The pandemic came unexpectedly, we were locked in our homes, and people in different countries found nothing else to do but to remove all toilet paper from the shelves of supermarkets.
We still don't know for sure what drove us to such a hoarding, but what we can't deny is that toilet paper is an essential item on our shopping list, because it is part of our hygiene, as the name suggests.
The exact origin of toilet paper is not entirely clear, as its use dates back to antiquity and has evolved over the centuries. The ancient Greeks used stones and shells to clean themselves after using the toilet, while the Romans used sponges attached to sticks and soaked them in salt water or vinegar. In the Middle Ages, people used hay, straw, leaves and moss to clean themselves.
The first historical record of the use of paper for personal hygiene comes from China, during the Tang Dynasty in the sixth century. The Chinese emperor ordered the manufacture of soft, scented paper for his personal use. However, it was not until the 19th century that modern toilet paper, as we know it today, was invented. American entrepreneur Joseph Gayetty patented the first toilet paper in 1857. It was made from hemp and contained aloe vera to soothe the skin. Since then, many improvements have been made to the manufacture and quality of toilet paper.
Today, there is a plethora of toilet paper available.
We now have double-ply toilet paper that is ultra-soft, colored, scented, stronger and even wet. However, it is neither ecological nor as healthy as it seems. Toilet paper takes a long time to degrade and is composed of certain chemicals that have been shown to be harmful to our health in the long run. It also doesn't clean as well and can cause irritation.
Alternatives to toilet paper
Despite all this, we can't seem to stop using it. What would be the alternative? We only have to look back to see that the simplest answer seems to be the right one: soap and water. Many people still have the famous bidet in their bathroom, used for quick and effective hygiene of the private parts. A more modern version of the bidet is the water jet toilet, which has been used for decades in Japan.
The easiest way to do this would be to go back to using soap and water to clean yourself.
The toilet bowl itself is equipped with a system that shoots a jet of water to clean the private parts, without the need for paper. The most modern ones even blow air to dry the area, play music and heat the seat, but these are already complementary things for our hygiene.
A simpler and more economical way is to use toilet flaps that incorporate a water jet, which can be installed on modern toilets. And some toilets are already equipped with “gadgets” that fit into the toilet pipe and shoot water to clean us. For now, this alternative to soap and water seems the most plausible way to replace toilet paper in the short term.