Can’t Find Toilet Paper? Here Are 12 Alternatives to TP

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The OP Staff Writers

The Holy Grail in America right now is toilet paper.

Maybe it’s because in many towns and cities across the nation, spying a 12-pack – or even, goal of all goals, a lonely 24-pack sitting angled on an otherwise empty shelf is recently akin to finding a gold nugget while wading in a creek.

So what’s a person to do when their precious supply of toilet paper runs out? Desperate times call for desperate solutions. We’ve got you covered with 12 alternatives to toilet paper for people on a budget.

1. Bidet

Image credit: brondell

A bidet is a water spraying device, designed to clean what toilet paper is intended to. In some countries, they are abundant and common, namely in Europe.

In this TP-deprived climate, articles are being published alleging to help people fix ghetto-rigged bidets. However, they are really just advertising bidets for purchase, in the $20 – $60 range. If this sounds favorable to you, you might want to get one before supplies run short.

If you want to go bidet-crazy and go from a garden hose to a fire hydrant hose, get yourself a “bum gun.” These are more common in certain countries as well. It’s like a bidet you guide as if it were a hose.

2. Cotton balls

Image Credit: cheatsheet

Here’s where this article gets survivalistic. The rest of this is essentially catered to people who are really in a difficult situation. Think about it, cotton balls and q-tips work.

3. Mullein leaves

Image Credit: lostcreeksoaps

Mullein leaves are a specific type of leaf, known to be fluffy, absorbent and generally gentle to the human body. They can be found in many regions all throughout the world from North America to Australia and everywhere in-between. Make sure to pick the right leaves.

They might have distinct yellow flowers on stalks growing out of the plants, at a certain point of maturity. Mullein plants look like this.

Image Credit: thelifeofyourtime

As far as what to avoid, you already know. This is poison ivy, it has three leaves: obviously never touch this or wipe with it.

Image Credit: ydr

This is poison oak, the same thing goes for it. It has possibly waxier leaves, with a more “oak” like appearance than the viney nature of poison ivy.

Image Credit: gizmodo

4. Yarn, strings, or rope

Image Credit: skeinandhook

Once again this is common sense. Find some yarn, rolled up string, rope, or whatever it is. If it looks cloth-like and isn’t too rough (although rope might be on the rough side) use it. Just be sure to dispose of everything in this realm hygienically and carefully, and washing/sanitizing your hands to the fullest every time you use the bathroom.

5. Wipes

Image Credit: makingitfeellikehome

Another common sense item that could be useful is baby wipes. Please note that even wipes that claim to be flushable, are not. Don’t try to flush wipes – you’ll end up with a second disaster on your hands when your toilet clogs up.

6. Banana leaves, elephant ears

Taking it up a notch in intensity, what would you do if for some reason you were on the run, and had to go? Think about big, recognizable leaves that wouldn’t cause you any health problems.

These are banana leaves, you probably know what they are.

In North American regions alongside rivers or bodies of water, you might find Elephant Ears.

Image Credit: therivardrepor

7. Squirt bottle “bidet”

You can also DIY a less powerful bidet by using squirt bottles. These don’t require that you have running water and they’re a very inexpensive alternative. The ones made for hair dye are angled and easy to direct where you need the water to go.

8. Cardboard, or used cardboard tubes

Image Credit: naturallivingideas

On the rough side, but be careful and you’ll be alright: get yourself some cardboard, hopefully, thin and malleable. The cardboard on a toilet paper roll works fine: if you grew up with the struggle, you’re familiar with this method already.

9. Sponge

Image Credit: youtube

Common sense: if it can absorb, it can work. The only problem is you have a choice to either dispose of it or wash it very, very well. Maybe you should just dispose of it after.

10. Sanitary pads

Image Credit: indiatimes

Feminine hygiene products could work just as good as anything else, if not better. However, this could be another resource that is difficult to acquire at some point and it’s an expensive option. Remember, don’t flush anything like this.


11. Cloth rags

Image Credit: ebay

Washcloths or other fabric cloths can be used for wiping. Treat them the same way you would cloth diapers – rinse the “matter” off the cloth by dipping it into a flushing toilet, then toss them in a bucket of bleach water to soak until time to launder them. Some people already use this method and have dedicated “family cloths” that are specific to this purpose. Learn more here and here.

12. Any paper


Toilet paper isn’t the only kind of paper. Common, common sense says paper towels work, hell you could use newspapers, napkins, printer paper, whatever you want. Use a receipt if you want, but I do not recommend that because receipts can actually contain toxic chemicals. Obviously, never flush paper.

What about you?

What are your toilet paper alternatives? Share them in the comments section below.

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  • Some time ago, I started collecting our junk mail order catalogs and boxed them up. I put them aside for the possible time when toilet paper would be in short supply. I won’t need to resort to those for awhile, as I also bought TP whenever it was on sale and stacked it in the garage. My family is not laughing at me now.

