Wiping Your Butt After SHTF

Yup….you read that right. Wiping your butt after TSHTF.

I don’t think I have every really seen it discussed – but guess what: The bombs can fall, the EMP can burst, and the economy can crash – and people will still have to….err….umm……”go?”.

This is going to be tough to write.

Here in the United States toilet paper is the typical method of choice for cleansing one-self after… a trip to the bathroom. All over the world practices differ from spraying jets of water, to pouring water, to wiping with the bare left hand.

No doubt other methods exist – some of which I am sure I do not want to know about. Regardless – in a disaster or survival situation wiping the… excess… will still need to be done.

Bathroom Breaks After the End

As we are all preppers we must consider not just the “What if?” but the “How we gonna do that?”  I recently posted about stockpiling toilet paper, and actually received some negative responses that TP should not be a priority.

Depending upon the situation at hand – having TP would certainly lessen the impact of a major lifestyle change.

Think about your children and how they may have to adapt to life without power, hot showers, or a local drive-thru. I think stocking up on TP to ease that transition is not a waste.

Of course – you can only stock so much TP, and you are never guaranteed access to it when you need it.

No matter how uncomfortable and unsettling the topic might be, and how much anxiety you have when it comes to dealing with it, you must come to grips with the idea that you still have to clean your backside and other private parts during an SHTF situation and potentially do so without benefit of your typical bathroom routine and supplies.

Let’s get one thing straight right up front:  unsanitary conditions and contact with human waste will time and time again lead to outbreaks of severe illness no matter the environment and no matter the other conditions.

In the middle of a bug-out situation, camping, hunting or anywhere else if you do not take pains to keep your body clean and keep germs under control it is only a matter of time until you are dealing with serious maladies and illnesses.

Bodily waste is always a massive source of germs and a persistent vector of the same.

If you have germs on your body the chances start going up that you will contract a disease. But there is more to it than that.

Once you come into contact with feces everything that you touch after that point, while your hands are still dirty, is going to become severely contaminated.

I hate to be the one to remind everybody reading this, but people that prepare food after using the bathroom, in particular after wiping their butts, who go without washing their hands thoroughly or even worse without washing them at all are the leading cause of food poisoning. That is what fecal borne pathogens will do to you, y’all!

No matter what the situation is and no matter how desperate everything seems if you have your eye on the long-term you must still find a way to clean yourself after you go to the bathroom.

Number Two and You

I hope you got all of your snickering out of the way at the beginning of this article because we are heading straight into the dirty truth, now. Bottom line, you have to have a plan for dealing with your poop in a survival situation, and also deal with the aftermath of ridding your body of it. 

Learning what to do and what you should have on hand now might make the difference between facing a truly nauseating task or relatively simple chore.

The first thing you will need to keep in mind is how much waste you will be responsible for dealing with, and how often you have to deal with it, i.e. how many bowel movements you have in a day, since each one is an opportunity for contamination to spread far and wide if you handle this matter improperly. 

An adult human being will generate anywhere from three-quarters of a pound to one whole pound of poop every single day. Adults will have anywhere from one bowel movement a day to 3 or even more when they are healthy.

Each and every time this occurs you must get your butt clean and then wash your hands thoroughly to prevent the rampant spread of contagion.

Now consider this in the context of a group containing multiple adults, or even multiple families. Each and every one of them pooping, wiping and then washing their hands with varying degrees of thoroughness and efficacy.

Without following best practices regardless of what materials are on hand and paying strict attention to hand washing procedure the chances that someone will get sick are virtually guaranteed.

When one person gets sick, you can depend on everyone that has been living in proximity with them getting sick as well.  As the saying goes, everyone will get a turn to dance.

Your best and perhaps only defense is knowing how to wipe properly with a variety of materials, ensuring your butt and hands stay clean, and then keeping your hands as clean as possible in the aftermath.

What to Wipe With and How to Wipe With It

After you do your business you will need some way to clean your backside. The tried, true and perhaps most efficient way to do this is using toilet paper or bathroom wet wipes.

It is definitely in your best interest to have a significant stockpile of each in case you are unable to procure more during any kind of crisis or long-term disaster.

A truly prepared prepper would have a supply of each inside their bug-out bag and placed in any survival caches. 

But, we all know why we are here: the situation has gone on so long are you have been caught so flat-footed and overtaken by events that you are out of TP, wet wipes and any other typical back-end poo-removing apparatus.

