COVID-19 Hoarding Substitutions
This for that graphic for substitution article

Written by Erica Messenger

I am a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, a certified Koru Mindfulness instructor, I have a dual major degree in Public Relations and Advertising, and I was a non-commissioned officer in the United States Air Force. All of these experiences, and my passion to help others, guide me in working with clients. Sometimes it is unexpected life changes that forge new ways for me to interact with and help clients.

March 16, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing some heavy freak-out for a lot of people and during this intense time, some communities are resorting to hoarding behaviors which is leaving very little product on store shelves. I’ve decided to do my part by offering suggestions that may help, none of which are supposed to substitute medical advice or anything the CDC or WHO is posting. I have referred to the CDC and WHO websites for many things in this post, so I am providing the most accurate information possible.

If you find it helpful, please feel free to share with others.

*Click here to read my health disclaimer*

I’d like to first offer substitutions for the products most hoarded right now in the U.S.




portable bidet and a washrag for dabbing the delicates

TP, wastepaper, ass wipe, loo paper (for my Brit friends) and, AF Form 1 (for my USAF brothers and sisters out there!)

My guess as to why people are hoarding this item? If you are quarantined for any reason, going to the store to buy TP is not going to happen and although most grocers now provide delivery service, it’s expensive. Also, it’s one of those products that people believe there isn’t a substitute.

What did we do hundreds of years ago before toilet paper? Leaves, smooth river rock, newsprint, corncobs, fabric, and good, old-fashioned butt washing were all used before the manufacturing of toilet paper.

One thing I’ve always admired about traveling abroad is the use of bidets in other countries. Bidets are small bowl-like fixtures, usually installed next to the toilet, used after peeing or pooping (ick) to clean your “parts”.

I’ve created a portable version of this using a squeeze bottle (think ketchup) at home for my own purposes and it works like a charm (thanks for the idea, Naomi!). Check out the “COVID-19 hoarding got you down?” infographic for instructions on how to make a portable bidet for yourself!


alcohol wipes (if available)

bleach water and paper towels

190-proof grain alcohol and paper towels

Alcohol content in spirits is about half of the proof number. The CDC and WHO suggest hand sanitizer’s efficacy at killing the coronavirus is at over 60% alcohol.

Regular 80-proof vodka WILL NOT WORK.

190-proof grain alcohol, like Everclear 190, is approximately 85% alcohol, some grain alcohol has a higher percentage, and should do in a pinch. It is drying to the skin, however, so add some Witch Hazel, aloe vera gel, vegetable glycerin, or keep moisturizer on hand.


Best to wash hands with soap and water, but if you’re in a pinch, you can use hand sanitizer instead.

alcohol wipes (if available)

190-proof alcohol, aloe gel (if available), witch hazel, or glycerin, and anti-viral essential oils

91% or higher isopropyl alcohol, aloe gel or vegetable glycerin or witch hazel, anti-viral essential oils

NOTE: All but a few essential oils must be used in a diluted form. A good rule of thumb is to use a 1% dilution, about one drop per teaspoon of liquid or 40 drops per 8 ounces of liquid. Many oils are damaging to the skin if used straight. A few anti-viral essential oils good for surfaces and hands are:


  • Tea Tree
  • Red Thyme
  • Cinnamon
  • Carrot Seed (Wild Carrot)
  • Clove



  • Eucalyptus
  • Ginger
  • Star Anise
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon Balm (Melissa)



    bar soap made into hand soap

    castile soap


    laundry detergent

    There are a lot of misunderstandings about soap and how it works to prevent the spread of disease. I won’t get into too much science, but soap is considered a surfactant and an emulsifier, which means it creates a very slippery environment for germs. In some bacteria, outer cellular membranes are broken down by soaps, while most viruses don’t have the same type of outer membrane and are simply washed down the drain by the mechanical action of soap.

    In the case of the Coronavirus, it is a self-assembled nanoparticle in which the weakest link is the lipid (fatty) bilayer and soap dissolves this fat membrane and the virus falls apart and becomes inactive.

    This is why handwashing is so important. If you can’t find hand soap or dish soap, instead use bar soap, castile soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, any surfactant will do as long as it is not harmful to your skin. Some of these alternatives have varying pH’s, so do not use straight and do not use for a long period of time…use only in a pinch, like when the stores’ shelves are bare.

    Here are a couple of quick recipes that will work with things you may have around your house.


    4 cups   distilled water
    1 bar     natural soap (like Ivory, Kirk’s or Dr. Bronner’s)

    1. Grate bar soap with a cheese grater.
    2. Warm water over stovetop in a clean  saucepan, but do not boil.
    3. Add grated soap.
    4. Stir until dissovled. 
    5. Add to squirt bottle or squeeze bottle.  In the past, I’ve reused an olive oil bottle with a weighted oil dispenser top.

    This formula doesn’t work well in a pump bottle because the formula is much more liquid than a hand soap. Don’t try it. Really, don’t. IT WILL squirt violently out of the pump…soap will spew onto clothing like Mount Vesuvius…enough said.



    1 part       castile soap
    12 parts    distilled water

     You can use straight, but it is very concentrated and so not necessary. You can use a dilution of 1:12 or approximately 2 ounces of castile soap to 12 ounces of water. You may add essential oils if preferred at a 1% dilution or about 40 drops per 8 ounces of liquid.

    I like Dr. Bronner’s unscented castile soap because it is not 100% castile soap and isn’t as drying; it also contains coconut oil, olive oil, hemp oil, jojoba oil, and vitamin E (tocopherol).


    32 oz.    distilled water
    1 Tbsp    liquid laundry detergent (unscented if possible)

    This formula is to be used in a pinch and not as a permanent substitute for hand soap or dish soap. Laundry detergent has enzymes in it that are harsh on hands.

    I use Seventh Generation Unscented Laundry Detergent.


    2 parts    shampoo
    1 part      water

    This formula can be used all the time. The pH is different than hand soap, but it is not harmful to skin. It will likely be more expensive to use long-term than regular liquid hand soap refills. I regularly use shampoo that is free from dyes, paraben, formaldehyde, SLS, propylene glycol, and phthalates.

    Right now, I’m using Renpure Tea Tree and Sage Shampoo.

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    1. Amy

      Awesome information…AND fun to read too! Thanks for posting super valuable info!! Stay safe out there!

    2. Carol

      Great information! I especially like the “this for that” section. Not only does it help in making sure I always have what I need, but I’m definitely saving money as well!


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