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In this post: What do you do when you run out of toilet paper? Here are ten toilet paper alternatives used around the world that can be used instead of good ol’ T.P.!


When your toilet paper supply runs out and there’s none to be found in the store, what do you do? Well, there are actually a lot of toilet paper alternatives available to you – ranging from almost luxurious to um, kinda icky! 

empty toilet paper roll and a wrapped roll with "emergency roll" written on it

What if I run out of Toilet Paper?

Well, first of all, if you run out of toilet paper, don’t freak out! 

empty toilet paper roll, with "don't panic" written on it in black marker

I recently read a story somewhere online about someone calling 911 when they ran out of t.p.!

It can be very disconcerting to run out of something as basic as toilet paper, but it is not an emergency…and I’m pretty sure emergency services cannot help with this particular issue! (Just a hunch.)

If you are down to your last roll or two, ask yourself if you’ve genuinely searched for toilet paper at all the places (drug store, grocery store, hardware store, corner store, etc.).

If you really have looked everywhere and still can’t find any toilet paper, then consider asking your friends or neighbors if they can “spare a square” or two. Of course, be kind and return the favor when you do finally find t.p. 

via GIPHY 

However, if you still can’t get your hands on any of the good stuff, here are ten toilet paper alternatives. But beware: a few are kinda unpleasant and are included in the list in case anyone is really desperate!

10 Alternatives to Toilet Paper

Toilet paper has actually only been around the last couple of hundred years and in some parts of the world it’s still not used today!

So here are some obvious, and not so obvious options for cleaning yourself after the toilet paper has run out, very loosely in order of most “socially acceptable in North America” to least. 

1. Bidet

The most obvious alternative to toilet paper is to get a bidet installed in your bathroom. Hardware stores and Amazon all sell bidet attachments or bidet toilet seats. But, this is not at all helpful if you don’t have access to a store that might have one or they’re sold out online. 

If you can get a bidet though you might just be converted. They take a little bit of getting used to, but once most people have one they swear by it!

Another do-it-yourself type “bidet” would be to use one of those plastic squirt bottles filled with fresh water. If any of y’all have had a baby that resulted in stitches “down there”, the hospital likely sent you home with one. 

2. Flushable Wipes

Flushable wipes have gained some popularity in the last few years but they come with a lot of drawbacks.

Despite the packaging saying that they are safe to be flushed they really aren’t that eco friendly, especially when a lot of people are using them. This results in sewage backups and nobody wants that.

Use flushable wipes only if necessary, or toss them safely in the garbage can. 

3. Baby Wipes

If you’re in a pinch and happen to have some baby wipes on hand these work great for cleaning up grown up bottoms, just like they do baby bottoms.

However, if there is a toilet paper shortage you shouldn’t go out and buy baby wipes because very likely a lot of people will be doing this and this could take away from parents who need the wipes for their babies.

Baby wipes also cannot be flushed.

4. Other Types of Paper

Now that we’re past the most obvious toilet paper replacements it’s time to consider some of the more… unusual options, like the morning newspaper.

Yes, other paper can stand in for toilet paper – napkins, tissues, paper towels, etc. Even paper bags from the grocery store will work!

If you’re worried that these other types of paper will be too harsh, you could always dampen them at the sink to soften them up a bit before use. 

Just keep in mind that non-toilet paper paper cannot be flushed.

For disposable toilet paper alternatives that cannot be flushed: You should have a trash bag just for this waste next to your toilet that you empty every day. 

5. Reusable Toilet Cloth (a.k.a. Family Cloth)

One of my friends mentioned Family Cloth on Facebook the other day. I had an inkling of what it was, and after looking it up, my guess was confirmed. 

Family cloth or reusable toilet cloth is cut up pieces of old towels or even thick t-shirts, kept in a stack next to your toilet.

If you you’re going to use reusable toilet cloths, keep a trash bag lined container with a lid nearby for the ones that have been used. At the end of the day rinse them off in the sink then throw them in your washing machine for a sanitizing wash (and then sanitize the sink too).

Reusable toilet cloths may seem a little bit unconventional – but they’re better than nothing and really not much different than reusable cloth diapers.

Although reusable (after a good sanitizing wash), it’s important to note that they are not shared or reused once dirty!  

Some etsy sellers even make and sell “fancy-schmancy” family cloth! 

6. Socks

You can use socks just like you would the toilet cloth, though I would recommend cutting up an old towel before using socks which you might need – you know, to wear on your feet! 

7. Rinse in the Shower

If you’re out of toilet paper and it’s absolutely necessary, you can always rinse yourself off in the shower.

Just make sure that nothing has stuck to your legs and that all the particles have washed down the drain.

You will also want to clean and sanitize your shower if you use this option.

8. Leaves

If you want to keep on wiping, head out into the world and grab some leaves! Campers and backpackers apparently do it all the time!

Just make sure you know what the plant is that you’re about to wipe on your bottom. Remember: leaves of three, let it be!

