Wet Wipes vs Toilet Paper:  The Battle in the Bathroom

Where do you stand on the wipes vs toilet paper battlefront? Or do you use a third option, like toilet paper spray

Wipes vs toilet paper - the Battle in the Bathroom that takes place every morning across the United States (and across the world).  Your choice will affect your comfort for the rest of the day.  Your choice may also affect your skin, your plumbing/septic tank, and your wallet.  

So, which option is better – wet wipes or toilet paper?  And did you know that there is actually a third option that is rapidly becoming the future of the way we wipe? (For more on toilet paper spray, check out our article here.)

You are not alone in your quest for the best.  The “wet wipes vs toilet paper" debate is raging online.  A quick Google search for "wipes vs toilet paper" will return many surveys, opinions, and general advice for people who are similarly looking to effectively engage on the battlefront.

We aim to arm you with the necessary facts that will enable you to make an informed decision before you engage in your battle today.

"Wipes vs Toilet Paper" – What Do Statistics Say?

Before diving into the details, let’s take a look at some wipes vs toilet paper statistics.

TreeHugger.com commissioned a "wipes vs toilet paper" online survey from its readers.  Of over 1,500 voters, toilet paper returned a commanding 65% lead, with about 16% of participants using a bidet, and about 14% of participants using wet wipes.  Despite the lopsided results, TreeHugger.com noted an increasing trend in wipes use, especially among millennials.

Another example can be found at an impromptu “wipes vs toilet paper” online survey on BodyBuilding.com.  The survey of 50 participants placed wipes in the lead with almost 47% of the vote, followed by toilet paper at 32%, with an astounding 20% of participants refusing to admit that the wipes vs toilet paper debate is a two horse race and opting to jump in shower instead.  The forum continues with (hilarious) anecdotal evidence supporting many of the voters’ choices:

As you can see, these two "wipes vs toilet paper" online surveys show America’s divide.  Does the gym BRUH have a more sensitive rear than the environmentalist?  While the environmentalist may be used to wiping with pine cones and/or dried kale, we suspect that various surveys may reflect the bias of the reader perusing that particular website.  For that reason, it is difficult to get America’s unbiased pulse on the issue.

Let’s dive in to find out on which side you land of the ongoing wipes vs toilet paper debate.

"Wipes vs Toilet Paper" – Why does it matter?

Why are we wasting our time on the wipes vs toilet paper debate?  Don’t both options result in the same end game?  Not really.

Your choice effects your hygiene and comfort, your plumbing/septic tank, and, ultimately, your finances.  Therefore, when it comes to choosing wipes vs toilet paper, it’s incredibly important to have a thorough understanding of the differences between the two and the effects each option may have.  Wipes and toilet paper each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and as many have pointed out, your choice of weapon in the Battle in the Bathroom does not always have to be limited to two options.

“TP is my jam - if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

Toilet paper garners the most inertia in the wipes vs toilet paper debate.  It’s been the go-to "cleansing" option for centuries, it is the only option provided in public restrooms, and you better believe your grandpappy will question any cleansing method that is not dry, coarse, one-ply toilet paper.  All jokes aside, the inertia toilet paper has is astounding.  An article on the origins of toilet paper estimates that the first official toilet paper was introduced in China in 1391.  That is a monumental 620+ years of momentum that toilet paper has in the wipes vs toilet paper melee.  A U.S. patent relating to toilet paper issued for the first time in 1891:

Society's use of toilet paper is ancient and ingrained in the fabric of bathroom etiquette.  Therefore, a great number of people still prefer to use toilet paper over wet wipes. According to statistics at Reference.com, the average United States resident uses approximately 57 sheets of toilet paper a day and more than 20,000 sheets of toilet paper each year.

So, beyond the inertia from the past, does toilet paper offer any modern day benefits over wipes?

Toilet paper is (mostly) natural.

For the most part, toilet paper is made from pulp of hard and softwood trees.  There are some chemicals added during processing to remove color from the paper, but for the most part, toilet paper is basically just mashed up, spread out, and dried up tree.   Therefore, when you wipe with toilet paper, you really are not putting much on your backside other than mother nature herself.

