What did China use for toilet paper?
When not dirtying their drinking water they could also be found using rags, wood shavings, grass, leaves, hay, moss, snow, sand, stone and even, oddly, seashells. I'm betting that some of them weren't exactly as delicate and comforting as today's modern toilet paper.
Many Asian toilets don't use paper at all, they may have a hose as a bidet, or water pale, using their hands to clean, actually, you may find the Chinese are much closer to western style than other Asian cultures.
Among tools people used in the past were moss, sponge on a stick, ceramic pieces and bamboo 'spatulas. '
Unlike in developed countries, most public toilets in China do not provide toilet paper onsite and users must bring their toilet paper. Moreover, an open waste bin is placed in each user's cubicle to collect used toilet paper and tissues.
But what did people use before toilet paper was readily available? That depends on what part of the world you are from: Traditionally, people in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent use water and the mechanical action of the left hand.
Mullein aka “cowboy toilet paper”
If the cowboys used the large velvety leaves of the mullein (Verbascum thapsus) plant while out on the range, then you can too! Mullein is a biennial plant available for use in almost every bioregion.
"Sandpaper"-like toilet paper is still in use in some toilets in Russia and Eastern Europe. Yes, the soft stuff is available for general purchase. The gray-to-brownish Soviet-issue toilet paper is as bad as the stereotype - to varying degrees.
The Romans cleaned their behinds with sea sponges attached to a stick, and the gutter supplied clean flowing water to dip the sponges in. This soft, gentle tool was called a tersorium, which literally meant “a wiping thing.” The Romans liked to move their bowels in comfort.
If you relieved yourself in a public latrine in ancient Rome, you may have used a tersorium to wipe. These ancient devices consisted of a stick with a vinegar- or salt water-soaked sponge attached.
One of the more popular early American wiping objects was the dried corn cob. A variety of other objects were also used, including leaves, handfuls of straw, and seashells. As paper became more prominent and expendable, early Americans began using newspapers, catalogs, and magazines to wipe.