I recently posted about being off-grid for 48 hours, and using a lot of baby wipes due to the lack of water during our adventure. One thing that would run out quickly in a survival situation if you did not have a huge stockpile would be toilet paper. Not having a lot of space we have about three months worth on hand right now, but that can run out quickly. Also, a large stockpile of toilet paper is not portable in a bug-out situation, and in a shelter in place scenario, the TP supply is bound to run out.
Space saving tip: Remove the cardboard insert and flatten the roll and you can fit more rolls in a small space.
What are some substitutes for toilet paper?
Back in ancient times, the Romans used a sea sponge on a stick. They would clean themselves with it, rinse it in the running water (public bathrooms had them on the floor) and leave it soaking in salt water in between uses.
In colonial times, people used corncobs, and later, old newspapers and catalogs were used in outhouses.
Here are a few ideas:
1. Wet wipes or baby wipes
These would work just like toilet paper, but again, a large stockpile would have to be accumulated.
2. Paper Substitutes
Newspaper may work, but the ink would turn everything black. I read other people prefer The Yellow Pages but these days, a lot of people don’t keep phone books around. Store catalogs may be more common, and flimsy pages instead of high end glossy paper would work best. Just crumple up the sheet until it softens up, then wipe.
Cloth, such as wash cloths, terry cloth or cloth diapers can be used as toilet paper substitutes. You can even cut up old, soft t-shirts into squares. If you want to make reusable cloth wipes, this article from Food Storage Moms has good instructions. The method would be to wet the cloth, wipe, then launder the cloth. Supporters of this idea feel that most people would have nothing against rewashing cloth diapers, therefore personal washcloths should be okay. I would think it would be a good idea to throw the soiled wash clothes into a bucket of water with some bleach before washing.
4. Plant material
Sage leaves are said to be soft and fragrant enough to use, some say banana leaves would work too.. You must have some knowledge about which plants are safe; you would not want to use something like poison ivy, poison oak or sumac by mistake! Remember: Leaves of three – let it be!
Many countries already use a spray water fountain called a “bidet” as part of their bathroom facilities. Since this is being considered in an emergency scenario, we would need an alternative to that too. In many countries, use of the left hand in combination with pouring water in a pan or small bucket with the right hand is the way to clean up.
Possible water carriers:
Fill any of these containers with plain water, add a drop of essential oil for fragrance and wash up. (Don’t use mint or and don’t overdo the quantity of drops, or you may irritate those sensitive areas.) After washing, dry the area with a clean towel that can also be reused.
To avoid disease, one would have to wash the hands well with water or antibacterial gel right after.
I’m not ready to give up toilet paper but you gotta do what you gotta do to stay clean. In an emergency, the water route seems like the most likely one to try. I may try making those clothes one of these days. We will keep stockpiling toilet paper for now, and store them efficiently by flattening them for maximum use of space. Another idea would be to decrease the use of toilet paper by combining with the methods above, thereby extending the life of the stockpile.
Toilet paper shortages sounds unlikely, but it has happened: a year or so ago, Venezuela faced a toilet paper shortage and the government had to take over a toilet paper factory. Before I got interested in preparedness, I can recall snagging the last package of toilet paper and waiting in a long line right before a hurricane. Toilet paper is one of the first items to disappear if a disaster disrupts supply deliveries. It’s good to know some alternatives just in case.