If you don’t have toilet paper, and you don’t have wipes, what should you wipe with?!

Long-term methods for cleaning can vary. Flushing the targeted area with water certainly can help. The old adage of using leaves can work. Regarding leaves – use green leaves that are very much alive.

The use of dried–up, dead leaves may make the “situation” much worse. Of course watch out for poison ivy…

Natural Options


Green, live leaves that have some strength to them can be used to wipe much akin to toilet paper. Can be found almost anywhere.

Be extra cautious that you bundle enough together so your fingers don’t bust through, or else you’ll be picking poop out from under your fingernails.

The best plants to look out for as TP replacements:

  • broadleaf plantain
  • thimbleberry
  • green mullein
  • corn lily
  • wooly lamb’s ear
  • large leaf aster

WARNING: It is imperative you do not use any poisonous or irritating plant leaves for this task!


Long, wild grasses can be picked and then folded back on themselves to form a sort of paddle-shaped wiping implement.


If you take the time to find one that is not too rough, not too splintered and not dead and crumbly a stick can work well for dislodging larger chunks of feces from your posterior and generally cleaning up.


A rock is an excellent wiping implement. Take the time to select a smooth one with the correct shape and enough surface area to be useful, and as always take care you do not disturb a hiding snake or swarming insects beneath.


Snow is an efficient material for wiping, and can remove poop and clean in one action. I can also assure you it will have your full and total attention when you use it!


Chances are your great grandpa and great grandma had to use these tried and true outhouse standbys in the days before indoor plumbing and running water. If you take the time to break them in, these can be easy to use and comfortable.


A popular cash crop and useful for all kinds of things, not the least of which is its suitability to be used for cleaning your backside.


The soft, shorn wool of a sheep can give you the confidence to get really clean, and of all the natural materials you are likely to obtain for the purpose this is one that is the most comfortable and highly renewable.

Man-Made Options

Old Books

Older books that are useless or nearly so make fine repositories of paper for wiping. You can just tear out what you need and go. The venerable and greatly loved Farmer’s Almanac included for years a ring intended to allow the owner to hang the old copy in their outhouse for use as toilet paper!


Same as books above, with the caveat that glossy paper with photos can be tricky to handle with control.


A trusty prepper standby. Crumple them up a few times to soften them. Beware: the ink on these comes off real easy.


Old rags, old shirts, anything that is soft, reasonably sturdy and absorbent is just the ticket for wiping your posterior.

Unless you have a certain way to completely disinfect your chosen butt cloth, plan on tossing these when done. Even if you do, don’t re-use your cloth for anything but its new purpose.

Squirt Bottle

A sports-type water bottle can be used as an improvised bidet to forcefully spray water onto your nether regions. Great for deep cleaning!


It takes a little work and practice to nail, but you can use a bowl full of water and trickle it over the small of your back to flush poop away.

The Last Resort

Okay, despite your best attempts at preparation, despite your thorough and highly laborious search, you do not have one, single thing, not one item, not one scrap of material that is suitable for wiping your butt with.

Nature calls. You cannot hold off any longer. What are you going to do? What will you wipe with? Or will you just do your business and pull up your britches like a nasty heathen? 

It is time to use your hand. I know it seems unthinkable, but this is the de-facto method for wiping one’s bottom in various places throughout the world where both paper and water are scarce.

This is gross by our Western standards, no two ways about it, but if it is all you have to get the job done it is in your best interest to know how to do it properly and safely.

One of the most important factors for using your hand to wipe your bum is using your non-dominant hand. This is why certain cultures have a prohibition for using the left hand for eating and other interactive tasks.

Next, you must be sure that you have no cuts, nicks or any other open wounds on your wiping hand that can become a fast-track to infection. Human waste is chock-full of pathogens of all sorts, and a wound that gets infected from feces is liable to fester terribly.

Lastly, you must have water and soap or at least hand sanitizer, something that can allow you to wash your hands thoroughly in the aftermath.

In a long-term survival situation where I still have access to supplies I actually prefer mixing up a solution of bleach and water for sanitizing my hands afterward.

A little extra water to spare to wet your bottom with prior to wiping is also beneficial.

Once the time comes to do the deed, leave your leavings, then wet your bottom using a bowl or bottle as described above.

