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alternatives to toilet paper  RSS feed

 
gardener
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Toilet paper feels like one of those situations where we really don't need to optimize it out of our lives. The entire purpose of toilet paper is that it is so blindingly cheap to make, and so little material is used in the process, that it is the MOST cost effective solution. When I am talking about toilet paper, I mean regular plain toilet paper. Single-ply Scott toilet paper, designed for speptic tanks, is really the minimum amount of paper to cover the task at hand.

If you are balking at the 3-ply Charmin blankets that pass as toilet paper, try the plain, single-ply paper designed for speptic tanks. You will realize how truly insignificant the cost/materials/impact are when talking about the impact of toilet paper.
 
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Location: Fennville MI
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Bill Crim wrote:Toilet paper feels like one of those situations where we really don't need to optimize it out of our lives. The entire purpose of toilet paper is that it is so blindingly cheap to make, and so little material is used in the process, that it is the MOST cost effective solution. When I am talking about toilet paper, I mean regular plain toilet paper. Single-ply Scott toilet paper, designed for speptic tanks, is really the minimum amount of paper to cover the task at hand.

If you are balking at the 3-ply Charmin blankets that pass as toilet paper, try the plain, single-ply paper designed for speptic tanks. You will realize how truly insignificant the cost/materials/impact are when talking about the impact of toilet paper.



On a per person basis almost everything is a minor volume issue that does not cost much and is not significant in its impact. Multiply by several hundred million and that very minor impact can become quite significant. I have not researched how many acres of trees are cut down each year to provide toilet paper, but I cannot help believing it is significant.
 
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Location: Vaasa, Finland
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Washing with just plain water is the best way to wash yourself at the toilet in my experience and I would say that it is a sustainable way. (unless you have a very limited water supply). Around 0.5l is plenty to get yourself cleaned up, and trust me it is a lot more comfortable than TP.
 
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I have to say that this is BY FAR the strangest, and most captivating thread I have ever read on a forum! I have mixed feelings about alternatives to using toilet paper. That being said however, I know that the icky feeling I get when I think about using the alternatives is only because I have been conditioned by my culture to believe that using anything other than toilet paper is unsanitary and deplorable.

Since I have sewn my own pads for my time of the month however, I think I could be well on my way to going toilet paper-less. My husband would probably see this as a confirmation of insanity though! lol I sure am glad "I do until you stop using toilet paper" wasn't part of our vows!
 
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I use cloth as well. I found that cotton receiving blankets cut in squares are perfect. Soft and easy to wash. My little on is still in cloth diapers, so it seems to go well with washing diapers so often. If sundrying, I just lay them out on the grass to dry, or dry in the dryer in winter/wet weather. I have thought about intentionally growing comfrey/mullein especially for tp uses. But I haven't arrived at this yet, so now for reusable cloth. BTW, I don't use cloth for poops.
 
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Here is a soberling link as to why to not use toilet paper, but rather to access something you know the source of. http://truth-out.org/news/item/28232-green-neocolonialism-afro-brazilian-rebellion-in-brazil
 
Posts: 3
Location: Salem, United States
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Even seven years later mullein is the best alternative that I know of.
Verbascum thapsis, aka Boy Scout toilet paper.
 
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I personally think that the old timers using corn cobs is proof positive they were WAY tougher than me.  No way is something that resembles a wood rasp (in roughness) coming anywhere near my tender derriere.  My grandparents, back in the day, preferred the Sears and Roebuck catalog.  Bathroom reading material AND toilet paper when your finished.  Repurposing and recycling in one blow.  The paper would provide a bit of carbon to go with the nitrogen abundant in the liquid and solid waste.  Come to think about it, if I collected my junkmail, that might be enough for one or two people.  

This is an area I refuse to go native unless forced to.  Years ago while taking a dump in an outhouse at -50, it came to me as a brilliant revelation that indoor plumbing is a good thing.  I can use whatevers available when everythings warm and green, the question is what are you going to use when it's cold and midnight.

