What would you do without toilet paper? We have been pondering what alternatives could we possibly consider if a disaster occurs and all supplies of toilet paper ran out. Being in an apartment, we do not have a lot of storage to be able to accumulate a large amount of any one item. Also, a large stockpile of toilet paper is not exactly portable in a bug-out situation, and in a shelter in place scenario, the TP supply is bound to run out. I did some research and found a few alternatives.
1. Wet wipes or baby wipes
These would work just like toilet paper, but again, a large stockpile would have to be accumulated.
2. Paper Substitutes
I saw a lot of references to using various types of paper. Newspaper may work, but the ink would turn everything black. I read other people prefer The Yellow Pages or store catalogs, since the pages are thinner and would not transfer ink to the skin. Just crumple up the sheet until it softens up, then wipe.
Some of the “green” sites recommend using cloth, such as wash cloths, terry cloth or even cloth diapers for wiping. The method would be to wet the cloth, wipe, then launder the cloth. Supporters of this idea feel that most people would have nothing against rewashing cloth diapers, therefore personal washcloths should be okay. I would think it would be a good idea to throw the soiled wash clothes into a bucket of water with some bleach before washing.
4. Plant material
Some survivalist sites mention using mild or medicinal plants. Sage leaves were mentioned in some sites, others mention corn husks or banana leaves. The trick would be to know in advance which plants are safe; you would not want to use something like poison ivy by mistake!
Many countries already use a spray water fountain called a “bidet” which is part of their bathroom facilities. Since this is being considered in an emergency scenario, we would need an alternative to that too. In many countries, use of the left hand in combination with pouring water with the right hand is the way to clean up. The idea would then be to clean vigorously using either a small can, like an empty coffee can or a spray bottle, then dry with a towel. To avoid disease, one would have to wash the hands well with water or antibacterial gel right after.
Now I am not saying the choices are great, but you gotta do what you gotta do to stay clean. An informal poll of family members did not result in a majority vote for any of the choices. The “gross” factor is definitely present, but would have to be overcome in an emergency. We will keep stockpiling toilet paper for now, and store them efficiently by flattening them for maximum use of space. Another idea would be to decrease the use of toilet paper by combining with the methods above, thereby extending the life of the stockpile. In the meantime, we keep our fingers crossed that any TP shortages are temporary, keeping in mind the alternatives above just in case.