The unusual issues we used earlier than bathroom paper

People collectively use about 36.5 billion rolls of bathroom paper every year, a fully astronomical quantity. However we’re the odd ones out with this infatuation: 70% of the world’s inhabitants doesn’t even wipe with bathroom paper. (A lot of them use bidet showers, extra amusingly referred to as “bum weapons.”) And for a lot of historical past, “two-ply” wasn’t even a factor.

On this article, we study a number of of the odd issues that people have used to wipe their rears over time — some odd, some ingenious, most by no means comfy.


Credit score: D. Herdemerten ( Hannibal21) / Wikimedia Commons

Also referred to as a tersorium, this utensil merely consisted of a stick affixed with a sea sponge. A easy look tells you all you want to find out about the way it was used. Xylospongiums had been accessible at public latrines throughout the Greco-Roman interval and had been usually shared, the prior wiper washing theirs in a bucket with water and vinegar earlier than leaving it for the subsequent person. As you’ll be able to in all probability guess, such cleansing makes an attempt frequently failed, making xylospongiums frequent vectors of illnesses like typhoid and cholera.


The traditional Greeks and Romans weren’t the one individuals to wipe with sticks; the Chinese language and Japanese additionally used them, though theirs had been a lot less complicated — no sponges, solely skinny, flattened items of wooden, typically product of supple bamboo. Customers generally coated the tops with material earlier than use for simpler cleansing afterward. These chūgi, because the sticks had been known as, have been discovered within the archaeological file courting again 2,000 years.


Credit score: P. Charlier et al, BMJ, 2012

Along with their tersoriums, historical Romans and Greeks additionally used rounded, smoothed, ceramic stones known as pessoi to wipe. As you’ll be able to in all probability guess, the exhausting objects weren’t type. “The abrasive traits of ceramic recommend that long run use of pessoi might have resulted in native irritation, pores and skin or mucosal injury, or problems of exterior haemorrhoids,” researchers wrote in 2012.


before toilet paper

Tender mosses had been undoubtedly way more nice for historical bums. The Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, and Scottish are all thought to have extensively wiped with the absorbent, pliable vegetation. The identical goes for different cultures that hailed from locations with loads of moist, shady areas the place mosses want to develop. Fashionable survivalists and tenting consultants generally advocate moss when bathroom paper isn’t accessible, dubbing it “Inexperienced Charmin” for its pleasant really feel and built-in complement of iodine, a pure germ killer.

Corn Cobs

before toilet paper

Handy for insertion and surprisingly tender when dried, corn cobs had been plentiful and common amongst Native People and colonial settlers in North America. With the edible kernels eliminated, the remaining cob has copious grooves and indentations which change into fairly environment friendly at trapping any remaining fecal matter. Furthermore, a cob might be rotated on its axis for a swirling, refreshing clear.

A extra civilized choice?

Lengthy common in Europe and South America, bidets, which spray a stream of water to take away any remaining waste left on the bum, are rising extra frequent worldwide as low cost, simply put in choices proliferate and operating water spreads to extra components of the world.

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