Do you have enough toilet paper stockpiled to get you through a two month disaster? How about enough to last through a year or longer SHTF, power grid down, TEOTWAWKI-type of event?
Before you can accurately even ponder that question for an answer, putting a few stark toilet paper roll realities into perspective is required. On average, there are roughly 1,000 sheet of toilet paper on thin single ply rolls, and 500 sheets on thicker and more absorbent double ply rolls.
Those figures might suggest that each roll contains enough TP to last a long time, right? Nope, not really. According to an MIT report, most folks go through 20,805 sheets of toilet paper per year – that equals approximately 57 sheets of toilet paper every single day.
Let’s throw one more statistic out there, the average American uses around 50 pounds of toilet paper per year.
Now, I will ask again fellow preppers, do you think you have enough toilet paper to last through a short to long-term disaster? Do you have enough money in your survival budget to buy that much TP, and find a place to store such a massive amount?
I know I don’t, so I started looking for sustainable and fiscally friendly alternatives to modern toilet paper as part of our prepping plans. My friend and prepping mentor, Survivor Jane, came up with an incredibly clever idea, turn an agricultural sprayer into a portable bidet.
So, we will be doing that, but just not that, as a part of our toilet paper preps. Remember the prepping mantra, “Two is one, one is none.”
Foraging and growing your own toilet paper plants to use the leaves to white you bum is going to become our primary method of taking care of bathroom business during a SHTF situation.
This will be a far more economical way to take care of such a basic necessity without spending a bundle and resorting to turning an entire bedroom into a toilet paper roll storage space.
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Why Growing or Foraging for Your Own TP Makes Sense
Folks have only been going into the bathroom and reaching for toilet paper for a little more than a century. The human race is far older than your favorite brand of TP, and folks have always had the same need to cleanse themselves after visiting a bathroom, outhouse, or copping a squat as privately as possible.
How did our ancestors take care of their bathroom wiping needs? Well, with plants of course. Actually, in some remote parts of the world and even on modern off grid survival homesteads, they still do.
Unless members of your family tree were wealthy enough to use lace, wool, rosewater, or hemp as toilet paper, they used the same leaves that you should be growing or buying as a survival prep today.
Can Plant Leaves Be Used Year Round?
If you have a greenhouse or indoor growing area it is easy to cultivate a steady supply of supple fresh leaves to use in place of toilet paper. While not all of the toilet paper plants on this list can easily be grown indoors due to their size, the vast majority can. But if you do not, this incredibly inexpensive and natural way to take care of you business is still an option.
To preserve the leaves of toilet paper plants, simply dry them flat, and seal them in Mason jars, vacuum sealed bags, or Ziploc bags until they are needed. The leaves can have water sprinkled on them to rehydrate them, but most varieties will become moist almost immediately when being used for wiping.
A basket of leaves picked fresh from plants growing outdoors will not take up any of your valuable survival gear storage place. If you dry leaves to preserve them for winter use, the bags that contain them will still take up far less real estate than a package of double ply toilet paper.
Best Plant Leaves That Can Be Used As Toilet Paper
1. Lamb’s Ear
Leaves from a lamb’s ear plant are incredibly absorbent, and very soft to the touch. The broad nature of these toilet paper plant leaves make them an excellent choice as a natural alternative to stockpiling store bought rolls in a survival situation.
As children, many of us likely picked some wild lamb’s ear, rubbed it across our faces or hands and marveled at how soft and how cloud-like it felt.
There are no poisonous look-alikes to lamb’s ear, another huge plus if you are foraging for food, water, and toilet pape during a survival scenario.
Lamb’s ear has not only long been used as a natural TP, but also as a primary ingredient in a plethora of home remedies. The plant is thought by some to hold antibacterial properties – another plus for using the leaves for bathroom wiping needs.
Oddly enough, this excellent toilet paper plant and frequent natural home remedy ingredient is deemed merely a weed and sprayed with chemical pesticides to kill it.
The leaves of the wild mullein plant as nearly as soft as those on a lamb’s ear plant, and likely more lush to the touch than even the most expensive toilet paper at your local grocery store.
During the 1800s era, mullein was such a popular toilet paper plant that it garnered several nicknames by constant uses: “Cowboy Toilet Paper” and “Indian Toilet Paper”.
