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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What Did People Use Before Toilet Paper?

First of all, my favorite quote on the subject, from Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son (to his illegitimate son, that is; he (Chesterfield) was trying to raise him (the son) above his (the son's) lowly origins and inferior blood):
"I knew a gentleman, who was so good a manager of his time, that he would not even lose that small portion of it, which the calls of nature obliged him to pass in the necessary-house; but gradually went through all the Latin poets, in those moments. He bought, for example, a common edition of Horace, of which he tore off gradually a couple of pages, carried them with him to that necessary place, read them first, and then sent them down as a sacrifice to Cloacina*: this was so much time fairly gained; and I recommend you to follow his example. It is better than only doing what you cannot help doing at those moments; and it will made any book, which you shall read in that manner, very present in your mind. Books of science, and of a grave sort, must be read with continuity; but there are very many, and even very useful ones, which may be read with advantage by snatches, and unconnectedly; such are all the good Latin poets, except Virgil in his "AEneid": and such are most of the modern poets, in which you will find many pieces worth reading, that will not take up above seven or eight minutes. 
At Mental Floss: Using the bathroom has come a long way from when ancient Greeks used stones and pieces of clay for personal hygiene. Toilet paper is one of those things that often gets taken for granted in modern times, except for places Charmin has yet to infiltrate. This is definitely one of those unavoidable things in life, so through many centuries and in many cultures, everyone had their own method of staying clean. 

I like this bit: Quilted Northern, formerly Northern Tissue, advertised as late as 1935 that their toilet paper was “Splinter-Free!” Since the company is still big in the multiple-ply, multi-billion dollar industry today, the marketing plan must have been a success – splinter-free was obviously in very high demand.

Ten Things Romans Used for Toilet Paper.

*From Wikipedia: In Roman mythology, Cloacina (Latin, cloaca: "sewer" or "drain") was the goddess who presided over the Cloaca Maxima ("Great Drain"), the main trunk of the system of sewers in Rome.


  1. remember when each orange was wrapped in orange paper? my grandmother would gather the orange paper from the grocery store after they unwrapped the oranges, brought it home in the wooden box that the oranges came in and used the orange paper as TP; her toilet had one of those wooden boxes up by the ceiling with a long flush chain

    1. When I was in Japan about 25 years ago, imported apples were individually wrapped like expensive chocolate candies.

      When I visited South Korea around the same time, the latrines were furnished with wax paper instead of toilet paper. Not absorbent at all! And only the very best hotels had bidets.

  2. According to a hadith, Muhammad used pebbles.

  3. Holy crap! Stones, clay? My imagination is taking me places I really don't want to go!