Toilet paper might be one of the least sanitary ways people choose to use to clean up. Really. Despite what you may believe there are more effective, easier, and cheaper alternatives to using toilet paper. Using paper in the bathroom has been documented in China as early as the 6th century, but has only been commercially available since 1857. From there it has quickly taken over western culture as the “only choice” for sanitation of the bottom.
There is no doubt that toilet paper is big business, but is it really better than the alternatives to using toilet paper? Some of the links in this post are affiliate, which means that if you purchase through them I’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you.
Bidet Shower (Hand Held)
A bidet shower is not to be confused with the traditional bidet, which is a separate basin of water either with or without a drain and faucet. A handheld bidet is a tool similar to a kitchen sprayer or a diaper sprayer. It attaches to the side of a conventional toilet and can be used to spray the nether regions clean. This is often used in tandem with a dry towel for after use (see cloth wipes below for ideas that could work here). Toilet paper can also be used to aid in drying.
The handheld bidet was invented by a Thai man living in the US. It is now a dominant product used in many European, Asian, and Arab countries. This is a very simple but effective way of cleaning that has gained in popularity due to its effectiveness, ease of use, and simplicity.
Here are some options:
Also known as family cloth, this is an option for the crunchiest among us. We are proponents of reusables here at Growing Wild Roots with posts on cloth diapers and menstrual cups. However, cloth TP is a frontier we haven’t embarked on yet. Those who have find that a cloth wipe leaves them feeling much cleaner than flimsy paper.
There are several options when it comes to family cloth. Many people who choose this option use them only for pee, and leave rolls of paper for other business and for guests. It is an easier option for families who are already using cloth diapers—the wipes can easily be thrown in with the extensive cleaning cycle of a diaper load. Cloth that is only wet, not soiled, could also be washed with a clothing load, which would save on water use in this option.
An ideal set-up for family cloth would be to use a wet bag. (If you’re not familiar with wet bags check them out. They came on my radar with cloth diapers, but have lots of other uses from wet swimsuits to travelling laundry bags.) I suggest hanging the bag near the toilet and stocking the clean clothes in the clean front pocket or separate bag. Designate a zippered section for the dirty wipes. It will then be easy to grab and empty on wash day (wash the bag along with the load).
If you’re interested to learn more I can suggest this post over at Red & Honey. Here are some options:
Self-Washing Toilets (Washlets)
This may seem high tech and futuristic, but toilets that are engineered to clean your bottom exist and are widely used in Japan. Over half of all households there have self-washing toilets/toilet seats. This creates a hands-free cleaning experience until you need to dry off. Think about it—you can just sit back, relax and have this sprayer do the work!
Ok, this may sound uncomfortable to you, but most things that are new or unfamiliar are at first. These seats come with a wide variety of options including warm water, heated seats, and self-cleaning apparatuses. These are like the Cadillacs of toileting. Not convinced? Read Why America is Losing the Toilet Race. I did, and now all I want is a Japanese toilet in my own bathroom.
Here are some options:
If you’ve read the alternatives you might be wondering why you’re still using toilet paper. It’s a good question, and it’s always worth it to analyze a habit. The average American throws more than $100 down the toilet each year. There’s also the bulky downside of having to regularly pick it up from the store. Perhaps the biggest downfall of toilet paper is environmental. Americans use more of it than anyone else, and a lot of the product comes from virgin forests that could otherwise act as a carbon sink. Then there is also the eco-cost of bleaching, processing, wrapping and shipping it (over and over and over again).
There is a convenience factor, but I suspect the main reason we all use so much TP is a combination of cultural habit and marketing. We spend a lot of money on TP—that’s why you see so many ads for the stuff. We also grew up wiping with paper and as part of a society that seems to value the ability to buy things to use and then throw away.
If you do decide that wiping with paper is the way you want to continue there are better options. Lots of my green internet friends seem to like Who Gives a Crap. You can choose recycled or bamboo toilet rolls that come wrapped in paper.
I like to get my (slightly cheaper) bamboo toilet paper from Public Goods, where I have a membership. Want to give it a try? Get $10 off your first order through my referral code. Or just check Amazon or your local grocery store. The more you can move towards recycled or plastic- and tree-free, the better off we’ll all be. So thanks.
A Final Consideration
These are just a few of some of the alternatives to using toilet paper out there. The questions I would like to leave you with is this: If you were to wash your muddy car what tools would you use? Would you smear everything around with a dry cloth and call it good?
Why should our bums be treated with less respect?