Best Toilet Paper Alternatives For a Long Emergency

Samantha BiggersSamantha Biggers | Updated Jan 17, 2019 (Orig - Jan 19, 2019)

Editor’s Note: This resource has been revised and updated for 2019.

For this post, we are going to tackle a subject that some people do not want to think about and that is what do you use when the toilet paper runs out. There is a lot of situations where this might happen. I know some people pride themselves on stockpiling a lot of toilet paper but no one can stockpile enough to get through a long emergency without sacrificing space and money.

Personally toilet paper is a luxury I hope to never give up. I lived without indoor plumbing for years while we were building our house. It is times I will always remember and I am glad we did what we had to do to have our house but I cannot imagine how hard it would have been to give up the toilet paper.

toilet paper

So I guess my point is that there are no great and convenient alternatives but sometimes times get tough and you have to improvise. My vote goes for a bidet bottle for the most useful and convenient toileting device you can put back. It hardly weighs anything, is inexpensive, and it is small enough to be convenient for travel or bugging out.

A bidet bottle can double as a cleansing device and give you some water pressure for staying clean otherwise. Plenty of people use them when injured to help keep all areas of their body clean without the assistance of someone else.

Bidet Bottle

bidet bottle spray toilet

These are very inexpensive and they work far better than you would ever think. A larger bottle holds about 14 ounces of water which is not much compared to a low flow toilet that takes around 1-1.3 gallons per flush. The pressure created when you turn up the bottle and then squeeze offers a stream of water that will leave you clean. It is easy to fill and keep clean and you don’t have to plumb in a real bidet.

A Bidet Hose Attached To Your Toilet

bidet spray toilet bowl

These don’t require a lot of plumbing knowledge but they offer an alternative that is more usable than just a bidet bottle. For a more luxurious bathroom experience, you can get them that can be plumbed into hot water.

In Bowl Bidet

bidet toilet

Another version with the same idea. A jet of water cleans you where you need it with no toilet paper needed. These can also be bought on Amazon and installed with a few basic tools and some time.

When it comes to altering any plumbing, make sure you turn off the water where it needs to be to avoid a deluge of water. After all the work is done, be sure to check for leaks. Even a slow leak can cause trouble over time.

Cloth Wipes

flannel wipes

Although washing dirty clothes is not something that bothers me, I don’t think I am interested in going the “family cloth” route. This is when you use designated clothes for bathroom visits and then wash them. A lot of people use pinking shears to cut flannel or old t-shirts up and then use those.

A few people have given up toilet paper entirely by using these cloth squares cut to size and then washing them with very hot water and plenty of detergent. You can also buy washable baby wipes made from flannel that are hemmed and made for the job! They are surprisingly inexpensive.

Some people throw them into a bucket with vinegar and water for a presoak before putting them into the washing machine. Personally, this seems like it would be hard to deal with. In a survival situation, you may not have a good way to do laundry and boiling rags with feces, or even just traces is a bit time-consuming.

If you were going to implement this course of action, I would recommend treating them like cloth diapers and also using concentrated powdered potassium bicarbonate (Oxy Clean) to further sanitize. Making sure any traces of bacteria are gone are very important.

If these are being used by women to wipe and there are remaining bacteria from feces it can lead to infections that require antibiotics. This is the same thing they are talking about when they tell girls to wipe front to back in hygiene and health classes.

Corn Husks

In the old days, families grew a lot of corn on their own so corn husks were saved and used for all kinds of purposes. You can dry corn husks and use them for wipes in an emergency.

corn husk

I know it sounds odd to bring up GMOs talking about toilet paper alternatives but I have to say that I would find another way to wipe before I used a corn husk that had been sprayed consistently with Roundup and other pesticides and herbicides.

Back when the old people were using corn husks that stuff wasn’t around. If you are concerned about the dioxins and chemicals in your paper products and feminine hygienic products now, then you should consider what you are wiping with when SHTF.