Next, take the fingers of your non-dominant hand to remove any large particles of poo. After you have done that add a little more water to help rinse your butt and then wipe thoroughly.

After you are finished with this process and it’s time to wash your hands like you have never washed them before.

Start with a vigorous, brisk hand washing using soap and water. And be sure that you get between your fingers and under your fingernails with exacting thoroughness.

After that is done, rinse your hands with clean water, and then completely douse them with a heavy dose of hand sanitizer, or a dip in your bleach solution.

Remember when it comes to bleach if you cannot smell that chlorine smell the bleach is not working or at least working very well. You’ll need to refresh your solution regularly to make use of it for bathroom duty. No pun intended.

If All Else Fails…

If worse comes to worst… Grab a squirrel!


Most preppers know that correct sanitation procedures are essential to maintain health and prolong your survival in any disaster situation.

A big part of that, at least the biggest part of it day to day, is dealing with going to the bathroom and cleaning up properly afterward.

Your chances of being incapacitated by some nasty germ resulting from contact with feces is extremely high if you do not wipe or cannot wipe properly.

Knowing how to take care of business and wipe your butt in austere environments when you don’t have toilet paper might sound silly, but the consequences for screwing it up are serious.

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22 thoughts on “Wiping Your Butt After SHTF”

  1. You do not use squirels, you use rabbits! just ask the bear. The bear and the rabbit were sitting next to each other doing what comes naturally and the bear asks the rabbit if he ever has trouble with it sticking to his fur, the rabbit replies it never sticks, so the bear finishes and picks up the rabbit and wipes. on second thought stock more tp…..

  2. Rourke: Tough topic to discuss, but it’s an issue that ain’t goin away! During the first Gulf War, soldiers on the front line and elsewhere in the box were in some cases literally disabled by “Swamp A–.” They were not able to properly clean themselves after going #2, and combined with the dry conditions and the lack of water, the results left them chapped, red,raw and rubbing, and frequently barely able to walk. This is something all preppers need to consider. While storing a shipping container of TP would be ideal, it’s not really feasible. The solution is to do the best job you can with what you have at hand(pun intended) and then follow up with with a baby wipe or something similar. A soapy rag is not a good option, because soap can dry and irritate, and water will probably be too valuable to use. And lots of the little gas station wet wipes have alcohol or antiseptics that will dry you out in a flash. Dry isn’t necessarily what we’re after! Use untreated creek and pond water only as a very last resort. And keep diaper rash creams, vaseline, powder and corn starch around as part of your kit. IF bad comes to worse, you will at least be able to treat the “end” result. While wet ones are probably a great option, I have a feeling that they might be a little expensive for the budget minded as opposed to TP. This could be a real problem with diarrhea or other stomach disorders. An option might be to keep a few of them around and use them infrequently, as a preventive measure, rather than constantly. Just some random thoughts on an unpleasant subject that will affect everyone!

    Gray Fox 114

  3. Back in the days before toilet paper which happens to be a fairly recent invention they used to use a cloth that was rinsed out in a pot of water that sat next to the toilet. Hence the term” The Family Cloth” came about. It was used several times each time after a very rigorous rinsing. Then each night they were cleaned very well with soap and water. I know this is not something that most of us would think of but it was used for many centuries as the go to process. It would be a lot more sanitary if you were to put a little bit of bleach in the water and then had a fresh water rinse right next to it. I am glad you brought this up Rourke. It is not a subject that most of us think about. You can only store so much TP and wet wipes and when they run out you have to have a back up plan.

  4. Family cloth… google it. Also check into the lovable loo and humanure handbook by Jenkins. This will be the way we poop and wipe after the collapse.

  5. Ummmmmm…..I see some real negative impacts if said squirrel is alive and a serious odor issues if said squirrel is dead! If it comes down to it, I will take my chances with the leaves.

  6. Good post Rourke, a laugh on Friday morning is always welcome.

    Three things I am really going to miss if the store shelves are empty – Dr. Pepper, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups (can’t buy them for Halloween – I eat them before the kiddos hit the door), and TP.

    When we built our house my wife asked me to have a bidet put in. I wonder if I am going to regret not listening to the redhead? Won’t be the first time!

    Don’t forget cloth diapers as a possible wiper – soft, easy to clean and reuse (that’s the intent), cheap, and take up less room than 400 rolls of TP.

