Toilet Paper in a UG

Handling the Issue of Toilet Paper in a UG Situation (pun intended)
Or, Let’s Talk TP

Written by Teri Simpson of Optimum Preparedness


So, when was the last time you had a long meaningful talk with someone about toilet paper being used in an underground or other type shelter situation? Do you know how long one roll will last? Have you run any tests yet? (i.e., a roll of Scott Single Ply 1000 sheet roll will last 1 week for 1 person, or is that for you and your mate? Charmin’, while fluffier only lasts 3 days, etc) Or are you just buying a few extra packages every so often with not a clue on god’s green earth how long that barrel of TP is going to last?

What if you put that much thought into buying food? Oh, you say, I have pretty much food… Suck to be you if it runs out 6 months before any stores reopen and you can’t go outside and see if you could barter labor for food with a neighbor.

Back to the toilet paper (because I have put A WHOLE LOT of thought into the TP situation in an underground setting :o)

What kind are you buying? Single or Double Ply? Why would that matter? First of all, anyone who hasn’t done their homework on how much toilet paper that they need per week or per month needs to get busy (this is going to be SUCH a fun article).

I would suggest 2 things: first, buy some of whatever you currently like, and then buy at least one roll of the Scott Single Ply 1000 Sheet stuff (Scott makes the 2 ply but you should consider trying at least one roll of this – most “real” studies compare at least 3 types of a thing). If you’re single, then it is easy. Pick a start date and begin with a new roll of toilet paper. If you’re a couple, same thing.

Secondly, instead of flushing the TP, put it in a bag or bags – and anyone who is wrinkling their nose and starting to talk themself out of this experiment, get over the Eeeewww thing. Remember, YOU ARE A SCIENTIST so it is NOT gross!

Do this for at least a couple of weeks: how many rolls did you go thru in a week? Then switch to the Scott single ply. Again, how many rolls in a week? Once you have a good feel for quantity per week, you can figure out a year. NOW picture 5 women sharing a UG. Do you have any idea how much toilet paper that is per month? GOBS AND GOBS.

What kind of toilet system do you have in your UG or safe place? Can it handle that much TP in that short of time? If there is more than one household that will be sharing a shelter, have each one save all the TP for one month in the black 30/33 gallon garbage bags (without mashing it all flat. Kids should think this whole experiment is quite fun). So at the end of 30 days, everyone get together and bring your garbage bags so you can get a real visual about how much paper will be generated. Yikes! You may say.

And remember - you are not going to be able to call the Roto-Rooter man to come pump out your septic tank in a UG, shelter or safe place. So you should be very interested in having it not clog up in the first place.

Which is where I come in. I have some dandy ideas, some you may have thought of and some, not so much.

As we go into all of this, remember you are a Scientist, interested in efficiency ;o) First I’ll present an idea about how women can cut down the amount of toilet paper used, then I will share a brilliant method of handling toilet paper that I came across over 20 years ago.

This idea was suggested by a friend, and it dove tailed into one of my own ideas. She said that you can get washcloths that are very cheap (and very thin) at many dollar stores. I checked it out, and she was correct. While one may not want an extremely thin washcloth for showering or bathing, the thing that is great about them is that they dry much more quickly than the big thick fluffy washcloths.

She said that in her experimenting what she found that worked well was to have a basket of these thin wash cloths in her “test bathroom” (folded and rolled and in a basket so they looked nice). She also kept a 4 or 5 gallon bucket in the bathroom with the lid just set on top (not banged on tightly). She would use a washcloth as one would use TP when urinating. After a couple or so uses, into the bucket it would go.

Once the bucket was 1/3 or a little more full, she would dump in some hot water, a little (not much!) laundry soap and just a bit of bleach (Clorox), let them soak a bit and then use a plunger type device (see the PS at the end of the article) to go gusha-gusha-gusha to wash and sanitize them. All that needed to be done then, was rinse them out, wring out tightly and hang to dry. Because they were very thin, they dried quickly. Then fold and roll and refill the basket. Using this method she was able to greatly cut down on the need for toilet paper.

Back to the nice thick fluffy washcloths. What if you don’t have a washer and dryer in your UG or shelter? Are you going to use a bath towel when you shower or wash up? Have you ever hand washed a bath towel? Any idea how long one will take to dry in a UG? You can use a wash cloth as a wash cloth, but they also work just fine as a hand towel. A couple of them can substitute for a bath towel. And they are going to be way easier to wash, to wring out, and way quicker to dry than bigger towels. Just a thought here folks…

OK, back to the toilet paper. Whether you use the washcloth as TP or not, there will be toilet paper to be disposed of most likely. I came across the following article in an old Mother Earth News magazine back in the late 1980’s. I was so impressed with it I kept it on file for years. Then once I got a computer, I typed it into a Word doc so I could share it. So here is the article which I affectionately call the Wormbin Doc. I will add a little more commentary after the article. Enjoy.

IT'S NOT FOR EVERYONE --- A Strange Farewell to Roto-Rooter
by Christopher Nyerges (from Mother Earth News, date unknown)

Since the mid-70s, I have been affiliated with a nonprofit educational corporation located in drought-stricken Southern California. Our headquarters has long been afflicted with a troublesome sewer line that would occasionally back up. After an intensive investigation, our founder, R. White, deduced that the problem invariably arose after a guest used liberal, nay, exorbitant, amounts of toilet paper. Instead of investing in costly sewer repair or replacement, White decided to try a different approach. He placed a 10-gallon plastic clothes hamper next to the toilet (used regularly by about a dozen people) and hung a sign on the wall commanding that, henceforth, all paper matter be discarded in the hamper. Use as much as you like.