Leaves

There are a lot of leaves that can work pretty well for toilet paper alternatives and then there are some that you don’t want to go anywhere near.

Large Leaf Maples work well because they have a lot of surface area. Hickory leaves can work. Any oak leaf will work but they are a bit too toothed and incised to offer a lot of coverage.

Scrounged Up Paper

Since so many magazines and papers are mostly digital now it is harder to find free sources of old paper. What paper is out there often gets sent to the recycling center. During a survival situation, however, you could even use the paper from old books or some food packaging. Paper grocery bags might seem a little rough but they are far better than something you have to wash later.

I don’t think many used books will survive if people need them for fuel or toilet paper during SHTF.

Sponge

I think using a sponge and sanitizing after each use sounds horrible. Sponges have so much surface area and although they can be sanitized by soaking and/or boiling if you miss anything it can create a major breeding ground for bacteria. This is a very time-consuming method, and I honestly think it would be easier to keep clothes cleaner and bacteria free than a sponge.

Microfiber Towels

micro fiber towel

Some claim that using microfiber towels that dry out fast is a solution for toilet paper on the trail. I think it would be too much hassle and slow you down, especially if you are really trying to make good time.

For at home use, they may work better for you than flannel if you want something that doesn’t retain a lot of moisture. One thing about microfiber is that you can get a huge pack of them for a very low cost.

Scrape With Smooth River Rock and Wash As Needed

For this, you are going to need a very smooth river rock stone. Scrape and rinse the stone and then rinse your bottom with water from a bidet or irrigation bottle.

Dealing With Moisture From Using A Bidet Or Washing Method

Care must be taken to make sure your skin dries out sometimes. Women that allow too much water to remain in their private areas can be more likely to develop yeast infections that can make a survival situation that much more hard to bear. You don’t want to put a tight layer on with a lot of water still on your nether regions.

I recommend that any woman puts back a few treatment packs of Monistat or similar for a long emergency. Fellows if you are the main prepper person in the family, think about this when you are putting together that medical kit for SHTF.

Wipes

Some types of pre-moistened wipes could be used for bathroom hygiene but you need to be very careful. Some wipes have ingredients that could irritate sensitive areas if used very often. Baby wipes are best because they are made for sensitive private areas.

baby wipes playing child

You get a lot of wipes in the tub and you can cut off half of one to conserve if you are not in need of a lot of wiping action.

Combining Methods For Simplicity and Comfort

Part of me feels that you should look for ways to stretch out your toilet paper usage over time in SHTF as well. Just because you have a 100 rolls put back doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider using bidet bottles to reduce how much you have to use each visit.

Hygiene Is Very Important During A SHTF Scenario

Medical services could be limited or non-existent during a bad situation. Even those that have sufficient supplies of antibiotics on hand should not slack in the slightest when it comes to disease and infection prevention. Remember that not even 100 years ago people were dying of water and hygiene-related illnesses.

You don’t want to have to take antibiotics for something that can be prevented by good toilet habits and practices. Men might not be as apt to suffer from some of these by women need to be especially careful as we are prone to all types of urinary and yeast infections.

Being Realistic

I know that toilet paper is one of those conveniences that it is hard to give up in any way shape or form but you can do it if you need to. Everyone talks about “how it will really be if SHTF” and the truth is that we can make a guess but the total circumstances are impossible to know.

toilet paper rolls

Some of the options I have discussed in this post are only really possible with running water. If you are bugging out then the stone and the bidet bottle are going to be your friends. Without running water and staying in place it is going to be impossible to use reusable cloth and keep any resemblance of hygienic conditions. Hot water and good soap are not an option in some survival situations.

I suppose if you have sanitizer and some quick dry camp towels it is possible but something like that is going to slow you down. Leaves or moss are your friend in the woods but be sure that you are using leaves that are not known to cause skin irritation.

