Can’t Find Any Toilet Paper?

Toilet paper rolls

I’ve been amused by the reports that people are buying up all the toilet paper because of coronavirus fears. What?? Surely toilet paper cannot be at the top of the list of what anyone really NEEDS in a health crisis. The trend seems to indicate we’ve gotten sadly out of touch with reality.

What can you use for toilet paper if you– and the store– are out of toilet paper?

— Cut newspaper to handy sizes.

— What other relatively soft paper is available? Grocery store receipts? Other waste paper? Dispose of used papers in a sealed container and then burn.

— Clean rags. Some folks dampen them to clean, then throw away or launder. Use a different color for each family member, and for each purpose. Put dirty rags in a sealed container next to the toilet; add water with vinegar, baking soda, or a few drops of bleach to the container so they can soak before they are washed. [This is not much different from old fashioned cloth diapers.]

— Cotton balls. [Nowadays they are synthetic, not real cotton, so they cannot be flushed or composted.]

— Snow. Wipe and flush.

— Do you live on the prairie? In fact, if you live in North America, Africa, Asia, Europe or Australia, you are likely to be within walking distance of mullein. I can personally affirm that mullein leaves are soft, absorbent, and abundant. Look up the plant, find a local source, and try it yourself.

Toilet paper substitute mullein in winter
Mullein in winter.

— If you don’t live where mullein grows, take a walk and look for other suitable leaves, or for moss. Be sure you know how to avoid poison ivy, poison oak and others of their nature.

— Corn cobs. Our ancestors reportedly used them, but almost anything you can find will be more comfortable!

— Your hand. In many countries– India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Morocco– people eat only with their right hand. That’s because it’s standard practice to wipe with the left hand. Of course they wash the left hand when they can, but they observe the right-hand ritual in politeness.

— Some folks who want to save trees and thus never use toilet paper recommend this method: pour a small amount of water into your hand from a pitcher or cup kept handy. Or use a water bottle with a small opening to create a pressurized cleansing stream. Splash and repeat if necessary. Then dry with a towel kept for that purpose.

If none of these appeal to you, and you have time, look up “toilet paper alternatives” on the internet.

— Wet wipes work on babies, why not adults? After all, toilet paper doesn’t clean or sanitize, it only wipes.

— Coffee filters are better than paper towels, and less likely to clog the plumbing. Sanitary pads will work, but should not be flushed.

— Toilet paper tubes, but don’t flush them.

— Toilet paper spray. Users point out that it contains cleansers, that moisture can prevent chafing, that it does not clog pipes, damage sewers or machinery, or require disposition in a landfill. It’s more easily portable than toilet paper, and doubles as an air freshener.

Toilet paper substitute mullein in summer
Mullein in summer.

Use your imagination– you may find more substitutes. And be grateful for what you have. The Romans used a sponge on a stick, and sailors often used rope. Both were probably shared, and neither was very clean.

Linda M. Hasselstrom
Windbreak House Writing Retreats
Hermosa, South Dakota

© 2020, Linda M. Hasselstrom

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8 thoughts on “Can’t Find Any Toilet Paper?

  1. Darlene Morse

    I have many catalogs. If Sears & Roebuck worked for the country folks at in the outhouse, it ought to work for me. That is, if I do happen to have to resort to alternatives.

  2. cathyasmith

    Better yet- Buy a toilet seat with a built in bidet spray.
    I bought one in December because I was having surgery on my right arm and in a cast for 4 months. For a couple hundred dollars, I saved my dignity (my caregiver didnt have to wipe my behind), I’m saving trees, and my septic system. And the water is heated!
    Look on Amazon!

    1. I’ve wondered about bidets, Cathyasmith– have no experience with them at all. I wish I knew where and how to try one before investing. And I’m so glad you were able to get one before the surgery! And by the way, great to hear from you– you are looking good, woman! I didn’t know about your curator job– what a great place to be.

  3. Stanley Alfred Carpenter

    Linda:
    LuAnn sent me your very timely information re: toilet paper, etc.
    For years I have needed an excuse and time to use up all of the IRS paper sent to me to be returned by April 15th. (But I don’t dare, barely stay out of jail now.)
    Stan

  4. Lorine Andresen, Forest Grove, Oregon 97116

    As a little girl I had considerable constipation problems. Mom would sit in the outhouse with me for encouragement and we’d wish, wish, and wish through the Sears pages. What a devoted trooper she was, especially in the hot summer days of Nebraska. She’d be shocked at this toilet paper madness.

    Lori Andresen

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