Over the years I've used a lot of 'emergency measures'.  I have found moss (in northern forests) works well, is abundant (in summer) but tends to leave tiny bits of moss behind, although after a few minutes they go work themselves out of any irritating position.  

If you have water available, I think the rags sound like a good idea.  Back in the stone age, when my older kids were babies, we used cloth diapers.  After changing the diaper you take the poop filled diaper and rinse it out in the toilet bowl.  Throw the diaper in the diaper can and wash your hands with soap and warm water.  That would work well if needed.

My grandma told me a story about when she was a girl in a small rural community in eastern Arizona.  One of the kids had gone to visit relatives living in the big town of Phoenix and came back with  a sad story about how poor the relatives were.  They were so poor that they only owned a tiny bit of land, just enough for a house and small front and back yard.  Not only did they have very little land, but their land was so poor that it wouldn't grow anything but grass.  They were so land poor they needed to have their outhouse in the main house.  The final note was that they couldn't even afford a Sears and Roebuck catalog.  Their paper was in rolls and had no pictures or anything on it!  She said the kids stood around and felt real glad their families weren't so bad off as that.  My grandma wasn't above stretching the truth to improve a story, but I always enjoyed listening to her.

We can make do with alternatives for toilet paper, it's a common, but short lived problem.  A more serious problem would be what to do during a menstrual period.  Comfort, ease of use and lack of impact on activity are really vital in this situation.  (I don't speak from experience, but I've been married a long time and have six daughters, (the youngest is 16), so I have had some second hand exposure to this problem.  

I read years ago that during World War I the military used peat for the absorbant material in the big bandages that cover wounds.  It seems that peat absorbs several times more fluid than cotton.  If someone was looking for a backup to feminine productst to use during their menstrual period, a cloth container that you could fill with peat moss (with some water proof material to protect clothes on the outside) might be a useful alternative.  The used peat could be discarded/buried/composted/dumped down the outhouse while the cloth could be washed, dried and reused.  

This would also provide a viable alternative for major injury bandages.
 
gardener
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I'm a big fan of bidets.  A lovely invention.

I used to be a buyer of recycled cotton toilet paper, but the company went down the toilet.  Not enough raw material to work with, it seemed.  (Cotton byproducts got sucked into the home insulation industry.)

This is an interesting Indigogo campaign that met its financial goal and is now trying to pre-sell their recycled toilet paper line.  The company plans to give 50% of profits to build toilet facilities in places that need it.  Like downtown Eugene, Oregon... sorry, that's a joke. Reference to the city shutting down the public bathrooms some years ago because people kept abusing them...

The company will be helping build toilet facilities in countries that are lacking.

Who Gives A Crap? Toilet Paper
 
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I don't think newspaper has been mentioned yet.  I've used TP for years, I've used newspaper for years, I prefer newspaper.  You can rip them to any shape you prefer and they're more durable than TP, yet soft (see tip #2 below)
Some tips:
-the free weekly papers will do fine,
-don't use them stiff. Crumble & open and repeat one more time or until your desired softness
-not glossy,
-B&W vs colored has no textural difference,
-thicker paper (e.g., 8.5"x11" office paper) needs more crumble & open cycles
-do not flush these, compoost them. (Toxic inks may be an issue, I don't know for sure.)

I recommend finishing with some sort of wet wipes or water. Think about it, if poo got on your skin anywhere else on your body, would you only wipe it away with dry paper/cloth?  Trust me, you'll leave your old way behind.

A more natural or wild option that may not have been mentioned is wet brown leaves (especially in autumn and throughout winter until they've degraded too much).

 
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I live in Albania. Most bathrooms have a bidet, a remnant from the earlier practice of having a hose next to a "Turkish" toilet, a hole in the ground with a porcelain surround. I've been in many places that still use this, although they also have t.p. for modern sensibilities. Oh, and there is a hook for a towel next to the bidet (pre-germ theory, I guess).
 
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Location: Inland Northwest, Zone 6
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Mick Fisch wrote:  A more serious problem would be what to do during a menstrual period.  Comfort, ease of use and lack of impact on activity are really vital in this situation.  (I don't speak from experience, but I've been married a long time and have six daughters, (the youngest is 16), so I have had some second hand exposure to this problem.  