Why does this matter?  Because wet wipes are not necessarily natural.  You need to keep a keen eye on wet wipe ingredients.  Many wipes can contain harsh, synthetic chemicals that can cause allergies and skin irritations.   Many articles have surfaced regarding severe damage that certain chemicals found in wipes can do to skin, such as this article that discusses the potentially harmful effects on children from the chemical Methylisothiazolinon.  Many damaging chemicals are quickly banned by governments; however, some chemicals continue to cause allergies, even if "approved" by a country's relevant cosmetic agency.  Significant time has been spent in culling through the many different wet wipe brands to determine which brands have natural or "safe" ingredients for consumers to trust on their bodies.  Furthermore, wipes can be made from synthetic fibers that are more harsh on the skin than toilet paper.  Many articles have highlighted the importance of avoiding chemicals on your skin, and consumers are increasingly seeking out natural alternatives to products.

Long story short, you don't have to worry about toilet paper, so we can chalk 1 in the "advantage" column for toilet paper in the wipes vs toilet paper brouhaha.

Toilet paper does not clog sewer systems or damage water treatment facilities.   This is an "advantage" to TP in the wipes vs toilet paper struggle that is quickly becoming a very big deal.  Barring the size of your movement, you will typically not clog your plumbing or septic system with toilet paper.   Toilet paper is made from natural fibers such that it degrades quickly in water. Wipes, on the other hand, are becoming rapidly notorious for causing plumbing issues (even if labeled "flushable") - both at the home and at the city level - because wipes are made from non-woven material that does not disintegrate easily.  For example, watch this compelling Consumer Reports video that compares the degrade-ability of wipes vs toilet paper.   Toilet paper degrades almost instantly, while the wet wipe does not degrade at all - even after 10 minutes.

There is a litany of articles online discussing the negative impact that wet wipes are having on sewer systems.  This is largely due to the increased use of wet wipes by adults.  Because wipes don't degrade, wipes cling to fat and oils in the sewer systems to form large blockages known as "fatbergs."  For example, check out this enormous 2,000+ pound fatberg that was recently removed from Australian sewers:

This is just a portion of the 2,000+ pound fatberg, as much of it was removed by hand, one bucket at a time.  Hunter Water Corporation, which was interviewed for the article reporting the 2,000+ pound fatberg, estimated that approximately 80% of all clogs in Australia result from wet wipes.  Moreover, the Water Services Association of Australia estimated wet wipes are costing water utilities $15 million per year.  Who pays for public utilities?  You've got it!  You and I - the taxpayer!

This problem is not isolated to Australia.  A quick Google search reveals that this problem is all over the world - an enormous 20,000 pound fatberg was found in London and United States states and cities are beginning to sue wipemakers.  Vegas has set the odds at 99.999% that you and I are footing the bill for these clogs.

If you care about the environment, this may be an easy vote for toilet paper in the wipes vs toilet paper skirmish.  For those that aren't environmentalists, it is at least troublesome that we are all paying for damaged machinery and unclogging sewers due to wipes.  Whether this tips the scale for the non-environmentalist is for you to decide.

Toilet paper is (Usually) Available in Public Facilities.  Toilet paper is the only cleansing agent that is always (well, almost always, if you’re lucky) available in public facilities.  If you can train your backside to accept that dry toilet paper is as good as it gets, you won’t be so distraught when tragedy strikes in public and you have to visit a public restroom.  What your ass don’t know, won’t hurt it.  At least the dry TP users can function after a public restroom use, which is likely a day-ruiner for a wet wipe user.

Furthermore, wet wipes are prohibited in some facilities, such as cruise ships and most boats in general.  If you are a wipe user, there are some "prohibited" wet wipe facilities.  For example, cruise ships, and most ships in general, prohibit anything from being flushed down the toilet except for "The 3 P's": poop, pee, and paper.  Real life horror movies have been made about multi-day inoperable restroom facilities on entire floors of a cruise ship due to wet wipe clogs.   Therefore, if your heiny is used to toilet paper, you are going to be status quo on cruise ships, sail boats, and military vessels, while wipe users will be forced to live in agony or inconvenience a large portion of the ship.

