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Toilet Paper Alternatives

If you and your rear are tired of dry toilet paper, what toilet paper alternatives are there for you? 

This is an introduction to toilet paper alternatives.  Cast your vote at the bottom for your favorite toilet paper alternative.

How Did We Come to Use Toilet Paper?

Toilet paper is a surprisingly recent development in the history of human hygiene.  China is widely believed to have invented toilet paper.  Yan Zhitui made the first known historical reference to paper used for wiping in the 6th Century, saying:  “Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from the Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes.”  In other words, out of respect, Yan Zhitui avoided wiping with paper inscribed with the Five Classics and the names of sages, implying that paper was a known wiping method in those times.  However, it was not until nearly 900 years later that China was believed to manufacture paper specifically for wiping on a large scale. 

The Americas were still many centuries away from using toilet paper.  Prior to the late 1800’s, the Americas used what we have dubbed the “closest smooth-ish object” method (i.e., identifying the closest object that was relatively smooth and using it to wipe).  For example, early Americans used corn cobs, straw, newspapers, catalogs, and magazines to wipe.

Patents related to toilet paper started to appear in the late 1800’s.

And it was not until the early 1900’s that toilet paper began to be manufactured on a large scale in the form that we know it today.

It was presumably a challenging sell for early toilet paper titans – why would the public pay money for toilet paper when they had free newspapers, corn cobs, and straw out back?  Furthermore, marketing campaigns for toilet paper in the 1930’s boasted that toilet paper was “splinter free,” leaving us to infer that earlier toilet paper in fact provided customers with “free” splinters.

What likely began as a difficult sell became the go-to wiping method over the course of the 20th Century and into the 21st Century.  Finally, Americans had a product specifically for wiping.

Why Are People Looking for Toilet Paper Alternatives?

Once a luxury compared to the corn cob, consumers began to look for toilet paper alternatives in search of improved hygiene and comfort.  Toilet paper had come a long way from the early days when toilet paper splintered mid-wipe.  However, toilet paper does not contain any actual cleansing ingredients. Consumers began to realize that toilet paper does wipe, but it does not actually clean or sanitize.  Furthermore, because it is dry, it can lead to chafing, irritation, and an insufficient clean.

Take these social media testimonials commenting on the shortcomings of toilet paper for example:

In a world of ever-improving cleanliness standards, hygiene and comfort have become primary drivers behind consumers’ search for toilet paper alternatives. 

What Toilet Paper Alternatives Are On The Market?

There are surprisingly more toilet paper alternatives available than you may imagine.  While it is true that all “closest smooth-ish objects” are toilet paper alternatives, we will address those toilet paper alternatives that are purchased by consumers for the primary purpose of wiping.

  1. The Wet Wipe

Wet wipes are one of the most commonly adopted toilet paper alternatives.  Wet wipes (originally known as “wet naps”) were invented in the 1950’s.  Wet wipes were not originally used as a toilet paper alternative, but instead were first sold to Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) to wipe dirty hands.

It was not until the 1990’s that wet wipes became popular to wipe baby bottoms in the form that we know them today. 

Wet wipes remained a toilet paper alternative primarily for wiping babies bottoms for the next 10-15 years.

In the last decade, wet wipe demand has grown by 50%.  This is due in part to the adoption of wet wipes by all ages as a toilet paper alternative.  Now, babies, big kids, teenagers, adults, and seniors alike use wet wipes as a toilet paper alternative to improve comfort and hygiene because wet wipes do more than just wipe.

Pros of Wet Wipes as Toilet Paper Alternative:

  • Typically contains cleansing ingredients
  • Moisture can prevent chafing and improve comfort
  • Typically cost effective
  • More portable than other toilet paper alternatives

Cons of Wet Wipes as Toilet Paper Alternative:

  • Chemicals and synthetic fibers in wipes can cause irritation
  • Many wipes are made with plastic and therefore not truly flushable or biodegradable
  • Governments are beginning to consider wet wipe bans because of damage to city sewers and water treatment facilities and negative environmental effects
  • Wet wipes can dry out and/or mold if left exposed to air
  1. The Fixed Bidet

The fixed bidet is another well known toilet paper alternative.  The fixed bidet is an actual fixture itself, as opposed to an attachment to a standard toilet. 

