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.
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.
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
- 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
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 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.
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.
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
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.