Here’s what you can use if you run out of toilet paper

As coronavirus panic accelerates, store shelves are beginning to look pretty picked over, and certain household necessities are in short supply as people cross the line from stocking up into outright hoarding. If you didn’t empty your bank account and fill your spare room with thousands of rolls of toilet paper, though, should you start worrying that you may run out of this product as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread?

Don’t get too worried about it. While toilet paper is certainly useful to have on hand, it’s actually a fairly modern invention, dating back to the mid-19th century (via HistoryExtra). Biological waste products, however, have been with us since our single-cell organism days, and the desire to clean up after those unavoidable events probably originated in prehistoric times. In ancient Greece, sherds of broken pottery were, shall we say, recycled, while in Rome, one would do as the ancient Romans did by cleaning oneself with a sponge. Our colonial ancestors made use of corn cobs, and from earliest times to last summer’s camping trips, grasses, leaves, and moss have been pressed into service (to the lasting regret of anyone who failed to check for poison ivy).

None of these sound appealing? Well, you can always use Kleenex, paper towels, or baby wipes (don’t flush these last two, though). Should supplies of these also run low or prove cost-prohibitive, there are several DIY TP options readily available — and relatively risk-free, unlike the aforementioned leaf option.

Other types of paper that can be used for TP

One of the cheapest (and easiest) options is going to be some other type of paper — like the Yellow Pages, for example, since really, when’s the last time you actually used one of these volumes instead of just looking a phone number up on the internet? Other types of paper you could use include newspaper, printer paper, or notebook paper, or perhaps even the pages of that cheesy Harlequin Romance novel you were embarrassed to be caught reading.

A word of advice from Ask a Prepper: if you crumple the paper up enough times before use, it will soften up to an extent. Although you should probably not flush any type of non-toilet paper, you can always burn it or just toss it — not in the blue bin, though, since certain, er, substances, are not on the approved list for recycling.

Cloth can be used for TP

Do you have any washcloths? If so, do you ever actually use them? If they’re just something you have in your bathroom closet, but you’ve never seen a real reason to use them — well, now could be the time. If you have no washcloths, cut-up old towels, t-shirts, or shop rags will also work just fine. And although you probably don’t own any cloth handkerchiefs (or have necessarily even seen one in real life) if you are under the age of 80, well, guess what, Walmart still sells them. Now just might be a great time to buy hankies, too, since nobody seems to be hoarding these just yet.

The great thing about using cloth is that you can rinse it off after use and then throw it in the laundry to make sure that no traces of unpleasantness remain. Okay, so you may not want to use any of these repurposed cloths on your face after they’ve seen service at the opposite pole, but it’s a small sacrifice to make for a noble (or at least a cleaner) end.

Water washes you clean

While you can always take a post-elimination shower, this may not be necessary to do every single time you go. A spray bottle of water will also do the trick, although you should either have a towel on hand or prepare to do a little drip-drying before pulling your pants back up. If a water wash seems inadequate to you, consider this: when the dishes are dirty, do we just wipe them off with a paper towel? Eww, no, we don’t consider them clean unless they’ve been washed with water (and also soap, though you need not go to that extent unless you really want to).

In fact, Toilet Paper Fun Facts estimates that up to 75 percent of the world’s population does not use toilet paper, while Road Junky points out that bathrooms in many other parts of the world including North Africa, the Middle East, and much of Asia tend not to have it — but not because people in other countries have little regard for personal hygiene. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Many consider that the only way you can be really clean after going No. 2 is to clean yourself up with water. So as long as the water supplies hold out, this could be your least expensive (and yet most sanitary) option should the great Toilet Paperpocalypse come to pass.

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