We are so lucky today to have conveniences like microwaves, delivery services, and washing machines. But one modern comfort that really gets taken for granted is toilet paper.
Our ancestors wiped with things like corn cobs and the Sears Roebuck Catalog. After a lifetime of wiping with fluffy TP, I can’t even imagine that!
What would you use if there were no more toilet paper? Even if you stockpile toilet paper for disaster preparedness, you should still know about toilet paper alternatives.
Why You Need a Toilet Paper Alternative
It only takes a small blizzard or flood warning for the supermarket shelves to get wiped clean. If a large scale disaster were to strike, it could be weeks or months before supermarkets got a new shipment – which means no way to buy toilet paper.
To prepare for emergencies, a lot of people stockpile Toilet paper. I think that’s a great idea. However, as someone who lives in a small apartment, there’s only so much toilet paper that I can stockpile. Even if I could stockpile large amounts of TP, the toilet paper would still eventually run out in a long-term disaster.
Another issue is that you can’t bring lots of toilet paper with you on the go. For example, if you had to bug out, you’d quickly go through the roll or two of TP that you brought along.
So, while I’m not ready to give up the luxury of toilet paper, I am making a point to know about these toilet paper alternatives and have them ready.
Toilet Paper Alternatives in Nature
In nature, there are many great alternatives. If you are in the wilderness or can get outside to gather natural materials, you should be fine on the TP front.
Obviously, you want to choose smooth rocks for this as jagged rocks can do some damage. You’ll need to use multiple rocks to clean yourself. Ideally, the rocks are fairly large as small rocks can result in poo getting on your hands.
Moss is great as a toilet paper alternative because it is so soft and absorbent. The downside is that moss often leaves some mossy residue. There could also be small bugs hiding in the moss.
Sticks are pretty terrible for wiping with, but may be the only thing available if you are high in the mountains or it is winter and there’s no foliage. Choose a thick stick without any knots. If you have time to prepare, you can shave the bark off of several thick sticks (another reason to bring a survival knife). When shaved smooth, the sticks actually work really well.
Leaves are the obvious choice for wiping in the woods. However, leaves are not the slightest bit absorbent. If you aren’t careful, you can end up with faeces all over your hands. Whenever possible, try to use large leaves, one or two at a time, until clean. Or, take a big handful of leaves that you bunch up.
If you get lucky and find it nearby, you can use mullein for wiping. It grows as a weed but has many medicinal uses (especially as a natural cough remedy). Because it is fluffy and soft, it can be used as toilet paper or even as a band aid for small cuts.
Referred to as “aqua wiping” by hikers, this method involves dipping your butt in water after going to the bathroom.
You should NEVER wipe yourself this way in normal times. You could end up contaminating a body of water and spread disease.
However, in dire circumstances, it is an effective solution. The only issue is that you will (literally) freeze your butt off in cold weather and risk getting your clothes wet too.
Assuming that you can’t go outdoors to gather leaves, sticks or other “natural toilet paper”, then these are probably your best options.
I haven’t tried these myself. However, many preppers swear by them. Wysi wipes are compressed wipes made from pulp. Just add a tablespoon of water and the wipe starts expanding. There are no added chemicals, alcohol, or fragrances.
Because the wipes are made from pulp, you can’t flush them down the toilet. The wipes are biodegradable though, so they are fine for composting toilets, latrines, and being buried. In addition to being a great toilet paper alternative for emergency preparedness, Wysi wipes work for cleaning the home, as mini towels, and more.
Lota (DIY Bidet)
If you travel to Southeast Asia or visit a Muslim home, you may notice a small watering can next to the bathroom. This can is called a lota and is used for cleaning after going to the bathroom.
To cleanse with a lota, you grip the lota in your right hand. From behind, you pour water over yourself while gently rubbing with your left hand (which is why it is bad manners to eat with your left hand in Muslim countries). Afterwards, you thoroughly clean your hands.
What?! They touch poo with their bare hand?!
For us Westerners, this practice can seem very unsanitary. However, to people who use the lota method, toilet paper seems very unsanitary. Unless you vigorously scrub with TP, you will inevitably leave behind some waste on your anus (smelly underpants, anyone?).
Since you wash your hands after using a lota, there is nothing to fear. Plus, if you use enough water or have a bidet (which is what more affluent households use), then you don’t even need to rub with your hand.
The only real downside of the lota method is that it requires water. If using a two-bucket toilet, you’ll need to do it over the pee bucket – which means hopping from the poo to the pee bucket. The lota method wouldn’t work well with a compost toilet because the urine diverter might not catch the water from the lota.
After finishing with the lota rinse, you can use a couple sheets of toilet paper to dry yourself. Or, have a cloth nearby for drying with.
Choosing a Lota
A lota just needs to pour a small stream of water. There are plenty of options:
- Small watering cans with stream-type spouts (not dispersal spouts)
- Empty water bottles
- Perennial washing devices (often given to women after childbirth)
- Travel bidet squirt bottles like this one on Amazon
While a water bottle will work fine, I’d recommend buying a travel bidet. It delivers a higher water pressure, so you might be able to skip the rubbing with your hand part.
Recently, there has been a growing interest in using “family cloths” as an alternative to toilet paper. Basically, these are pieces of soft cloth that are kept by the toilet. You wipe with the cloths and then put them in a special hamper so they can be washed.
Family cloths work great for pee but I’m not sure how well this system would work for poo. In normal times, the cloths can be washed in a machine at high temperatures to sanitize. As someone who cloth diapered both her kids, I don’t find this gross at all.
However, in an emergency situation, your washing machine probably isn’t going to be working. That means washing poo cloths by hand. You won’t be able to sanitize them either unless you use tons of chemicals or boil the water (which could mean wasting tons of fuel).
For long-term emergencies though, family cloths certainly beat using pages out of the phone book (who has phone books anymore anyways?). Just make sure you build yourself a good off-grid washing machine for cleaning them!
You can easily make your own family cloths out of micro-fiber towels or any other soft cloth. Some people prefer to just buy them. There are plenty of reusable baby wipes, like these on Amazon which work great
Scrunched Up Paper
Any sort of paper will work well as an alternative to TP. Even the cardboard TP roll will work for cleaning your butt.
The obvious issue is that rough paper isn’t going to feel great on your butt, and you might not be able to get yourself completely clean. Plus, you could quickly run out of paper – especially if you need it as a fire starter.
I would hate to tear up my favorite books to use a toilet paper, especially when they might be my only form of entertainment (and distraction from an emergency at hand).
Instead of relying on paper alone, you’re probably better off combining it with other methods. Use a bit of paper to wipe your butt. Then use a lota to rinse. Finish wiping and drying with a cloth, which promptly goes in a basket for cleaning.
Do you stockpile toilet paper? What’s your backup solution if the TP runs out? Let us know in the comments!