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Toilet Paper Substitute

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Any time that a character uses something of high value/importance/ridiculousness instead of toilet paper, this trope applies, whether they:

  • are forced to use the substitute due to there not being any toilet paper,
  • prefer to use it instead (perhaps due to it being softer), or
  • mistakenly use it.

No, tissue paper and paper towels are not of high value.

This is often played for comedy, and is likely Older Than Print in real life (due to prehistoric substitutes).


Related is Potty Emergency and Only Useful as Toilet Paper.


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    Anime & Manga 

    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.
  • When the sheriff tickets a local antigovernment militiaman for trespassing in Revival, this is the militiaman's response with the ticket.
  • In Rat-Man and other works of Leo Ortolani, issues of the comic itself are sometimes used this way.

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

    Film - Live Action 
  • 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 Dances with Wolves, some illiterate soldiers find Dunbar's journal (which would have verified his story) and use it as toilet paper.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Game Shows 
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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..."
  • Discworld:
    • In Maskerade, after Nanny Ogg makes them stop the coach while she goes in the bushes, she asks Granny Weatherwax to find her some dock plants. Granny is confused as to why she's collecting herbs at a time like this until Nanny explains that she just wants some broad leaves.
    • In The Truth, Harry King (Ankh-Morpork's waste disposal king) tells William that the Ankh-Morpork Times generally gets reprocessed as lavatory paper, although he personally doesn't see the need to reprocess it first.
    • In Monstrous Regiment a voice from the privy asks Polly if she has a piece of paper. She hands over the propaganda leaflet she's been given, as probably the best use for it.
  • 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.
  • 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 the Sven Hassel novels, 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!"
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Live Action TV 
  • M*A*S*H. In "Crisis," among the supply shortage the 4077th is faced with is lack of toilet paper - doubled with 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • In The Fairly OddParents, "Wishology", when Mr. & Mrs. Turner and Crocker are going to the KISS concert, they stopped 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 regretted.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • Mostly averted in real life, since many people have learned to either carry around tissues with ourselves or to check for toilet paper before sitting down. Or both. 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...
    • Note that 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 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-of-nowhere Egypt, as some Jojos Bizarre Adventure fans may know) 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?"


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