Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Toilet Paper Alternative

Survivalism is not camping, if you forget something you cannot just tough it out until you return to civilization. For instance, a fist full of leaves may be tolerable for a week of squatting in the woods but do you really want to exist like this for the eternity. A survivalist must plan for the loss of readily available items not the temporary absence of them.

As I sat on my composting stool pondering my daily schedule I noticed that the toilet paper was getting awfully low. I made a mental note to pick some up if I ran to town, then I stopped. This was a test run for living a minimalist lifestyle, environmentally friendly and free of consumer trappings. In preparing for an off grid move it is important to remember that the devils in the details. The life critical items of food, water, power and heat had been addressed, they are obvious. It is the little everyday necessities that will trip you up during your transition to a simpler life.

Rectal cleanliness is one example of everyday necessities that people tend to overlook when planning an off grid existence. One option is to stock pile enough toilet paper for your family to last several years. Unfortunately this takes valuable storage space and still does not address what happens after the TP runs out.

The average American uses fifty four rolls of toilet paper every year. The United States consumes roughly 36.5 billion rolls annually. Apparently this is a necessary resource whose usage needs addressing. It seems logical that an alternative method of cleansing such as water cleaning, hand cleaning, organic items or alternative paper products should be explored.


A bidet seems like the ultimate solution. It is like power washing your crack. Unfortunately the composting toilet and limited water supply made this unfeasible.

Next down on the list would appear to be the squat and pour method utilized in most eastern cultures. This requires you to enter a water closet, remove your cloths, squat over a hole, deposit, pour water down your anal cleft to clean, then dry and dress. Comfort aside, this is why eastern cultures wear loose fitting clothing with sandals.

I like this method with its low water consumption and fresh feeling, but…I tried it. I simply do not possess the acrobatical prowess necessary to guarantee proper cleanliness. As a typical American I have neither the balance nor flexibility to squat naked over a hole attempting to ladle a cup of water down my crack.


No, I have a tendency to bite my nails under stress.


This would include leaves, corncobs etc. Organic by-products are readily available in most parts of the country. Additionally the organic material would compliment the composting process. In the high desert, or low desert for that matter, these substitutes are not easy to come by.

The only option might be green sage brush. It has an oily quality much like Charmin Care Plus and is abundantly available. If stored in a sealed container the sage becomes soft and moist allowing a relatively smooth wiping and the sage smell helps with the unpleasant odors. A plus is that sage is a natural insect repellent. I have not tried this but will on my next trip.

The down side is storage. The sage must be kept green and moist. In the winter sage brush will keep its color but dry out to the point of wiping unpleasantness.


Glossy is bad and newspaper isn’t much better, it leaves black smears.

I found that a large yellow pages is easy to store, has thousands of pages and properly crumpled up is relative easy on the delicate areas. The yellow paper uses a short fiber that is only recyclable into new yellow page books but it is compostable. So this is the ideal low impact toilet paper substitute.

When you sit down tear a page out of the book and start crumpling. By the time you are finished the page should be soft, pliable and absorbent. My yellow pages has roughly 1300 pages so four of five books will keep me for a number of years.

The down side is that the paper has a tendency to fall apart if vigorously used. The short fibers don’t hold together real well so care must be taken in the wipe. But other than that no complaints.

This little experiment really made me envious of my dogs. Think about how wonderful it would be if we could simply drag our butt across the lawn.


Future Farmer said...

You know your readers are dreading this post, but you seemed to have come up with a good solution .

nathan said...

This is my first comment. I really enjoy your blog more people should take your lead, me included and get prepared. I believe that you covered most methods for cleanlieness. the yellow pages were a luxury. Corn cobs in our area were common. I wonder if thats were the saying "Rough as a Cob" came from?

Bob said...

This has to be my favorite post so far. Though the holy grail of TP I would say remains unresolved.

Anonymous said...

Yellow pages...I had not thought of that, great idea!

Patricia said...

It's very instructive reading someone who is actually trying to live the stored food/survivalist way--with all the thoughts that would come up naturally on how to handle various situations. Good post.

judyofthewoods said...

