9 Toilet Paper Alternatives for Survival

In an SHTF scenario, one of the most sought-after items is going to be traditional toilet paper, because let’s face it, everyone has to go. Not to mention that even before a SHTF scenario, you spend your hard-earned dollars on paper that ends up in the sewer. It’s like flushing dollar bills!

roll of toilet paper with hand sanitizer bottle inside to another roll that was flattened
roll of toilet paper with hand sanitizer bottle inside to another roll that was flattened

You can choose to stock up on bulky toilet paper and hope that you have enough to get you through TEOTWAWKI or you can learn the alternatives.

Toilet paper used today with dispenser rolls (a 19th-century invention) is relatively new. There are some really easy and affordable options out there if you’re willing to give them a try.

1. Cloth Toilet Paper

If you’re serious about going green, living healthy, and saving cash, cloth toilet paper is a lifesaver. It may sound outrageous at first, but wait ‘til you hear about the benefits.

Historically, our resourceful ancestors used natural materials, such as soft leaves, fruit skins, or sponges to swab their derrières.

Rose petals were commonly used in Rome and sheep’s wool was preferred in Scotland. Wealthier people took lace, wool or hemp with them into the W.C.

However, back then, cloth wipes weren’t washed after each use. In fact, entire families shared the same soiled toilet cloth! You may be wondering if this is a sanitary practice.

Surprisingly, if done right, it can be. Urine is sterile, while fecal matter can be managed hygienically, making toilet cloths a perfectly viable option for servicing your family’s ablution needs when SHTF.

4 Reasons Cloth Beats Paper

  1. It keeps you cleaner. Surprise! Cloth is known to remove more waste than regular toilet paper without leaving particles behind. It can be used dry, reducing odor, bacteria, and dampness.
  2. It’s eco-friendly. So do away with today’s commercially produced rolls. Cloth is a truly good for the environment, reusable product.
  3. It’s more affordable. You can make your own from flannel, preferably patterned, to hide stains. Create a hem around the edges to prevent fraying. They can be washed just like the rest of your laundry, with no added water or detergent, though I would do it in a separate wash. To save water, you may want to wash it in grey water.
  4. It’s efficient. They’ll save you time and energy because it’s easy to care for. Plus, you will never run out of.

Keeping Things Clean

  • Toilet cloths, better known as ‘family cloths’ because they are used communally, need to be used along with a small spray bottle to sanitize them after use.
  • If someone in your post-disaster party is sick, remember to wash the family cloth separate from clothing.
  • Washing machines are breeding grounds for bacteria and the build-up of these nasty little organisms can spread disease. Remember to run your machine frequently using hot water and bleach from time to time, so that the interior is cleansed.
  • Ensure that you have a sanitary storage system for cloths. A small trash can with a pedal is ideal for storing used clothes. Line it with a pillowcase for easy transferal to the washing machine.
  • Keep the trash can as dry as possible to avoid spreading bacteria.
  • Before washing, rinse the cloths in a bucket of hot water mixed with vinegar to help break down bacterial debris. You can substitute vinegar for detergent if you have it on hand.
  • Use a plunger or similar device to mix up the cloths in the cleansing solution to help dislodge any stubborn waste particles.
  • Any alternative toilet paper can leave behind a residue you don’t want. Excessive wiping with dry materials can cause irritation, especially for hemorrhoid sufferers.
  • Washing yourself with fresh water is natural and refreshing, relieving irritation and improving all-round hygiene.

2. Compressed Coin Tissues

You probably never heard of these but they are, in fact, excellent for but-out bags. They’re extremely small, lightweight and the way to get them bigger is you soak them in water.

Here’s a video showcasing them:

Compressed Tissue Towel Napkin Cloth Called The Aqua Coin For Hiking

You can also keep them in your home or at your BOL as part of your stockpile because they have a very long shelf life.

3. Roman Sponges

A stub of natural sea sponge and stick was all it took for the Ancient Romans to cleanse themselves post-toileting.

The sponge was soaked in a water channel running in front of the toilet (most of which were public!) and pushed through the hole in the front of the toilet bowl, where it would do its duty.

In a survival situation, we can learn a thing or two from all of this. A sponge is lightweight and easy to pack (and has a ton of alternative uses), and you can find a stick almost anywhere.

The only requirement is that you have a fresh water source close to clean it up after use.


If you’re short on sponges or cloths, there are many ways to substitute toilet paper. Explore your surroundings and you may come across some very interesting materials you never knew have some serious wiping potential!

4. Corncobs

In the fall and winter, corncobs do the job. Just ask the British colonists. In the summer months (and if you find yourself in wine country), try grapevine leaves.

Other leafy alternatives include Bigleaf Aster (‘lumberjack’s leaf’), the Californian abuliton palmieri, purple flowering raspberry and red mulberry.

5. Newspapers

Salvage a few old phone books and mail-order catalogs from post boxes. At least you’ll find some use for them when all telecommunications are down!

