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.
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.
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.
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).