When Toilet Paper Is In Short Supply

When Toilet Paper Is In Short Supply

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Well, it’s been over a year and a half since we first started hearing about common household items disappearing from store shelves. One of those products was toilet paper, something every family uses each and every day.

Many people ran to their local grocery store to pick up a case and when they saw the shelves being emptied, figured they better stock up on more than what they’d usually get, just in case.  I’m sure the question of what to do when toilet paper is in short supply has come up millions of times over the past few months.

Many Americans thought challenges in the supply chain were to blame for the shortage. Although shortages in other household items might have been impacted by supply chain issues, that wasn’t the case with toilet paper. The Tissue Pack Innovation Lab states that 99% of tissue products are actually manufactured in the United States.

When Toilet Paper Is In Short Supply

When Toilet Paper Is In Short Supply

Toilet Paper Facts

One of the key issues with toilet paper is the fact that as more employees were moved to home-based office work, they were using more personal purchased toilet paper and much less commercial style.

The manufacturers had to shift their manufacturing to accommodate the new emphasis on consumer-based products. It took a few months, but the past year has seen fewer reports of shortages as compared to mid-2020.

That doesn’t relate to the shortages of so many other items for household use. With labor shortages in the dockworker arena, and also a shortage of truck drivers now, we are seeing hundreds of container ships lined up at ports waiting to be unloaded.

Once unloaded, the containers often sit for extended periods since there aren’t enough trucks waiting to distribute the products from the containers. It has proven to be the “perfect storm” we hear about.


There is talk that many retailers won’t have the desired Christmas gift items we all take for granted. That could be electronics like laptops, TVs, video game consoles, etc. It also applies to other household items manufactured offshore.

This could prove to be a different kind of Christmas season than any of us have ever seen.

If you are curious, here are some ideas about what people have used in the past when toilet paper is in short supply. 

Read More of My Articles  Family Cloth-How To Make Reusable Toilet Paper For Survival

So, what have people used in the past as toilet paper?

Let’s talk about some “toilet paper” history here. History indicates that the Chinese would mix their old rags with bamboo. Vikings would use discarded wool. The ancient Romans apparently used rosewater that was dipped in by pieces of wool.

None of these compare with the efficiency and softness of modern toilet paper, but they did the trick.

There are other unique items other cultures have used in the past, and they may still be used today. I won’t go into a lot of detail under each category, I’ll let you use your imagination!

Moist Sponge

Comes in handy if you have plenty of water, a bucket you can soak them in to avoid the strong odor, much like a diaper pail. Both the sponges and the clothe squares discussed next should definitely be washed in a strong sanitizing solution and/or bleach.

Cloth Squares

Many people call these reusable toilet paper since you can put them in the washer and use them again. Most often they are made of cotton flannel. You can pick the size you feel works best for you, but 6” x 8” seems to be popular. Cloth Squares

In case you missed this post, Family Cloth-How To Make Reusable Toilet Paper For Survival

When Toilet Paper Is In Short Supply

Wash Clothes or Rags

Depending on the fabric, they may not be as absorbent or effective when cleaning the area, or as soft as you may be used to. Wash Cloths

Other Paper Goods

I read an article that reported the Mennonite communities often used the paper from a catalog generated by a company called Eaton. Not the most comfortable solution, but it does beat other options we’ll discuss.

If available, other paper sources would be old books, newspapers, telephone books, junk mail, etc.

Consider a Bidet

These seem to be very popular in foreign countries, particularly in Europe. It used to be a pricey choice, but modern plumbing technology has brought us a bidet that can be added to almost any standard toilet.

Also, you can use a squirt bottle with clean water and create your own “portable” bidet. I’ve never tried either one, but some people swear by them.

Another portable bottle to consider would be a spray style so you can be sure to get to those “hard to get places.” Just be sure any water applied to your private areas is as clean as possible.

If you don’t have a water bottle close at hand you may be faced with trying to splash the water towards the area needing cleaning. I can just see a messy situation.

