What did people wipe/wash with before toilet paper.

This interesting article about toilets in the Middle Ages reminds us again that the Middle Ages, while no picnic, were not as bad as the popular view believes.

It has me wondering again what people used in the days before mass produced toilet paper. Sure, there is the proverbial corn cob. And I’m sure that rural people had a variety of materials available. But I’m curious about the average town folk. What did they use?

I’ve also seen people preferring washing with water in various underdeveloped countries. Was this ever prevalent in America? ( I hope so. TMI: I’m disgusted by my dry-wipe-only culture. That’s just not good enough, people. If you see someone in a public men’s room getting a wet paper towel before heading to the stall, that might be me.)

[Corncobs and pages from the Sears catalog, it seems.](What did people wipe/wash with before toilet paper. )

Among materials that were used in Talmudic times (c. 100-500 CE) were leaves, smooth rocks and smooth pottery shards.

Zev Steinhardt

I forgot to clarify that I am interested in the period immediately prior to toilet paper, and particularly (but not exclusively) America. I don’t know when that was, but say, circa the American Civil War.

The Romans used a communal brush at their public toilets… :stuck_out_tongue:


TMI: the wet paper towel thing doesn’t work for m… I mean my ‘friend’, who ‘says’ he has a hairy arse, ‘apparently’, the wet paper towel just breaks up and gets entangled. Ahem.

The esteemed French author Rabelais offers a wide variety of options, in his classic Gargantua and Panatgruel (1532-1562):

According to my grandmother, in her family newsprint was prefered over catalog pages, as it was the softer alternative.

That’s in British Columbia in the 20’s and early 30’s.

[matrix reloaded reference]

Like wiping your arse with silk

" If you see someone in a public men’s room getting a wet paper towel before heading to the stall, that might be me.)"

“the wet paper towel just breaks up and gets entangled”

I am glad to inform you that the Baby Wipes from your local drugstore will work just fine. And they’ll leave you baby fresh.

According to the PBS series “Frontier House” each family member had a small piece of cloth on a nail in the outhouse. They were responsible for washing then replacing their own cloth after each use.

In some cultures, they used their left hand, which led to a strict taboo against eating with that hand. It is mentioned in, of all places, From Russia With Love, by Ian Fleming. James Bond is about to grab a piece of stew meat out of a communal pot in a gypsy encampment in Turkey, when Kerim Bey warns him sharply, “With the right hand, James! The left hand is used for only one purpose with these people.”

It was some years before I figured out what he meant.


Three shells.

Cecil Adams on What did people use before toilet paper was invented?

Although located on different continents, we must have the same friend, what a coincidence. As he`s told me the same thing.

When did the practice of butt whiping begin? Surley there was a time in history when people just squatted down, emptied their bowels, and then just got back up and went on with their buisness. Are human beings the only animal to practice the art of butt whiping?

Cats lick their butts. Dogs wipe their asses on the ground. Does that count?

aka_10003 says:

Um . . . please read the directions on the package. If it doesn’t specifically allow flushing, you must dispose of the baby wipe in a trash can. Most baby wipes that I’ve checked on are not flushable. Go to the toilet paper section and look for Cottonelle flushable wipes. HTH

This I know… er… I mean, thanks, I’ll tell my ‘friend’

I’m having a hard time envisioning the use of a corn cob. Shucked first? Kernels removed? Dinner leftover thats put in the belt for later use? Used in and out, or one slide vertically and rotate 1/4 inch? Sheesh!