Here’s A Look At What People Used Before Toilet Paper Became Widely Available

Here’s A Look At What People Used Before Toilet Paper

Do you know that on a daily basis, we flush 27,000 trees down our toilets? Additionally, the estimated amount of water required to manufacture a roll of toilet paper is 37 gallons.

It is simple to comprehend why using toilet paper impinges on our natural environment in a world where we continue to deplete natural resources and the planet is deteriorating.

Why should we give alternatives to toilet paper more than a passing thought and what can we do to lessen the impact that our daily activities have on the environment?

What did people use before toilet paper was invented?

Numerous different materials were utilized for the same purposes prior to the development of modern toilet paper. Depending on the country, the weather, social customs, and status, various materials were used.


• Grass

• Ferns

• Corn cobs

• Maize

• Fruit skins

• Stone

• Sand

• Moss

• Snow

• Water

• Physical use of one’s hand was the simplest method.


• Lace

• Hemp

Wool, lace, or hemp were typically used by wealthy people.

Toilet Paper

The thing is, toilet paper as we know it is a relatively recent invention. According to History, the product didn’t really become a thing in the United States until 1857, and it took a while to catch on. That’s at least partly because there were cheaper alternatives — and here “cheaper” means “free for the taking.” One of those alternatives was the humble corn cob.

Toilet paper as we know it is a relatively modern innovation, which means that for thousands of years people had to come up with more (ahem…) creative ways to clean themselves.

Ancient Roman Hygiene

Rome was a society to emulate, so naturally they had to develop a clever way to clean up.

Their solution was called a tersorium, a Mediterranean sea sponge attached to the end of a stick. Romans would use it to wipe, rinse it off, and then kindly leave it for the next person. It was simple and effective, but not very sanitary.

Just imagine using a tersorium in a gas station bathroom…

On the Farm
Farmers had access to quite a few different natural options for toilet paper. The most common – and most creative– of which was… a corn cob. Yes, you read that correctly.

Dried corn cobs were a popular way for farmers to clean up after using the outhouse. They were so popular, in fact, that many people preferred to use corn cobs even after other options had become widely available.

Corn Cob Worked Surprisingly Well

Here’s the thing about corn: It’s cheap, it’s abundant, and it grows just about everywhere, according to the Washington Post. The first settlers to the U.S. figured this out pretty quickly, and it became not only a staple foodstuff of Americans, but as an added bonus, corn cobs — once the kernels are removed, that is — were perfect for cleaning up after, well, you know. As the Farmers’ Almanac notes, its shape is just about perfect for this off-label use, and the husk is softer than you might suspect (although we’re not interested in trying this for ourselves). Or as Dollar Shave Club notes, it’s “softer than a rock,” which was pretty much your only other option at the time.


Inuit and other populations that lived in Arctic regions used snow and ice for their wiping needs. Brrrrr, but also… refreshing?

Pottery shards

A broken shard of pottery works the same as a seashell or stone. Ancient Greeks utilized this technique and would sometimes inscribe the names of their enemies before using. Wonder if this is where people got the idea for that Trump toilet paper…

Mug and bucket

The butt becomes super clean as long as you have enough water. The problem is what do you do if you run out of water and the butt is only half clean. Let us assume that you got unlimited water and the butt has become super clean.

The problem is that the wet butt will make the underwear wet and it is not a great feeling. Let us assume that you clean hands thoroughly with soap and water. However, something may still remain below the nails. Playing with dirt in childhood and some exposure to poop will increase the immunity. Lot of western companies are building poop pills that can be taken through mouth to improve GI system.

The Toilet Tissue We Know & Love

The 20th century marked the beginning of an era of toilet paper innovation. Building upon earlier developments, toilet tissue in this era was improved into the comforting bathroom buddy we know and love today.

Now Splinter-Free!
In 1930, Northern Tissue was the first company to boast “Splinter-free” toilet tissue. Evidently, there was a risk of getting splinters in uncomfortable places before that.