What To Do If You Run Out of Toilet Paper

It’s happening to millions of us, all over the country. We’re all stuck at home, we’ve all got cabin fever, and we’re all… using our own bathrooms more than usual. Then it happens. You finish off a roll of toilet paper, go to replace it, and find… nothing. Before you know it, you’ve used the last of your toilet paper. And it’s… not going to be easy to replace right now.

The infamous toilet paper shortage occurring all over America is a natural consequence of the quarantine. It’s also probably not ending any time soon. Unless you luck out, you may have to reconcile with the fact that you’ll be running out of toilet paper in the coming weeks. What are you supposed to do about that? Well, you have more options than you might think. Here are a few ways to have a plan for when nature comes calling:

Use an “alternative” toilet paper

We know this probably doesn’t feel like the most dignified choice, but it is by far the easiest. When you don’t have time to make a more permanent plan, this should be your go-to– “Desperate times” and all that. Next time you need some “alternative” toilet paper right away, these are our recommendations:

  • Wet wipes: If you still have any of these, they seem like an obvious first choice. They may also be slightly easier to replace, though your mileage may vary.
  • Tissues: Tissues can be a suitable replacement for toilet paper, so long as you use a few at a time.
  • Toilet covers: Folding a paper cover over once or twice can create a paper sheet of roughly the same softness and thickness as toilet paper.
  • Napkins: If you have paper napkins, you could unfold and use two at a time as a suitable alternative.
  • Newspapers: We know this isn’t ideal. Ripping up newspapers will give you a lot more material to use if you need it. Plus, it’s delivered every day!

IMPORTANT: Do NOT Flush Your “Alternative” Toilet Paper!

Please remember: the only product you should flush down your toilet is toilet paper. Even wet wipes and other products that claim to be “flushable” are not safe. Toilet paper is designed to break up and dissolve on its way down your toilet’s drain. None of this other material is.

When you flush non-toilet paper material, it may clump up or get caught in the toilet drain. Over time, this will produce a clog–which is the last thing you want while sheltering in place. We know this isn’t what you want to hear, but you should dispose of your alternative another way. We recommend keeping a garbage bag liner or bag in your bathroom. Put your alternative toilet paper in the bag and throw it out as soon as you’re done. We realize this feels undignified, but it’s far better than the alternative–trust us.

Use a washable rag

You’re probably starting to notice how much we have all normalized the use of toilet paper, specifically. Despite objectively being no less “strange” than any other method, it feels so much more comfortably a part of everyday life. We understand feeling off-put or embarrassed about these suggestions. That’s natural.

If you can get over the gross-out factor, however, it makes economic sense to wipe using something you wouldn’t throw out after a single use. If you wash any of the following options thoroughly after using them, they’re perfectly sanitary and safe alternatives.

  • Old rags: Quite a few different kinds will work: you could use dish rags, washcloths, handkerchiefs, etc. Wash them thoroughly in the tub or in a utility sink when you’re finished.
  • Towels: You can always commit a designated hand towel for this purpose. Keep the towel in a designated place, wash it after every use, and make sure everyone has their own. Again, we know this may sound gross, but if you follow these guidelines it’s a perfectly hygienic alternative.
  • Old clothing: If you have old clothing you would denote or otherwise dispose of, consider cutting it up to turn into rags you could use as “alternative” toilet paper. You could wash these rags or just throw them out when you’re finished with them.

Install a bidet

In case you don’t know: a bidet is a plumbing device that uses a stream of water to perform the same function we use toilet paper for. You could install a bidet either as its own separate plumbing fixture (like a toilet or sink basin), or install a smaller bidet in your toilet directly. There are a huge variety of these two main kinds of bidet. Different devices have different power sources, features, and functions.

Bidets can be a tough sell for a lot of Americans–thanks largely, believe it or not, to our puritanical past and misconceptions about the French. If you’ve ever been curious about a bidet, however, now’s the perfect time. Installing a bidet will functionally eliminate your need for toilet paper almost altogether. In fact, there is significant evidence that bidets are far more hygienic than toilet paper. They’re also used all over the world.. except here. If you can get over the culture shock, a bidet might just be your best friend during our quarantine.


Maybe most importantly, remember: you might be social distancing, but you’re not alone. You still have access to essential services like Mike Diamond’s. Whether you need help cleaning a clog, installing a bidet, or fixing any other home repair problem while you’re stuck sheltering in place, we’re happy to help.

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