I think that's why menstrual cups (the ones with medical-grade silicone) were invented! 1 or 2 for a whole lifetime of fertility cycles... and technically, it could be autoclaved if one were so inclined to use a single cup over multiple generations.

Some women empty their cups over a toilet, and that is likely to require some sort of wipe (water + fingers might work - but it takes a LOT more water than just feces, because of coagulation and the nature of the opening - ie not a sphincter), but that's once or twice a day.... but the easiest thing is to empty it as part of a shower - if one showers daily (or more).

Folks who like more "natural" materials might appreciate sewn reuseable pads and crocheted tampons. Most folks find them on Etsy, but even Walmart is carrying these now in some places. I've read that many folks soak through quite a few of these during a single period, so there's a fair amount of water used regardless of which method of menses management you choose.

This is another discussion about menstruation on permies:
https://permies.com/t/40/37417/personal-care/purity/shark-week-pads-tampons-cups
 
Posts: 121
Location: Wisconsin Rapids, WI
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Anonymous wrote:I would prefer using washable clothes because aside from its recyclable, we were used to use it since then.



Depending on how much water/ soap is needed to wash these, It certainly might work. I must confess that having good, absorbent TP is one of these small comforts I will just not give up. When I was a little girl, we had "Turkish toilets". Imagine a ceramic square [48" X 48"] with 2 raised platforms to put your feet a hole in the middle. Face the hole for number one, and turn around for number two. Up above your head, a container and a string to open the bottom of the container so that you could flush. Depending on the position of the water container, you could easily get a foot bath [yuck] but if it was done correctly, it is one of the most sanitary things you could use: No contact with the body, so no transference of germs from a toilet seat, no need to ever clean a yucky toilet seat, no argumen about leaving the seat down. Right there, you can save yourself a lot of energy! In those days, Mom and dad would just use newspaper that they would cut in smaller pieces each week so we could all wipe our bottoms. Not terribly absorbent, but if you have to, you just do it! At school, we had the super thin "Bible" paper. I don't know who had the idiotic idea of waxing the thing, but that is not a good experience. I would try to hold it so I could do my duty at home, with newspapers.
Having a [I assume damp] cloth that you can rewash does not sound all that comfortable either. A cold wet cloth on my behind and over my [very] private parts in the cold of winter? Hmmm. Nope. To make it comfortable enough, it would have to be lukewarm, and then, think of the expense to warm that water.
There are 2 expenses we are trying to save on 1/ the flushing system, expensive to build and maintain, plus a water hog. Outdoor toilets are better for that. If you install them on skids, you can move them the following year, then plant a tree there. 2/ What to do with the paper? For the paper, I could revert to newspapers, but even if I use my preferred absorbent TP, it can be put in a separate pail and ignited once a week: It is only the center of the paper that gets soiled, and most of it is dry. The rest can burn and the ashes put on my asparagus bed. Problem solved. water saved.
 
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Jami McBride wrote:Want to conserve on TP - then why not washable rags?  Cheep washcloths can be found at discount stores and garage sales, cut up into one-use sizes and washed/reused.

These can be misted with a spray bottle for a wet-wipe functionality.

The wash water can then be applied to ones compost or trees if proper natural soap is used.

**********
My response:

we started using cloth about 2 years ago- in conjunction with tp and our composting toilet- big savings- people think we are nuts too- but we just bought 3 -10 packs of colored washcloths at walmart 5$/pk cheapest tp we ever bought - 1 small load a week and they double as feminine pads as needed- if we got more still would be same 1 load maybe every 2 weeks- YES has saved us

 
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In Asia, 99+ % f ALL toilets has a s.c. 'Bidet Hose'. Beats the crap (pun intended...) out of TP.

