Here are some of the things people used before this miracle innovation. 

Remember that toilet paper shortage of not so long ago? Well, at one time, there was no toilet paper to even be missing (because it hadn’t been invented, not because it was being hoarded). Modern toilet paper wasn’t invented until around the end of the 19th century, so people through the ages have resorted to using all sorts of imaginable, and unimaginable, ways of wiping their heinies.

Whether it’s number one or number two, when you gotta go, you gotta go. Let’s take a look at some of the strangest things people used for toilet paper before they had access to that squeezably soft and absorbent roll of Charmin, Cottonelle, Angel Soft, or Quilted Northern.

First thoughts probably lean toward natural elements like hay, moss, and leaves or even semi-soft paper-like things such as the Sears Roebuck catalog and wads of newspaper. Those are veritable luxuries compared to earlier potty essentials. You can be sure these early options didn’t evoke quilting, cotton, or softness of any sort.

Broken Pottery and Ceramics

The ancient Greeks allegedly used tiny pieces of broken pottery and ceramics to wipe (apparently, three shards were the recommended amount). As you can guess, this method sometimes led to rashes, hemorrhoids, and other skin and anal damage.

Corncobs and Husks

Courtesy: Pixabay

Early Americans fed corn to their livestock. Being economical and original DIYers, they would then use the corncobs to do their business (often several times a day). Sticks, stones, and fruit peels have also been used by rural residents to complete their business.


While a sponge might actually seem like a reasonable wiping apparatus after some of the aforementioned options, the ancient Romans gave new meaning to the "ick" factor with their wiping devices. They wrapped a sponge around a stick and (get ready for it) shared it (these were communal bathrooms, after all). When one person was done, they would dip it in saltwater and pass it along to the next user.

Dirt and Sand

A handful of dirt or sand and you’re done (at least until you can get all the dirt off of yourself). Really though, what’s worse, a little dirt and sand on your bottom or the alternative?


17th-century sailors kept a rope dangling in seawater. When they needed to wipe, they would pull it up and use it. When done, toss it back over to soak in the sea. While the rope probably didn’t hang overboard long enough to develop barnacles and other sea urchins, the opportunity was there.

What are your thoughts on these pretoilet paper methods? Let us know in the comments (but keep it clean, please).