Presto! No dirty clogs. No plumber's friends. Every few months the contents of the hamper was buried, and it quickly decomposed.

As time went on we began conducting experiments with the hamper. We added a layer of soil to the bottom and introduced a few earthworms for good measure. The worms loved it in there. Apparently, it created an amorous atmosphere for them: They bred profusely. Best of all, there was never any "outhouse odor" from the hamper. Rather, when the lid was lifted, the hamper smelled earthy, like rich soil.

Eventually it occurred to us to carry our experiment to its logical conclusion: to see how long we could go without emptying the hamper. To start, we added a small amount of soil to the bottom of the hamper, accompanied by 85 earthworms and 17 wood lice (also known as sow or pill bugs). We returned the hamper to the rest room and the test was on.

Days turned into weeks, then into months, as roll after roll of paper was fed into our voracious hamper. It was never emptied, never moved; occasionally, the paper contents were lightly compacted and small amounts of water were dribbled in for the creatures entombed there. Yet the hamper never seemed to fill. Nor did the atmosphere around it suffer. Instead it released the same fresh, earthy smell as always. Time, effortlessly, rolled on.

Four years later, we decided to release our findings to a small and unsuspecting audience attending our company gala. In preparation for the grand event, we'd stopped adding toilet paper to the bin a month earlier and covered the top with a layer of soil.

When we displayed the hamper to our guests and explained what we'd done, many were amused. Some were even excited. Several were actively revolted.

To add suspense to our unveiling and to create a visual aid, one member of our group, Timothy Hall, brought a large cement-mixing tub into the yard and told the crowd that, as part of the experiment, he was going to empty the bin and count the worms and wood lice that had managed to survive in dubious captivity.

The audience was breathless with anticipation. One woman, when she realized we were actually going to empty four years worth of accumulated used toilet paper at her feet, finally found her voice, "Oh, no. No...PLEASE don't empty it!"

Hall, undaunted by her cries, slowly poured out the contents, while the crowd watched in grim fascination. The first identifiable object to emerge was a foot-long avocado seedling that had sprouted from a seed inadvertently tossed into the bin. Gradually, the rest of the contents flowed into the tub, and as the crowd pressed forward, it began to move, writhing and turning like a living thing. As everyone gazed at the spectacle, Hall declared, "There are thousands of worms here--more than I can count!" Along with immature and adult earthworms, the tub contained countless eggs, wood lice, and many other bugs and insects that we couldn't identify. An entomologist's dream come true! The odor was fresh and claylike. At the very bottom of the hamper was a dense layer of material that was devoid of worms or life. But the rest was like rich potting soil. There was no sign of toilet paper anywhere.

Our experiment was an overflowing success. Not only did we no longer have clogs, but, without the paper, we were able to flush the commode by pouring recycled water into the bowl, thus increasing our water savings.

Now that we've endured five years of drought here in Southern California, I think of that hamper often. Hard times require innovative measures.

For FOUR YEARS they used that hamper without emptying it. Brilliant, aye? OK, I realize that there are people from all over the world that may or may not be familiar with the phrase ‘hamper’. It is usually called a clothes hamper or laundry hamper. They come in all different sizes, shapes and materials these days, but the one used in this experiment had a solid (but not waterproof) bottom, breathable sides and a hinged lid. While there is quite a lot of leeway in the materials it is made of, it is important that the sides are breathable. Below are a few examples.

I say, try it out NOW, this summer, so you KNOW firsthand how it all works. Then it won’t be just some story that is amusing, it will be TRUTH.

We have the Yelm Earthworm Farm here in Yelm, so there are worms close at hand, but here is the thing with them: they only sell the worms by the pound ($24.95 per pound) and a pound of red wiggler worms has 700-1000 worms, so you will have worms to share, or worms for your garden or compost pile. And if you don’t live here in Yelm, they SHIP their worms! You can check out their website at which has all their contact information. They probably haven’t heard about worms being used in this manner (yet), but I bet they will soon :-D

Happy experimenting! I’d love to hear your stories later this year!

Here is the PS about the plunger for washing clothes: There are only a couple of models made anymore and this is the best one out there for many reasons. You can actually feel the water being pushed through the clothes and pulled through the clothes, while creating the "Breathing" action from the washer - this produces great cleaning results! Generally about 30 seconds to 1 minute of good agitation is all that is needed for most clothes - a little longer for more heavily soiled clothes.

All you have to do is get a 5 gal bucket with the lid that is easy to snap on and off (not the gasketed type) and cut a hole in the lid a bit bigger diameter than the handle. Then to wash clothes you put the clothes, soap, water and plunger in the bucket (so it is about 2/3’s full), slide the lid over the plunger handle and snap in place, and go to town. (This plunger can also be used in wash tubs or sinks as well.) Not only is it simple and inexpensive, it works REALLY well! (See it here Superior Plunger Hand Washer )

Teri Simpson
Optimum Preparedness


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