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Modern civilization is built on technologies that we often take for granted. Things like the Internet, satellite navigation, cellular signal, power and even running water rely on a complex web of infrastructure. But when disaster strikes and everyone makes a run for the supermarket, one thing is sure to run out of the shelves quickly: the humble toilet paper.

Why is TP so Important?

Some say that a society’s wealth and degree of civility can be measured by the sort of material that’s available to wipe with after doing one’s business. Status and civility aside, the real importance of toilet paper lies in the “peripheral effect” of wiping, and that’s the maintenance of cleanliness and good hygiene.

Maintaining good hygiene and simply cleaning up properly after defecating can stave off a number of diseases. If in even a small community someone doesn’t wipe properly, nasty sicknesses like E. coli, diarrhea, cholera and salmonella can spread, especially if that person handles and contaminates food and water supplies. You’ll notice how in disaster areas, whenever people are clumped together in a small area without the proper toilets and cleaning facilities, epidemics of these diseases are almost sure to follow.

These 6 Toilet Paper Alternatives Save Water

Apart from the obvious fact that toilet paper can reduce or eliminate the practice of having to clean one’s behind with water, using tissue ensures that you don’t get any residual fecal matter that could end up left on your underwear. In a survival situation, it could be hours or days before you find both ample water and soap, as well as ample opportunity to stop and cleanse your undergarments. Having a proper toilet paper substitute that keeps you clean ensures that you don’t have to allocate a portion of your precious water supply to washing.

In the event that you find yourself without toilet paper, consider finding and using any of these 6 toilet paper alternatives:

1. Rocks

A recent anthropological study suggests that ancient Romans may have used flat rocks like we use tissue paper. If you have to do as the Romans did, it’s important you choose the proper tool for such a delicate job. If you’re outdoors, search for a smooth, clean rock – don’t use any rocks with rough or sharp edges as you’re prone to hurt yourself or make a bigger mess than the one you intend to clean. You’ll likely be able to find a suitable one by a riverbed. Should you be in an urban area, a good place for finding rocks to wipe with are gravel pathways and decorative stone features. Choose a rock that’s large enough to avoid getting any poop on your hands.

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Choose large smooth rocks to use as TP alternatives. You’ll likely find rocks like these in a riverbed, stream or even on a beach. A neighborhood Zen garden is also a good place to look if you’re in an urban area; just be sure there’s really no toilet paper or better alternative (PXHere.com/en/photo/613337).

2. Corn Cobs

This is an especially handy alternative if you happen to live on a farm or have a homestead and grow your own corn. After enjoying a meal of corn on the cob, remember to collect the cobs and leave them out in the sun to dry. After they’ve dried, store them in a trash bag. Place the bag close to your latrine and dispose of them in another bag after use. Wiping with corn cobs isn’t novel, as many settlers and farmers in early America used this method to clean their behinds after using the outhouse. Some even continued the practice even when actual toilet paper became available. The benefit of using corn cobs is that just one is enough and can be drawn in one direction or turned on an axis for more efficient “coverage”.

Dried corn cobs were used by our forefathers to wipe with, so there’s no reason not to use them now, should you need an alternative when toilet paper runs out (FarmersAlmanac.com/before-toilet-paper-24419).

3. Clam Shells

Empty, cleaned shells can be used as TP alternatives. Much like rocks, be sure that the shells you use are smooth. You can use each half of a clam to gently “scrape” your bum clean.

Empty clam shells can be used to gently scrape residual poo off your behind (Upload.Wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f8/Spisula_solidissima_shell.jpg/524px-Spisula_solidissima_shell.jpg).

 

LITTLE-KNOWN TOILET PAPER FACTS

The light, 2 to 4-ply fluffy paper that you use to wipe your behind is a simple item that actually has a relatively short history. Toilet paper was invented back in 2nd century B.C. in China, and it wasn’t until the 6th century B.C. that it became more commonly used. The first modern toilet paper was made in 1391 for the Chinese imperial family, and each sheet was even perfumed.

While paper became commercially available in the late 15th century, it wasn’t until the late 19th century that toilet paper was mass-produced. Here are a few more facts you may not have known about toilet paper:

  • The “father” of American toilet paper was J.C. Gayetty, who sold “Gayetty’s Medicated Paper for the Water-Closet”. He sold this product during the American Civil War until the 1920’s.
  • In feudal Japan, flat sticks that resembled tongue depressors or Popsicle sticks were used to wipe behinds by drawing the stick from left to right; these were known as “chugi”.
  • Ancient Greeks used shards of broken pots to wipe with a “scraping” motion; some Greeks would inscribe the names of their rivals before using these shards.
  • Ancient Romans cleaned their butts with a sea sponge tied to a stick. This primitive implement was stored in a bucket of salt water or vinegar. It was considered a courteous gesture to rinse the sponge and squeeze it before putting it back in the bucket for the next person to use.
  • Native Americans used clam or oyster shells, dry twigs, small stones and dry grass to wipe with after doing their business.

4. Leaves

These are an obvious and abundant option if you’re out in the woods. Just remember that leaves aren’t absorbent, so you could end up with a handful of poop if you aren’t careful. Gather some large, green leaves as dry, brown leaves will only crumble in your hands and bum and create an even bigger mess. Use a couple of large green leaves to wipe at a time. You can also take a handful of leaves and bunch them up. Check the leaves you plan to use to wipe with, as mistakenly picking up a bunch of poison ivy or poison sumac will give you disastrous results.

If you see “leaves of three”, watch out that’s poison ivy! Use green leaves to wipe
when you’re out in the woods but for safety’s sake, don’t make the mistake of using
poison ivy (MNN.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/stories/what-is-the-best-way-to-get-rid-of-poison-ivy).

Don’t make the mistake of picking green leaves from poison sumac plants either!
Note the red stems and the pea-like green berries of this toxic plant. All of it is toxic to humans and can cause a horrible allergic reaction that starts with an itchy rash to a breakout of painful blisters which last for weeks
(TheSpruce.com/poison-sumac-pictures-4071931).

5. Sticks

Yes, sticks can also be used to wipe off any residual poop after you’ve done number two. They aren’t the best alternative to toilet paper, but they get the job done. A stick is what you usually have to resort to if you’re up in the mountains, it’s winter or you’re at a barren location. Find a stick that doesn’t have any knots; look for the smoothest stick available and use a knife to shave the bark off before using it.

Sticks can be toilet paper substitutes after you strip off the rough bark. Even a table knife can be used to get the bark off a stick, depending on the type of wood (AlaskaFloatsMyBoat.com/beachcombing/2013/5/12/collecting-devils-club).

6. Paper

Most any sort of paper will do, from typewriting paper, wrapping paper, paper bags, newspaper, pages torn from books or magazines, pages of phone books – basically any piece of paper that isn’t valuable and that no one would mind getting soiled and thrown away. Even the cardboard tube off a toilet paper roll, when flattened, can be used as a makeshift butt-wiper.

Remember that old phone books still have some use. If not as firestarters or fuel for
campfires, these provide literally hundreds of pages of potential precious toilet paper
(OregonMetro.gov/tools-living/garbage-and-recycling/reduce-waste-home/opt-out-phone-books).

Final Notes

The items listed here don’t constitute as the only substitutes, as cloth items may also be used, whether they be old shirts, sleeves cut off from shirts, handkerchiefs or similar items. As long as the TP substitute is pliable and causes no pain or discomfort when wiping you should be “good to go”.

Finally, don’t dispose of your TP substitute willy-nilly; dispose of the used wiping implement by burying it or placing it in a sealed container to avoid contaminating any water sources.