Corn Cobs

Most often found in rural environments, this is one frugal approach to “taking care of business,” particularly if there are cornfields on the property or close by. You can imagine, it certainly isn’t the most comfortable choice, but if you happen to be out in the country and find an “outhouse” is the only available facility, you may find a bin full of cobs or one hanging from a string.

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Save Those Socks

When your socks are ready to “give up the ghost,” have a bin, bucket, or basket to use as a storage area for future use. Just like rags, socks can come in very handy and can be used again, after a good washing.

Getting Back to Nature

There are a number of plants that have proved to be one of “man’s best friends” when it comes to toilet paper substitutes. Two of the best-known plants are mullein leaves and the leaves of wooly lamb’s ear. Both are considered to have leaves with a soft feeling, with some leaves being fuzzier than others.

You can also try other large plants and tree leaves, but you probably should look for those with larger leaves, and be sure to avoid any that are known to be a skin irritant, like poison ivy.

Other outdoorsy approaches may include pine needles, hemp, and coconut husks (if you live in the south seas).


Like the water sources mentioned earlier, fresh snow may be a more liquid approach to personal hygiene. I grew up in Las Vegas, so just the thought of putting the cold solution “down there” gives me the shivers at so many levels.

Baby Solutions

One of the easiest choices is what we use for our own infants, baby wipes. I think they can also become somewhat scarce at times, but they are a great choice since they provide a liquid component to the cleaning chore, help to sanitize, and have been safely used for decades to keep the little ones clean and happy. Baby Wipes

Put Your Hand to Use

I know, it’s hard to even imagine. I read there is an old Boy Scout saying, even though Mark says he never heard it, that goes like this: “If in the woods with the goods, be a man and use the hand.”

Hopefully, if this is your only choice, you are close to a water source that can provide a liquid assist, even if only to wash your hand afterward.

From Ancestor Lady, pleated coffee filters, just don’t flush them. They are cheap and nest in each other, so you can put a ton of them in a plastic tote box to have as a backup!

Final Word

I hope my post today on when toilet paper is in short supply makes us all think outside the box. Things may be in short supply but hopefully, things will improve. Please stay healthy and stay safe.

Please keep prepping. we must. May God Bless this world, Linda

Copyright Images: Toilet Paper AdobeStock_186955123 by sebra

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  1. Paper towels. DON’T FLUSH! Keep a plastic lined pail for disposal. Burn it later if you can.
    Sanitation is going to be a big problem when the stuff hits the fan, SHTF.

    1. Hi Mary, I totally agree we should not flush paper towels or any baby wipes either. Good idea for a lined pail to dispose later. Sanitation will in fact be a problem sooner than later. Linda

    2. Mary–I have a story…just happened last week.
      I do not put anything in my toilets except you know and if it is clogged, for 46 years, oh, 47 now, I have used a plunger for the problem.
      It didn’t work and a friend had a handy man that came and used a coil thingy to unstop it…No idea what it was.
      Well, the next day, I flushed the unused master bath toilet and it acted same way–I managed to unstop with the plunger, but that toilet is unused since Gene died and I sleep in the little bedroom…don’t ask, I’ll start crying.
      I read to flush every few days unused toilets and I do–I will never know what was in my clogged toilet..but I know it wasn’t ….you know…so I’m at a loss for what it was…I am septic.

      Any ideas would be welcomed.

      1. You might want to get a plumber with a camera to check the line. It could be a cracked/broken pipe line and dirt is getting in, or it could be an animal got stuck in the line. If it is a problem again I would call a plumber with a camera to check it out. Hope this gives you some ideas.

      2. It might be time to get your septic pumped out and checked out. It may be getting full or lines clogged in the drain field. That would be worse case scenario.

      3. One thing you might want to do is go to your hardware store and ask for a augar. At one point I was having the plumber come every 2 weeks to unplug my stool so he showed me how to use his augar and I went and bought one. It was the best thing I have bought. It is easy to use and it cost around 12.00 and has paid for itself many times over. No need for a plunger

    3. As far as “getting back to nature”, I highly recommend moss. There’s a particular kind called old man’s beard that grows almost everywhere. When it’s dry, it is very rough and scratchy and would not make good toilet paper, although it does make good kindling. Pour water on it, though, and it becomes much softer and makes excellent TP.