This gal ain’t giving up her toilet paper without having to but wants to be ready with other options just in case. You should consider an alternative too and plan ahead so you can stay healthy during any long emergencies ahead. What have you got planned for this everyday part of life? What alternatives did I miss?

Author Bio: Samantha Biggers lives on a mountain in North Carolina with her husband and a pack of loyal hounds in a house her husband and she built themselves. When not writing she is working in their vineyard, raising Shetland sheep, or helping her husband with whatever the farm and vineyard can throw at them.


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Updated Jan 17, 2019
Published Jan 19, 2019

34 Responses to “Best Toilet Paper Alternatives For a Long Emergency”

  1. moss that is very common and found anywhere the ground is damp is excellent if you are not in a hurry it is even softer than paper. it must be used quickly because once it drys it crumbles. the leaves from corn can be stacked tightly together to keep them from drying out. then working them together in your hands like rolling them makes them softer. I worked the tobacco fields and their leaves are large but leave your hands smelly. I guess the trick is be prepared and think ahead.when you are in a crisis situation it isnt the time to learn how to stand for a number two so you dont soil your clothing. when a diet is changed what is expelled can be unpredictable learn how to stop the backdoor barn yard cheek squeezing quickstep.
    Grampa

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  2. Interesting and great article. I recall an old neighbor talking about having to use phone books if a catastrophe occurred. Made me itch thinking about it. That got me hoarding tp in large plastic bins that fit under beds. Speaking of germs invading women when one doesn’t have sanitary conditions, one thing I always have on hand even when traveling is D-Mannose and probiotics for UTIs. Better than antibiotics which can kill the good bacteria. Corn silk is also in my mason jar spice storage. Dry it out in a dark place, when dry put in air tight container then boil in water to make a tea. Of course buy organic non-gmo corn. My grandmother always had corn silk in her root cellar back in the 30’s and her family probably long before antibiotics came along.

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    • i would love to read a more in depth article about this subject.

  3. … another thought for tp. I save cotton everything (socks, flannel, t-shirts, etc) that can no longer be worn. Cut into squares and keep in a large bin for cleaning rags. My husband rolls his eyes, but if a day ever comes, he’ll be happy to have a clean means to stay comfortable, chuckle. In the meantime he always has clean rags for whatever project he’s working on.

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  4. The foods you choose to eat can make a big difference in the amount of toilet paper you need to use. Since I added (home-fermented) sauerkraut to my regular diet, I’m using less than half as much TP as before. I don’t know whether it’s the fiber, the active cultures, or some other factor, but it’s working for me. High-fiber foods are good for lots of other reasons, too. It’s generally a good idea to make small adjustments to one’s diet, to give the gut microbiome time to adapt. Otherwise, you may be led to think that your body just can’t handle certain foods at all, when in fact you just haven’t given your friendly internal bacteria time to adjust.

    Also, bear in mind that these “alternative wipes” are not suited for flush toilets. Toilet paper dissolves rapidly in the plumbing system; newsprint does not (as I have learned from harsh experience, but that’s another story). If the plumbing still works, but you’re just out of TP, don’t make a bad situation worse!

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  5. AND, by any means do not flush them down the toilet if you have your own septic system. Actually public septic systems will probably not work and quickly back up if the power is out. In fact one may want to get in the habit of not flushing toilet paper if you have a private septic system. This was a practice done by many old-timers who lived in the country, years ago. It is basically undigestible and forms “The cake “, or cap noted on top of septic tanks when they need to be pumped out. One can have a designated garbage can near the toilet for disposing of the used paper, then throw it away or burn it later. In fact, used toilet paper in a plastic bag, hung by your garden is a great deterrent for deer and some other varmints that visit your garden. With some thought, this unpleasant idea can be handled safely, hygienically and without much hassle, or untoward odor.

