‘Basic but practical ways of coping when coronavirus wipes out toilet paper supplies’

Apr 01, 2020
Julie considers reusable options for toilet paper and other sanitary products amidst coronavirus chaos. Source: Getty Images

Surprise! There is now a new way of saying hello in Australia. Sad, but true, no one says “Hello, how are you today? Lovely to see you” or, “Hi, lovely morning, need some rain”. No, the new Australian greeting in these viral times is, “Have you got any toilet paper?”

An old friend came to my front door one afternoon recently and asked, “Have you got any toilet paper?” To which I replied, “No, and no hugging!”

Social customs have changed. She stood at a distance and gave me a bag containing four toilet rolls. I promptly gave her a dozen eggs, which I had bought and she needed.

These days, that is an instance of another new term: ‘Corona Kindness’, where we each look after others, especially our family and friends. How compassionate are you? I have heard that novel expression, “Have you got any toilet paper?” many times in stores over the past few weeks. A new greeting.

What if a real supermarket check-out operator did not practise Corona Kindness. Would she suddenly yell at you or me, “NO! F*** off, Germies! I’m keeping all this stuff for me and my family! You can’t have toilet paper!’ That would not be very compassionate.

Let’s hear a big round of applause for workers in supermarkets, as well as the delivery and truck drivers. They are at the forefront of our new Aussie expression, “Have you got any toilet paper?”

I must write, basically, that time is indifferent to our dependency on Sorbent, or any other brand, toilet rolls. The humans on Earth have survived for thousands of years with no bog rolls, plastic nappies or sanitary napkins for female menstruation. Are they first world luxuries, to which we have been conditioned to consume?

What to use instead? Well, you have to be careful what you do flush down your loo. Social-isolating plumbers who unblock clogged toilets are mighty expensive. First world luxury, our sewerage system. There are other solutions.

In ancient times, people such as the Romans, used sea sponges (now very expensive) to wipe butty bits, then washed them in salt water. Another alternative is cloth, such as towelling. Cloth nappies were the custom, lately in vogue for young mummies with no disposable nappies.

One solution to washing cloth nappies, for all the grandmas there, is to toilet train the babies early. My nanna, and my late mother-in-law, proudly toilet trained their infants at the age of nine months. They watched their kids like hawks and strategically placed enamel bowls (no plastic then), especially after feeding. End of discourse, they were very firm.

Thus, if there is no toilet paper available, use towelling or cloth, soak in salt or solution or disinfectant, with a separate bucket for menstruation cloths. Wash in the first world luxury washing machine, dry and reuse. Just like in the good old days.

These are some tips I am spreading, sage advice, with compassion, or Corona Kindness. Basic, but practical. We are today, a whole human race going nowhere in particular. We must stay safe and dodge viruses.

Ah, an email from a penpal in Florida in the United States. Her greeting, “Have you got any toilet paper? What are things like in Australia?” Time shall be indifferent to our new global greeting. The germs are spreading!

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What practical tips do you have? Do you remember using any of these methods when you were growing up?

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