  • OK… first off… my wife wonders why I keep a pile of the old phonebooks, well this is the reason. I keep just enough to fill a box full, that’s a few thousand pages, each page is good for at least 2-3 ‘sheets’.

    Next… at someones suggestion many years ago on one of the many blogs, I went out and bought at my local Mega-Lo-Mart store, several dozen-packs of cheap washcloths and put them back for this very purpose. They were around $2.99 per dozen (and still are). They are colored so each family member would pick a color and that would be theirs.
    When done using, it would be dropped into a small (lined) trash can w/ lid to be washed (like cloth diapers were back in the day, hot soapy water separate from other clothes).

    And lastly… several years ago, one of my local thrift stores had a donation of a case or two of the large rolls of industrial/commercial size TP (sand paper grade…lol), the rolls are about 12″ in diameter and they were selling them for $1 a roll. The rolls fit perfectly inside a 5 gallon bucket about 4 or 5 rolls high. I think I bought 15 or 20 rolls, added a bottle of Lysol, a dozen heavy duty trash bags, some Playtex gloves and a sponge or two per bucket along with one back-up ‘bucket toilet seat’ available from any camping or ‘Mart’ store. The buckets are marked and stacked in the corner of the basement as we speak. Have had them for a good 10 years, and since the grid is still up, we might have them another 10 years.

    And I’ll leave you with some TP trivia…
    Do you know why The Farmers Almanac has a hole in the top corner? To hang it on a nail in the outhouse. Because back in the early days, it was mostly read out in the privy and as the day or month passed, you tore out a page and used it for, well…you can guess what for….

  • The Taro / poi family of plants contains needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals, called raphides.

    The same are responsible for anaphylactic shock, when someone has consumed Dieffenbachia (aka “Dumb” Cane).

  • Another bidet substitute: an ordinary spray bottle, the kind w/adjustable spray size. It’ll take some practice to adjust your aim, but that’s okay. Use a cloth to dry. God bless.

  • If you have a detachable hand held shower fixture, problem solved. The only problem with this method of cleaning ones butt is that it requires removing shoes & socks and pants.

  • Useful info. So many great options for when it gets that bad for us. I too am in a situation where my family has stopped laughing at me. On another note, wouldn’t it be great if these articles had a “print button” to print the article without Adds? There may be a way, but for those of us who are technology challenged it would be amazing and simplified! Just sayin! 🙂

  • I’m not as worried about TP as I am the septic tank. We are having it cleaned out so we know it will be empty should we have an influx of people should things go sideways.
    For those on sewer you should look at plan B in case of disruptions of service. Most plan Bs will be accepting of alternate TP.

  • I have a subscription through Amazon. Every month I get TP and paper towels. You can skip months if you want. I have let my run for the last two months just in case. It is a pretty good deal. I had enough to help out my daughter and still not feel the pinch.

  • I’ve been saving the brown paper from Walmart deliveries for packaging items I sell and in case we run out of tp. It could be softened by rubbing it together while you are sitting 🙂
    Tissue paper, some wrapping paper, cheap napkins would be ok.

  • Why not take a cue from India, where trees are precious and mostly nonexistent? Put a 5-gallon bucket next to your toilet. Add a two-cup plastic measuring cup with a handle that will loop over the bucket rim. I got mine at a dollar store. After you pee, fill the little cup with water from the bucket and pour over yourself. Then use a clean washcloth to wipe the water away. I save my TP for #2, and use as little as possible, but in India they use the water method for everything. Be sure to wash your hands well afterward.

  • If you find mullein, consider using the leaves for tea rather than for tp. Historically, it’s been used to treat respiratory issues.

  • Here in the south we have an abundance of Spanish moss. It is hanging from lots of trees on our property. My sons and hubby tell me this moss makes great toilet paper as they have all used it at one time or another while hunting or fishing. Just a thought.

    • I’m born and raised in the deep south. We know that red bugs (chiggers) LOVE to hide out in Spanish Moss. You should be careful wiping your hind end with it.

  • Paper coffee filters work well as toilet paper! Just don’t flush them & throw in trash bucket with lid for disposing.

  • For those of us who did cloth diapers, this is almost a no brainer. It’s no fun going back to that but as long as there is bleach, hot soapy water and sunshine, all’s good.

  • When I was a kid my cousins lived in the Ozark Mountains and when we visited found out that the older people used corncobs before Toilet Paper.
    They shell the corn and the leftover Cobb would go into a bucket of water with some salt to soak for a couple days. They’d dry them out and would be soft to the touch. Those Cobb’s would be put in a bucket and placed in the outhouse for use.

  • My parents have been to Europe various times over the past few years.
    They liked bidets so much, they installed two in their home.

    Between them and my wife and I, we have joked about putting one in our home.

    Two weeks ago, we were no longer joking.
    Looking now.