      This moss has literally saved my butt more than once, including on my recent bus trip that I told you about.

      I’ve used snow, too. Not as bad as you’d think, but it’ll definitely wake you up in the morning!

  2. Linda, if you use the cloths for just pee, washing them would not be a big deal and would stretch your supplies of tp out longer. There is also a company making a special cloth for backpackers to use for pee wiping that is meant to be hung on your pack and used again and again, but I am not sure about that one…stay safe and clean!

  3. Good post. I have extra wash cloths and have Terry cloth fabric to make “Personal Cloths” out of. Our bathroom trash cans have a foot opener, and are lidded. The bucket inside is plastic, except for the handle. I’ll be putting bleach water in them for when/if we have to use cloths. I have also made some washable sanitary pads. Don’t need them, but good bartering item.

    1. Hi Deborah, great tip on the bleach, we must stock bleach. I made a bunch of homemade sanitary pads, I don’t need them but someone in the neighborhood may need them. We always have to think outside the box, a great reminder. Linda

  4. My sister had bidets installed in her regular toilets, and she loves them. You don’t have to have a separate fixture; just go to a home improvement store to get the attachment. As far as bottles go, after having a baby, they have angled spray bottles at the hospital for you. These are available to buy and at Target, they’re in the baby department. Any kind of female surgery requires these, and they’re awesome! I have lived in fear of ever having to use newspaper, leaves, etc so I’m one of those people who does have a year’s supply of TP in my home…thank you very much, Costco! I don’t consider myself a hoarder because I have every intention of using it all and NOT sell it at scalping prices.

    1. Hi Robbie, you are so right!! We are not hoarders and yes indeed if we have it stored we will use it! Great comment!! I forgot about those angled spray bottles, I need to add that to the post, thank you!! Linda

    2. I have a years’ supply also and what I don’t do and know I should is buy every month to keep that years’ supply…I will start that this weekend.
      Thanks for reminding me.
      And at my house, one roll = 3 days.

  5. Catalogues (back before glossy paper!) and corn cobs were staples of the old-time outhouse–and they’re not as bad as you might think. The best advice for catalogue/phone book or other paper is to crumple it several times to soften it up a little.

    Corn cobs, stripped of kernels, are actually more “fuzzy” than most folks are aware–possibly a bit more so if the corn was blanched before stripping. (And no, I don’t think you’d find a cob hanging on a string–I certainly never have seen that!–they were kept in a box, one use only!)

    Sanitation/disposal… This only works if you have space for a good compost set-up, but yes, composting works, as long as it generates heat and has time (one year to fill the first bin, one year to “work,” then use the finished compost the third year). Paper (paper towel, junk mail, catalogue/phone book paper) and corn cobs will compost. Baby wipes will not. For more information on safely composting humanure. etc., check “The Humanure Handbook.”

    And just for fun–since we’re talking old-time methods–read Chic Sale’s “The Specialist.” Everything you could ever want to know about outhouse construction and fitting-out! And it’s short–you can easily read it in one sitting. (Did I just say that???)

    1. Hi Rhonda, oh my gosh, I have the giggles! Best Comment Ever! You can read it in one sitting! One of my biggest fears is burying sanitation items and any trash we cannot burn. I need to check out that book! Thanks, Linda

      1. Remembered another outhouse thought that isn’t in “The Specialist” (I know, because I just went and re-read it–and it’s as funny as ever!) A good outhouse had a small hole for the little ‘uns, for obvious reasons. As little ‘uns are prone to do, they wanted to use the grown-up size. The usual advice in such a case was to tell the little ‘un, “Well, go ahead–but keep your elbows up!”–so that if you *did* slip through, at least you’d catch yourself, and not drop all the way through!
        And this transferred to advice when anybody appeared to be attempting something they might not really be prepared for–“OK, but keep your elbows up!”

