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.