Toiler paper has been around since the 14th century, but that doesn’t mean it’s always been readily available. These days especially, people are looking for ways to make do without this ubiquitous paper product. Whether you’re bracing for inevitable shortages or looking for more eco-friendly options, here are some great toilet paper alternatives you can put to good use.
For Use in the House
Note that when you’re looking at various toilet paper alternatives, remember that most of them won’t be flushable. We may love the sanitary convenience of seeing used paper pieces whisked down by the ‘loo in a wash of water. Alternative options usually aren’t quite suited to that.
Not unless you want to clog up your plumbing or annihilate your septic system.
That’s why we have two separate sections: alternatives for inside the house with a standard flush system, and for an outdoor privy or camping environment.
Whether you run out of TP at home or there isn’t any available at the store, you can fall back on some of these options to tidy up.
The alternatives here require some extra work to keep things clean in the bathroom. Be sure to sterilize the area regularly, and if you use family cloths, give them a good bleaching on occasion to kill any lingering bacteria.
This is one of the most convenient, easy-to-use, and rather delightful alternatives to toilet paper.
Bonus: You don’t even need to replace your toilet or install another appliance in the bathroom. There are plenty of bidet toilet attachments on the market today that can aim a refreshing spray of water wherever you need it. Bidet attachments are sanitary, healthy, and usable as long as you have running water in the house.
You can buy types that recess into the seat or spray-head types that you use like the attachment on a hose.
By the way, you can also use a detachable shower head as an emergency bidet if you run out of toilet paper. Probably not something you want to do all the time, but it’s always there if you need it.
2. Plastic Bottle Sprayer
You know how dish soap comes in those handy squeezable bottles with a nozzle on the top? Once you’ve used them up, wash them out and repurpose them as backside sprayers. Think of it as a DIY bidet alternative that’s great for both home and travel use. You just fill it with water and direct the spray wherever you like.
Just make absolutely sure that you empty these bottles completely, and that you wash them out thoroughly before using them. Detergents can be irritating to delicate tissues, and you’re aiming to clean and refresh here, not cause days’ worth of itching and burning.
3. Family Cloths
If you’ve used cloth diapers for your kids, homemade handkerchiefs, or reusable cotton menstrual pads, then “family cloths” might be one of the top toilet paper alternatives for you.
Basically, each family member has a certain number of cotton cloths to clean themselves with after they use the toilet. You can then toss these into a sealed plastic container next to the toilet that has vinegar or bleach water inside it. Once that container has filled up, you can put the cloths through a hot water wash in the machine.
If you go this route, ensure that each family member has a distinctly different color assigned to them. As far as personal hygiene goes, these aren’t items you really want to share.
Outhouses and Field Use
The following options are best suited to outdoor composting toilets, outdoor privies, and when you’re out and about in the woods. You can’t reuse them. They’re made of natural materials that break down into compost over time.
Newspaper has a long history of being used for personal hygiene purposes, especially when there’s unpleasant news shared on its pages. These sheets are biodegradable and can be softened up a bit by crinkling them between your hands a bit before using them.
Consider cutting them to size and keeping a store of them in the outhouse to use as needed. Make sure you only use standard black and white printed papers for this purpose. Color pages are printed with inks that can cause unpleasant skin reactions. These chemical dyes are also far from earth-friendly. They can taint the local water table when they’re released during the decomposition process.
5. Biodegradable Baby Wipes
These aren’t just for toddler tushies: they’re remarkably useful for adults as well. In fact, you might be delighted to discover how pleasant they are to use. They’re slightly damp thanks to being moistened by ingredients such as witch hazel and aloe. They do a remarkably good job of keeping one clean.
Keep a tub of them in the outhouse to use as needed, or take them with you on backpacking camping, and hiking trips. Just make sure to get the biodegradable ones or make your own! The former are usually made of bamboo, cotton, or pulp, and you can toss them into into a compost heap or bury them with a little camping trowel.
You can also make reusable baby wipes! They require a sealed pail and regular washing (like the family cloths mentioned earlier), but they may be a good option if you prefer to reuse your sanitary products rather than compost them.
6. Mullein Leaves
Leaves from the mullein plant (Verbascum thapsus) have been referred to as “cowboy toilet paper” and are ideal toilet paper alternatives. The large, soft leaves are pleasantly fuzzy to the touch and are extraordinarily effective as TP.
Furthermore, this plant has strong anti-inflammatory properties. As a result, they can soothe issues like rashes and hemorrhoids when used topically.
You can find them growing in fields, forested areas, and other areas that have a high sand content. Just don’t harvest more than a third of the leaves from a single plant or it can damage its health.
7. Banana Leaves
If you’re in a locale where bananas are more prolific than mullein plants, then their leaves make a very handy alternative. They’re big and soft, and naturally biodegradable of course. Furthermore, they grow startlingly quickly, making them an ideal renewable resource.
Aim to harvest lower-growing banana leaves ahead of time rather than just when you need them. They can be a bit difficult to reach, and it’s better to have them at hand for easy access, rather than trying to get at them when nature calls.
8. Corn Husks (and Cobs!)
Don’t toss out those corn husks after you’ve harvested your corn! While husks can be a bit scratchy once they’ve dried, fresh ones are silky soft to the touch. Furthermore, they’re biodegradable and remarkably efficient.
Another option is to use the cobs themselves. This is a common practice in many parts of the world and is super effective. Once you’ve removed all the kernels, you can scrape any leftover moist bits off the cobs and let them dry out a bit. Then keep them in a bin in the outhouse for when you’re ready to use them.
They uh, require a bit of a special technique when it comes to hygienic practices, so they might take some practice to get used to.
If you find yourself without toilet paper for whatever reason, you have a few emergency options. None of these should be thrown in your toilet.
- Sponge (use once a throw away)
- Detacheable shower head
- The cardboard tube from an empty TP or paper towel roll
- Snow (perfect if you’re on a hike, but watch out for debris)
- Sanitary napkin
- Cotton balls
- Your hand (wash well afterward!)
It should go without saying, but be sure to discontinue the use of any of these toilet paper alternatives if you develop a rash. Life can be challenging enough without dermatitis in delicate crevices. Being eco-friendly is great, but not at the expense of your health! Just try out the other options to find one that works best for you.