Newspaper works too. A crinkled and softened broadsheet does the trick. And, while we’re talking about it, let’s not forget paper towels and paper napkins.

6. Pine Needles and Cones

Dry pine needles and pine cones are abundant and easy to dispose of. Pine needles may not win for comfort, but they act as a natural brush for getting rid of debris.

7. Moss

Compact squares of moss are softer options, but take care not to let it crumble and fall apart.

8. Stones

A smooth, oval-shaped river stone is a common toileting tool in Islamic cultures. It’s easy to find and comfortable to hold; just make sure you choose one without any sharp edges.

9. Certain Plants

Lamb’s Ear, a woolly, grey leaf native to Asia, is a soft, natural toilet tissue that grows in most temperate climates.

Mullein grows in every US state and can be scavenged along roads and in fields and meadows. Not only does it grow over six feet high, its yellow flowers and large, bristly leaves are easy to identify and are a great toilet paper alternative.

There are, however, plenty of other plants that you can find in the wild or grow yourself. You can read about them, as well as about which toxic plants to never-ever use to wipe your butt here.

If you find yourself out in the cold when SHTF, you may be able to make use of your snowy surroundings. Snowballs, rolled tightly, can be great toilet paper. It’s delicate, yet gritty, and cleanses you as a bonus.


Although toilet paper substitutes are healthier and cheaper, even organic wiping options come with challenges.

Make sure your trusty alternative TP is non-toxic and does not contain any poisonous toxins that can leave a nasty rash in the most sensitive of places! Have you ditched the modern loo roll in favor of more creative substitutes?

9 thoughts on “9 Toilet Paper Alternatives for Survival”

  1. I’d like to speak with someone who can help me create a personal plan for survival. Who is in the business of professional help?



  2. Actually I’m reading this after I confirmed today that there are actually more germs in the TP than on my butt. I finally found an insect (probably from the warehouse where the TP lived before I bought it), and the location of it leaves no doubt that it was “living” in the TP. I’ve had several infections “down there” that have no vector explanation. I’ve suspected TP of being teeming with harmful bacteria for a couple of years now. I’d rather wash cloths in hot water honestly.

  3. I was a “young’un” when outhouses were still in use and newspaper was used. Fortunately, today’s newsprint is with vegetable based ink and not petroleum based ink like back then.
    For several years, every time I went to the grocery store, I would take some Thrifty Nickle type newspapers. I stack them in tall plastic garbage bags to keep them from drying out. I now have enough to last several years if there is a collapse of any type.
    Make sure you crumple the page up and roll it between your hands, like we did in the good ole days, to make it soft and pliable. It only takes one page to do the job, then take it out and burn it. DO NOT flush it into a septic tank as it will not break down like toilet paper.

  4. The cloths are a better alternative. I would purchase some bunches of washcloths from a discount store and a squirt bottle! Happy cleaning and happy environment!

  5. I use washcloths from the dollar store and cut them in fourths. I wash them after use with soap and water and then store them in a plastic coffee container with soap water in it until I have enough to do a load in the washing machine.

  6. It wasn’t that long ago (personally in the 1980’s) that some of us still used cloth diapers for our little ones.

    Following that method, for cloth I would buy a diaper pail and store the dirty ones there in water with a little bleach. Then drain and wash in hot water. I used Dreft for the diapers, but liquid Ivory Snow helps make things extra soft, too.

    In fact, I buy cloth diapers instead of flannel and cut them into smaller pieces. You might want to sew two pieces together to make them thicker.

  7. I would add that placing a 5 gallon bucket with a bleach solution (or possibly vinegar solution) next to the toilet makes a convenient place to put used cloths while maintaining good sanitation.

  8. Tossing your cleaning / wiping cloths into a bucket with water / bleach is not a good idea. I raise service dogs and found 12″ X 12″ white cotton service towels, readily available at most auto parts stores ( NOT the Red Service Towels ) china-mart and Costco all sell these White towels in two sized rolls. I constantly keep a monster supply of these, simply because they’re inexpensive, great for all types of cleaning and wiping up messes. You can use them to replace toilet paper, but I recommend using toilet paper for the primary wipe, than wet one of the white towels in warm water, fold it in quarters, and use it to finish wiping your behind. You’ll get far better cleaning. handle carefully and if you need to unfold the towel to a fresh quarter and do your wiping. When done, throw it in a bucket or diaper pail and wait until you have a wash load. Run them through the machine once or twice as a pre-wash, and the final wash SHOULD be soap and Bleach, for disinfecting and once finished washing, dry your favorite way.
    It’s not going to infect you, you’re not going to get sick and you won’t spread diseases, but what you DO have is the perfect recyclable way to keep your rear end clean. If you MUST throw them away that’s your choice. I have towels that are 15 years old and still doing the cleaning I need them for. So many ways these can be used.

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