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Can You Use Newspaper for Toilet Paper? (And 6 Alternatives)

You can use newspaper for toilet paper if you have no other option. However, you should avoid flushing it down the toilet because it will cause a pipe blockage. You should also be as gentle as possible because newspapers can be rough to use and may cause scratches and cuts.

The rest of this article will discuss some of the best alternatives to toilet paper that you should have lying around your house. It will also briefly discuss the history of toilet paper and what people used before it existed.

7 Substitutes for Toilet Paper

Some of the best substitutes for toilet paper include wet wipes, showers, and old pieces of clothing or cloth. Although wet wipes are the easiest way to wipe, they are the least eco-friendly. Using water in the shower or from a bidet is an excellent and clean choice.

Newspaper isn’t the best because it’s rough and has a massive amount of ink. The roughness can damage the area you’re wiping, and the ink can get onto your skin. To avoid all this hassle, let’s look at the 7 best substitutes for toilet paper.

1. Wet Wipes

Woman taking a wet wipe out of the container

Wet wipes are among the best substitutes for toilet paper because they generally work just as well, if not better, than standard toilet paper. It’s easy to clean yourself using wet wipes, and you shouldn’t need to use too many of them. 

Wet wipes could include:

  • Makeup remover wipes
  • Baby wipes
  • Wet toilet tissue wipes

So, if you have any of these lying around the house and are in desperate need of something, you should give them a try.

The one negative thing about wet wipes is that they contain plastic, so they’re not eco-friendly. Most wet wipes that are flushed or disposed of in the trash will end up sitting in a landfill emitting toxic chemicals, so you should try to use more eco-friendly options.

Also, as we discovered during the “great toilet paper shortage” of 2020, wet wipes are not flushable, and will not dissolve in the septic system. There were many instances where community septic systems were clogged due to these so-called flushable wipes.

So please don’t try to flush wet wipes.

2. Paper

Several pieces of balled up printer paper

There is likely paper lying around your house, which might include:

  • Sheets of paper for drawing or writing
  • Parcel packaging
  • Paper bag

Most paper will work the same way as newspaper, except it might not have ink, which is a good thing. Like with newspaper, using any other type of paper will also be rough and could cause some irritation to the area, so always be careful when using paper to wipe.

3. Old Piece of Clothing

A pair of old socks with holes

Another alternative for toilet paper would be an old piece of clothing. This could include clothing that you wear or a piece of cloth, for example:

  • Socks
  • T-shirt
  • Pants
  • Facecloth

You should only use something you don’t want to wear or use again. And once you use a piece of cloth once, you shouldn’t store it away to use again because it will be dirty and contain lots of bacteria. 

If you don’t want to waste it, you could disinfect it and put it in a hot wash, but there’s always a bacterial risk. 

4. Towel

Dirty rags or towels on a white background

A towel is another alternative for toilet paper that works well. You should only use a towel that you no longer care for because it will likely get stained and dirty. 

Make sure you use a towel that belongs to you (don’t use someone else’s), as this can cause infection. And once you’ve used the towel once, be sure to wash and disinfect it before using it again.

5. Kitchen Cloth

Old kitchen cloth

A kitchen cloth is another product you can use instead of toilet paper, which might include a washcloth, for example. You likely have something suitable in your kitchen, so it’s worth it to look around. 

Another thing you could use is a dish sponge. 

Although it might not be the easiest thing to use, it will help with absorption. Just be sure to dispose of any kitchen cloth you use because you want to avoid spreading any infection.

6. Shower

A woman giving a thumbs up leaning around shower curtian

If you don’t have a bidet, the next best thing is a shower. Plus, it’s even better if you have a shower with a removable showerhead. That way, you can remove the showerhead and clean specific areas easily. 

Even if you don’t have a removable showerhead, it’s easy to clean yourself in a warm shower.

7. Bidet

Side by side toilet and bidet

If you’re lucky enough to have a bidet in your home, you can use it to wash after using the toilet. If you don’t have one, but you’d like to use less toilet paper, it might be worth buying one. 

Bidets are becoming more easily accessible now, mainly because you can buy small ones to attach to your toilet and plumbing system. They’re an excellent way to keep you clean without wasting too much paper or wet wipes.

What People Used Before Toilet Paper Existed

Before toilet paper existed, people used things like bamboo sticks with cloth and moss to wipe themselves. Society was generally less hygienic before toilet paper existed, so it was entirely acceptable to use whatever was available. The ancient Romans sometimes used ceramic vessels.

In Sicily, archaeologists discovered ancient ceramic vessels that are thought to have been used for wiping. People likely used many different things to replace toilet paper in the old days, depending on the region. 

While the Romans used ceramic vessels, people in forested areas likely used stuff like:

  • Leaves
  • Bamboo
  • Moss

The first commercially sold toilet paper was invented in 1857, but toilet paper didn’t become mainstream until much later. Even when toilet paper was mainstream, it was common for many households to use things like newspapers or magazines because they couldn’t afford anything else.

During the Depression, many people resorted to using old Sears or JCPenny’s catalogs due to the lack of supplies or money to buy toilet paper. Some people who lived through the Depression still had catalogs in their bathrooms in case they ran out of toilet paper. My Granny always talked about how there was a Sears catalog in the outhouse.


You can use newspaper for toilet paper, but only if essential. Some other decent alternatives include:

  • Wet wipes
  • Cloth or clothing
  • Towels
  • Shower or bidet

If you use something like a cloth or a towel, be sure to disinfect and wash thoroughly after each use, or throw it away after use, which decreases the chance of infection spreading. Never share your cloth or towel with anyone else in your household.

Before toilet paper existed, people used things like ceramic vessels, moss, and bamboo sticks with a cloth. Once invented, households that couldn’t afford it would use paper.

For more, check out How To Prevent Toilet Water From Splashing | The Best Way.