The Shitty Gritty


In nearly every country I backpack through, the hunt for toilet paper is akin to Indiana’s search for the Holy Grail.

And so I bring my own from home, flattening and finagling to fit rolls of it into my pack.



I barely used them in Cuba, where I was taught by Cubanos to use pages of the Granma.


While staying in tent camps in Haiti weeks after the quake, I shared the flattened rolls with my Haitian neighbors. When we ran out, they showed me where to wash rags used for the shitty-gritty (add another to the multi-uses for Buffs!).


Photo: Sylver Blaque / Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Local children of northern Madagascar rainforest villages followed me into the forest to see how I would use the flattened white roll.

In deeply rural villages in Afghanistan, girls stared suspiciously as I wiped instead of splashing with water.



Thank God there were no smartphones in the remote areas where I’ve shitty-grittied, or my squat would be YouTube-famous right now.



In fact, most people in the world do not use toilet paper, as it is considered an unclean way to wipe. Splashing with water is believed to be much more hygienic, and Westerners are seen as barbaric and backward in their paper-wiping practice.

I can vouch for that since my own barbaric penchant for paper butt-wiping has come with its share of incredulous-to-disgusted stares from foreigners. I would also have been branded an outcast in the Middle Ages, when paper was the one thing they didn’t wipe with.

So, what did they use for the shitty gritty?

Ancient Greeks used stones and shards of broken clay.


Ancient Romans used and re-used sea sponges stuck onto the ends of sticks.

Okay, those guys…definitely not “sponge-worthy.”



The rest of the medieval world used:



Hayballs, dried grass & moss



Coconut shells








Sheep’s wool



Sand & sea shells of every kind



Corn cobs








Leaves & twigs (which is where we get the expression “the dirty end of the stick”)






The left hand!



In the absence of toilet paper, which would you use?


I’m done typin’ about ancient butt-wipin!

It was a nasty past-y!


Read all of Sylver’s Medieval Monday Poo-Pee Posts!medieval-knight-toilet-paper-holder

Medieval Monday

12 thoughts on “The Shitty Gritty

    • Lol. 🙂 Leaves, for sure. Especially fresh ones – more absorbent & softer on the bum. And what better way to recycle old newspapers? Especially political sections that don’t mesh with our personal view! 😛

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