Follow TV Tropes


Toilet Paper Substitute

Go To
Running out of toilet paper is enough to drive you bananas.

This is when a character uses something not typically used as toilet paper as toilet paper. The item may be of high value or importance—showing their greed and wastefulness; may be ridiculous and played for comedy; may be historical accuracy; or may be happening because the person has to use a substitute due to there not being any toilet paper. They may also prefer to use it instead (perhaps due to it being softer), or mistakenly uses it instead of what they intended to use. No, tissue paper and paper towels are not of high value.

This is likely Older Than Print in real life (due to historic substitutes).

Related tropes include Potty Emergency and Only Useful as Toilet Paper.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Gintama:
    • In the Yagyuu Arc, Ayumu Tojo set up a trap with the restroom that forces those who needs to use the toilet to be stuck there without the toilet. Not only did Gintoki and Kondo get trapped, so did his master Binbokusai and Tojo himself, due to eating bad eggs from Tae for the former and the bad yolk for the latter. So they all work to find a way out by looking for substitutes so Binbokusai brings out sandpaper, much to their displeasure. Then Binbokusai and Gintoki fool them by using the paper on themselves, causing Kondo and Tojo to pull out photos of Tae and Kyubei respectively for guidance... only to realize the photos are paper too which causes them to hesitate on whether to use them or the sandpaper! After a moment, Ayumu and Tojo wipe and they fight in a Single-Stroke Battle Ayumu losing and Kondo the victor. As it turns out, Tojo actually used the photo which he admits was disgraceful and weak while Kondo won though it comes with the cost of using the sandpaper instead which leads to High-Pressure Blood coming from his own ass.
    • Before their fight begins, Gintoki ends up using money paper from his wallet to wipe while Binbokusai used a scroll containing his family's secret arts much to their own dismay while claiming they aren't using paper at all.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: Joseph once found a desert toilet where there was no water or paper and he'd have to clean himself entirely with sand. He decides to hold off until they reach a hotel. This is Truth in Television, as described below in the Real Life folder.

    Comic Books 
  • In the first album from the Belgian comic series ORPHANIMO!!, in order to make it clear to Vallalkozo's representative that they don't intend to sell their house, the Orphans show him that they are using the contract he sent them earlier as toilet paper.
  • In Rat-Man and other works of Leo Ortolani, issues of the comic itself are sometimes used this way.
  • When the sheriff tickets a local antigovernment militiaman for trespassing in Revival, this is the militiaman's response with the ticket.

    Comic Strips 
  • In this Big Nate strip, Ellen used poison oak leaves as toilet paper during a camping trip.

    Film - Animated 
  • A deleted scene in Beavis And Butthead Do America has Beavis find that he's out of toilet paper and he resorts to using the Declaration of Independence to wipe himself.
  • Shrek opens with the titular character reading from a book of fairy tales—before ripping the page out and calling a load, followed by a flushing sound and him walking out of an outhouse—implying it was used as toilet paper and showing Shrek's contempt for the standard fairy tale tropes.

    Film - Live Action 
  • In Dances with Wolves, some illiterate soldiers find Dunbar's journal (which would have verified his story) and use it as toilet paper.
  • In Demolition Man, toilet paper has been replaced with three seashells, which are Noodle Implements to John Spartan In-Universe. He ends up just using the Swear Jar machine to get fine tickets and uses them.
    "So much for the seashells."
  • In Dunkirk, Tommy's response to the German leaflets demanding surrender is to collect them to use as toilet paper. Unfortunately, he's forced to hold it in to escape a German ambush. We never find out if Tommy ever did get to take a dump in the entire movie.
  • In the 1980's film Heaven Help Us, a student runs out of toilet paper and has to use his homework as toilet paper.
  • In Step Brothers, when Brennan is using the toilet, he runs out of toilet paper and he resorts to using his toilet rug and his sink to clean himself. The next day, he buys a huge amount of toilet paper.

  • Old joke: A bear and a rabbit are taking a dump together. The bear asks the rabbit "Does crap stick to your fur?" The rabbit says no, so the bear grabs the rabbit and wipes himself with it.
  • A common online comic / photo manipulation is depict a president one considers having been disrespectful of the Constitution using it as toilet paper. Here is one example.

