Editor’s Note: This resource has been revised and updated for 2019.
For this post, we are going to tackle a subject that some people do not want to think about and that is what do you use when the toilet paper runs out. There is a lot of situations where this might happen. I know some people pride themselves on stockpiling a lot of toilet paper but no one can stockpile enough to get through a long emergency without sacrificing space and money.
Personally toilet paper is a luxury I hope to never give up. I lived without indoor plumbing for years while we were building our house. It is times I will always remember and I am glad we did what we had to do to have our house but I cannot imagine how hard it would have been to give up the toilet paper.
So I guess my point is that there are no great and convenient alternatives but sometimes times get tough and you have to improvise. My vote goes for a bidet bottle for the most useful and convenient toileting device you can put back. It hardly weighs anything, is inexpensive, and it is small enough to be convenient for travel or bugging out.
A bidet bottle can double as a cleansing device and give you some water pressure for staying clean otherwise. Plenty of people use them when injured to help keep all areas of their body clean without the assistance of someone else.
These are very inexpensive and they work far better than you would ever think. A larger bottle holds about 14 ounces of water which is not much compared to a low flow toilet that takes around 1-1.3 gallons per flush. The pressure created when you turn up the bottle and then squeeze offers a stream of water that will leave you clean. It is easy to fill and keep clean and you don’t have to plumb in a real bidet.
These don’t require a lot of plumbing knowledge but they offer an alternative that is more usable than just a bidet bottle. For a more luxurious bathroom experience, you can get them that can be plumbed into hot water.
Another version with the same idea. A jet of water cleans you where you need it with no toilet paper needed. These can also be bought on Amazon and installed with a few basic tools and some time.
When it comes to altering any plumbing, make sure you turn off the water where it needs to be to avoid a deluge of water. After all the work is done, be sure to check for leaks. Even a slow leak can cause trouble over time.
Although washing dirty clothes is not something that bothers me, I don’t think I am interested in going the “family cloth” route. This is when you use designated clothes for bathroom visits and then wash them. A lot of people use pinking shears to cut flannel or old t-shirts up and then use those.
A few people have given up toilet paper entirely by using these cloth squares cut to size and then washing them with very hot water and plenty of detergent. You can also buy washable baby wipes made from flannel that are hemmed and made for the job! They are surprisingly inexpensive.
Some people throw them into a bucket with vinegar and water for a presoak before putting them into the washing machine. Personally, this seems like it would be hard to deal with. In a survival situation, you may not have a good way to do laundry and boiling rags with feces, or even just traces is a bit time-consuming.
If you were going to implement this course of action, I would recommend treating them like cloth diapers and also using concentrated powdered potassium bicarbonate (Oxy Clean) to further sanitize. Making sure any traces of bacteria are gone are very important.
If these are being used by women to wipe and there are remaining bacteria from feces it can lead to infections that require antibiotics. This is the same thing they are talking about when they tell girls to wipe front to back in hygiene and health classes.
In the old days, families grew a lot of corn on their own so corn husks were saved and used for all kinds of purposes. You can dry corn husks and use them for wipes in an emergency.
I know it sounds odd to bring up GMOs talking about toilet paper alternatives but I have to say that I would find another way to wipe before I used a corn husk that had been sprayed consistently with Roundup and other pesticides and herbicides.
Back when the old people were using corn husks that stuff wasn’t around. If you are concerned about the dioxins and chemicals in your paper products and feminine hygienic products now, then you should consider what you are wiping with when SHTF.
There are a lot of leaves that can work pretty well for toilet paper alternatives and then there are some that you don’t want to go anywhere near.
Large Leaf Maples work well because they have a lot of surface area. Hickory leaves can work. Any oak leaf will work but they are a bit too toothed and incised to offer a lot of coverage.
Scrounged Up Paper
Since so many magazines and papers are mostly digital now it is harder to find free sources of old paper. What paper is out there often gets sent to the recycling center. During a survival situation, however, you could even use the paper from old books or some food packaging. Paper grocery bags might seem a little rough but they are far better than something you have to wash later.
I don’t think many used books will survive if people need them for fuel or toilet paper during SHTF.
I think using a sponge and sanitizing after each use sounds horrible. Sponges have so much surface area and although they can be sanitized by soaking and/or boiling if you miss anything it can create a major breeding ground for bacteria. This is a very time-consuming method, and I honestly think it would be easier to keep clothes cleaner and bacteria free than a sponge.
Some claim that using microfiber towels that dry out fast is a solution for toilet paper on the trail. I think it would be too much hassle and slow you down, especially if you are really trying to make good time.
For at home use, they may work better for you than flannel if you want something that doesn’t retain a lot of moisture. One thing about microfiber is that you can get a huge pack of them for a very low cost.
Scrape With Smooth River Rock and Wash As Needed
For this, you are going to need a very smooth river rock stone. Scrape and rinse the stone and then rinse your bottom with water from a bidet or irrigation bottle.
Dealing With Moisture From Using A Bidet Or Washing Method
Care must be taken to make sure your skin dries out sometimes. Women that allow too much water to remain in their private areas can be more likely to develop yeast infections that can make a survival situation that much more hard to bear. You don’t want to put a tight layer on with a lot of water still on your nether regions.
I recommend that any woman puts back a few treatment packs of Monistat or similar for a long emergency. Fellows if you are the main prepper person in the family, think about this when you are putting together that medical kit for SHTF.
Some types of pre-moistened wipes could be used for bathroom hygiene but you need to be very careful. Some wipes have ingredients that could irritate sensitive areas if used very often. Baby wipes are best because they are made for sensitive private areas.
You get a lot of wipes in the tub and you can cut off half of one to conserve if you are not in need of a lot of wiping action.
Combining Methods For Simplicity and Comfort
Part of me feels that you should look for ways to stretch out your toilet paper usage over time in SHTF as well. Just because you have a 100 rolls put back doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider using bidet bottles to reduce how much you have to use each visit.
Hygiene Is Very Important During A SHTF Scenario
Medical services could be limited or non-existent during a bad situation. Even those that have sufficient supplies of antibiotics on hand should not slack in the slightest when it comes to disease and infection prevention. Remember that not even 100 years ago people were dying of water and hygiene-related illnesses.
You don’t want to have to take antibiotics for something that can be prevented by good toilet habits and practices. Men might not be as apt to suffer from some of these by women need to be especially careful as we are prone to all types of urinary and yeast infections.
I know that toilet paper is one of those conveniences that it is hard to give up in any way shape or form but you can do it if you need to. Everyone talks about “how it will really be if SHTF” and the truth is that we can make a guess but the total circumstances are impossible to know.
Some of the options I have discussed in this post are only really possible with running water. If you are bugging out then the stone and the bidet bottle are going to be your friends. Without running water and staying in place it is going to be impossible to use reusable cloth and keep any resemblance of hygienic conditions. Hot water and good soap are not an option in some survival situations.
I suppose if you have sanitizer and some quick dry camp towels it is possible but something like that is going to slow you down. Leaves or moss are your friend in the woods but be sure that you are using leaves that are not known to cause skin irritation.
This gal ain’t giving up her toilet paper without having to but wants to be ready with other options just in case. You should consider an alternative too and plan ahead so you can stay healthy during any long emergencies ahead. What have you got planned for this everyday part of life? What alternatives did I miss?
Author Bio: Samantha Biggers lives on a mountain in North Carolina with her husband and a pack of loyal hounds in a house her husband and she built themselves. When not writing she is working in their vineyard, raising Shetland sheep, or helping her husband with whatever the farm and vineyard can throw at them.
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