LOL, skidding over the lawn would need more acrobatics than doing it the eastern way! Just love the mental image though. You are right, the devil is in the details, and with so much attention focused on guns and food some of the daily challenges tend to get overlooked . Talking of nether regions, I am working on some ideas for survival knickers with no elastic, which tends to rot after a while.

Michael Hawkins said...

Have you given moss a consideration? Grow like crazy in the northern forests and plain (where most bug out location are put up)

Anonymous said...

You could also have a stock of wash cloths. Use them, put them in a bucket of bleach water, wash them on wash day and reuse. Much nicer than a pile of leaves or dragging your butt on the ground. :oP

Anonymous said...

I actually enjoyed this latest installment. I was wondering if you would bring up the yellow pages idea. I remember talking to my grandfather a few years ago (he died in 2006 at the age of 92) and I remember the Sears/Roebuck catalog discussion we had.

Once again, sometimes you need to simply see what past generations did and go with it!

westyoungman said...

This article was sorely needed. When you mentioned the dilemma, I was thinking, knowing what my land in the SLV has growing on it, that using a one of those shrubs would be too scratchy for me. Not to be crude, but if you are of the hairy sort, that book of yellow pages would not last more than a year at the absolute most. I think I will need to rely on the wash cloths suggestion.

Mayberry said...

Sears catalog, ha ha! The outhouse staple for many years! Yellow pages is a good idea, though even those will run out eventually. Oerhaps the saving grace will be that a natural diet promoses a firmer stool that requires little wiping. But I know with my wife that if we run out of TP, the S will REALLY HTF!!!!!

Selous Scout said...

Similar to what anonymous (5:59 AM) said.

Cloth diapers have been used for years and laundered using the bleach bucket to soak and then wash in the washing machine.

If you can sew, buy up some cloth diapers and cut them down to washcloth size to use as suggested. Sew a seam around the edges to keep them from fraying.

This would work well until your bleach supply ran out. Better stock up on a lot of Pool Shock.

I don't want to have to drag my butt around on the lawn.
Taint dignified.

GeologyJoe said...

I remeber back in my fraternity days discovering the crumple paper method.
It works good.

dccdmom said...

We use cloth wipes. I wash cloth diapers anyway, we just keep a diaper pail next to the toilet and throw the wipes in there. I use scraps from diaper making but old t-shirts cut into pieces about the size of 2 pieces of toilet paper work great. I also keep an old peri bottle(ask your wife)next to the toilet to wet the wipes with. I've never used bleach on them, I just use hot water(boil if necessary) and a vinegar rinse. Bleach you'd have to store, you can make vinegar.

Anonymous said...

Someone said mullien...
lamb's ear, too.
and one can make paper..

GavachaPHX said...

I used the cloth wipes, kind of like baby washcloths? with a small spuirt bottle to replicate bidet spray. That is what I had to use after my surgery (c-section). I add vinegar/ water spray bottle on the wipes and toss them in a covered bucket. You can also add baby oil or an essential oil like lavendar, etc to your spray bottle for effect. I also used this on my son when he was a baby and he had no rashes etc. and we washed the cloth wipes with the towels. Additionally, I keep tp on hand for guest who aren't "with it" and we also do not flush unless there's #2 goin' down, hehe, to save on water even with a low flow. We are planning on adding humanure system to our composting efforts in addition to grey water from under our sinks to water our plants, etc. Minimal effort for huge gains, small adaptations. We also live in an area where we pay for water in AND water OUT. Sucks. So this method enables us to water our plants and saves on our bill. Plus it is against the law to catch rain water here...crazy but true.

Anonymous said...

These are interesting solutions, and some of them are well worth trying. It isn't a bad idea to work up one's coordination to attempt the water-style cleaning that is used in eastern countries, but until then, have you considered cloth?

Reusable cloths, one set for each family member, can be washed over and over again. Someone I've talked to about the subject has been using (and rewashing) her own set for 30 years!

Anonymous said...

Phone books good idea also a bidet using a pump fumigator with a curved handle.... Save a lot of water & effective ($25-$50 homedepot