We've all been there, right? You've just gone to the bathroom and there's no more toilet paper. What do you do? Panic? Wait for someone to come in? Use the cardboard roll? There's options. But the next time you complain about toiler paper not being soft enough, just be glad you didn't live in historical times, where their alternatives were a lot worse.
1. A Communal Sponge
While Ancient Romans were concerned about the demons living in their sewer systems, they were not concerned about their sanitary needs. They wiped after the bathroom using a communal sponge attached to a stick. They would wipe, rinse it in water, then pass it to the next person. Remember, there were about 80 toilets in one public restroom. I'm no mathematician, but by my estimation that is about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 germs.
2. Their Hands
Y'know how people offer their right hand when they go in for a handshake? There's actually logic to that. In Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East, it's still considered disrespectful to offer your left hand. This is because people used to (and still do) wipe with their left hand. You'd wash your hands after, but there's still zero part of me that wants to touch it.
In the 17th century, when sailors were out to sea, they would dangle an old rope off the ship. Whenever they needed to wipe, they'd lift the rope up and throw it back in the water when they were done. Now, I've gotten rope burn on my hands before...and I really don't think I'm interested in having it anywhere else!
4. Ceramic Shards
You thought one-ply paper was bad? Think again. Evidence suggests that Ancient Greeks wiped with tiny piece of broken ceramic. They even had a theory: three stones was enough to wipe. As you can imagine, this was not good for anyone's health, and it lead to rashes, skin damage, and hemorrhoids.
5. Reusable Rags
Rags were a common form of sanitary hygiene in the 19th century. People would wipe, then throw them in a pile. The theory was that they'd get washed, but the water they were washed in was mostly sewage anyways. A cesspool in London used for public defecation was uncovered, and more than three shovels full of rags were found. That can't smell good.
6. The Sears Catalog
Every see something in the Sears catalog you hated? Then wipe your butt with it! In the late 1800s, Americans would wipe with pages of the catalog. Then, in 1930, Sears started printing it on glossy paper. This made things a little more difficult and people had to find something else to wipe with. Like...toilet paper? I wonder if they sold that in the book.
Wiping with dirt seems a little counter-intuitive if you ask me. But it was common-practice all over the globe, and it still is in some countries. Dirt is also used a lot by people who are doing wilderness training.
8. Hemp and Another Person
Hemp, lace, and wool were all considered luxuries in 15th and 16th century France. They were really only available to kings and other people of authority. That beings said, kings were much too important to wipe themselves, so it was up to the Chevalier Porte-Coton, or “Knights of the Toilet Roll,” to do it for them.
9. Corn Cobs
Saved the best...worst?...for last! Many Americans used to wipe with leftover corn cobs. They would feed the corn to their pigs, save the cob, and then re-use them multiple times. They were pretty effective, and softer than you might think. The angles were apparently really easy to maneuver. Personally? I would never even give it a shot.
Which one is the craziest to you?