For most of human history, people didn’t worry about running out of toilet paper. That’s because they didn’t use it at all.
Two thousand years ago, ancient Romans pooped in public bathrooms. They wiped with a sponge attached to the end of a stick. When they were finished, they washed the sponge in vinegar or saltwater and left it for the next person to use.
People who didn’t feel like sharing had other choices. A handful of leaves or moss worked reasonably well, as did stones, shells, and even corncobs. Sailors used the end of a rope dipped in saltwater. Sometimes, in the winter, snow was the only option.
Paper was invented 2,200 years ago in China. It was used mainly for writing, but old books often found a place in the bathroom. In the 1800s, Americans read The Old Farmer’s Almanac to get information about gardening and the weather. Then they made sure the pages didn’t go to waste—by using them to wipe!