Toilet Paper Substitutes: How to Handle the Coronavirus-Fueled Shortage

toilet paper substitutes

Getty If you run out of toilet paper during the coronavirus outbreak, it might be time to get creative.

Toilet paper substitutes might not be a concept you’ve ever had to consider, or you might be a pro at finding a solution in a sticky situation (pun unfortunately intended). Regardless, the current toilet paper shortage during coronavirus is no joke. All across the country, shelves are empty where there used to be rolls, and even on Amazon people are having trouble finding toilet paper that isn’t backordered or $70 per roll. So if you run out of toilet paper during the coronavirus outbreak and can’t find any more, you might want to consider substitutes.

According to The New York Times, many retailers have insisted that their shelves usually aren’t empty for a full day — rather, that they keep restocking, and people keep buying them out. So retailers aren’t intentionally withholding toilet paper. In fact, manufacturers have said they’ve significantly upped production in recent days to meet demand — but there’s only so much over-production they’ll agree to, before they hold off to avoid a huge drop in market sales in the months to come.

Jeff Anderson, president of Precision Paper Converters, told the New York Times, “You are not using more of it. You are just filling up your closet with it. What happens in the summer when demand dries up and people have all this extra product in their homes?”

Of course, the hope is that this shortage will end soon when people calm down — and when it does, you shouldn’t go out there and buy three months’ worth of toilet paper, just in case there’s another shortage. Just buy your usual amount of toilet paper, so that others can reap the benefits of a full shelf, too.

It’s worth noting, too, that this isn’t a distinctly American issue. Countries around the world are facing an unprecedented TP shortage. One Australian newspaper offered a cheeky (alas, pun intended) solution to the problem, and printed blank pages for people to use as a toilet paper substitute.  The newspaper explained, “Run out of loo paper? The NT News cares. That’s why we’ve printed an eight-page special liftout inside, complete with handy cut lines, for you to use in an emergency.”

Maybe in the coming weeks, American newspapers will do the same. If not, you’ll have to come up with some toilet paper substitutes of your own.

Here’s what you need to know:

If You Run Out of Toilet Paper During the Coronavirus Outbreak, Here Are Some Toilet Paper Substitutes to Consider

No one wants to imagine what will happen if they run out of toilet paper. But given how high the demand currently is for toilet paper, and how many people appear to be stockpiling rolls, it might just happen before the coronavirus outbreak is over.

Here are some common suggestions for toilet paper substitutes to use:

  • Paper towels
  • Tissue paper
  • Printer Paper
  • Wet Wipes

If you do have wet or flushable wipes, remember that you shouldn’t flush them. One Colorado city tweeted a warning to its citizens about doing so: “We are aware that many of you are using baby wipes or other products as a toilet paper substitute due to the current shortage. IT IS IMPORTANT that you dispose of them in a trash can instead of flushing them down any toilet. FLUSHABLE WIPES ARE NOT SAFE for your plumbing or ours.”

Of course, a lot of these products have been hard to find as well. So when you run out of toilet paper and also don’t have paper towels or wipes, you might have to get a bit more creative.

One of the easiest ways to clean yourself if you don’t have toilet paper or any paper product is to use water. AKA, wash yourself off in a shower after you use the bathroom. That way, you don’t have to clean up or wash anything after, and leave the bathroom squeaky clean.

Let’s say, for whatever reason, you don’t want to do that. If you do have to use some sort of reusable product (some are mentioned below), you’ll have to make sure you can clean it properly, so that you don’t infect yourself with any number of germs (even if they’re not coronavirus-related).

One option to consider is a sponge or washcloth. It might sound gross as first, but it’s likely a product you already have in your home, and is one that you can clean with cleaning supplies and use again.

If you have access to the natural world, you can use leaves or rocks to wipe yourself off. Just make sure to check the leaves before you wipe yourself with them and accidentally give yourself poison ivy. One gardening group on Facebook has taken it upon themselves to help people make informed decisions, regarding which plants should be used for butt-wiping.

As shown above in a Facebook status,  Hills Herbal Collective wrote, “The toilet paper shortage crisis is upon us, and desperate times call for desperate measures. Are you concerned you may need to start using leaves if Woolies doesn’t re-stock their shelves with your favourite 3-ply soon? ?”

They continued, “No need to worry – we’ve compiled a list of common plants with leaves that will do the job perfectly so you can wipe with confidence and ease.” The suggestions for these natural toilet paper substitutes are: lamb’s ear, mallow, or mullein. 

The group also offered some additional tips, like checking for insects before you use the leaves, and making sure not to flush those leaves. “Instead, pretend you’re camping and dig a hole at the bottom of your garden and bury them well,” they wrote.

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