the family cloth

14 Toilet Paper Alternatives You Can Try

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You might remember a post I did a while back about The Family Cloth, well I finally gathered my courage and gave it a try. Yes people, I went this whole past week without using toilet paper… well, almost completely.

Okay, before you turn your nose up at the idea, hear me out.

Why Would You Want to Go Without Toilet Paper?

For whatever reason, they say that toilet paper is worth its weight in gold during a crisis. I’ve never really understood that notion, until the 2020 global madness hit…and everybody began hoarding and stockpiling toilet paper!

I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why you would want to do something like this.

There are plenty of social science theories about why people do this – one is the “zero risk bias,” in which people try to eliminate a single kind of superficial risk (running out of toilet paper) instead of doing something that would reduce their overall risk more significantly (like quarantining during a pandemic).

We’re also biologically programmed to hoard, I guess.

Personally, I would rather be prepared than hoard – there are plenty of ways you can go without toilet paper.

Not only that, but most of us use way too much toilet paper as it is. It’s not great for the planet, our obsession with those little squares, and it’s not doing our checkbooks any favors, either.

Luckily, there are some alternatives you can turn to, regardless of whether your eschewing of toilet paper is simply because you temporarily ran out – or because you are trying to overhaul the way you live entirely.

Try Paper

This is probably the most obvious way to reduce your toilet paper usage. If you don’t have any toilet paper kicking around, just switch to another type of paper.

You can use newspaper, paper towels, notebook paper, envelopes, phone books, etc. I guess in a last resort you could also use books, but that would be a bit sad, wouldn’t it?

Wet Wipes or Baby Wipes

It wouldn’t really be economical to use baby wipes or wet wipes if you have to go out and buy them to make up for the normal amount of toilet paper you use, but if you already have some kicking around, you might as well use them to – ahem – clean up. Kleenex or tissues will also work.

Try a Sponge

In ancient Roman times, people actually sponged down after going to the bathroom and then washed the sponge with vinegar and water.

The problem with this is that damp sponges, regardless of how well you clean them, are still bacterial breeding grounds.

You would want to boil your sponge or soak it in bleach before using it again, which could get expensive and potentially dangerous overtime.

Try a Bit of Rope

Have some rope hanging around? Sailors actually used to use rope before toilet paper – all they would do is dip the end of a frayed piece of rope into the ocean, pull it back up, wipe, and drop it back down.

Wash With Water

Many countries are already in the habit of not using toilet paper and instead use water to clean up. To use water, you’ll just need to use a plastic cup or a similar pouring device.

Fill it up with warm water, pour it in your cupped hand, and do the cleaning. You can also use a squirt bottle or irrigation bottle, which will make the task a bit easier without you having to touch quite as much.

Use Snow

This option probably won’t work as well in warmer climates, but it’s perfect for cold areas. Grab a handful of snow to wipe you off, and you’ll not only feel dry and clean, but also cool and refreshed!

Explore Super Woodsy Options

Ok hear me out – I probably wouldn’t give these tips a try for everyday use. But I think they would work really well if, for example, you were trying to go without toilet paper on a camping trip. There are a number of more “rustic” options you can use instead of toilet paper.

Case in point? Some people use rocks. To me, this sounds super uncomfortable, but I guess it would get the job done in a pinch if you absolutely had no other choice. Some people use plant leaves, too.

You’re going to want to make sure you know your plant ID! Corn husks work fine, as do maple leaves. Maple leaves in particular tend to work well because they produce a ton of leaves, are easy to identify, and have a lot of leaves.

Lots of people recommend using mullein leaves, which produce a soft fuzz that feels pretty nice when you’re using it as toilet paper.

However, the problem with mullein leaves is that some people have allergies to them, so they may not work as well for all people – irritation could develop.

There is another plant, known as the “lumberjack toilet paper”, called large leaved aster. This plant is found in much of the United States and Canada and produces very soft, very smooth large leaves that are shaped like hearts.

You could even use cottonwood leaves, thimbleberry leaves, or the leaves from bolted plants, like lettuce or spinach.