The fixed bidet is believed to have been invented by French furniture makers in the late 17th century.  Bidet is a French word meaning “pony” based on the position that is assumed while using the bidet.

The fixed bidet can come in two forms.  A first form is a bidet that is entirely independent and separate from the toilet, such as the one depicted below.  With this first form, a user moves from the toilet to the bidet when needed. 

A second form of the fixed bidet (which can be called an “integrated bidet” or a “smart toilet”) combines the bidet and toilet functions into a single fixture so that moving from the toilet is not required, such as the one below.

Pros of the Fixed Bidet as Toilet Paper Alternative:

  • Moisture can prevent chafing and improve comfort
  • Hands free
  • Free after initial investment

Cons of the Fixed Bidet as Toilet Paper Alternative:

  • Does not contain cleansing ingredients, only water
  • Initial investment is substantial (from $100 to $1,500, not including installation)
  • May still have to wipe with toilet paper after use
  • Not as portable as other toilet paper alternatives
  • Requires installation
  1. The Attachable Bidet

The attachable bidet can be attached to any standard toilet and plumbing system.  The attachable bidet has more modern beginnings.  It is believed to have been introduced in the early 1900’s when John Kellogg applied for a patent on an “anal douche.”  The idea was to provide a toilet paper alternative with the same benefits as a fixed bidet, but without the cost and stringent installation requirements.

There are primarily two types of attachable bidets.  A first type (and the one originally envisioned by John Kellogg in the early 1900’s) is a hose that is attached to the plumbing and housed next to the toilet.  While not hands free, the user has free reign on angling this attachable bidet with manual control.

 

A second type of attachable bidet is integrated with the toilet itself.  It is activated by a knob or control that protrudes from the side of the toilet.  A nozzle hangs underneath the lip of the toilet to distribute water.  There is less control over the angling of the water distribution, but this type of attachable bidet is hands free.

 

Pros of the Attachable Bidet as Toilet Paper Alternative:

  • Moisture can prevent chafing and improve comfort
  • Can be hands free (if you do not choose the hose)
  • Free after initial investment
  • Initial investment is less than fixed bidet (anywhere from $24 to $100)
  • More portable than fixed bidet

Cons of the Attachable Bidet as Toilet Paper Alternative:

  • Does not contain cleansing ingredients, only water
  • May still have to wipe with toilet paper after use
  • Not as portable as other toilet paper alternatives
  • Requires installation
  1. Toilet Paper Spray

Toilet paper spray is a recently developed toilet paper alternative.  Toilet paper spray is sprayed directly onto toilet paper (or dry or cloth wipes, if using to wipe a baby) to moisten the toilet paper so that it functions like a wet wipe.  Toilet paper spray originated because of the public’s desire to improve hygiene and comfort, while avoiding chemicals, clogged pipes, installation issues, and high costs.

Pros of Toilet Paper Spray as Toilet Paper Alternative:

  • Contains cleansing ingredients
  • Moisture can prevent chafing and improve comfort
  • Cost effective
  • Does not clog pipes, damage sewers or machinery, or end up in landfill
  • More portable than other toilet paper alternatives
  • Doubles as an air freshener

Cons of Toilet Paper Spray as Toilet Paper Alternative:

  • May have learning curve to perfect use
  • Requires two hands to use (unless you also acquire an automatic sprayer)
  • Not yet widely available in retail locations
  1. Makeshift Toilet Paper Alternatives

There are a wide variety of makeshift toilet paper alternatives that can improve comfort and hygiene.  Each of these toilet paper alternatives requires some extra work compared with those listed above, but are typically more cost effective.

  • Take a shower. Some people do not feel clean after restroom use without a shower, no matter what toilet paper alternative they use.  If this is you, shower away – it’s free.
  • Wet toilet paper in the sink. Many people who commonly use toilet paper alternatives have tried this in a pinch.  The upside is that it is better than dry toilet paper.  The downside is that it really doesn’t work that well.  Toilet paper beads or tears, and often times the sink is not within arms reach.
  • Wet paper towels in the sink. Paper towels are more durable than toilet paper, so beading and tearing will likely not occur.  However, the durability also makes them rough on the skin and prevents them from biodegrading after flushing, which can lead to clogs.

 

Now that you know the toilet paper alternatives available to you, please cast your vote for your favorite.  Also, if you know of any toilet paper alternatives that have been overlooked, please comment so that we can update the article.

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