The last thing you want right now is a nasty case of poison ivy.

corn on the cob on wood table

9. Corn on the Cob?!

I kid you not!

Apparently, in the “old times”, in the United States people would use corn on the cob to clean themselves!

I imagine that this is something of a challenging proposition and obviously requires that you have a abundance of corn on the cob on-hand. 

10. Your Hand

Finally, there is your hand.

I know, ew!

But as I understand it this is a common way to wipe yourself off in many areas of the world. Apparently, this is typically why the left hand is considered unclean in places like India. You know, if Google is to be trusted. 

If you’re out of toilet paper and desperate, feel free to use your hand to clean yourself, then afterwards make sure you really scrub that hand with soap and water. Oh and maybe trim your nails first. #ouch

toilet paper on green background with text overlay that says " toilet paper alternatives"

Now, I’m the furthest thing I think there is from a “crunchy” mom and a few of these ideas genuinely gross me out. But, such is life. And sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do! 

Have you run out of toilet paper recently? What toilet paper alternatives have you heard of?

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13 Comments

  1. I had to read this even though I have lots of TP. What a welcome read with some good tips and a few laughs (although I wish it wasn’t funny). Thank you!

  2. im Always apprehensive about decluttering and now I know why. This is the perfect time to clean out linen closets and use up old sheets and or towels if necessary. Though I have ample supply now, my plan is to use old items cut up for this purpose and dispose of the nastier ones. Also spray bottles with water can help.
    Many of us have lived without the luxury of baby wipes and disposable diapers.

  3. Well, that was certainly interesting. And a couple of them made me laugh – and humor is much needed these days. Stay healthy out there & a d if people quit hoarding to, diapers, baby wipes, etc. we will all have enough. Hopefully soon we can all look back on these weeks and find that our social distancing, voluntary quarantines, etc have changed the impact of the virus. #flattenthecurve

  4. The article mentions corn on the cob as a possible alternative. The truth is it is the cob that can be used. The kernels are much too rough and would be waste of food source. Popcorn cons are preferable. They are softer. Speaking from experience from my youth on the farm and the little house away from the house. Prior years Sears catalogue also was a favorite.

    1. Yes…I did mean without the corn on it. Sorry that wasn’t clear! Sounds like your growing up years were rather helpful to you for this particular time!

  5. The spray bottle is a great idea! Easy, inexpensive and effective. Never would have thought of that.
    Great post! Given these times, it’s useful information to have on hand.
    Stay safe everyone!

  6. The India thing is only partially true – two critical pieces of information are missing:

    1. We pour water on our to-be-cleaned areas and use the left hand to clean, just like one might in the shower. The reach is basically the same idea as you might with toilet paper, typically from the front. The Hindi/Urdu name for the traditional watering jug dedicated to this activity is “lota”. Today we might use a handheld bidet attachment for the water supply, but it’s the same idea. If you travel in India and use a toilet, that’s why there’s a tap. I recommend bringing your own wash bottle – and maybe even your own water. 🙂

    2. We wash our hands, with soap. (Something it’s quite clear from my time in public bathrooms that many Westerners do not do.) Having said that, if you travel in India, keep some fragrance-free solid soap with you in a Ziploc baggie. You never know the quality of the facilities or the options you have in the specific area you’re in, especially in a village, but surprisingly, even in urban restaurants. Besides, most Westerners will feel more comfortable knowing the “chain of custody” of that bar of soap. 🙂 Hand sanitizer is *not* a substitute for soap.

    Toilet paper may be used used for drying. We walk away as clean as a full shower.

    The “ew” factor is felt by us – deeply – toward people who only use toilet paper. You can’t believe how disgusted I was upon learning Westerners wipe with paper – and that’s it. It wasn’t until high school that I learned the phrase “skid marks,” and nearly lost my lunch. I had to clean with only toilet paper once. Despite it being decades ago, I still clearly remember the feeling of disgust and embarrassment at possibly being discovered all these years later. Once when visiting a Western friend as a young child and having to go number 2, I couldn’t find his lota, so I made up an excuse and went home to use the bathroom. I just couldn’t believe they didn’t have one – the idea simply did not compute.

    Trust me, we’re silently judging you – especially when shaking hands – and we collectively laughed our heads off during the toilet paper panic.

    I’m Muslim, and there’s an extra imperative for us to maintain a state of cleanliness (“tahara”), which is why we perform a ritual cleansing before prayers (“wudu”) at least five times a day. It’s believed maintaining your state of wudu at all times is enough on its own to get into heaven. Being clean, from top to bottom (hah!), is a critical part of our lives.

  7. I grew up in the state of Washington and I’ve always loved to camp. I never bothered bringing toilet paper, because there were always soft leaves or moss I could use.

    Then I moved to New Mexico. The first time I went camping, nature called, and I realized there were no plants for miles around that weren’t cacti or otherwise spiky. Now I bring toilet paper when I camp!