    We raise rabbits – the babies are about the right size and easier to catch than squirrels. Plus they don’t have fleas.

  7. Ah toliet paper… Wet wipes, proper diet.. An absolute priority.

    One can and will be incapacitated by mistakes in this area.

    Toliet paper of all things… expires? What? Well perhaps not in the traditional sense but believe me if you put up your TP for more than a year and put it to “work” you will discover it will have begun to break down..

    Also the usage rates… a dozen POM cases from Sam’s is a years worth for our crew and $250 from the budget.. We cycle it having learned the hard way..

    Oh, TP absorbs mosture (which of course aids in it’s breakdown) So you need a cool dry place to store it and if your BOT/BOV (Bug Out Trailer..vehicle) whatever is packed (it is packed isn’t it?.. Best Pack the TP in sealed Plastic Trash bags at minimum to protect from mosture.

    Baby Butt Wipes… The GI’s friend for at least 25 years… Better than TP more compact.. more uses.. Just be sure try out different brands as the cheapest is not always the best. You may want perfume free (or not) depending upon your social calendar.. LOL Two packs a week per person is about right… Oh and again .. They do expire so you have to keep that in mind and figure it into your plans..

    Diet… Just like a computer Garbage In Garbage Out.. So you need to examine and then try your survivial diets to see the real effects.. A lot ,,,,lot, lot of money has been spent on developing “low waste” Military Rations.. If you want something like an MRE to process properly.. 1 quart of water.. 1 MRE eat and drink everything in the MRE and Drink that Quart of water in addition to your regular hydration routine. If you do you can possibly make do with the the three cigarrete papers included in the MRE..Living on MREs for an extended period.. Really a bad idea..

    All of which logically brings forth questions about “Field Sanitation” Something everyone needs to study and comprehend the seriousness of such business.. It used to be in some overseas locations an Officer was required to be present and witness the “Shit burning”… Certainly every unit had an officer assigned to oversee Field Sanitation and Vector control.. Laying out a camp facility requires thought.

    Vecto Control….Vector What? Vermin, Bugs. Flying insects… these are “Vectors” which carry and transmit desease… Selected Officers and NCOs were specifically trained to understand and deal with those things to reduce and prevent desease..

    Field Sanitation and Vector Control are part of your TEOTWAWKI planning already right? And you have a Vector Control and Field Sanitation Kit in a foot locker right?

    I bet you thought this was just about boring toliet paper.


  8. Rourke,

    I ’bout damn near spit my coffee all over my desk laughing when I read the end of this article! The thuoght of some half naked idot chasing a squirrel just made me laugh out loud. It is very true that you almost never hear this subject spoken of or written about and in all due honesty is should be. The last thing anyone would want in a SHTF situation is disease to set in from poor hygene. I have heard some talk of using sea sponges, dried corn cobs and wet wipes. I think people need to remember that water may be scare and it may not be as easy to wash your hands after doing your business. Using sanitizer for your hands and wet wipes for…..well you know, just might be the best way to stock up and handle an everyday item we all have to deal with.

    p.s. had a friend in VA use leaves once and it turned out to be poison ivy. To this day we still laugh about it.

    John Taylor
    Surprise, AZ

  9. LOL re the squirrel ideal, I adding it to my plan. I’m doing both, stockpiling the TP and have just started acquiring the wipes as well. I also have a 3rd option going that consists of rubber gloves, vinegar and sponge on a stick like the Romans used to do. Plus vinegar is one of those mulit-use items.

  10. Funny article. I have stored a good year’s worth of TP. But beyond that, and in case of really dire circumstances, I do have a backup plan. I used cloth diapers on my baby and it wasn’t too bad. I have purchased diaper material, cut down to twelve inch squares and sewed the edges. A diaper pail, bleach, a washtub and a clothes line will be used to clean the cloths. I just really hope this doesn’t become necessary. : )

  11. Important topic this!
    I lived for two years in Indonesia and ppl there use water, soap and their left hand. I always thought it to be very disgusting. But as it is, I once forgot to take my tp with me and I had to “do as the Romans do” and use my hand, water and soap…lots of it 🙂
    From that time on till I left Indonesia I kept doing it that way and I was fine with it.
    Think about it, it is like taking a shower (for your rear part) each time after doing No.2.
    I would argue that it is a lot cleaner then using dry tp.
    I doubt though that in a shtf situation that would be good alternative because of the overall lack of proper hygiene (eventhough living there in the villages was kinda just like that).
    Wet tp, like the one mentioned, would propably be the best alternative.