  6. Linda,

    I’ve been thinking about installing heated bidets on both our toilets for some time now but haven’t done it yet. Maybe now is the time. I once tried peri-bottles but they didn’t work well for me. Many Muslims use their “unclean” left hand and a hose and if you’ve ever been in one of their public toilets where it’s nothing but a hole with a hose hanging on the wall and places for your feet on each side of the hole, you get the idea. A solar shower would also work but the problem is where to hang it in your bathroom–or just use it outside (and wouldn’t winter be fun then).

    When I was a kid in Kansas my best friend and I were exploring a wooded area and he had to go. He used leaves. Worst case of poison ivy I’ve ever heard of. I, being sensitive to his plight, laughed my butt off.

    1. Hi Ray, oh my gosh, poison ivy????? Funny, not funny! Ouch! This will make us really look at the leaves if it comes to that!! Best story EVER! Your poor friend!! I’ve been looking at bidets, I think they are a great idea. Linda

  7. I used a outhouse when I was first married. We used whatever there was there to use. My mom in Love used to tear the Sunday newspaper torn i size to use out there. They put lime in to clear out the smell and to compost what was put in there. They had a really nice 2 hole outhouse with toilet seats in it

  8. I have been a hiker for over 20 years (Still need to complete the PCT in order to triple crown) and as a female, most of us do use a (preferably white) bandanna clipped to our pack as a pee rag. Many of us use a designated Smartwater 20 oz bottle as a “hikers” version of a portable bidet and have a separate bandana for drying our backside. Also, it is good to note that BM’s are much cleaner when squatting so not as much is needed to “clean.” Also for the ladies who need are still “falling off the roof” look into 100% platinum grade silicone menstrual cups as they are easily reusable as well as easy to clean and sanitize. But reusable cloth pads are also a great choice for anyone hesitant to use any kind of an insertable.

    *Pro Hiker Tip: Most through-hikers tend to use Smart Water bottles not only for the sport flip lid but also because they are so light weight AND because the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter fits perfectly on them.
    Sawyer Mini – Lasts for 100,000 gallons; doesn’t perform gravity filtration well.
    Sawyer Squeeze – Last a lifetime if not let to freeze. performs gravity filtration well (I use this one in my own house on a daily basis plus way cheaper than the alternatives and takes up no space. Great for a go-bag!
    Always use filtered water when using the portable bidet out in nature!

    1. Hi Ravenna, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your comment! It’s always nice to hear from people who have used the products we all read or hear about! Great tips! Thank you so much for sharing your insight!! Linda

    2. I have sawyer mini filters for each of the family. Pocket size, light weight. Last a long time. I also got the filter for a pail for my daughter in Mexico. They love it. It will last years. They have used it for about 10+ years already. No one has gotten sick from the water.
      Check out the ‘nice or pretty outhouses’ on the internet. There a some that are really good. That is the kind I would want,

  9. My dad always said that the reason there were red corn cobs and white corn cobs was that you should
    use a red cob first then use a white cob so you could tell if you needed to use another red cob.LOL!

      1. Pleated coffee filters, just don’t flush them. They are cheap and nest in each other, so you can put a ton of them in a plastic tote box to have as backup.

  10. Some Great comments! My personal favorite was “Can be read in one sitting”
    You might look into “Small Pressurized Spray Bottles” some have a wand with an adjustable nozzle. Another thought would be to have a large quantity of vinyl one-time-use gloves in various sizes. They are very inexpensive and can be used in combination with spray bottles to aid in the cleanup process.
    It may be a good idea to use the chosen method yourself and then give some instruction to the younger members of the family on the use of the new cleanup method.
    Then you won’t be hearing “Wet Clean-up on Aisle Number #2”

    1. Hi Danny, best comment ever!! Oh my gosh, I have the giggles “Wet Clean-up on Aisle Number #2” I LOVE LOVE LOVE this! We need some humor these days, thank you! I need to look into those small pressurized spray bottles, a great tip! Linda

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