10 Natural Substitutes for Toilet Paper

While not the most pleasant topic in survival circles, it is one that cannot be denied. When nature calls, you will answer the Top 10 Survival Blogsphone. It took humans about 400 years to realize that paper could be used for more than just taking notes, and the Chinese were the first to document what would be later called toilet paper in the 600s AD.  By the 1400s, paper was specifically manufactured and sold for anal hygiene, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Today, however, while many preppers are concerned with stockpiling TP for darker days, survivalists are happy to go with the flow and use what’s handy.

By Doc Montana, a contributing author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

Like the old saying goes, if all you’ve got is a hammer, then see every problem as a nail.  While there are some who still believe that a pile of old Sears catalogs or phone book pages will be worth more than gold, the reality is that it isn’t a lack of toilet paper that will cause distress, but rather a lack of practical knowledge. Urban dwellers may have a different take on this topic compared to my list because your choices are based upon your surroundings. My take is wilderness-oriented. If you have urban knowledge about this topic please share it in the comments.

My top ten favorite toilet paper substitutes are as follows:

10.  Sand and water. This option is a great one on a river trip or near a lake, and it is the most thorough of the ten options, but it is the messiest, least discrete, and generally requires the most disrobing.

9.  Pine Needles. Plenty of options here, but a small handful of needles still attached to their branch works great. A needle bunch is round so its more a scraping conveyor belt than a real wiping tool even though it does resemble a paint brush.

8.  Bark. Depending on the type of tree, the bark can be paper-like or block-like. Both work great, but to use tool metaphors, thin bark is like a putty scraper, while the thicker bark is like a sanding block. If the bark is crumbly, you might have the itchies later.

7.  Branches. Gather up a few sticks and smooth them off like rubbing the slivers off chopsticks. Your pile of bathroom kindling will serve you well.

6.  Moss. Whether plucked off a tree, rock or scraped up from the ground, moss in all it’s glory makes fine TP, but depending on its durability, you may have to be careful to avoid adding to the mess.

5.  Pine Cones. Pine cones are nature’s corn cobs. Their size and shape match anyone’s needs, and they just get better with age. Like pine needles, pine cones are highly directional and probably should be left for the experts. In the big picture, if it makes you feel any better, pine cones contain seeds and you are just adding fertilizer as your contribution to this grand cosmic adventure.

4.  Leaves. Tree and plant leaves are nature’s meme for toilet paper. Leaves are seasonal and geographic. The where and Top Survival Blogwhen dictates their availability and species, but in about every place there are good choices, bad choices, and dangerous choices so know your botany before your BM. Whether plucked fresh, or scooped up from the forest floor, the supply is both sustainable and ample.

3.  Ice. Like bark, ice can be used with precision or as a blunt instrument. In most cases you can adjust the size and shape for your needs. Be aware that as fingers and fanny numb up in the cold, your accuracy will suffer.

2.   Rocks. Whether sharp shale or rounded river rocks, almost nothing can beat a good stone. With excellent grip and a choice of edges, textures and contours, rocks are a fabulous solution when TP is scarce. And best of all, rocks rarely travel solo so you might have an unlimited supply on hand. And best of all, after a couple hard rain showers, they’re all good to go again (if you are truly desperate).

1.  Snow. By far, snow is the single best TP substitute in my humble and informed opinion. The infinite combination of snow size and shape makes snow a customizable option where one size does not have to fit all. Snow also melts during use providing just the right amount of cleaning solution to take your mop-up to the next level. And just like the humidity indicators in your gun safe, snow provides a color-contrast to measure your progress.

The topic of TP substitutes is hardly a new one.  In the 1700s, the French writer François Rabelais wrote, “Who his foul tail with paper wipes, Shall at his ballocks leave some chips.”  Rabelais’s character dismissed toilet paper as useless and instead preferred, and I’m not kidding here, a well-downed neck of a goose.

Photos By:
Fuzzy Thompson
Evelyn Ovalles

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26 comments… add one
  • Leon Pantenburg February 10, 2015, 9:59 am

    Great post!
    Of the options presented, snow is one of the best. Where I do most of my winter rambling, there is generally several feet of it, so you’ll never run out. I always carry a few quality paper towels in my daypack. These can serve double duty as toilet paper or for wiping your hands.

  • Karen February 10, 2015, 10:03 am

    Your options listed have me thinking beyond our personal plans. Although we do have some back-up TP stashed, I have decided to use an old middle eastern practice of using a jug of water poured between the legs and your hand to “wash” it off. Then we will use clean wash cloths to pat dry.

  • Doc Montana February 10, 2015, 1:07 pm

    Thanks for reading. On a side note, the pre-TP work may actually be healthier outdoors where a more natural position is attained when not forced into a particular bend according to the height of toilet seat. Or worse, the excessive height of a porcelain god designed for users with disabilities.

    A humorous caveat here might be to list what doesn’t work for TP. Personally I don’t recommend dirt, straw, apple cores, banana peels, or sawdust, but cardboard works in a pinch…or when a pinch no longer works.

    Yea, TMI. I know.

  • Mr Bimbanana February 10, 2015, 7:45 pm

    Hey there, there is a lesson to be learned from the ancient Romans. They used sponge on a stick soaked in vinegar in their public restrooms.