  • In Ptolemy's Gate from The Bartimaeus Trilogy, John Mandrake / Nathaniel in his work for the government has put out a number of pamphlets full of government puffery and lies called Real War Stories. During a meeting of commoners to discuss the government's outrages, a tavern-keeper comments that he's made a point to collect as many of them as possible, and when he is chastised for this, says that he's proud to do so and that if anyone visits the bathroom after the meeting is over, they'll see ample proof of their usefulness.
  • In Congo Mercenary, by 'Mad' Mike Hoare, the mercenaries overrun the base of a Rebel Leader and Hoare is assured that it's been thoroughly searched for anything of intelligence value. Hoare is not impressed when he subsequently discovers some top secret papers have been used for toilet purposes by his men. He gives the task of cleaning it up to one of his officers who, needless to say, is not pleased.
  • Horrible Histories: Vicious Vikings had this quiz:
    What would you use instead of toilet paper? a) Yesterday's newspaper b) Moss c) Don't use anything
with the accompanying image showing a viking saying "What! No moss?! Here, bunny, bunny, bunny..."
  • In M.Y.T.H. Inc. in Action Guido and Nunzio are trying to sabotage a country's war effort by working in the logistics section and doing things like sending a load of propaganda leaflets to a unit that was short on toilet paper. That particular act of sabotage backfired when it turned out the leaflets contained sexy pinups of the Queen.
  • Sleeping Beauties: After the Bright Ones Cult is arrested and their compound abandoned, a few pages of their new nation's Constitution are scattered by the wind and end up pinned to cactuses. A graduate student hiking in the area comes across them, and since she has to take a dump badly she happily uses the pages as toilet paper.
  • In the novels of Sven Hassel
    • Tiny's mother ends up using the Your Fuhrer Thanks You card she got notifying her that one of her sons had died 'fighting bravely' for Nazi Germany. Not out of contempt but because nothing else was available. Her thoughts towards the Fuhrer were rather unpleasant given how hard and rough the card was.
    • In another novel, the German soldiers get hold of a megaphone and use it to insult their Russian opponents across No Mans Land.
    "Russki tovarisch! We know you have to use gravel to wipe your assholes dry with. Come over to us and we'll show you how to do it with niiicce sooooft shithouse paper!"

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Blackadder Goes Forth, Captain Blackadder considers this to be the best way the British army's newspaper can improve the morale of the troops.
  • In Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm's older brother had to use a Spiderman comic page as toilet paper since his parents wouldn't let him have any more.
  • M*A*S*H. In "Crisis," among the supply shortage the 4077th is faced with is lack of toilet paper - doubled with a wood shortage for fire, prompting camp personnel to scrounge as best they can; Henry, at one point, uses a drawing one of his kids sent him.
  • Monsignor Renard. The title character is found with German propaganda leaflets on his person and is accused of being a subversive. He explains he kept them for toilet purposes. "It seemed appropriate."
  • QI spent a question debating what people used before the invention of toilet paper. The Roman solution of sponges on sticks was covered, as was the fact the dock leaf is one of the largest, softest and most forgiving examples of British flora. But the prize had to go to the neck of a freshly slaughtered goose. Not the whole bird and certainly not the head and beak. Just the neck, said to be soft and smooth and gentle and certainly cleansing.
  • On The Stand Up Sketch Show, Seann Walsh did a routine about why he and many of his friends should not be allowed to vote, citing the example of a friend who run out of toilet paper and used a slice of bread.
  • In a 1979 episode of You Can't Do That on Television, network executive Mr. Dime had to use 100 dollar bills when in the washroom due to running out of TP during a segment taking place between skits.
  • Discussed in an episode of Law & Order when Detective Lupo discloses how he took care of business while assigned to Afghanistan: "A little bowl of water and my left hand."
  • Discussed (and exploited) in an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Indy is surprised and dismayed to be sent into the middle of a German encampment to steal toilet paper, only to ultimately learn that, lacking access to the genuine article, the Germans have been repurposing old memos and other documents.note  One such memo ends up providing an important clue.

