Five toilet paper alternatives for the road (or if you live in New Jersey)

toilet paper

Trenton, New Jersey, has a serious problem. The city government is in a fight with their paper goods supplier over prices and the city’s buildings are in danger of running out of toilet paper. What can they do for their voters in need? Installing bidets would be more expensive than simply paying the high cost the government contractor is demanding. Luckily, there are some other alternatives used in foreign lands that can help keep New Jersey clean. They can also help you out if you’re caught short while on the road.

Left hand
This is the most popular cleaning method around the world. You wipe your butt with your left hand (reserving the right for eating) and then wash your hand. It’s easier on your tender parts than scraping it with paper, and it’s guaranteed to stop you from biting your nails. While this makes sense hygienically and environmentally, for me it’s one of those five local customs I just can’t follow.

Newspaper
Newspapers offer an abundant supply of paper that can be cut up and stored in the bathroom. It’s a bit scratchy, but I can attest to it working just as well as toilet paper. When I was working in Bulgaria in the poverty-stricken early 90s, most Bulgarians didn’t want to spend extra money on toilet paper when they already had a newspaper. It was common practice to cut out photos of unpopular politicians to give them special treatment.Leaves
Another scratchy, yet environmentally sensitive, option favored by campers who don’t want to portage out their dirty paper. Make sure to pick large, relatively green leaves. You don’t want dry, brittle leaves that break while you’re wiping. That will leave you using the hand option whether you want to or not. Learn what poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac look like before you try this.

Snowballs
If you like snow camping, you’re probably already familiar with this one. Make a compact snowball somewhat smaller than the palm of your hand. It’s best to make it oval in shape with a ridge to provide easy access into your crack. Like with leaves, this is better than bagging up dirty toilet paper and carrying it with you until you reach civilization.

Sponge on a stick
This was a method used by the ancient Romans. A sponge is absorbent and soft, making it a perfect material for cleaning your nether regions. The Romans washed their sponges with vinegar and reused them. Check out the photo below from the ancient latrine at Housesteads Roman Fort to see how it was done.

If these five alternatives don’t appeal to you, you can always do…

Nothing
The father of a friend of mine didn’t use anything to clean his backside. How this man ever got a wife I’ll never know. The poor woman cleaned his skivvies in a bucket rather than put them in the washing machine with the other clothes. Yes, he smelled. Get a sponge on a stick or some leaves and clean yourself!

toilet paper, Housesteads