    Number one choice for me when I run of disposable options…

    • Anonymous February 11, 2015, 9:34 am

      except for the public restroom part. would rather use and wash my hands ;-0

    • late2theParty April 7, 2015, 4:11 pm

      Ok. That explains something to me – why they offered Christ the sponge with the vinegar while he was on the cross. It was both an insult and a college-boy type prank “Thirsty? Drink from this toilet!” I always thought it was just a mean thing, “Thirsty? Here’s some hot sauce…(Dude, he drank it…!)” Now it really is wasp mean.

  • Drew February 11, 2015, 12:59 pm

    Nothing gives me that deep-down clean feeling like uni-directional TP! A great read for sure!

  • woody February 11, 2015, 2:22 pm

    Think I will stay with several packs of shop rags/towels. they stow flat (lot less room than TP) can be cut in 4 inch (smaller or larger) washed in creek and dried on a limb. And so much easier on my old ****.
    Also takes the place of paper towels, diapers, napkins etc. Price is not bad!

  • John the infidel February 11, 2015, 4:14 pm

    The New York Times also makes great T.P.

  • Don February 12, 2015, 5:07 pm

    Save those old phone books, if you still get them!

  • lance February 12, 2015, 9:51 pm

    If you use ice don’t cut your self that will hurt(:

  • Patti February 14, 2015, 2:23 am

    This has been very informative. Really had not given this much thought. Except I’m one of the “buy TP on every trip to the store” crowd, so have a lot stocked. Good to know some alternative products.

  • Pineslayer February 14, 2015, 11:00 pm

    Save all those old T-Shirts and linens. Some powered bleach would be good too.

  • Roger February 17, 2015, 2:35 am

    An insult in the Middle East is/was being called a left-handed Turk, because traditionally, since desert/arid areas have little spare vegetation (and especially few trees), one used their left hand to wipe one’s posterior after defecation then either rinsed it off with water or more commonly dragged it through the sand to wipe off the Klingons (Star Trek humor). So one ate with one’s right hand, since eating utinsels were/are rare; if you ate with your left hand, you were considered a real nasty slob! If a person offered up his left hand for a handshake, he was insulting you and people have no-doubt died from such actions. Personally, I have a large stock pile of toilet paper and paper towels (much sturdier, but hard on a septic system) that I consider a necessity as well as good future trade items. The longer term storage TP/PT is kept in old metal barrels because mice seem to be attracted to paper; often to use for their own toiletry habits! Lots of hand sanitizer is a good barter item too! Good Luck!

  • ww rutland February 17, 2015, 7:26 am

    Do like the ragheads do- use your left hand and wash it off with water- but you have to have the proper water jug ! I was in Iran years ago and was a hit with the locals using paper from my rations they thought it was funny until they saw me using my right hand. By the way it is considered an insult to offer someone anything with your left hand! ha ha ha

  • thehammer February 17, 2015, 7:21 pm

    i like ivy leafs that grow up on fences and trees in the summer but for some reason i must be allergic to them. i get a bubbly itchy rash that i can’t stop itching,but they clean you up good.by the way the ones with 3 leaves are the best wipers.

    • lance March 10, 2015, 8:28 pm

      I hope this is sarcasm.

  • Diane March 1, 2015, 11:38 am

    I have taken rolls of tp and vacuum sealed them in bags. And then they should be in a mouse-proof container.

  • SAS April 16, 2015, 1:01 pm

    Newby at prepping for a family of 5 & lg. dog. where do I begin??
    Firearms are not a problem :) and yes grandma hits what she shoots at- as does all the family except the baby. Seems like so very much to begin prepping – and storage and accumulation of supplies. Can you offer suggestions as to where to begin please?

  • Tony May 29, 2015, 4:59 pm

    I read somewhere that the Nepalese troops (Gurkhas) carry a personal stone, smooth of course, to use as a reusable TP solution. Use it, wipe it on the ground then wash it later if possible. If you can’t wash it, don’t worry, just wipe it extra thoroughly on the ground and then,……….wait for it……….put it back in your pocket. They carried their own stone and river stones worked best,…eroded and thus smoother. Choose a longer one for better reach and designate one end as the “business” end.

    • Dave August 13, 2015, 7:16 pm

      I have had the pleasure of excavating 100+ year-old outhouses in the Rockies and you typically find them full of potato sized smooth stones and some very rich topsoil.

  • da September 24, 2015, 7:42 pm

    Prepping by storing toilet paper is a waste. And no, you don’t have to use pine cones. Here are some great alternatives:

    1. Phone Book. Should be be good for a long time.
    2. The Bible, The Koran, The Torah. I once used a Gideon’s Bible as TP for a month, and barely used 10% of it.
    3. Other books.
    4. A rag kept in a bucket with bleach or vinegar. Use over and over.
    5. Water.
    6. Your fingers and some water. They just excavated a gun emplacement the British used during WW II near the Cliffs of Dover. A limey wrote on the wall complaining about having to use his hand.

  • Anonymous November 2, 2015, 4:23 am

    Our preference to use is WATER or SNOW ! it cleans and cools your thing ! ohhhh, heavens!

  • tigercop 2020 November 2, 2015, 4:25 am

    we use water or snow and it really cleans you up and it feels wonderful!

  • Searra Robbins November 25, 2015, 12:48 pm

    This article was informative however the comments left me laughing though some are true. I find it unnecessary to stock pile tp. I would used cloth and a bleach or vinegar solution., unfortunately that too will run out because of the cleaning solutions. Many spices can be combine to make an antibacterial clean solutions to wash the cloth. Americans find toilet paper to actually clean but in Europe you have bidets which clean with a water solution. TP is dry and not SANITARY. it doesn’t remove any bacteria

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