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  6. I have a lot of TP stored, but if there is an emergency then I plan to move immediately to cloth wipes for pee, and keep the TP for wiping faeces. This way I hope to conserve my supplies and make them last a lot longer.
    I notice that my grandchildren, especially the boys, can use almost half a roll when they go to the toilet. I think a bit of re-education and rationing may be called for.
    A portable bidet is going to be my next purchase – it sounds really useful.

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  7. Anyone who has spent time on a farm will have gotten animal waste on their arms at some time and anyone who has tried to get rid of the smell by wiping it off with paper will confirm that no dry process can get rid of the odour. A contributing factor is that arms are covered by hairs which provide an additional area for contamination. People don’t think about it but nether regions also have hairs, albeit short fuzzy ones so there are additional problems cleaning that area thoroughly.

    In short, there needs to be a wet process involved, which the French realized when inventing the bidet, which strangely for years was looked down upon by the rest of the world. The additive small bidets are a great help but even home bathrooms could provide cleanliness if a person takes a couple of folds of TP and dampens it under the sink tap, perhaps doing it twice to complete the job with a finishing dry run.

    “eastern” toilets provide a tap with a spray hose which are unfortunately mis-used but western toilets usually stand alone with no other fixtures in the cubicle and in public facilities there is a door between the W.C. and the sink or lavatory.

    I guess we should all get into the habit of carrying an airline “wet-wipe” with us for when we need cleanliness.

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  8. Another great article Samantha! I was thinking that the Luxe Bidet and in- bowl bidet would be poor choices because the water will become contaminated very quickly in public systems since water recycle will stop and folks will not want to purposefully shoot contaminated water there for real. However, I never heard of that portable bulb type bidet and YES I will be ordering a few for only 10 bucks each!!! I agree with the person above that says they will use cloth for urine and TP for feces. Will last much longer that way. As for me, I live in the country w/ a private septic and an 8 acre pond for water to flush bowl. You betcha I have TP stored, and baby wipes as well. Over time, those baby wipes will lose their moisture. Boiled water will reconstitute those puppies as needed. Hygiene is THE most important consideration after food & water as far as I am concerned. I can only store so much antibiotics and they go bad too quickly for me to keep up.

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  9. When I was little, my grandmother in Alabama had an outhouse and we used a “slop pan” at night to keep from disturbing the snakes if we made the trip to the outhouse after dark. In the outhouse was a couple of copies of the local newspaper (five-cents each back then). We would take a half-a-sheet, wad it up and roll it between our palms to soften it. It worked great.
    We have collected stacks of “Thrifty Nickel” to use when the SHTF and TP isn’t available. Using the “wad and roll” technique on half-a-sheet, putting the paper in a bag and burning it will keep things clean and sanitary.
    Best to be prepared, ya know?

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  10. I have been using Family Cloth for about 6 mo. and want to keep it. I took a package of Walmart facecloths and cut them in half. I fold them in half to use. The DIY detergent I make and use has Oxiclean in and and I always add vinegar to the laundry and the dishes. I have not had any issues and don’t expect any.

    I reasoned thus: if you are out and about, you may have to release gas. However, later you find out that it was not just gas that was released. Are you going to throw away those panties or are you just going to wash them?\

    I LIKE not having to rush out and get more TP because I had a bout of the runs. I do keep some around for others to use, but as for myself – I use the Family Cloth.

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  11. I also have a small covered wastebasket, labeled “Not Trash”, next to the toilet into which I put the used Family Clothes.

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  12. If you use plant material as TP use great caution. Many insects lay eggs in almost any organic matter. You don’t want them hatching in your private areas. We’ve stocked up on TP, baby wipes, and have cloth wipes too. But ultimately someone would be responsible for washing the poo rags. YUK.

    You’re also right about water borne illness. According to the CDC food and water borne illness has always been, and still remains, the #1 killer in the world even today. We in the US have forgotten what a risk it is.