Here is an ultimate list of the various plants you can use instead of toilet paper if you find yourself in a pinch:

  • Mullein (aka Miner’s Toilet Paper)
  • Large Leaf Aster
  • Redbud tree leaves
  • Cottonwood tree leaves
  • Blue Spur Flower
  • Mallow
  • Thimbleberry
  • Banana leaves
  • Grape leaves
  • Any brassica leaves (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale)
  • Lamb’s ear
  • Pink Wild Pear
  • Borage (immature leaves, so they don’t have spines yet)
  • Corn Lily

Cotton Balls

Have a few cotton balls hanging around? Use those as toilet paper! They tend to be cheap and as long as you use a couple at a time, you probably won’t get your hands dirty.

Invest in a Bidet

Bidets are very common overseas, particularly in Europe. For whatever reason, many people in the United States haven’t quite latched on to that trend.

Bidets are basically toilets with built-in water fountains. You use the spray of the water to clean yourself instead of toilet paper.

A basic bidet is not very expensive, especially when you consider the long-term costs of relying on toilet paper. You may need a plumber to help you install one, though.

Bum Gun

Bum guns are similar to bidets but are more common in southeast Asia. These devices are hoses with nozzles that you use to spray yourself clean instead of using toilet paper.

Use Cloth Wipes Instead

When I first read about this notion of using cloth wipes instead of toilet paper, I thought that was pretty hard core frugal! Though intrigued by the idea, I wasn’t sure if it would be for me.

You know me though, I’m down for trying anything once! So, I rounded up all of my baby wash cloths and set them in a basket on the bathroom sink.

You could use any kind of cloth scraps – like those from old nightgowns or flannel diapers, towels, or tee shirts. Just rip the fabric into usable squares and trim them with shears to prevent them from fraying.

The idea was for just us girls to use these cloths, and only for wiping after a “tinkle”. I showed Jada the basket of cloths and told her what they were for. I also set a trash can beside the toilet just for these cloths to go in once they had been used.

It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had imagined! Wiping with a soft cloth was actually much nicer than a wad of linty toilet paper! And now that I’ve tried it, I really don’t understand how it came to be such a taboo.

Since the cloths are quite absorbent, you really only need to use one per “visit”. And it’s not like you soak the whole rag, remember, you are only wiping a drop or two. The cloth hardly gets wet at all.

I was afraid my bathroom was going to stink like urine like my cloth diaper pail does, but since the cloths are barely wet at all after use, they dry out quickly and cause no scent at all!

And washing them is really no big deal. Like I said, it’s not like they are dripping wet, actually quite the opposite. And if the idea of washing cloths that you have wiped with grosses you out, think of it this way: it’s no different than the washcloth you use to clean yourself with in the shower!

So, after seeing how easy this is to do I really don’t see any reason to stop! I wish I knew how much toilet paper we use in a week so I could give you the cost savings, but I’m sure you can imagine.

Toilet paper is expensive! This is a great way to save some money, and honestly, it’s not bad at all!

Use a Cardboard Tube

All out of toilet paper? Use the tube. This is an easy way to get by in a pinch, although it probably won’t work well as a long-term solution.

You can use a few strips from the outer roll and soak them in water for a softer finish, or you can just use the dry roll.

Coffee Filters

If you’re really in a pinch, use some coffee filters! Coffee filters aren’t necessarily any less expensive than toilet paper, so this wouldn’t be a long-term fix.

However, if you have a lot of leftover coffee filters, you may want to consider this alternative.

Sanitary Napkins

There’s nothing wrong with using a sanitary napkin if you run out of toilet paper! Again, this option won’t work as well for a long-term solution, as these are more expensive than toilet paper. But they work in a pinch!
Hop in the Shower

If none of these alternatives work for you, there is one other way to clean up if you don’t have any toilet paper. Just hop in the shower when you‘re done!

It’s probably not the most eco-friendly option, nor is it the most practical after each and every bathroom visit. But it is a good way to clean up if you find yourself in a pinch!

After this experiment, I was willing to put a pause on my toilet paper buying habits – and buy either much less or no toilet paper in the future.

There are plenty of other alternatives and sure, while it does take more time and effort to wash cloth rags, it’s definitely worth the money saved (and the savings for the planet!).

Just be advised – you may get some confused looks and questions from your house guests!