You can find a pic attached.
Bidet-Hose.jpg
[Thumbnail for Bidet-Hose.jpg]
 
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just use left hand and water like people in india. i learned to do this years ago on my travels. it's much better...you don't tear the skin. you can never clean yourself properly with paper. and you never have to worry about running out of toliet paper.    you can connect a spray nozzle to the toilet fill pipe, or just use a quart yogurt container.
 
garden master
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These are great explanations:

Marianne McCoy wrote:  I made the switch to cloth about a month ago.  Once you get a system down, it's not bad at all.  I just cut up a few old t-shirts (cut off the logos and paint goobers).  I stuff the clean ones in a tissue box for easy dispensing.  I have a plastic coffee canister with water and a bit of vinegar for the used rags.

When it comes to ...; (okay, poo), sometimes I use TP on the first pass, then follow up with wet cloth as the sink is close enough to reach.  Those cloths get semi washed in the sink before I put them in the cannister.

On laundry day, I drain the cannister, add water, put the lid back on and shake the canister.  I usually do this a couple times, sometimes adding a shot or two of foam soap to the can.  That way it all gets a pre-wash before going in with the regular clothes.

I think people need to remember that there isn't that much urine on the cloth.  These aren't soaked like diapers.

I still keep TP on the spindle so I don't freak out any visitors..



Mariah Wallener wrote:Family cloth is the name for cloth toilet paper. Ours are two-ply squares of cotton cloth, serged together at the edges, about 5 x 5 inches. I made a bunch myself from some old men's flannel shirts I bought at a thrift store.... We have an old wet bag (a bag used for cloth diapers) hanging in the bathroom and the used wipes go there.



Reusable Homemade Wipes

If you like the disposable wipes you make, you can make reusable ones also. Just cut up old receiving blankets and t-shirts into 8×8 squares. fold them into old wipes containers and pour the same mixture (above) onto them or spray on each wipe with a spray bottle before using. These are an even cheaper option, and I am working on using these all the time.

Here is a recipe I found to soak the cloths before washing:

   1⁄2 baking soda
   1⁄4 cup ammonia
   1 gallon warm water

Directions

   Combine ingredients in a clean gallon size plastic jug and shake thoroughly. Label jug and store solution away form children.
   To Use: Pour as much of the solution as you need into a pail or laundry tub and soak the dirty items in question for several hours before washing.
   You can also put the clothing to be soaked right into the washing machine, pour the presoak over them and allow them to soak overnight .

 
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If you have a good water supply, that's better than TP. I haven't used TP in years.

I just T 'ed into my toilet fill tube and connected a hose, 1/4 turn valve, and an old shower head. Spray clean when done
and pat dry with a dedicated use towel.

The result is much cleaner than TP and great hemorrhoid relief.

Larry
 
pollinator
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I do use a little water (from a can) and my left hand to clean after 'doing the job' and I am glad with that, it cleans much better than TP. But ... if there were a composting toilet, water is not allowed in it, how to clean then?
 
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We have multiple composting toilets here. We burn all tp due to ancient septic. For pee anything goes. Ive used leaves and snow mostly depending on the season. For poop i love TP. If no TP i would go for newspaper, leaves, cheap paperback books before plucking the beloved mullein plants. Lets all remember the bioburden. Greasy poopy butt and fecal tainted hands require soap and water. I have been waiting to hear how everyone washes up after using various wiping objects. And yes, my weimeraner dogs eat each others fresh poop before it hits the ground. Some things once seen cannot be unseen. Jules
 
pollinator
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ha, pretty good thread about "mountain money" my punny nickname for TP.

yes, one of the traditional plants for this purpose is Hollyhock, actually Hollyhocks were also used as a sign for the outhouse...being so tall, always in flower, and noticeable in big bunches ...they were known to point guests to where the "facilities" were, without people having to inquire. grab a few leaves on the way in =)

and yeah mullien is the other big one...

and another thing not yet mentioned is mosses and lichens of different type, the best of which being USNEA - aka - old man's beard.
anti bacterial, antibiotic, and strongly medicinal, this is an alternative to a pad as well.

but i think the most obvious replacement for TP will be rags/water.
i've been on that system for long periods of time living way out in the middle of nowhere, it is very workable, maybe better.
 
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