  12. As a boy (in the 40’s) I used newspaper, Sears catalog, and other discarded paper and it worked fine. You crumple each sheet up before use. In fact we would sometimes get tissue paper at Christmas and I would horde it for myself. When I lived in Europe 40 years ago there was a toilet paper available called elephant paper. It was grey in color, thick more like the roll our TP is wrapped on and it came pre-crinkled. It had a picture of an elephant on the wrapper. However the wrapper made a better butt wipe then the elephant TP did.

  13. There is a plant that grows in the southern Rockies in northeast New Mexico. The leaves are rounded and about eight inches long and three to four wide, strong, supple, and covered with a blanket of velvety-vine hairs. They grow in a rosette bunch. I do not know the name of this plant, but if the poo ever hits the air circulator or you happen to be hiking and need to answer the call of the wild, I will assure you that you will never clean up with anything so luxuriously friendly to your backside.

  14. Well, we have filled a bucket with cheap soft washcloths to use in that situation. We have the capability to make our own laundry soap and have all the equipment to do laundry without electricity. So the washcloths would just be washed like cloth diapers would.

  15. Obviously, the TP won’t last forever. Les Stroud, my favorite survival tv-personality, recommended “take the leaves you might use, crush ’em and rub ’em on your arm” and watch for adverse reactions well-before you use on them your butt.

    The posted ‘wipes’ do work very well for the intended purpose, as Rouke has stated. Generic ‘baby wipes’ can also be used for many hygienic-purposes when water is in short supply. An offline acquaintance has recommended sun-drying the used ones as tinder. I’m REALLY not so sure about that particular use…… Maybe it’s just me…. I’d rather not hear “man.. dinner tastes like crap..”

    For TP storage, what I have been doing (YMMV) is to get cases of a cheap generic brand (because it is not wrapped as tightly as name-brands), pull out the cardboard core with a pair of needlenose pliers, squash them flat and store in one of those large ‘vacuum-cleaner-evacuatable’ zip bags you see advertised if you stay up too late at night. Clean, dry and bug and rodent-free.

    Don’t toss the cores. The cardboard tubes can be filled with potting mix to start seedlings, or filled with dryer lint and paraffin as fire starters.

    I also have kept a ‘squished’ roll inside an empty, resealable metal coffee can in the back of my vehicles for many years. This has, quite literally, “saved my butt” more times than I like to think about.

  16. What a uuhhh…, you know…, post.

    Just kidding. TP rules. I store extra in the bathrooms, in the basement, the attic, the bob, the glovebox, and sometimes even a few sheets hanging out of the back of my trousers.

    TP’s unappreciated and unloved, even after all it does for us. Kinda sad really… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9nGoei88I0

  17. Good topic, have never used this type of product but have wondered it’s effectiveness.
    I ave used and stocked the wt ones for hand cleaning etc. The wet ones
    Did not store well, after a couple months they dried up so storing them long
    Term didnt work. I will experiment with these.


    • Even if they dry out, you can use them dry. If you can spare a little water, put just a drizzle on the top and it will sink through to the bottom, remoistening them.

  18. I’m happy that some people mentioned using cloth diapers or wipes because that’s our plan. I make my own laundry detergent and my kids can do a serious number on those diapers. We’ll be saving the old diapers and wipes for after we finish having children for a “just in case” scenario. I highly recommend it though I know that there are people who just love toilet paper. It would still be good to have it for say bartering or transitioning from it when TSHTF.

  19. Make your own cloth diaper wipes. Read an article a year or two ago about a medium size survival group that decided to make about 15,000 hemmed wipes out of bulk diaper material. As I remember they decided on making them 5″ x 10″. They confirmed the obvious during testing: unhemmed wipes come apart very quickly during the cleaning/sterilization process. Been looking for the article since you posted but haven’t found it yet. Here is a website I found after reading that article: http://www.diaperjungle.com/index.html It talks about making your own cloth diaper wipes, homemade wipe solution for the wipes, etc. Also, there seems to be a wide variety of cloth diaper materials available and a number of websites selling those materials in bulk. Like everyone else I have some TP and wipes stored away but know full well they aren’t the whole long term solution for my tender backside!


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