Toilet Paper Substitutes: Plants You Can Use As Toilet Paper

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Toilet paper is something most of us take for granted, butwhat if there was a shortage? Ever considered what you would do in the absenceof this most standard of daily needs? Well, perhaps you could grow your owntoilet paper.

That’s right! Many plants are useful as a substitute forthis hygiene product. Leaves for toilet paper are often more soothing, softer,and as an added bonus, compostable and sustainable.

Can You Grow Your Own Toilet Paper?

Certain situations can cause toilet paper woes, so it’s bestto be prepared. Few things are worse than being shy on some comforting tissueafter you do your duty. Good news! You can use plants as toilet paper shouldthe situation call for it. Learn which plants you can use as toilet paper andget growing so you’re never caught short.

Toilet paper has only been standard for about a century, buthumans had to use something to wipe up. The wealthy used fabric and washedthemselves, but everyone else used what was at hand, which in most cases turnedout to be plants.

Toilet paper substitutes are something you should thinkabout. Why? Imagine a world without toilet paper. It’s not a pretty thought butyou can be prepared by growing your own. These plants aren’t flushable but canbe buried to compost naturally. In some cases, using leaves for toilet paper isbetter for the environment and your bum.

What Plants Can You Use as Toilet Paper?

Following in our ancestor’s footsteps, plant leaves areuseful, easy to grow, readily available, and practically free. Plant leaveswith a fuzzy texture are particularly delightful.

The towering mulleinplant (Verbascum thapsis) is a biennial that produces popcorn-likeyellow flowers in its second year, but has furry leaves in spring through fall.Similarly, lamb’sear (Stachys byzantina) has large leaves soft as a rabbit (or lamb’sear), and the plant comes back every year.

Thimbleberry isn’t quite as fuzzy, but the overall textureis soft and the leaves are as large as an adult’s hand, so you only need one ortwo to get the job done. Some other options for toilet paper from the gardenare:

  • Common Mallow
  • Indian Coleus
  • Pink Wild Pear (tropical hydrangea)
  • Large Leaf Aster
  • Blue Spur Flower

Tips on Using Plants as Toilet Paper

While the listed plants are generally non-toxic, some peoplemay be sensitive. Before you try the leaves on your bottom, swipe the leafacross your hand or wrist and wait 24 hours. If no reaction occurs, the leafwill be safe to use on more sensitive areas.

Because many of these plants lose their leaves in winter,you will have to harvest and stockpile for the cold season. The leaves can bedried flat and stored for future use. The amount of absorbency may be affecteda bit, but once the leaf touches its target, the moisture there willreconstitute the foliage.

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7 Steps to Starting a Garden with Seedlings in Toilet Paper Rolls

It's time for starting a garden that rocks! Use our seven steps to start seedlings in toilet paper rolls for a free, easy way to start your garden and put those tubes to good use.

  • Compile Your Gear: Toilet paper rolls and a bag of potting soil also will be needed for starting a garden. You also will want scissors and duct tape for prepping your seedlings.
  • Cut Your "Pots": Slice the toilet paper rolls in half (so you have two shorter tubes). You can also use paper towel rolls and cut it into multiple pieces instead of just two. Or use coffee sleeves and don't cut at all. Then slice four notches into the end of each of the pieces (about an inch deep). Fold the newly-created tabs into the center to make a bottom for your pot.
  • Plant Your Spring Seedlings: Fill your tube pots with soil and pack lightly. Moisten the soil and plant at least two seeds per tube. Place your tube pots in a bin until they're big enough to transplant. Plant a variety of garden seeds in your tubes and mark your tubes with fruit and vegetable names. Moisten the soil again and cover with clear plastic. Keep the plants out of direct sunlight. Check your seedlings daily. Once you see sprouts in each space, you can remove the plastic and add your lighting.
  • Give Them Light: You don't need expensive grow lights. Simple shop lights will do since your seedlings won't be grown indoors long-term. Your plants will need about 12 hours of light each day. Hang shop lights just above (no more than three inches) your seedling bins. Provide light daily for six weeks. Water daily.
  • Let Your Seedlings Grow: The plants will grow strong and straight since the light source is directly above. After about six weeks, your seedlings will be strong enough to plant outside.
  • Acclimate Your Seedlings: Take the entire seedling bin to your garden and let the plants acclimate to the weather outside. Take the bin for longer periods each day as the weather warms. Once it's warm enough full-time, you're ready to transplant.
  • Transplant: When the seedlings are acclimated and spring has truly sprung, replant your hardy seedlings outdoors. Follow spacing guidelines for each plant and and unfold the bottom of the tube. Place the entire tube in the ground and voila! Your spring garden is off to a great start.

