The year 2020 will go down in history as one of the most painful years our families have lived through together. We have yet to see what the COVID-19 final death toll will be. Yet there’s another toll that will also have to be tallied; it’s the impact it months of a shutdown would have on both the national and global economies. Will we end up in a globalized depression?
Yet perhaps the most unforgettable thing this year, rather than even the pandemic, will be remembered for is the year of the Great American Toilet Paper Shortage.
The hysteria associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a rush on toilet paper for some unexplained cause, because it is a respiratory disorder and not a gastrointestinal one.
We will never know what caused the shortage of the Great American Toilet Paper; but we will have to live with that.
That either means waking up at a crazy morning hour to wait in line outside the grocery store, watching the sun rise and hoping some toilet paper will be provided overnight at the supermarket. If luck is with you, you’ll just have to do it once; but if not, you may have to do it in a row for several days to get your hands on any of those precious rolls.
That almost sounds a little bit like a game of craps; you’re paying your money and taking your chances. By comparison, you can go out there with one of the other choices. In lieu of toilet paper, some people explore the concept of using cloth and leaves. We didn’t always have toilet paper to use, after all, so people had to use it.
Too bad Sears still don’t bring out their “big book” as they’ve done for so many years.
These, along with a burlap bag of corn cobs, decorated many an outhouse until the new catalog came out. Yet, we can no longer rely on Sears for this one. If we want paper for our bums and can’t find it somewhere else, then we’ll have to make our own.
In reality, our own is likely to be a lot better than the Sears catalog anyway … and who wants to use a corn cob? Sounds scratchy!
What’s it Going to Take?
If you’re someone recycling newspapers, you’re in great shape. You already have the number one ingredient you need, so you can make your own toilet paper. Although other types of paper can be used to make your TP, newsprint can break down faster and create a softer paper.
Besides newspapers, you’re going to need:
- More newspapers
- Paper shredder
- Electric mixer
- Plastic storage bin
- Frame to fit in the storage bin
- Screen material
- Staple gun
- Putty knife
- Something to cut your TP with
- Something to roll your TP on
Making Your Own Toilet Paper
The first thing we need to do is break the newspaper down in order to turn the newspaper into toilet paper. This can be easily done with water, especially if you give that water a little mechanical help.
- Shred the newspaper with a paper shredder. The smaller your paper shredder shreds the paper, the better. If you don’t have a paper shredder, you can cut or tear the newspaper into strips; but it might need to soak in water longer.
- Place your shredded newspaper in the bucket and cover it with water. You only need enough water to barely cover the shredded newspaper. Any more is a waste.
- Allow the newspaper to sit in the water for 24 hours.
- Using an electric mixer, chop up the wet newspaper, making it into pulp.
This is a fine time to render your screen frame when your newspaper is soaking up. It needs to be as big as possible but it also needs to sit in the bottom of your plastic container. With this, I used 1×2″ pine, but if you wish, you can use wider boards. There are a variety of different ways you can assemble this frame, but the best way is to make butt joints in the corners, and pin them with dowels.
The reason I wanted to dowel the frame’s corners was that glue doesn’t adhere well to end grain.
The frame can remain in water and I don’t want to loosen the joint. Screws do not fit well in end grain either, even though the nails do. And you might try to nail it, but the use of dowel pins is just as simple as that.
First, lock the two pieces making up the corner of the frame to dowel a joint of this kind, so that they are aligned correctly, with the edges flat.
Then drill two holes of the appropriate size for the used dowel. I used 3/8″ dowels, and I drilled my holes into the end grain of the other board with a 23/64″ drill bit, drilling through the lapboard. I ensured the holes were drilled wider than the length of the dowels.
For the holes being drilled, I spread glue for my finger through the splines cut in the sides of the dowel pins. I put them in the holes then flushed them with a wooden mallet. I set the frame aside to dry, until all the corners were firmly pressed together.
Finally, staple screening material on one side of the frame, running outwards from the center.
It needn’t be as close as what you’d be doing with a window, but it should be clear and smooth. If your staples don’t go all the way in, hammer them flush with the top of the wood, so that they will grip the screening properly.
Now that the pulp of your newspaper and the frame is finished, it’s time to make the toilet paper.
- Place your frame into the bin and fill it with water. Ideally, the water should come to just below the top of the frame.
- Scoop up a portion of the newspaper pulp, roughly equal to two cups (the quantity isn’t exact, as your bin might be a different size than mine) and put it in the water, mixing it with the water and spreading it out to fill the entire area.
- Slowly lift the frame out of the water, looking to see, as the water drains out, that the shredded newspaper pulp is evenly spread across the entire are of the screening.
- Allow as much water as possible to drain out of the newspaper pulp.
Now we need to dry the pulp, allowing it to bond back together and turn into paper.
- Set up an ironing board and cover it with a piece of absorbent cloth. An old towel will work. Place the frame, screen side down, on top of this cloth.
- Place another absorbent, but smooth cloth on top of the newspaper pulp inside the frame. An old T-shirt will work.
- Using a clothes iron, set for ironing cotton, iron the cloth, heating the newspaper pulp and drawing the moisture out of it. You’re trying to do two things here; one is to draw the moisture out, and the other is to flatten the surface of the paper. If you don’t iron it, you’re going to end up with some rather scratchy paper.
- Place the frame in the sun to finish drying. You could try drying it all the way with the iron, but that will take a long time.
With the paper dry, we’re ready to make it usable in the bathroom.
- Take a wide putty knife, preferably a plastic one, and use it to break your sheet of toilet paper free of the frame around the edges. Be careful not to cut through the screen, so that you can reuse it.
- Flip the frame over so that the screen side is up and push down gently on the screen, all around the edges. This should break the paper free from the screen. Continue through the middle of the paper as well.
- Flip the frame back over, paper side up and work one corner of your paper free, then pull up the rest, taking care not to tear it.
- Measure the paper, marking it to the width of a toilet paper roll. If you don’ t have any toilet paper rolls to put your homemade TP on, you can cut paper towel or wrapping paper rolls down to four-inch segments.
- Roll the paper onto the cardboard tube, overlapping pieces over each other.
Your finished toilet paper should be thicker than the store-bought paper, even if it’s only a single ply.
Which means you can use less of it, which I would recommend, because it is a little more complicated to produce than just going to the supermarket and buying a four-pack of Charmin. Yet, if you could do so then you wouldn’t have to make your own.