How did people wipe without toilet paper?

Answered by Willian Lymon

When I think about how people wiped without toilet paper, I’m reminded of our resourcefulness as humans. It’s fascinating to consider the different materials and techniques that early humans used depending on their environment.

In more forested areas, leaves were a common choice for wiping. Large, soft leaves like those from the mulberry or fig tree were preferred. People would use these leaves in a similar way to how we use toilet paper today.

Sticks were also used in some cultures. They would be chosen for their smoothness and shape, and then carefully used to clean oneself after using the bathroom. This technique required a bit more skill and precision.

Moss was another option, particularly in damp or wooded areas. It has a soft and absorbent texture, making it a suitable alternative to toilet paper. People would gather moss and use it to wipe themselves clean.

In arid regions with sandy soil, sand itself was often used. It may sound strange, but the abrasive nature of sand actually helped with cleaning. People would scoop up a handful of sand and use it to scrub themselves clean. Afterward, they would wash with water to remove any remaining residue.

Speaking of water, it has been a common method of cleaning oneself throughout history. In many cultures, water was used in combination with other materials like leaves or sticks. People would either pour water over themselves or use it to rinse their hands after wiping.

As agriculture developed, people began to have access to other materials that could be used for wiping. Hay, straw, and corn husks were sometimes used. These materials were readily available on farms and could be easily repurposed for personal hygiene.

For those living on islands or coastal areas, shells were often used. Shells have a smooth and curved surface, making them suitable for scraping. People would use a scraping technique with the shell to clean themselves after using the bathroom.

It’s fascinating to think about how our ancestors found creative solutions for basic hygiene needs. They adapted to their environments and made use of what was available to them. Today, we’re fortunate to have access to modern conveniences like toilet paper, but it’s always interesting to explore the ingenuity of those who came before us.