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  13. Great article. I’d never heard of the portable bidit until now. Combined with the family cloth is more appealing than the cloth alone. I’ve hand wash cloth diapers, not interested in going there ever again. If we loose use of the toilet in a SHTF situation, it’s likely we’ll loose the washing machine too.

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  14. It makes zero sense to buy organic non-gmo corn for this purpose. At least the non-gmo part. Non-organic could have trace toxic chemicals.

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    • I put in the part about Non GMO because that lets you know that it is not Round Up ready corn. Just an organic or a non GMO label is enough to know that it isn’t Round Up Ready. Some readers have pretty strong opinions about using anything GMO due to the pesticides and herbicides used so I try to discuss things to suite their needs as well. There are some that are very concerned about chemicals and dyes that are in toilet paper and feminine hygiene items and don’t even want a trace touching them. Personally, I wouldn’t worry about it as much as some but I try to include the whole picture for those that have those concerns.Under the right circumstances a lot of people would have to make some compromises or do without. Thanks for reading Bruce!

    • Still doesn’t make sense to me. Round Up Ready means it’s resistant to Round Up. So Round Up wouldn’t be used. How is using Round Up Ready corn a concern if you’re using it for toilet paper. And GMO products tend to need less pesticides and chemicals because they are bred to be more hardy and productive.

    • Actually, Round Up ready gets sprayed a lot because that is how they keep competing plants and weeds from growing around the corn and soy. There are some plants that are popping up that are annoying anyway because they have developed a resistance. Pigweed is one example. No matter how much Round up is sprayed it has started to be a major problem for big agriculture so they are trying to find sprays to deal with that too. Some people just don’t want anything that has been sprayed a lot near them. To each their own.

    • That’s true. I rescind my last reply.

  15. Three comments: 1. I’m allergic to baby wipes. Anywhere they touch my skin, I get a nasty rash. So don’t stock them until you find out if they give you a rash.

    2. The ‘family cloth’ idea is a very, very poor one, to my way of thinking. Each member of the family should have her/his own color and no confusion.

    3.I have used cloths (for urine only) and they work just fine if you hang them up to dry (a clothespin or similar hanger, over the bathtub) – no smell. Then when you do the laundry, just toss them in. I don’t use them any longer, I’m old now (74) and do not want extra laundry! But I used them for a long time. My reasons were partly ecological, partly budgetary.

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  16. I’d try sturdy rubber gloves for #2. People in the Mideast are known to use their left hand for wiping, so a glove would be an improvement over that. You could keep a bucket of water nearby to rinse the mess off before taking off the glove, and then remove it and clean it further. Also, I tried a coffee filter and found it worked fairly well. The filters are very cheap and you can store a huge number of them in a much smaller space than is taken up with toilet paper.

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  17. My wife has taken this problem to heart. I believe we will run out of food before we run out of TP. Don’t forget, if you cut a roll of paper towels in half, you can use them tho may be a bit rougher.

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  18. IF you use leaves…know what you are picking up and what is growing around the leaves. A buddy and I were out hunting, nature called him and he used some leaves. What he didn’t notice was…there was some poison ivy or oak that was also growing where he grabbed the leaves. No real problems, at first, but about an hour latter…well you get the idea. I took him to an emergency room…about 2-3 hours away as we didn’t know just what happened. All we knew was that a ‘sensitive area’ of his was on ‘fire’. The doc figured it out pretty quick and even though he tried…he couldn’t stop laughing…actually he was ‘cackling’ he was laughing so hard…so were the nurses. Valuable lesson learned.

