Every once in a while I see people asking what the best alternative to toilet paper is. It’s actually a bigger deal than you may think. If you don’t properly clean yourself it can lead to uncomfortable sores and rashes!
The best toilet paper alternatives are bidet, add-on bidets, handheld bidets, bidet bottles, spray bottles, newspaper, other paper items, baby wipes, adult wipes, cloth wipes, and toilet paper tablets.
If you’ve been looking around for toilet paper alternatives for any amount of time, then you’ve probably come across all the articles that just try to throw anything in there so they can say that they have one more alternative than some other site…I can’t stand it!
All of these are actually useful ideas for alternative TP options. “Just drag your butt on the carpet like a dog” isn’t going to show up on the list!
Water is probably the easiest way to clean yourself, but it’s also the most important survival item there is. If you’re cutting back on toilet paper because there just isn’t any toilet paper available due to some long term disaster, think long and hard before you use water to clean your butt!
If you’re in an area that has plenty of water, then it’s not a big deal, but if you live in an area that has limited water you’re going to need to come up with a different option.
Bidet – A bidet is a piece of hardware that sits next to your toilet and sprays water to clean you after you go to the bathroom. This obviously isn’t for emergencies and would be pretty costly to add to your bathroom, but it’s the best way to cut out the use of toilet paper on a daily basis.
Add-on Bidet – Add-on bidets attach to your existing toilet and give it a bidet function. They have all of the benefits of a traditional bidet and don’t require a lot of money or construction to set-up.
This still isn’t a good idea for a long term disaster (unless you’re able to keep your water running) but it’s great to get rid of toilet paper and cut down on your environmental impact.
Handheld Bidet – This is a spray nozzle that connects to the toilet or a nearby faucet and is used to spray yourself after you go to the bathroom. They’re the least expensive permanent bidet option. They have the same benefits and disadvantages of the add-on bidet but are usually much cheaper.
Bidet Bottles/Perineal Bottles – Bidet bottles and perineal bottles are pretty much the same thing, they’re just marketed to different audiences. Both of them have a squeeze bottle that holds water and a curved tube with a nozzle on the end.
You can try this travel bidet bottle if you’re looking to try out something like this.
These are perfect for emergencies and don’t use a lot of water. The nozzles typically produce a decent amount of water pressure so they actually do a decent job of cleaning you!
Spray Bottles – You can actually use regular spray bottles pretty effectively. You’ll have to experiment with different spray bottles since there’s sometimes a lot of variation between manufacturers, but overall a spray bottle will work in a pinch.
A quick note on using streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes as a place to clean yourself. You’ll probably notice that I never mentioned going to the bathroom and then cleaning yourself in some body of water, or even better, just going in that body of water.
That’s because the main way that some of the worst waterborne diseases are transmitted is the fecal-oral route. That means from the feces of someone who’s infected to the mouth of someone that’s healthy and drinking from contaminated water. Don’t take the chance of contaminating a water source.
Paper is a natural go-to when looking for alternative toilet paper. You can use all kinds of paper but some are better than others.
Newspaper seems like it would be the best type of paper to store in bulk if you intentionally wanted to go that route. Just crumble it up to soften it a little and you should be good to go.
Other paper sources will work too. Notebooks, magazines, catalogs, etc. can all be used. I would stay away from thicker paper and glossy paper if you can. Paper that has a glossy finish has a tendency to smear things around more than you’re going to like.
There are all kinds of wipes out there that work great as toilet paper. You can grab baby wipes, buy wipes that are specifically designed for wiping adult butts or even make your own cloth wipes.
Baby Wipes – Baby wipes are one of the better toilet paper alternatives. They have chemicals that reduce chafing and prevent rashes.
Adult Wipes – Adult wipes range from purpose-made wipes for camping and hiking to wipes designed to clean up after adults with incontinence. Either way, they’re usually larger and thicker than baby wipes since they’re made for adults.
Cloth Wipes – Cloth wipes can be anything from old clothing to microfiber towels to so-called “family cloth”. They work really well and aren’t as gross as you’d think they would be.
Make sure that you have a diaper bin or something similar and clean them properly before you reuse them.
If you’re going to be reusing rags or purpose-made cloth wipes, you need to make sure that you wash them with hot water.
