Everyone has been touched by the toilet paper shortage. Even if you have plenty on hand, the empty store shelves can cause one to squeeze those hoarded rolls a little tighter. I mean, what would happen if you had no toilet paper at all?!? It’s a fate nobody wants to consider.  Even if the worst happened though—if there were no toilet paper left in the whole wide world—you would still be okay. Because there are options and alternatives. Some are better than others, of course.

There was a time before toilet paper

It’s hard to imagine this, but for centuries, people got along just fine without toilet paper. At least they thought they did. Toilet paper was invented in 1857, but it was not widely available. Maybe that was a good thing. Toilet paper then was not the toilet paper of today. It went through many years of tweaking and perfecting. Even in the 1930s, one of the brands bragged that their toilet paper was superior because it was “splinter-free”. Yowch.

That was just one of the reasons toilet paper was not universally used as it is today. My parents grew up without indoor plumbing and they told me that my grandparents kept a Sears and Roebuck catalog in the outhouse and that’s what they used for toilet paper.  There was a bucket of corncobs available for bigger “jobs”!  Everybody in that region of the country had those same amenities and nobody gave them a thought.


So if toilet paper was available, why in heaven’s name would they not avail themselves of it, even at the risk of the odd splinter? I’ll tell you why. TRADITION!  

Seriously, that was about the size of the matter. People had always done it that way. Why change? Why spend the extra money?

Obviously, there came a time when a new alternative was much more attractive.  Indoor plumbing became the norm, as did the use of soft toilet paper that disintegrated rapidly when flushed.

And then came 2020

When COVID-19 hit, so did panic buying of toilet paper. If you did not get in on those bulk purchases, what can you do now? Or what if your bulk purchase wasn’t bulky enough and you are running low? I’m glad you asked because I have a few ideas for you. 

Interesting ideas you may NOT be ready for yet

A bidet (in case you have never heard of that) is a bathroom fixture used especially for bathing your backside. When activated, a stream of water cleanses the area that needs cleaning after using the toilet, if you catch my drift. Bidets have been popular in Europe for a long time, but they have never really caught on in the United States. Until now, that is! A bidet can solve anybody’s toilet paper issue. If you have a bidet, you don’t have to use much toilet paper. In fact, they even have models that provide an air dryer, so you don’t have to use any toilet paper at all!


The drawbacks are the price and the installation. Some bidets are free-standing and can cost thousands of dollars, not to mention the cost and headache of a bathroom remodel. Other bidet models are “add-ons”. They are basically replacement toilet seats with all of the waterworks (and optional dryer works!) incorporated into the unit. You can install them yourself in an afternoon, but you have to be really handy. Add-on bidets can still cost hundreds of dollars. Even a very basic bidet spray bottle costs more than twenty bucks.


Some people are opting for washable cloth “toilet paper”. I know. But once you get past the Ewwww factor, the idea is not so bad. The cloths like the one pictured can be matched to your bathroom décor; and the other side is terry cloth, like a towel. The cloths can be washed and used repeatedly. I think the snaps are kind of practical and they make for a cloth “roll”. But unless you are a crafty person and make these yourself, they are expensive to buy.  The other downside is the icky washings and the potential for odor in the meantime. I think I would have to be really desperate to use cloth toilet paper. Cloth baby diapers are one thing, but can you imagine that for every single person in your family every single day?!?  I hope it doesn’t come to that.

Great ideas you can use RIGHT NOW


Everybody knows about baby wipes, but did you know there are wipes for adults, too? We have baby wipes and adult wipes (sometimes called adult “washcloths”) and they are in stock as of this writing. We also have “flushable” wipes which are biodegradable, but we recommend that NO wipes be flushed. They can clog systems and can even combine with other gunk to form a mass called a “fatberg”. (A fatberg results when flushed wipes and other debris combine with congealed grease. Ugh.) Never. Flush. Wipes. 


So are wipes still a good idea? Yes, they are. They are relatively inexpensive and are effective. Most importantly, they are still available. Just remember to dispose of them in the trash. Worried about odor? I would be too, but luckily, we have hygienic disposal bags that take care of that. And don’t give up on flushable wipes altogether. Personally, I prefer the thickness and texture, which is similar to that of a baby wipe. Just remember to dispose of them in the trash, please.

Finally, I would like to mention disposable dry wipes/washcloths. They can be used dry or moistened with water. You can also use a no-rinse body or perineal cleanser with that kind of washcloth. They are less expensive than a premoistened wipe/washcloth and are more hygienic than a washable cloth alternative. Again, dispose of these in the trash.

So how long will the toilet paper shortage last?

Nobody knows exactly, but most experts say it won’t be very long. Unlike many products (like gloves and masks) that are mainly manufactured overseas, paper products sold in the United States are almost all produced in factories here. The situation is expected to improve. Will groovy toilet paper in colors ever come back? Probably not.


But even when you can get good old white toilet paper any time you want to, you may actually prefer one of the alternatives we have talked about. Maybe this is your chance to get unstuck from your tradition and go for a better product! Not sure about that? Contact us for samples. 

 - Joan Van Veen, VP of Marketing at PMF