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  19. Good plan(s) of action.
    Another worthy consideration might be to practice ahead of time, folding techniques to conserve paper.
    Often, during the time prior to paper use, we are simply sitting, with nothing better to do anyway, right? During such occasions over the years, I have worked out a system of folding that reduces my usage to 6 squares/visit.
    Most importantly, I am completely clean after. If not, I totally could not stand using this method.
    Tear off a length 6 squares long. Fold in half, so that you have a (doubled over) 3 length strip. Trifold, along the dotted lines. Wipe. Fold the soiled area upon itself. Wipe again. Fold and repeat until clean.
    Seriously, it works and I almost never have to tear more paper off the roll.
    One caveat: This may not work so well for “messier” situations. Under normal conditions however, at 6 squares a day (per family member), imagine how long a roll might last.
    Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I would be posting a “How To:” on toilet paper conservation. But your blog has truly inspired me to bare my soul, if not my bum!

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  20. We live in a desert with only 6″ of rainfall a year. During an long term disaster, water will be our most scarce resource. A bidet or bidet bottle isn’t an option for every bathroom visit. We have a lot of TP stored but of course it would eventually run out. Then would have to go the cloth route and hope there would be enough water to wash them. Wouldn’t use leaves, moss, etc., except as a very last resort, due to the potential for insect eggs to be transferred from the plant matter to your nether regions where they could hatch. Checked with a PhD in entomology and he said that is a definite possibility. Ugh!

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  21. Most people who use the family cloth method wash their behinds with soap and water first so there shouldn’t be any feces on the cloths. Also, you toss them into a bucket with water and bleach after use. At the end of the day you throw it all in the wash. It is hardly like dirty cloth diapers for babies which is an entirely different rigmarole.
    Toilet paper isn’t good for any septic ststem or sewer system.
    People managed for thousands of years without indoor plumbing and TP and plenty of people still do to this day.

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  22. I really liked it when good articles like this had a print button.

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  23. I assume your in an SHTF situation where the water and sewage systems are down and you have dug an outhouse. if when leaving some stores there are containers with phone books which are free. Grab one or two and save them for this purpose. if you don’t have an outhouse you can burn it. A phone book would last a long time.

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  24. My toilet Bidet is the best thing I ever bought! Love not having a stinky butt!

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  25. I keep a spray bottle of water, with a little vinegar added, on the toilet tank and spray on a minimum number of TP squares. Should work well with old cut clothing squares. Good idea to save TPs for number 2 when the time comes.

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  26. I totally agree with not throwing those wipes down the toilet. My uncle was in a nursing home for a few years until he past away. I visited him frequently and helped with transporting him to doctor visits and also to take him out to places as I was able. I witnessed twice that the plumbing in the facility would back up because the aids would throw those disposable wipes down the commode. Talking with the maintenance man at the facility he stated that he to rod out the drains quite a few times a year because of those wipes. Even after in servicing staff to not do this, it sounds like it was a common occurrence. If this is your back up, place them in a separate container and dispose of them properly to keep from making a bad situation worse.

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  27. i always carry in my purse a couple of baby wipes (huggies natural care) in a repurposed rx vial to use in public bathrooms. the vial (with an old fashioned non-child-proof pop-off cap) is airtight and keeps the wipes damp indefinitely. you could also use an old-fashioned film canister, if you can still find one. even a tiny ziploc bag, like people use for pills or craft items, would work, though it isn’t totally airtight.

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  28. I’ve often thought of this.i live in a small city.i’ll be doing great as long as i have a working toilet and running water.but that’s. Only as long as sewage don’t back up during a power outage.im thinking of getting a collapsible bedside/camping toilet with bucket and lid.degradable bags and something to keep it from smelling. But my issue is someplace to bury it.on account there’s to many ppl living near me.and that gives me limited area’s to bury it.I’ve stored some dust rags to use after running out of TP…still need the means of washing them after the water stop’s flowing.

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  29. Grew up as the oldest of several. Mom only used cloth diapers. The bathroom had a big diaper pail with water, bleach, and a little laundry soap in it. Diapers were emptied into the toilet, swished in the bowl, then put in the pail. Laundered with the whites every few days and hung to dry in the sun, another disinfectant. That would also work with wipe cloths.

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