    HOWEVER! Many of the current commercial ones require an electrical outlet.
    I have been noodling the idea of how to make a handpump one.
    Something to think about.

  • Daily, What about NAPKINS? Don’t forget KLEENEX, and what about PAPER TOWELS…Okay none of these are toilet tissue and the napkins and paper towels might be a little more rough on the hinny, however the Kleenex might actually be softer than toilet tissue. I stated using Walmart baby wipes several years ago. By um by the boxful. 8 to a box at 100 sheets each so that’s 800. I have 3 .5 boxes left and hoping that will last me awhile. SO if no baby wipes, next choice Kleenex (soft) then probably napkins (not as soft) and then the paper towels. Got enough I think to do me for the rest of this year between all of them. So I shall eat and then poop and eat again as long as there is food I shall utilize my paper products hahaha.
    Hang in there, hopefully by the end of summer or the beginning of the fall we will all be free of this virus. Lets hope so…Blessings, WKR

  • Hi, the rags are what my great grandmother told me they used when the paper ran out. They were washed with lye soap and boiled for about 15 to 20 minutes. Also remind folks not to put anything other than tp into their sewer system. Use a trash bag for every thing but tp.

  • Pages from old phone books work pretty good. The paper used for the pages is softer and thinner than newspaper. I have kept all of our old phone books for the last 10 years just in case. We have also kept heavy plastic feed bags just in case. The plan would be if needed to dispose of the waste paper in these saved bags and then burn them. Thankfully we live in the country.

  • Lol, some of the suggested alternatives makes me cringe. Ouch! But as they say “any port in a storm!”

  • My alternative would be cut up squares of T-shirts and a bucket with bleach water in it. Or even make some wipes solution and put on the squares and put in a container with a lid. I’d still want the bleach water bucket. And wash in hot soapy water. Dry on high heat.

  • Another good alternative would be to say, “here kitty kitty kitty.” Nice and soft, self cleaning and ready for use again in a couple of hours.

  • Sears Roebuck Catalog? Radioshack then? How ’bout JC Penney?

    Oh wait, that’s how they went out of business. (They quit issuing them). 😉

  • Compressed coin tissues from Amazon, $34.99 for 500. This is what I have stashed for disaster and buy every other month.

  • The cardboard tubes are used to collect dryer lint to start my fireplace.
    There are great alternative suggestions on here.
    I did some shopping for some folks today. I saw TP in several stores. Maybe not the brand ya want or 900rolls of it but there was ample TP to be had.

    • We do the same with the cardboard tubes.
      Try adding saw dust to the bottom, seems to burn longer.

      • Yeah I could see that. The sawdust is used in the coop though LOL
        I prebuild my fire stuff in the fireplace so that if I’m gone the wife just opens the flue and lights the lint and walks off.

  • The old standard on the farm yesteryear was corn cobbs and Sears Roebuck catalogues. That’s where the term, “rough as a Cobb” came from. My folks didn’t know what toilet paper was growing up.

  • For several years I have been collecting flannel remnants. Look in the bin in fabric store and/or Walmart. I have several yards. I will cut it into generous sized squares. Use pinking shears so it won’t ravel. Then keep a covered bucket with bleach water near the toilet. Wash them in hot, hot water to disinfect. Just like we did with cloth diapers years ago.

  • Don’t forget the old standby of farmers who grow and harvest dried corn: corn cobs and dried corn shucks. They have built in corn starch. One ear is good for multiple trips for number two.

  • Good suggestions. A hiker friend of mine showed me how smooth stones can actually be used, with care. It’s gross but you can also use your hand, provided you have good soap and running water. Shower after if it was particularly messy.

    My advice is to save all your phone books – those would be pretty good. Just make sure and crumple the paper really well, and unfold it several times before using, it softens the paper. The Sears Roebuck catalog used to be stored in the outhouse for a reason!

    Paper towels should be cut or torn into smaller squares to help avoid clogging, or stored seperately.

    Wads of grass can work, especially partly dried. I’ve done that. If you use a sponge, it might be a good idea to keep it in some bleach water and wring it out before using, rinse it out in the sink after, then stick it back in the bleach water.

    I would suggest lining a bucket with an old shopping bag or small trash bag and keeping it, covered with the lid next to the toilet for any such alternative wiping aids. You can sprinkle some baking soda in there to help with smell.

    Great ideas in this article! Thank you for sharing them.

  • In Antiquity,using a Sponge was first invented by the Roman Army for a squad or company(shared by soldiers,,,disgusting I know)…Just a bit of history!…Only read the article this am….Sean

  • 75 years ago we used catalog pages or newspaper, toilet paper was a luxury we seldom saw. We would take a catalog page or 1/2 a newspaper page and scrub it fiercely between our hands until it was soft and absorbent and use that. It worked very well. So don’t throw away your old newspapers!

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