiple uses that make it a worthy item to keep in your emergency kit for disaster scenarios. If they’re stored for too long and end up drying out, you can reconstitute their moisture by adding a little bit of boiling water.

    This isn’t limited to cotton-only fabrics, even though cotton is one of the best materials for cleaning your behind. Family cloths are becoming more popular among environmental enthusiasts. It’s also a budget-friendly option if you have the means to run the washing machine more often. This alternative TP solution can be made from old rags, towels, ripped clothes, old socks, bed sheets, flannel, leftover quilt fabric pieces…you name it!

    If you choose to try this out, keep the following recommendations in mind:

      • If several people will be using the same cloths, use a different color for each person. Just like you wouldn’t share your underwear with anyone else, don’t share your toilet cloth either.

      • Use different cloth colors for pee and fecal matter. Keeping the towels separated for each purpose is a good idea.

      • Keep the dirty cloths in a sealed container next to the toilet. You should add water with vinegar, baking soda, or a few drops of bleach to the container and let them soak prior to washing them.

      13. SKOY CLOTH 
      The Skoy cloth is simply a piece of highly absorbent fabric. It’s made from cotton and plant cellulose. It’s durable yet biodegradable. It comes in many colors and can be a great alternative to toilet paper. Find out more here.

        Nature-based options

        Nature offers many options for substituting toilet paper, but keep in mind that animals and bugs also inhabit the land. You should always inspect all plant material for insect eggs and other substances found in nature that could irritate or disturb your nether regions. 

        14. LEAVES
        Before you pick a random leaf from the wild, make sure you properly identify it to make sure it’s not poisonous. If the plant isn’t poisonous but is growing near a poisonous one, steer clear. If you can’t properly identify the plant, it’s better to find something else. Note that the plants with fuzzy leaves can cause irritation to those who have sensitive skin. Some of the best plants to use are: banana leaves (they’re big, soft and smooth), banana peels, sage leaves (they’re fragrant and soft), maple leaves, cottonwood leaves, large-leaved aster, lamb’s ear (this plant is also used for medicinal purposes), and mullein leaves (this plant is soft, large, and water absorbent. It has health benefits too).

        Leaves as toilet paper replacement

        15. MOSS
        Moss is found in damp environments in the wild, especially in rocks and trees. It’s soft and textured in a way that would be perfect for cleaning your bum. This is something to use with caution, however, since many moisture-loving insects will lay their eggs in it, or make their home around it. Inspect it thoroughly before using! Also, if it dries before you use it, it will be very crumbly so it’s better to collect it when you need it.

        16. SNOW
        You might freeze a little but you’ll be clean! I think the following meme is a perfect example:

        Using snow as an alternative to toilet paper

        17. LAKE, RIVER, OR CREEK
        Any water source in the wild can be an option, however, do not just jump in and wash there. You can contaminate the water supply that other animals and people will be using downstream. If this is your only option, fill up a water bottle or canister and use it at least 100 feet away from that water source.

        18. SMOOTH ROCKS
        If you’re in desperate need of TP in the wild, try to find a super smooth rock. Use the scrape method and be careful with sharp corners.

        19. SMOOTH STICKS
        A stick, much like a smooth rock, isn’t the ideal toilet paper alternative but if you have nothing else, remove the bark and do what you gotta do! In the past, Japanese used sanded bamboo sticks. In any case, be careful with splinters.

        Old school alternatives

        20. SPONGIA
        The Romans used to use a sea-sponge tied to the end of a stick. It was even common to find these in public bathrooms. I don’t know how willing I would be to try out this method but if you have limited options, a sponge is at least soft and absorbent. Be sure to sanitize it well after each use.

        21. CORN HUSKS
        I’m sure anyone who grew up on a farm heard about this before. Corn grows quickly and serves many purposes, including food and toilet paper! No better combo if you ask me. The inner layers of the shelled corn cobs are a bit softer and easier for wiping purposes.

        22. ROPE
        Pirates and sailors used to use the frayed ends of a rope as TP (they might still do this). It sounds uncomfortable but if you have nothing else, I guess it will do!

        23. YOUR HAND
        Actually, this is not entirely old school because many people around the world still use their hand (the left one usually). Be extra hygienic if this is the method you have to resort to and make sure nothing gets stuck under your nails. Sanitize your hands thoroughly- a couple of times if possible.

        Without getting too off topic, check out this ancient public latrine in Bet-She'an, Israel!

        Homesteading and self-reliance
        Homesteading and self-reliance

        Going beyond #1 and #2

        Since we already talked about some personal business, I think we established enough trust to bring up a couple of other important things: periods and babies! If you are a woman and/or have a baby in diapers, you need to consider a couple of extra sustainable solutions to some uncomfortable problems. 

