Despite people clamoring to buy the last 18-packs of double-ply toilet paper at the grocery store, the coronavirus really isn’t the butt apocalypse it might seem, since nothing gastrointestinal is among the primary symptoms. For some, the greater concern may be that quarantining prevents us from leaving the house much over the next few weeks, meaning we should stock up on the essentials. But say you weren’t among the lucky few to hit the store before this toilet paper shortage began. Are you out of luck?
Not necessarily! While traditional toilet paper might be a more comfortable solution, there are plenty of alternatives out there that will do the job in a pinch.
Cody Lundin, a primitive and urban survival expert, has more than 30 years of experience teaching others about emergency preparedness. “I don’t allow students to take toilet paper into the field on my survival classes,” he says. “I have several reasons why I don’t allow toilet paper during field courses, and the main one is simple: The last thing that should stress you out during a survival situation is what you’re wiping your butt with. Once I instruct students how to go potty without using toilet paper, and they experiment with the information outdoors, the mystery is gone.”
In his book, When All Hell Breaks Loose, Lundin offers a variety of alternatives. Here they are for your butt-cleaning pleasure:
- Rocks: “Rocks are a favorite of mine as there seems to be a shape and size for every orifice, but watch out for the sharp parts,” he says. “Note: If it’s too hot to pick up, it’s too hot to wipe with. Watch for critters such as scorpions or fire ants in the Southwest.”
- Sticks: “Be careful of sharp, broken ends.”
- Grass: On this count, Lundin recommends long grass. “Pull up enough grass to create, when folded over onto itself, a thickly padded, spoon-shaped utensil,” he suggests.
- Leaves: “Beware of poisonous plants,” Lundin warns. He says to use several at a time in layers, or else your fingers might bust through.
- Snow: “An invigorating ‘wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee’ experience that wipes and cleans at the same time.”
- Tree branches and shrubs: “You will quickly learn that some are ‘directional.’”
- Rags: Rags can be a smart choice if you continue to have running water that would allow you to clean and re-use them — which, by all accounts, will be the case. Without running water, though, natural alternatives might be better. “There are dozens of uses for rags, and this is one of them,” he says. “Use them sparingly due to the other choices you have.”
- Newspaper: “Crumple it up a few times beforehand, and the paper will become softer and more absorbent,” says Lundin.
- Magazines: “While somewhat slippery and oily-feeling, crumpling up the pages can improve its wiping abilities,” he says.
For now, you can probably get by with paper towels and making sure you’re first in line at your grocery store when it opens in the morning. But if things really start to go downhill, your nearest park and recycling bin at least provide some alternatives.