Several years ago, I was a scout leader and loved to take the scouts on campouts. My son was not old enough to be a scout yet but I would take him with me regardless. I loved having my boy with me and felt it would be a great learning experience for him to associate with the older scouts and learn skills both from me and them as well.
Along with shelter building and starting a fire, there was another skill that was critical at every campout – latrine building. I know, typically for boys there is no need to build anything fancy – any bush will do. But in an attempt to keep the area clean and sanitary, building a proper latrine was critical.
I remember the first time I took my son on a campout with a friend of mine and his boys; he was around 4 years old. My son informed me he needed to go to the bathroom. I simply told him to go find a tree and take care of business. His response kind of surprised me – he didn’t want to. I guess he’d never gone to the bathroom in the woods before and the thought it was not appealing.
After a little coaching and encouragement, he got the hang of it and it’s been hard to stop him ever since!
Then there are those occasions when you’re in the hills and your digestive tract lets you know you have very little time to get prepared for what is about to happen. That’s when you realize you didn’t prepare for such an event and you don’t have any toilet paper. Such events can be quite uncomfortable but they can also teach you valuable lessons.
It’s been said that toilet paper will be worth its weight in gold when it’s in very short supply. I don’t think this is far from the truth. Toilet paper is a modern luxury that people tend to take for granted until the moment they reach for it and find nothing but a cardboard roll. When that happens, they would gladly pay top dollar for a few squares. I remember having to pay several dollars to a toilet paper scalper in Tijuana, Mexico when my young daughter insisted she couldn’t hold it any longer.
You know you’ve been there. Of course, all you have to do is waddle around the house until you find some more toilet paper or at least some paper towels. But what if you don’t have any more? What would you do then?
This is why it’s important to store plenty of toilet paper. But that’s not enough. What if the crisis lasts a long time and you run out? What if you have to abandon your home? What if your toilet paper is destroyed by flood or fire? In case that happens, you’ll need to consider some substitutes for toilet paper.
Here’s a list of possible alternative to our beloved toilet paper. It wouldn’t hurt to try these out so you’ll know what to expect.
1) Any Kind of Paper
We’ll get the most obvious one out of the way first. If you don’t have any toilet paper, just use another kind of paper. Paper towels, newspapers, phone books, notebook paper, printer paper, envelopes, etc. Look around the house and see what you can find. (By the way, most magazines don’t work very well because of the gloss coating.) It’s always best if your crinkle up the paper first by wadding it up a couple of times. This will make the paper softer and more absorbent.
Before you start yanking paper out of your printer, wrack your brain and look for any wet wipes or baby wipes in the house. If you do, they make great toilet paper.
These were used in Roman times. When the people finished, they would wash the sponge with water and vinegar so they could reuse it later. But even if you do this, damp sponges are still breeding grounds for bacteria. If you go this route, you’ll need to either boil the sponge or soak it in bleach water before rinsing it out and using it again.
4) Rock (Yes, a Rock)
But not just any rock. You’ll have to find a smooth, flat (but not sharp) rock like the one in the picture (it’s not as big as it looks). With it you can do what’s known as the “scrape method,” which was very popular in ancient societies. Stir the rock in water to remove excess debris before scraping again.
In many countries, toilet paper is unheard of, and instead, people wash with water. To do this, use a plastic cup or another pouring device. Fill it with warm water, pour it into your cupped left hand, and do the necessary cleaning.
Obviously, you’ll want to wash your hands thoroughly when you’re done. You could also use an irrigation bottle so you can spray the area clean without having to touch it as much.
This method is more accurately referred to as “family cloth” and is used by people who are trying to be as frugal and/or eco-friendly as possible. The idea is to use cloth rags to wipe yourself, and then wash them afterward so you can continually reuse the fabric.
Soft fabric from old flannel diapers or nightgowns works best for this, but you can also use towels, washcloths, or even old T-shirts. Whatever you chose, simply rip the fabric into suitable sizes and trim them with pinking shears to prevent fraying.
Used in connection with the water method mentioned above, this could be an effective way to get by without toilet paper indefinitely. Just make sure the fabric doesn’t accidentally get flushed down the toilet.
Instead, put it in a sealed container next to the toilet and once you have enough for a load of laundry, wash them. But don’t mix them with your regular laundry.
7) Corn Husks
Because the pioneers grew and harvested so much corn, corn husks were one of their most popular toilet paper options. The leaves, when green, are relatively soft and a good size for bathroom or outhouse use. They can be dried for using during the winter months, and if that’s too rough you can always soak them in water to soften them again before use.
8) Plant Leaves
If none of the above options are available, or if you have to bug out to the wilderness and use up all the toilet paper in your bag, you may have to turn to nature’s toilet paper: leaves. There are several types of leaves that are large enough that they can be a great alternative to toilet paper.
Specifically from the broadleaf maple. The leaves are large, don’t have irritable hairs, and are easily identifiable in the woods. Maples also produce an abundance of leaves, as anyone who has had to rake up after a maple tree can testify. Broadleaf and Sugar maples have the largest leaves, but in a pinch a mountain or vine maple could also be used, though the small leaves of these varieties would be awkward for an adult to use.
This low growing, biennial plant flourishes in dry and sandy soils. Its leaves are a fair size and coated with a soft fuzz. The fuzz can be an irritant or a benefit, so use caution when using this plant and wash with water if irritation develops.
Large Leaved Aster
Also known as “lumberjack toilet paper,” and for good reason. The large, smooth, heart-shaped leaves are perfect for wiping, and the plant can be found in abundance across the eastern United States and Canada.
Specifically, the larger leaved variety. It has smooth leaves that would make the perfect emergency toilet paper. The leaves are a little on the tough side, so they won’t tear during wiping. Cottonwood also has a bit of an anti-pain effect, and the leaves can be used for things like emergency bandages as well.
Hazelnut also makes good emergency toilet paper, though they’re slightly on the small side. Also, they have a bit of fuzz on them which could potentially be irritating for people with sensitive skin. They’re very soft and completely non-toxic.
There are several other types of leaves that could be used for toilet paper such as dandelion and others, but before you use them or any of the leaves mentioned above, make sure you have real-world experience identifying them in the wild.