          Although a little costly up front, these reusable panty liners work much like the family cloth but for periods (and daily too). They are made from high-quality materials to ensure a long-lasting product that can be used for years to come. These are a great investment! A brand I recommend is Naturally Cozy.

          If you’re used to tampons, menstrual cups are the next best thing. They collect blood, rather than absorb it as tampons do. They’re said to be a much cleaner and a healthier option for women since they’re made from rubber or silicone and unlike tampons that are made from rayon, cotton and contain dioxin (one of the most dangerous chemicals).

          Cloth diapers may sound like an inconvenience. When you think about all the other duties you need to perform as a parent, the last thing you want to be doing is washing and drying diapers. But in a disaster scenario, using these kinds of diapers is one of the best things you can do. They are long-lasting, non-toxic, environmentally friendly, and you when you have them you won’t run out (like you would with disposable diapers).

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        Toilet paper tips and tricks

        1. Calculate how much toilet paper your household needs for a month.

          In a disaster scenario, there is no guarantee that the stores will be stockpiled with all the supplies they have under normal circumstances. Are you prepared with a month’s worth of toilet paper in case the store shelves become empty?

          In order to calculate how much your family will need, you need to figure out how much you’re currently using. To do this, mark each toilet paper roll on the inside of the cardboard tube. Keep the marked cartons for the entire month. At the end of the month, do the following calculation: (X) rolls were used by (Y) people in one month. Divide X by Y to get an approximate number of how many rolls are being used by each person. This will give you a good idea of how much you need to stockpile and an estimate of how long it will last.

        2. Efficiency is key.

          Re-educate yourself and your family members to use only as much toilet paper as is actually needed per visit. Rationing will be important during an emergency but it wouldn’t hurt to start kicking in some new habits now. I often catch my niece using handfuls of toilet paper but who can blame a 5-year-old. Be more mindful when it comes to TP and give your kids a “square limit” to help them stay on track- for instance, use 5 squares for pee and 10 squares for poo. (Of course, if you really need more you should use it, but it serves as a reminder to keep up with this new habit.)

        3. Make more room for TP.

          Toilet paper rolls can become very bulky. If possible, remove the cardboard tubes and flatten the rolls. Vacuum sealed bags are great for long-term storage since they remove all the air that makes them bulky. You can also store them in a plastic bin under your bed for easy access.

        4. Buy cheap toilet paper.

          Even though some of us are used to the soft three-ply variety, when there’s a disaster you’re gonna do fine with whatever you have. The quality of your TP is not nearly as important as the quantity that you have stored. Get more bang for your buck by buying the generic brands in bulk packages.

        5. Keep the mice away.

          It’s disheartening to prepare an emergency supply kit and come to find it eaten up by mice months later. As far as toilet paper goes, there are two things you can do to keep the mice from getting close.

          - Hang the rolls (individually wrapped) in a PVC pipe hanging from the rafters in your garage.

          - Store the TP rolls in a plastic storage container with a sealed lid.

          - Saturate a few cotton balls with peppermint essential oil and put them all around the toilet paper.

        6. Start transitioning to the family cloth.

          If this idea interests you but you think cleaning your behind with a piece of cloth is taking it too far, then start by using cloth for pee only and TP for everything else. This will save you a lot of money in the long run.

          As before-mentioned, I recommend every person in the house to have their own cloth. They can be easily identified if everyone has their own color.

        7. Always have a back-up plan.
          I encourage you to have more than one option for TP alternatives. After food and water, your hygiene becomes the most important factor in keeping you healthy during an emergency. In a long-term disaster, the plumbing system might be destroyed and a bidet will become useless. Clean water might be hard to come by and you might want to ration it for drinking and food prep. While you may be comfortable using family cloths, your washing machine might not be functional for a period of time. Think of the short term and long-term solutions of a TP shortage, especially if you have a large family.

        8. Speaking of hygiene...

          One of the best ways to dispose of the materials you used to wipe yourself with is by burning it. Don’t contaminate nearby springs, rivers, lakes, or creeks with your waste. Always dispose of it at least 100 ft or more away from any bodies of water.

        9. Don’t clog the drain pipes.

          Most of the alternative TP options we discussed in this blog are not suited for flushing down the toilet. Have a labeled container near your toilet for safe disposal of items that came into contact with waste.

        10. Invest in a portable or composting toilet.

          During the event of a long power outage or a disruption of the plumbing system, your toilet will stop working. One of the best ways to prepare is by getting a complete toilet kit, which includes all the necessary items to safely dispose of the waste. Human waste contains many pathogens. Check out our favorite toilet kit here!

        I hope you never get stuck in a sticky situation, but if you do, I hope these tips give you a good idea of how to handle it. Be wise and get creative!

        If you survived the Toilet Paper Crisis of 2020, you should consider getting some memorabilia. This one is especially for the ladies:

        Toilet paper earrings

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