Willing to give it a shot as well? I promise, once you try it you’ll wonder why you never did this before! Now I just need to make more wipes 🙂

updated 06/01/2020 by Rebekah Pierce

TP alternatives Pinterest


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37 thoughts on “14 Toilet Paper Alternatives You Can Try”

  1. Paper diapers were not invented when I had my children, and the mess a baby can make is much worse than a grown up wiping their backsides. I think the eww factor from most men, is because they never had to rinse those dirty diapers in the toilet before throwing them in a bucket awaiting washing day. I never gave a thought to cloth wipes, and because of my small septic tank, I always put my used TP in a trash sack lined can beside the toilet.

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  2. I have been putting this move off for so long! But I like your approach. Just start with pee only, not number two. That is do-able! Why didn’t I think of it!? Going to get my wipes out right now. 🙂

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  3. I’m so glad I found this. I actually started doing this for myself only basically out of need (only for #1, haha). We do have toilet paper;however some weeks I only have $20-$30 for groceries and I’m sorry but my family needs food more than literally throwing it down the toilet. I’m the biggest “user” of toilet paper, so I’m the only one who does it, but I may start with my 3 year old daughter too. I also converted to baby wash clothes for my baby wipes, I figured I’m doing cloth diapers any way, what’s the difference!! I’m glad I’m not the only one out there doing this, I was embarrassed about it and actually I didn’t even tell my husband. I do make my own cloth pads too and even made some for a friend of mine who is struggling badly financially. Even if we do make more money, I’d rather throw it in the bank then in the trash or toilet!

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  4. What about for number two? Are you using these cloths or toilet paper? And if you’re using the cloths, do you just throw them in with the number 1 ones?

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  5. I have found that my husbands old white t-shirts work wonderful for this. I cut out squares and serge them on the machine. quick and easy. don’t have a serger? just zig zag on a regular machine then clip slose to the stitching without clipping the stitches. This should cure the raveling issue.

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  6. I’m intrigued, but wondering if after washing these in your washing machine – do you disinfect it? What about e.coli and other bacteria that could spread to other clothes? Just wondering your thoughts on that…

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    • Keri,

      Uh… no, I don’t disinfect. I wash loads of cloth diapers too, and don’t disinfect. I figure the hot water and soap takes care of the germs, along with the white vinegar in the rinse cycle. I figure, how is that any different from the wash cloth you clean the same areas with in the shower?? You don’t disinfect your washer after washing them, do you? 🙂

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  7. I’ve been reading your blog for the last few weeks and have learned A LOT! This is just another one of the things I plan on trying. DH is majorly frugal but this is all new to me and I know since I’m game he will be too. I’ve also got an idea that my diaper genie will make good for the “storing” until I wash them, just minus the plastic bags. DS is just now potty training so if we like it he won’t even know it’s “different.”

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  8. Well, after reading the post and all the comments, I think I might have to try this! I am looking for any and every way to reduce my bill at the grocery store!

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  9. We’ve been doing this for a couple of months. I bought $10 worth of pre-hemmed baby facecloths (I found that sheets and such cut up just frayed). It’s getting to the point when I blink in surprise when I see people stocking up on “necessities” like toilet paper.

    We usually wash first, using the irri bottle I saved after having our last child, and I wash the cloths by hand every other night.

    That, by the way, also deals with the problem of keeping clean during menstruation. It’s not as if the dry toilet paper actually *cleans*.

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  10. I would (and have, when we ran out), and used cloth wipes when mine were little….But, when I just now approached my daughters with this, I got a loud “Ewe, Yuck”….

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  11. A few years back I heard a Doctor advise a person not to use toilet paper. She said, it leaves residue and can contribute to urinary tract infections. She advised to wash thoroughly with water avoiding toilet paper

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  12. We have actually been doing this for several years.I always used cloth diapers and saved old clothes for quilt pieces. I cut them into washcloth size squares, hemmed around the edges and started using them. Everyone seemed to complain the toilet paper was to thin, and I was not going to buy expensive stuff, so now the towels get tossed in a bucket of bleach water that sets in the bathroom and each evening they get tossed in my homemade wash machine(5 gallon bucket with a toilet plunger) and rainwater to wash. Extra work, but it saves in the long run. We could run through a pack of 12 rolls of toilet paper in a week.Most definitely a great thing to do.

