What Will You Do When the Toilet Paper Runs Out?

Even in the shortest emergency situation, toilet paper is a commodity you don't want to run out of - but what happens when you do? Are there alternatives you can PREPare with?

Remember those Extreme Couponing shows where the participants had a wall full of toilet paper? They had the right idea! At least for me, I’d much rather waste a whole wall of my home with a mountain of toilet paper than think of doing without. However, in an extreme post-poop hits the fan world (get it? I said poop-hits-the-fan in a blog post about toilet paper and the end of the world!), eventually, even toilet paper is going to eventually run out for some of us.

For most of the world, an for most of history, toilet paper as we know it has  not existed. There were forms showing up in the 14th century, but by in large, people used other ways of cleaning themselves than the handy dandy roll full of fluff.  So let’s find some alternatives to toilet paper to begin getting in the mindset that we may not always have a little Charmin around to make things better.

The Family Cloth

Yep – you got it, wipes for the rest of us. You can make it from squares of flannel, old tshirts, thin bath towels, or other soft cloth that you like. Just sew the edges with a zig zag stitch for fabric that frays easily, or just use pinking shears for other fabrics if you don’t have a machine. You can store them in a box, and use dry for urine, and get them damp for the poo. Washing is easy as long as you wash the cloths in hot water (and if you use an oxy-detergent that will help more). However, if anyone in your family is sick, switch to regular TP for them or segregate those cloths for washing separately just to be sure not to cross-contaminate.

In our house, I use these exclusively as my menfolk are not quite ready to make the leap to cloth for themselves. But even with me using them for wet cleanup, we’ve cut our toilet paper useage dramatically.

There are discussions about how to store cloths that have been used for poo. Some suggest that storing in water bins might actually increase the number of harmful bacteria, and it’s better to store in a dry sack and wash a little more often. Of course, if you use the “bidet in a bottle” feature you’ll see below, you can cut down on the amount of really dirty cloths by rinsing first and then wiping.

Phone Books

Remember those photos of Grandma’s outhouse that had a Sears & Roebucks catalog hanging on the wall? It wasn’t just for browsing while you did your business. But since we don’t get those catalogs any longer, the best way to use phone book paper is to rip a page out, wad it up, unwrap it, wad it again, and unwrap it, etc. This allows for the starchy fibers to be broken down so that the paper is more pliable and more absorbent. It then becomes softer and a great alternative to toilet paper. You’ll think twice about looking at that phone book sitting on your front porch, won’t you?

Mom with a PREP | What will you do when the toilet paper runs out?

Bidet in a Bottle

With a little warm water, this can be an effective way to clean before using cloth to dry. It can also be used for women during their menstrual cycles and for post-partum care. I remember being given this bottle when I left the hospital after having my kids for post-partum relief and healing, but I really prefer this bidet in a bottle now as it gives a little more direction where needed. You can also get one that attaches to your toilet tank.

Nature, baby!

Yes, plants can be used in place of toilet paper. And if you have time to plant to provide for your family, this is the plant I’d choose! Lamb’s ear is really good for this application and can be found growing wild in a lot of places, (and is really great for other uses, like medicinal ones) but  you can make do with any number of natural things to get the job done.

Use what you’ve got – your hands

In some culture, this simply the easiest and best way to handle things. Washing up after is mandatory – but in a situation where hot water, soap, or other disinfectants may not be available, this might not be the best option to keep from spreading germs. So plan accordingly.

Make Your Own Toilet Paper

This is a time intensive process, and it still requires you having access to paper products to recycle, but if you’re a hard core DIY’er and can’t imagine using one of the alternavies above, try this tutorial on making your own toilet paper!

Now, I’m not saying NOT to store paper products – in fact, I’m all for it for certain circumstances, but we need to think outside the box of toilet paper sitting in our storage area when it comes to terms of PREParedness and sustainability.

 Some further reading:

So…. just  how will you prepare for this eventuality?

Love when the monthly restock of TP shows up!! #amazon #toiletpaper #zombieapocalypse #stockup

A photo posted by Mom with a Prep (@jane_momwithaprep) on


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Even in the shortest emergency situation, toilet paper is a commodity you don't want to run out of - but what happens when you do? Are there alternatives you can PREPare with?

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  1. says

    These are great ideas. We live in an old country home and we are lucky enough that the old outhouse is still intact. It just had a board over where the toilet seat was, but the hole is still there. Also, another idea for people is to actually stock up on toilet paper when it goes on sale. Walmart sometimes had amazing sales on toilet paper where you can purchase 30 thick roles for about $10 (which is an amazing price in Canada). I have a year a supply of toilet paper, but I never thought about having a little squirt bottle with soap for when women are menstruating because we may not be able to bathe every day. I do love the cloth idea as well.

    • Michele says

      I use the Diva cup also, for close to 15 yrs now. Recently I was reading about using family cloth. I felt washing them in the washer would be too ‘icky’ for me. Someone commented that they would use a spray bottle first, then the cloth to wipe. Well I started using an empty 24 oz body wash bottle. It works perfectly! If I urinate that’s all I need. Otherwise I use just a half sheet of personal wipe afterwords, (even though it’s disposable) it’s so much cleaner, cheaper, and greener than using toilet paper!

  2. Josephine says

    I finally convinced my hubby to install the iwash bidet from Potty Squatty I purchased for $25. Now he wished he had put in sooner. It almost eliminated your need for TP. Use it in conjunction with the family cloth method and there yer go

  3. old veteran says

    It was interesting that when we still used the Sears Catalog the last two sections to be used up were the Men’s underwear and Women’s underwear sections

  4. says

    Our backup plan is family cloth as well. A friend of mine went and bought a big bundle of baby wash cloths for her family; I plan to knit up some using different colors for each family member. (So far I’m working on my own first, as I would like to switch to them in general to cut costs and paper waste. I already have the cotton yarn for each of my kids though and my daughter now knits, so in a long-term emergency she could be knitting her own while we still have TP left.) I’d like to invest in a bidet system to make it less to clean up with the knit cloths though!

  5. Snake Plisken says

    All good ideas. Have lots of old cotton T shirts that I use for cleaning rags that if washed would do the job.

    So literally when the SHTF I’ll be in good shape. for the TP callenges!

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