Related on Organic Authority

Nerdin Gardens: Can you grow your own toilet paper?

Nerdin Gardens: Can you grow your own toilet paper?

Many plants can be used for hygienic purposes if ever there was an international shortage. Yet another reason to grow a garden. It is ultimately important, however to know the difference between what works or what could cause future woes.

Toilet paper has only been a standard for a century. I remember perusing the Sears and Roebuck catalog when using the outhouse at my Auntie's house way back in Georgia during the 60s as a small child. There was talk about corn cob use as well!

The following are some plants that may be substituted for toilet paper:

  • Mullein
  • Lambs Ear
  • Common Mallow
  • Indian Coleus Pink
  • Wild Pear (tropical hydrangea)
  • Large Leaf Aster
  • Blue Spur Flower

Large, fuzzy plant leaves may feel good on the tush, are easy to grow, compostable and sustainable. While the above plants are non-toxic, a sensitivity test is recommended by rubbing the plant over your wrist and waiting 24 hours for the results.

Learning what works as our growing season nears, ensures another successful year of gardening. Soon we will turn the earth, making it nutrient-rich so it is ready to receive. I am thinking of visiting the nursery for some new plant material, just in case.

Happy Sunday all from Nerdin Gardens in southern Utah!

Buying or selling a home in southern Utah? Together, we can figure out what works for you to achieve the goals set forth. Call me at 435.632.9374 or contact me at [email protected] to help because Wanda Can!

There are more gardening tips at Gardening Know How: Toilet Paper Substitutes: Plants You Can Use As Toilet Paper

I, Wanda Kubat-Nerdin at Red Rock Real Estate Utah am responsible for my opinions expressed in this blog. Information herein is deemed to be reliable but not guaranteed and may change due to market conditions. Please do not take my pictures or artwork and use them as your own, they are my property and copyrighted.

Wanda Kubat-Nerdin is a southern Utah REALTOR® assisting buyers and sellers in in the St. George area, Dammeron Valley, Diamond Valley, Veyo, Central, Hurricane, Ivins, La Verkin, Leeds, Santa Clara, and Washington real estate markets.
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A stub of natural sea sponge and stick was all it took for the Ancient Romans to cleanse themselves post-toileting.

The sponge was soaked in a water channel running in front of the toilet (most of which were public!) and pushed through the hole in the front of the toilet bowl, where it would do its duty.

In a survival situation, we can learn a thing or two from all of this. A sponge is lightweight and easy to pack (and has a ton of alternative uses), and you can find a stick almost anywhere.

The only requirement is that you have a fresh water source close to clean it up after use.

If you’re short on sponges or cloths, there are many ways to substitute toilet paper. Explore your surroundings and you may come across some very interesting materials you never knew have some serious wiping potential!

10 Ways to Wipe Your Butt For Free (Alternatives to Toilet Paper)

I haven’t bought toilet paper in two years, and no I have not just mooched on someone else. Here are 10 ways to wipe your butt for free.

  1. Grow your own. There are multiple soft plants out there that grow perfect leaves to be used as toilet paper. P lants with soft, wide leaves are ideal. UPDATE: 10/21/2018. It is now been over five years since I purchased toilet paper. Currently I grow my own. The plant I grow is Plectranthus barbatus (common name: Blue Spur Flower). Here’s a photo of it growing at my place, where I use it with my outdoor compost toilet and you can see the plants and me talking about it in this video.From what I’ve read, this plant grows well in zones 8-10. I am in zone 9b in Orlando, Florida. You can read more about this plant on wikipedia, on this site, and by simply doing a web search for “Plectranthus barbatus” I do not know if it grows from seed. I started mine from cutting. I do not ship and don’t have a source for where you can purchase. If you are in the Orlando area, you could join Orlando Permaculture and get some from a local permaculturist.
  2. Leaves. This is easy if you’re in the woods taking a squat, but you could also grab a bunch of your favorite leaves and bring them home with you. You’ll want to compost them using a compost toilet. Check out my compost toilet to learn about this.
  3. Dumpster dive at pharmacies for perfectly good toilet paper. I’ve often found unopened twelve and twenty-four packs of toilet paper. This can be due to a torn or squished package or because someone stole a roll so the package was incomplete. It is in no way contaminated or dirty.
  4. Smooth stones. I’ve done this quite a few times while out in the woods and found this to be pretty great!
  5. Go to fast food restaurants and pick up the dozens of unused napkins that people leave on their table. People often take a stack of napkins just to throw half away. (I’m not saying to mooch off the restaurant. I am saying to take napkins that would have gone into the garbage unused.)
  6. Cloth wipes. Make nice little wipes out of old t-shirts and then wash them just as you would washable diapers. Here’s a guide if to want to do it .
  7. Newspaper. Grab it out of the recycling bin or trash can and put it to good use. Don’t flush newspaper or anything else more tough than toilet paper as it can clog the toilet. Compost it. In many countries they have a garbage can for used toilet paper and you could do that as well. It’s no more gross than throwing away used diapers for all you parents out there.
  8. Use a bidet. (Ok, I guess this isn’t quite free since you have to pay for the water, but it’s far cheaper than toilet paper).
  9. Use a bum gun . This is a little spray nozzle next to the toilet to spray your butt clean with water.
  10. Even simpler than installing a bidet or bum gun is to put a little kettle by the toilet and pour water onto your bum area. I had a roommate from India and he taught me how to do this. It was awesome.

