16 Toilet Paper Alternatives, Ranked from Best to Worst
Nobody saw it coming, but the world witnessed toilet paper evolve from a commodity into a luxury item in 2020. At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, toilet paper shortages turned people desperate for new ways to wipe their rears (TP hoarding certainly didn’t help the crisis).
While millions fell victim to price gouging for a pack of Charmin, a global conversation began to bubble up about toilet paper alternatives:
Will America finally adopt the bidet?
Does toilet paper actually clean your ass?
What about the environment?
Being on the front lines of the 2020 toilet paper crisis gave us a unique vantage point into alternative anal cleansing methods. Now that the dust has settled, we’ve compiled a list of TP alternatives that range from high-tech hygiene to downright disgusting.
1. DUDE Wiper 1000
For decades, Americans have been shy about blasting their butts after dropping a deuce, but we’re doing our part to change that. The DUDE Wiper 1000 is a lean, mean poop-destroying machine that can clean even the messiest of deuces. With dual-action nozzles and idiot-proof installation, your privates will be poopless—guaranteed.
If you’re not convinced, watch our full infomercial (yes, infomercial).
2. DUDE Wipes
The OG of TP alternatives that helped millions of people pitch their two-ply for good. DUDE Wipes are 35% larger than average flushable wipes and infused with Aloe and Vitamin E to soothe your sensitive sides. DUDE Wipes are also made with 99% water and plant-based ingredients, so they’re septic-safe with over 50,000 reviews on Amazon.
3. Standard Bidet Attachments
In many countries, a bidet isn’t an alternative to toilet paper; it’s the norm. Some are electric, some are handheld, and you can even find portable bidets. Regardless, a quick spritz will give you a much more hygienic cleansing than TP could ever dream of.
If you’ve never used a bidet before, check out our comprehensive beginner’s guide.
4. Baby Wipes
Wet wipes from the baby aisle are smaller than DUDE Wipes, but you’ll experience some of the same soothing effects. The main disadvantage is that most baby wipes aren’t flushable and aren’t up to the task of heavy-duty adult wiping. Unless you have a diaper pail nearby, you’ll have to toss your poopy wipes in the trash can, which will lead to some suspicious odors wafting from your bathroom.
5. Bath Towels and Washcloths
If you’re super passionate about the environment, towels and washcloths, sometimes called “family cloths,” are great toilet paper alternatives, primarily because they’re reusable. Stick to cotton-based fabrics, and be prepared to do a lot more laundry.
Pro tip: soak the used cloths with a few drops of bleach before throwing them in the washing machine.
A T-shirt can be an ideal emergency wiping solution if your toilet paper roll is dwindling. Throw it in the laundry after you finish your business, and nobody will ever know. If possible, use a shirt that’s seen better days, not a crispy white tee.
Bath tissue is TP’s less absorbent cousin. Depending on the size of your dump, you can go through dozens of tissues in one sitting (obviously not cost-effective), but they’ll do in a pinch. Bonus points if the tissue is infused with moisturizer or essential oils.
8. Paper Towels and Napkins
Most of these brands brag about how absorbent their products are, which is certainly a useful quality if you have the runs. But keep in mind this stuff is meant to wipe tables and countertops, not the sensitive skin of your nether regions. Put this in the “emergency use only” category.
9. Spray Bottle
Maybe you want to experience the sensation of a bidet before making a purchase. If that’s the case, try this experiment next time you’re on the toilet seat. Reach around from behind and point the sprayer, so the water runs downward into the toilet, not all over your grundle. A spray bottle isn’t as efficient as a real bidet, so you’ll likely need a maintenance wipe.
10. Water Bottle
If you’re out in the wild with no bathroom in sight, you can make a DIY bidet with a water bottle. Just fill it up with clean water, poke a hole in the lid, and squeeze the bottle to create a pressurized stream. You should probably strip down for this ritual so as not to soak your clothes with fecal water.
11. Coffee Filters
Coffee makes you poop; then, you can use a coffee filter to clean yourself up. It’s the circle of life. They’re durable and cheap but scratchier than tissue or napkins, hence the lower ranking.
12. Cotton balls
While cotton is adequate material for wiping, cotton balls that come in a bag are dangerously small. Don’t be surprised if you get a finger full of feces while you’re digging around your third pit. Worse, cotton balls are a septic system’s worst nightmare. They can easily clog your pipes, so if you have to use them, don’t flush them.
13. Newspapers and Phone Books
The daily news is traditionally used for entertainment when you’re on the throne, but if you’re out of TP, your newspaper will have to do double duty. You might give yourself an ink stain, but that’s better than a skid mark. Phone books can also do the trick—what else would they be good for anyway?
Fun fact: during the Great Depression, people use the Sears catalog as a TP alternative.
14. Corn Cobs and Husks
Ah, corn: America’s quintessential crop. It’s extremely versatile for cooking, but many don’t know it was one of the most common wiping materials during colonial times. You can get a good grip on a corn cob so you can clean all your crevices. And if we’re being honest, corn husks are softer than a lot of the paper products on the market right now. Bonus points for being biodegradable.
If you want to get super primal with your anal cleansing habits, head to the woods and gather some leaves. Stick with stuff you’re familiar with, inspect for bugs, and double-check that you’re not grabbing poison ivy.
If you can find it, one of the best TP alternatives out in the wild is mullein, a large, soft leaf known for its natural health benefits.
16. Your Hand
It’s hard to imagine any scenario where this would be acceptable. In fact, some might argue it’s better to forgo wiping instead of using your hand, especially if you can get to a shower quickly. Or just hold it until you can get to a toilet. But if you are relegated to this barbaric act, do the world a favor and douse yourself with disinfectant.
The silver lining of the 2020 toilet paper crisis was that it woke us up to other options. We’re entering the enlightenment era of wiping. Why should you limit yourself to scratchy tree pulp? Get out there and experiment.
Whether you’re in an emergency or out in the wild, the best alternatives to toilet paper are those that keep you clean and comfortable. It’s the 21st century—you shouldn’t have to choose between the two.