Toilet Paper Alternatives

dried corn husks on a wooden surface

Toilet paper is one of the commodities of life we assume will always be available, so we tend to take it for granted. But during times of global emergency like the coronavirus pandemic, TP is one of the first things to become scarce. If you find yourself in a no-roll situation, there are alternatives.

Other Paper Goods

Start by checking around your house, car, and purse for other thin paper products that can do the job without too much discomfort. They may not be as efficient as TP, but tissues, paper napkins, and paper towels are the most obvious alternatives. Absent those, coffee filters, newspapers, and phone book pages can make decent stand ins. In a real pinch, you can resort to magazine pages or printer paper.

phone books


Continuing along the non-flushable line, you can get by pretty well with strips of fabric like rags made from old clothes and table cloths. Washcloths and cloth napkins can stand up to reuse if you're comfortable rinsing them out and washing them.

Water Cleansing

Cleansing oneself with water has been an option for many cultures both past and present. One water method is to take a plastic cup or another item and fill it with warm water, then pour the water into a cupped hand and proceed with a manual washing. This method can be simplified by using a spray bottle filled with warm water to spritz the area(s) to help with the cleaning/rinsing process.

A second method, when all else has failed, is to step into the shower and clean yourself thoroughly. While this is more time consuming, it is also very effective.

A third alternative is purchasing and installing a bidet.

Cleaning Wipes

Wet wipes and baby wipes are ideal from a hygiene standpoint, but it's important to remember not to flush them—they can clog up your pipes if you're not careful. Keep a small bin near your toilet, ideally one with a tight lid like a diaper genie.

baby wipes

Plant Elements

There are plenty of time tested natural alternatives to lean on if you're in a pinch. Large leaves are an obvious go-to, and corn husks are large enough to make a suitable stand in. Moss, grass, and hay are a little trickier, but if you're in a tough situation they can help you out. If you have plenty of water available, you can also use a scraper of some kind like seashells or smooth rocks. And in the right climate, a good handful of snow can do the trick.

broad green leaves


A bidet is a bathroom feature found mostly in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and is making itself a popular addition to bathrooms in the U.S. In a nutshell, it is an additional bowl to accompany the toilet. Once the toilet is used, the bidet is the next step in water cleansing.

Basically, the bidet bowl, which is similar to a toilet bowl, uses faucets to control the water pressure and a series of jets that are designed to route the water to specific areas for cleansing.

There are many styles and types of bidets available. For those with basic plumbing knowledge, the bidet can be easily installed, or you would hire a plumber to do the installation. If you want to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances that result in a lack of toilet paper, a bidet is a viable option for cleansing.

bidet toilet seat with controls and spray nozzle

Caution: With any of the above alternatives, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands afterwards with soap and water. Also, consider making your own cleaning products to keep the bidet and toilet extra clean.

History of Toilet Paper

The use of toilet paper into American society is less than 150 years old. It became available in 1857 thanks to inventor Joseph Gayetty. He also packaged medicated paper sold as flat sheets, not rolls.

In 1879, the Scott brothers founded Scott Paper and at some point, in the early 1900s the company manufactured toilet paper on a roll. The company also began dispensing paper towels in 1907 and Scott paper tissues in later years.

Way back in medieval China, sheets of toilet paper were already in use. Ancient Romans had a civilized method, too—they cleansed themselves with sponges on long sticks.