One of the hardest things for a lot of Americans earlier this year was the toilet paper shortage. It lasted maybe only weeks for some, but over months for others. Toilet paper has become 2020’s most valuable commodity.
Of course, I kid about it being a commodity, however, it can feel that way if you run out or if the demand runs high due to an emergency. In fact, there were reports of people calling the police because they ran out in the initial COVID-19 panic. But there is a way around this and as an added bonus you’ll be helping mother earth, and the septic system (or city sewage system) by going low or zero waste in the bathroom. As a result of using this method, you could also stretch your toilet paper supply, or free up some rolls for bartering in the event that something becomes dire.
Three Toilet Paper Alternatives for the Next SHTF Toilet Paper Shortage
The next time the toilet paper runs out in your community, use some of these ideas instead. At first, it might seem a little gross, but to be honest, once you start, it is not that bad. In fact, starting is the hardest part, and we’ve got some great tips for you!
- Use a peri bottle. You’ll want to use the peri bottle to get off as much as possible, then use a washable cloth (one that’s soft) to dry off. We know these as those bottles moms use post-birth to rinse and keep themselves clean. It works for them, and it’ll work for the rest of us! I have one for every member of the family in their own color, and it’s their responsibility to keep water in the bottle. This way, the kids learn some responsibility and they can actually help take care of our beautiful planet.
- Get a bidet for the toilet. If you have a little more money to spend and would like to try it, a bidet works well for this step too. It could get costly, however, if you’ve got more than one toilet you’d like to outfit.
- Use reusable cloth strips. Flannel is a great, low-cost fabric that actually gets softer the more it is washed and would make great reusable toilet paper cloths. Think of using an old shirt and cutting it into squares. The good thing about making your own “paper” is that you control the size and quantity. You can even keep cloths organized by using different colored. For instance, use lighter-colored cloth strips for #1 and darker-colored cloth strips for #2. You’ll want to use the peri bottle to get off as much excrement as possible, then use a washable cloth (one that’s soft) to dry off. Remember, these are going to be used for mainly drying off after eliminating most of the fecal matter with the peri bottle, so they need to be washable. Another good way to save money, to use old bedsheets. This is a sustainable way to reuse and repurpose what you already have and once again, you will be control of the size of your toilet paper cloths. Here is an easy tutorial for making reusable toilet paper strips from a bedsheet. If you don’t have bedsheets or a flannel shirt and can’t get flannel fabric, another great alternative is shop towels! These are not too expensive, but it may take time to find a brand you like and that’s “comfortable” to use.
Tips for Keeping the Bathroom Clean
The next thing to do, once you’ve gotten a peri bottle and some washable soft cloth squares, is to get a basket. I have one with the cloth squares in it next to each toilet. You can get baskets at thrift stores for really cheap! You can have separate baskets labeled #1 and #2 to keep the cloth squares separated if you wanted to go that route. I think I got 4 baskets for $1. If you don’t like the way this looks, hide the basket under the sink where you’d normally keep toilet paper. (We keep toilet paper out for guests or the kids’ friends. Often, others outside the home don’t know how to use the low/zero waste system.)
Also, keep in mind, you’ll want to add a laundry bag as an extra sanitation step. Have a laundry bag ready (something like this drawstring mesh laundry bag (like this one from Amazon) should work well if you want a liner). You’ll want to toss the used cloths in the bag, but have something that’s not too disgusting to grab. Wash the wipes separate from kitchen towels in the rare case of contamination. I wash the wipes on a small cycle, by themselves in hot water. Use free and clear detergent to make sure no one in the family has a “wiping reaction”.
If you are worried about sanitation issues arising with reusable toilet paper, take heart in the thought that cloths with urine can easily be cleaned. If you’ve mastered the peri bottle, there should be little “other debris” on the cloths. However, if there is, you can always do an empty “machine cleaning” cycle after you wash the wipes to sanitize your washing machine.
I don’t dry the wipes in the dryer, but you certainly can! I actually just take the bags out of the washing machine and hang them up. In the winter, find a spot to hang them by your wood-burning stove and you’ll have the added benefit of a boost to indoor humidity. In the summer, they can be hung up outside to dry naturally.
The process is not as daunting as it seems, but it’ll take time to get the system working smoothly for you. We try to put as little paper as possible in our septic system, and that will save us time and money down the road. Also, keep in mind that you can still use paper for #2, and switch to the reusable toilet paper for #1 if you’re concerned about making the change all at once. This is still a great step and you won’t be digging into your emergency stash of toilet paper so quickly.
From Start To Finish
Here are the steps, from start to finish. Once you’ve finished up your “business”:
- Use the peri bottle or bidet to remove any fecal matter. (Skip this step if you ONLY urinated)
- Use a cloth toilet paper to dry off your “undercarriage.”
- Put the cloth in a designated laundry bag.
- Wash your hands.
Once the laundry bag is full, or you’re low on reusable cloths:
1. Toss the laundry bag in the washing machine and use hot water and free and clear detergent on the longest cycle.
2. Hang the laundry bag to dry outside, inside, or toss it in the dryer.
3. Once dry, put the cloths back in the basket near the toilet to be used again!
It really is that simple! If you have other tips or found something that works well, share it with Ready Nutrition readers in the comments below!