Note: Some of these options will involve a compost toilet. You don’t want to flush things down the toilet that would clog the toilet or the system. You can also use a normal flush toilet but instead of flushing the “toilet paper”, have a separate bin and compost it, or just put it in the garbage. In many countries they have a garbage can for used toilet paper.

25,000 trees are dumped into the landfill each day from our toilet paper usage. It also takes a lot of water and energy to create toilet paper. Then it’s got to be shipped which burns fossil fuels of course. Trees chopped down, water wasted, and fossil fuels burned just to wipe your butt? Toilet paper is a huge environmental nuisance and a complete waste of money. Maybe it’s time you stop wiping your butt with your money?

Basic Equipment for the Papermaking Process

You probably already own most of the equipment you need, could improvise with what you have, or could find inexpensive items at a local thrift store. You’ll need a flat work surface that can get wet and can be easily dried and cleaned. Water will splash onto the floor and on surrounding surfaces, so setting up in a garage or outside is ideal.

Mould and deckle. This is the screen and frame that holds the sheet of paper you’ll pull out of the vat. Many professional ones are made from hardwood (which resists warping from water), but you can make your own out of cheaper wood, such as pine, or even staple a screen to an old picture frame. Instructions for making a mould and deckle are easily found online.

Vat. This is a tub larger than your mould and deckle. You’ll fill it with water and pulp and pull up sheets of paper from it. Use a large storage tub, dish tub, a freestanding plastic vat with a drain and plug on the bottom, or even an old secondhand sink.

Felts. Not actually felt, these materials are what you’ll lay, or couch, your wet, formed paper onto after you pull it from the vat. Any quality wool material would work — old blankets, nonfusible pellon from a fabric store, or papermakers’ felts. These must be cut approximately 2 inches wider than all sides of your paper (or your mould and deckle).

Plastic buckets with handles. These will hold pulp and help in draining vats. Papermaking uses a lot of water. Because you’ll be working with natural plant fibers and few other elements, you can set up a water-collection system to use the water for other purposes around your garden or homestead.

A press or sponges and brayer. You can use sponges to remove excess water from your pulled paper, or you can assemble a simple press to squeeze out much more water and reduce drying time. Search online for examples people have found creative solutions. A brayer or similar rolling tool is helpful for smoothing paper and releasing more water.

Drying equipment. This could be sheets of Plexiglas or even a clothesline, depending on how you’d like to finish your paper and leave it to dry. You may want to experiment. Drying on Plexiglas will make one side of the paper very smooth drying on a line will be easier to set up but could lead to more rippling in the paper, though this can be smoothed with a bit of water later. You could also dry between sheets of corrugated cardboard with a fan nearby. The corrugations in the cardboard will allow air to flow.

Storing pulp. Drain the vat through a mesh strainer lined with a fine mesh bag (such as a “brewer’s bag” used by homebrewers) into a bucket, squeezing out as much water as you can. Form pulp into a ball. The pulp will last in the refrigerator in a container until it begins to mold. You can also dry it completely and store it in a cupboard.

After you practice, experiment try blending different plant fibers together, or add tea leaves, oatmeal, or other inclusions into the vat before you pull paper. As you watch plants transform from their original color to the hues and textures they’ll take on after cooking, then into pulp, and finally to the look and feel of the final paper, you’ll see your plants anew.

Kristi Quillen is an editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Much of this information is adapted from Helen Hiebert’s Papermaking with Garden Plants and Common Weeds and The Papermaker’s Companion. Thank you to Jeff Hansen of Kansas Native Plants and Tonja Torgerson of the Lawrence Arts Center for contributing their expertise.


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