How to Survive Without Toilet Paper

Your survival plan should include a huge stock of toilet paper. Nonetheless, if you were faced with a long term situation in which the stock was used up, it would be good to know about toilet paper substitutes.

The problem is very basic. Personal hygiene is a high priority in survival situations; it’s good for both health and morale. Toilet paper is very convenient, but emergency preparation has to account for the likelihood that you’ll find yourself in a situation without it. Disposable wipes don’t count — they too will run out eventually. What we’re looking for is a permanent toilet paper substitute, and there is one that has worked during the entire history of man.

Water

Once again, an abundant water supply proves itself to be the basic survival resource. See Emergency Water Supply. If you have plenty of water, install a bidet next to your toilet, and simply wash. You can also install toilet/bidet combinations, although most are absurdly expensive. One promising option is the Olympia Shower Bidet, which is a $70 addon shower head that hooks into the toilet tank water supply line. The downside: it’s cold water only.

You can extend this principle to more rustic living conditions. Whether your bugout location is a cave, a tent, or a cabin, run a water supply to the privy or carry a bucket of water with you into the woods.

Variation: Use a cloth. After use, rinse it in water, wash in a bleach or vinegar solution, then rinse again and hang to dry.

Vegetation

There are several plants whose leaves make suitable wipes, but only in the growing season. A leaf makes a good wipe if it is soft, strong, and absorbent. Mullein and Lamb’s Ear come to mind.

Young Mullein plant. The mature plant has a tall spike with small flowers, usually yellow.

Lamb's ear plant.

Caution: Some individuals may be irritated by the small hairs on these plants. Test them first on other sensitive areas of your body, such as the inside of the forearm, behind the knee, or on the neck. Blanching the leaves for a few seconds in boiling water might help, but I’m not sure how this will affect their strength.

If you’re fortunate to live in a tropical or sub-tropical climate you’ll have more options throughout the year. I don’t know what hardy broad-leaf plants would make good wipes; all the ones I can think of, like Southern Magnolia, Euonymus, and Live Oak are brittle and have a waxy coating. Maybe they’d fit in the better-than-nothing category, but those of us in colder climates will have a tougher time in winter. If you have ideas, please share them in the discussion forum (separate registration is required).

~SnoMan

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  • 1836eig

    Newspapers or the pages of old catalogs work well. As a child we used corn cobs, field corn cobs to get the grit off first followed by a sweet corn cob for finale cleanup. The field corn cob had a gritty texture whereas the sweet corn cob's texture was rather soft.. Also I've used tree leaves and most broad leaf weeds and even grass. You need to stay away from prarie grass though, cause it'll give you the itchies untill you get to bathe. If you get real desperate you can use a handkerchief, t-shirt or even your underwear. Also you have 8 fingers and 2 thumbs at your disposal as well–no kidding!