Mullein is a biennial plant that thrives in partial shade to full sun, and grows enormously even in drought-like conditions, and in dry or rocky soil. Because mullein can hit heights of 6 feet tall, it will need ample space to grow in an indoor environment over the winter months even though it is a narrow plant.
This frequent horse pasture inhabitant is often spotted along roadsides and the edges of the woods. There are no poisonous look-alike plants for mullein, making it another good choice for a novice forager in need of toilet paper during a survival situation.
Some folks who have come into contact with the mullein plant have experienced a short-term skin rash that is often referred to as contact dermatitis.
The skin risk is typically only mildly irritating and does not spread out of the contact area. Because the plant can cause this slight reddening of the skin, Quaker women once used it as rogue on their cheeks in lieu of makeup.
As with all plants on this list, ensure you only forage in areas where you are certain that the leaves you are about to wipe with have not been sprayed with chemical pesticides.
Thimbleberry does not grow basically throughout the continental United States to the same degree as either mullein or lamb’s ear. But, it does grow abundantly in western states and regions of the northeast – and can be grown indoors in any environment.
They grow in large amounts in mountain regions and prefer both partial to nearly full shade and moist soil.
The leaves from this toilet paper plant are incredibly broad as well as sturdy. Typically, you will need just two leaves from a thimbleberry plant to clean up from even the messiest of baby diapers.
Thimbleberry leaves are as large as a human adult hand and feel both fuzzy and soft. They are probably more agreeable to tender skin than the cheap and scratchy toilet paper found in public restrooms.
As an added bonus when growing or foraging thimbleberry, the fruit grown on the plant are both edible and delicious.
4. Large Leaf Aster
The large leaf aster was once used by Native American tribes not just as natural toilet paper, but also for medicinal remedies and a recipe ingredient.
Large leaf aster leaves are incredibly easy to identify thanks to their distinct heart shape. The leaves are both broad and soft, and are nestled around the tiny violet flowers the plant grows during the springtime.
This toilet paper plant grows in nearly all regions of the continental United States. It prefers to grow wildly on the edge of the forest under large trees that give it shade.
5. Corn Lily
If you prefer not to take a chance of getting your hands dirty when using a toilet paper plant, using the corn lily is the way to go. This plant boasts the largest leaves of any plant on this survival bathroom needs list. Corn Lily leaves have been known to grow as large as a football.
Although these large leaves are not as soft as the ones that grow on either the mullein or lamb’s ear plants, they are exceptionally sturdy – an added benefit when using them for bathroom wiping.
If foraging for corn lily and you happen across a plant that stinks – really stinks, then it is either drying from drought of plant disease. Sick corn lily plants stink so much they have earned the nickname – “false skunk cabbage.” Never use a plant that is diseased as a natural toilet paper alternative.
6. Pink Wild Pear
This excellent toilet paper plant option will have to be moved indoors during cold weather months if you do not live in USDA Agricultural Zone 1.
The pink wild pear (a.k.a. Dombeya burgessiae) boasts large, soft, and thick leaves. Not only can you use the leaves of this plant for toilet paper, the fiber from its bark can also be used to make cordage or for basket weaving.
7. Blue Spur Flower
This tall and highly attractive shrub toilet paper plant also only grows naturally in hot environments. The blue spur flower was often planted along the path to outhouses so users could quickly and easily pick off a few leaves to use for wiping on their way inside.
The leaves on this plant are so soft and broad that it typically only requires one or two to get the bathroom wiping job done. Blue spur flowers are an exceptionally fragrant plant, making your natural toilet paper alternative a sweetly scented one.
This beautiful plant is toxic to animals, so it tends to take over an area where it is allowed to grow undisturbed. The blue spur flower plant is a biennial that is also referred to as Indian Coleus, Plectranthus Barbados, or Coleus Forskohlii.
Toilet Paper Plants Precautions
None of the toilet paper plants on this list are known to cause allergic effects in most people, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe for everyone to use. Consulting your doctor now about using lamb’s ear, and testing its use should be done now while medical help is available and not after the SHTF.
Always test just a little bit of a leaf from a plant you are not accustomed to touching or using before wiping with it. If you experience a rash, hives, or stinging of the skin it is best to toss the leaf away and thoroughly wash your hands before touching any other part of your body.
Discovering how to both forage for and grow your own toilet paper leaves to use as toilet paper will save you money, storage space, and help ensure you never run out of this vital prep during a disaster – no matter how long it lasts.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.