According to the CDC: “Hot water provides an effective means of destroying microorganisms. A temperature of at least 160°F (71°C) for a minimum of 25 minutes is commonly recommended for hot-water washing. The use of chlorine bleach assures an extra margin of safety. A total available chlorine residual of 50–150 ppm is usually achieved during the bleach cycle. Chlorine bleach becomes activated at water temperatures of 135°F–145°F (57.2°C–62.7°C).”
That quote is straight from the CDC’s guidance for environmental infection control in health-care facilities. Following those guidelines will get your cloth wipes clean and eliminate most of the bacteria and other microbes at work in them. It doesn’t make them sterile.
Drying cloth wipes in the sun is another good way to kill off bacteria. The UV rays from the sun deactivate bacteria and keep it from being able to reproduce.
Lemon juice is a great way to kill off bacteria and its strong smell can get rid of any nasty odors that may linger. The high acidity of lemon juice can kill microbes.
Toilet paper tablets have recently gotten a lot of traction in the survival and outdoor communities. They’re a compressed towelette that’s biodegradable and stronger than normal toilet paper.
Portawipes compressed toilet paper is one of the highest-rated toilet paper tablets on Amazon. It comes with 500 tablets and 4 plastic tubes to transport them.
They can be rinsed and reused if you’re using them as a washcloth or to clean up a spill and they hardly take up any space in a bag or emergency kit.
As toilet paper, they’re great because they only take about a tablespoon of water to rehydrate. After that, you get what’s normally about a 9 x 9″ moist towel that you can wipe yourself with. One is good enough for most people but you can use as many as you want.
The option that’s going to work best for you is probably something that combines a couple of the toilet paper alternatives above. By combining different things, you can mix and match techniques to maximize cleaning and minimize the use of resources that may be limited.
An example would be using water to clean yourself and then finishing with cloth wipes, or wiping with newspaper first and then finishing with baby wipes. Either of these would get you cleaner than any single toilet paper alternative alone.
Flatten the roll of toilet paper before storing it or get rolls of toilet paper that don’t have a cardboard roll in the center. These tend to be the “professional” rolls of toilet paper (read as not soft and single-ply) but they take up less room than store-bought rolls.
After you flatten a roll of toilet paper you should store them in an area that doesn’t get wet and won’t get contaminated by insects or rodents. Once toilet paper gets wet or has insects and rodents in it, it’s pretty much trash.
Plastic 55-gallon drums would be an ideal place to store toilet paper for the long term. It really comes down to how important toilet paper is to you.
At first glance around the internet, it seems like the general consensus is that Americans use 3 rolls of toilet paper per week. If you dig around a little more you’ll find that the federalist did a little math and it actually comes out to a little more than 1 roll per week per person (56 rolls a year). Let’s just round that to 60 rolls per person per year of toilet paper that you want to have stored. (Keep in mind that women tend to use a little more than that.)
Storing 60 rolls per person per year will add up fast, but if you’re serious about having toilet paper in case of a long term disaster, then at least you have a number to shoot for. If I was storing toilet paper, I’d probably make it 70 rolls per person just to have a little wiggle room.
Historically, there was a wide range of things used before toilet paper was invented. Mankind has spent a lot more time without toilet paper than with toilet paper, it was only invented in 1857 and still isn’t used in many parts of the world.
I’m not recommending that you use any of these methods unless you absolutely have to, but they’ve all been used in the past without too many ill effects.
All of these things have been used before toilet paper came around:
- Your hands
- All kinds of leaves and branches
- Corn husks
- Mussel shells
- Coconut husks
- Clay (how is that even supposed to work)
Again, I’m not recommending that you go and start wiping your butt with coconut husks. I just put this list here so you know what’s been done in the past in case you have to get creative at some point.
You can wipe your butt with just about anything, but I like to go with what’s the most effective instead of just grabbing a handful of sticks and hoping they do the job.
If you plan ahead for emergencies, then you can have plenty of toilet paper stored. If you’re just looking to cut down on your paper usage, there are a lot of good toilet paper alternatives out there that you can try.
I would go with a bidet for regular use at home and some combination of a bidet bottle and wipes for disasters.