    Video Games 
  • Twice in the Deponia series.
    • In Chaos On Deponia, Rufus goes into a dark toilet, and mistakenly uses a coupon with Braille on it as toilet paper.
    • In Goodbye Deponia, the time traveller in the toilet finds the toilet paper far too rough and asks for a replacement from Rufus. Rufus gives him a large wad of cash.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask there's a being who lives in a toilet for reasons best not explored. If you approach at night, it will reach out a hand and ask for paper. There are several pieces of paper Link can acquire through the game, and any will work, earning a reward of a Piece of Heart at the expense of whatever quest the paper was meant for.
    • The above is referenced in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword with a female ghost who lives in a bathroom and will ask for paper if visited at night. In this case, the only option is a love letter meant to be given to another character, and if you give it to the ghost she'll become infatuated with the sender and haunt him.
  • In Super Paper Mario, one level in Chapter 4 requires you to hunt down an ancient parchment, so that you can give it to Fleep to wipe himself down.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • In the Camp Camp episode "Operation: Charlie Tango Foxtrot", the Wood Scouts try to replace Camp Campbell's flag with their own during the night. The attempt goes several shades of wrong, and one of them finds himself in dire need of the bathroom... where he finds that there is no toilet paper. But he does have the Wood Scouts' flag.
    Pikeman: You did what with the flag?!
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, "Wishology", when Mr. and Mrs. Turner and Crocker are going to the KISS concert, they stop along the way to use the bathroom in the middle of the desert. Since none of them brought toilet paper with them on the trip, they instead use a cactus to wipe themselves, which they immediately regret.
  • Two examples from Family Guy:
    • In season 2 "There's Something About Paulie", while Peter is using the toilet, a member of the Mafia appears to tell him that he has to see the Don to repay his favor. When Peter realizes that he's out of toilet paper, he uses an Entertainment Weekly magazine as a substitute.
    • In season 8, "Spies Reminiscent of Us", when Peter tries to use the bathroom in Cleveland's abandoned house, he finds out there's no toilet paper. Peter runs offscreen to Joe's house and asks him if he can borrow something from him, Joe allows it, unaware of what Peter is doing. When he runs back onscreen into Cleveland's house, he's carrying the American flag.
  • Futurama: Due to this trope, Dr. Zoidberg has controlling interest in Planet Express.
    Leela: Zoidberg owned 51% of the company?
    Hermes: The shares were worthless, and he kept asking for toilet paper!
  • The Random! Cartoons short "Teapot" has the titular character's negligence to go and buy more toilet paper like his mother asked end with him being forced to give his friend Bouche his written-down rap lyrics after Bouche complains that there is no toilet paper in the bathroom.
  • On episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show had Ren avoiding a salve salesman. At the end, he's in the bathroom and the toilet paper roll is empty, so he has no choice but to buy some salve to clean himself.
  • On The Simpsons, an internet cartoon company that publishes Bart's web show "Angry Dad" pays him in stock instead of money, dispensing it off a toilet paper roll.

    Real Life 
  • Historically, many items were used before the widespread use of toilet paper as they weren't going into modern plumbing anyways and being used in an outhouse. These include but are not limited to: corn cobs and corn husks, leaves, cloth rags, sticks, moss, magazine pages, and mail catalogs such as the Sears Catalog.
  • Mostly averted in real life, since many people have learned to either carry around tissues or to check for toilet paper before sitting down. On the other hand, people are starting to use flushable wipes, which are quite a lot more expensive than toilet paper, and more damaging to sewers. Using any paper but toilet paper is strongly discouraged. Toilet paper is designed to be much softer, degradable, and more pliable than even paper towels. Anything else can clog and damage the plumbing.
  • In some countries, it's common to use other methods instead of toilet paper. For example, in some Asian countries, it's common to wash your bottom with water (from a bucket or a bidet) and your hands. It's also not unheard of in other places (like in the Middle Eastern and North African countries, as seen in Jojos Bizarre Adventure) to use soil or sand because the soil/sand there is so hot and barren that it's sterile. And of course, there's using leaves or other plant matter... and historically, there's also rubbing your anus on the edge of a stick.
  • In the First World War soldiers couldn't leave the trenches because they would be shot by the other side. They were forced to go to the bathroom in their trenches. They ran out of so many substitutes for toilet paper that they were forced to use their hands.
  • In a 1980s interview the members of Van Halen mention that when they were young struggling musicians in NYC they didn't have money for toilet paper so they used a map of New York instead. Their landlord was not happy.
  • In 2012, a photograph of English footballer Liam Ridgewell on the toilet was leaked of him wiping his backside with £20 notes, allegedly winding up a friend whom he won a bet against.
  • Invoked in an anecdote attributed to Tallulah Bankhead. Tallulah to the woman in the next stall: "Dahling, do you have any paper?" Woman: "I'm afraid not." Tallulah: "Well then dahling, do you have two fives for a 10?"
  • In rural England, an acceptable alternative for toilet paper was the dock leaf - a very large, forgiving, plant that puts out fairly soft and above all big leaves. this worked just fine until British people started emigrating to Australia. Where a plant known as the gympie-gympie looks just enough like a dock leaf to fool the unwary Pom looking for something to wipe with. This example of Aussie flora is known to locals as the Suicide Plant and can best be thought of as a nettle on steroids.