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  13. I’ve lived in Asia for some time and for me the most frugal (and, I believe, most sanitary) way to save on ANY paper/cloth in the toilet is to copy the natives and WASH yourself clean.
    I have a long hose on my showerhead which allows me to direct the water flow to my nether regions.
    I am quite repulsed by the idea of those people who use paper to SMEAR themselves. Admit it… no matter how many times you wipe with paper you cannot remove all traces of waste. Not convinced by the idea? Then think… Don’t you wash yourself “down there” when you bathe or shower? Same idea, except that you clean yourself more often.

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    • Sharp Shepherd-

      Actually, it hasn’t increased my laundry expenses at all. I just throw the wipes in with my load of cloth diapers, the same size load I’ve always done. The tiny wipes really don’t add up to much of an addition to the load. So, there is no additional washing cost for me.

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  14. I’m just not sure I could do that. I do use the Diva cup, so I guess it can’t be grosser than that. Something to think about, thanks for sharing.

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  15. I am doing this in my house and it has cut back our tp usage alot just by me switching. I use gladrags and I love them for that time of the month. I use the cloth anytime in the restroom. You can wash the cloth in a lingerie bag and this helps to keep the cloths organized when going through the washer and dryer.

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  16. Hi Kendra –
    Great idea! We go to the grocery store rarely, but the motivating factor to go is usually TP. I’m game for this. My question is though do you wash them in a separate load? I suppose so, but it seems like it would be a very small load of laundry. The kids have outgrown diapers (thankfully!) otherwise I’d just throw them in with the every other day cloth diapers. I’m going to pull out those “baby wipes” baby wash clothes and put them to good use again.
    Thanks for your ideas! Melissa

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  17. I use cut up heavy t-shirts from the thrift store. The used ones go into a little trash can with a swing lid. No smell! I even use them for #2. However, I do use TP when I have my period… too messy otherwise.

    Hubby doesn’t participate. Of course, boys don’t need paper for #1, and that’s what I do all day long! He likes the really expensive, super soft, aloe covered paper.

    Once you realize that this is much less ick than washing diapers, adding the used cloths to a regular wash load is no big deal.

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    • Hi, you are one of the only people that say they use “family cloth” for #2. Do you put those in the swing lid trash can as well? Can you share more about this? Hope its not too graphic for anyone! How many days will you leave the #2 cloths in there? Do you use a bidet or ire bottle first? My sister dunks the washable baby cloth diapers in the toilet before tossing the aside for washing, but how do you deal with #2 wipes for a child or adult? do you dunk them too?

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      • Using a peri bottle (or a squirt bottle) of water before wiping is very helpful. Wetting the wipes is also a good idea for #2. Wash every 1-2 days, storing soiled cloths in a lidded trash can after use. I prefer washing family cloth and baby wipes in a bucket with a plunger washer instead of using the washing machine. Hope that helps!

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  18. I started doing this after I read about it on your blog:) I figured, I already use cloth wipes with the kids, why not me and my husband? My husband still doesn’t care for it, he uses toilet paper, but since he’s at work most of the time we only buy toilet paper about once a month. That’s some MAJOR savings at our house. I definetly prefer the wipes to toilet paper. I just wash them like I do cloth diapers:) Glad you gave it a try!

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  19. when you put it the way you do, it sounds completely logical, but no one at my house would go for it, but cost savings you better belive, toilet paper is expensive, and we do use alot. the septic tank would be relived of all that “wasteful paper”, pun intended or not!

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  20. Kendra,
    I’ve been wanting to try this for some time now, and I just haven’t done it yet!
    I have a stack of old t-shirts that should work perfect for this purpose, that I just need to cut up and put in a basket.

    Thanks for the encouragement, I think I’ll try and start this this week!

    Hannah

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  21. I’m totally up for this…except my hubby said that it grossed him out too much!
    I read a blog about a small family that uses only clothes and has one roll of tp for guests and I was amazed at the savings!
    It really is brilliant. She even said that they used them for #2 and it didn’t stink up the bathroom as they washed them everyother day.
    With my kids I think I might be afraid of them accidentally or “accidentally” =) throwing them in the toilet and clogging it up. I bet the baby wash clothes you are using will help if that ever happens as they are smaller and thinner than normal wash clothes!
    Maybe one day I’ll just go ahead and set up the system for me and the kids…those kids go through toilet paper like candy…maybe I should ask them if they are eating it! j/k! =)
    Give us an update someday!

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