Toilet paper gets the "availability" award in the wipes vs toilet paper brawl.

Toilet Paper is Cheaper.  The wipes vs toilet paper debate favors TP when it comes to cost.  We think it is best to normalize the cost under a term "Cost Per Movement" or "CPM":  how much are you paying each time you mount the throne?  A quick Amazon search for wet wipes reveals that you can expect to pay about $0.04 per wet wipe, so, assuming 4 wipes per movement, you can expect to pay about $0.16 per movement (your "CPM").  Your CPM is a bit harder to estimate for toilet paper because the number of sheets per roll is not always advertised.  One Amazon listing estimated  264 sheets per roll and 48 rolls for about $21.  Assuming 6 sheets per wipe, and 4 wipes per movement, you can estimate your CPM to be approximately $0.04.  You could argue that  (1) the dry TP listing is a bulk order so your CPM will be higher, and (2) dry TP requires more wipes because it is not as efficient, so your CPM will be higher.  However, it will not likely be 4 times higher, so we give dry toilet paper the edge if you are on a budget.

Toilet paper can be used for extracurricular purposes.  Okay, we are admittedly grasping at straws here, but there are a few non-traditional uses of toilet paper that cannot be accomplished with wet wipes.  If your friend acts up, toilet paper his house.  We have never heard of wet-wiping someone's house, unless you are the cleaning crew after a party.

As another option, if you’ve already checked your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Bumble, text messages, emails, Whatsapps, Pinterest, LinkedIn, U.S. postal mail, and carrier pigeon messages, and you still have nothing better to do, you can learn how to make amazing origami with your toilet paper for decoration.  You may see this in hotels, but imagine your house guest's surprise if they happen upon your fancy origami.  It is difficult to imagine transforming a wet wipe into something aesthetically pleasing, though I’m sure someone has tried.

“I Wipe with Wipes, Here’s Why”

Hygiene & Comfort.  The primary and extremely compelling driver behind a decision to wipe with wipes is hygiene and comfort.  A meaningful percentage of the population is just not okay walking around all day feeling dirty.  And rightly so.  If you are plagued by discomfort with every step, how can you concentrate on your to-do list?  The natural question is, why do wipes provide that extra level of comfort?  Because wipes actually endeavor to clean/sanitize the region after restroom use, and the added moisture enables the user to fully cleanse an area.  This simply cannot be accomplished with dry toilet paper.

For example, Bro Bible wrote an in depth article on wiping technique, which is a subject unto itself, and that I am sure we will explore in the future.  Bro Bible proffers that proper technique requires “finishing off every doo-doo, regardless of technique, with a wet wipe” and likens the wet wipe finisher to a “mini-shower.”  This does enable the wiper to fully cleanse the region, making for a comfortable day.

In another article exploring wipes vs toilet paper, Women’s Health similarly highlights that, while there may not be any medical benefits to wiping with a wet wipe, it comes down to what makes you feel clean and fresh.

Social media returns the funniest support of wipes in the wipes vs toilet paper strife.  Take a look at these posts that really capture the essence of the wipes advocates in the wipes vs toilet paper feud:

As you can see, comfort and hygiene are the primary drivers behind wipes, and the comforts that wipe use provides seems to outweigh the toilet paper advantages for many bathroom-goers.

And, let’s be honest, we do not use dry paper to actually clean anything else in our lives.  If we want to clean dishes, we use soap and water; if we want to clean a countertop, we use a liquid cleaner and a paper towel.  A restaurant goer would be appalled to find that the kitchen crew simply ran a dry towel over a plate to "clean" it.  That is an example with food - edible food.  Yet, dry toilet paper users continue to assume that the indisputably least clean act of our daily lives warrants the dry paper treatment.  It is unclear where the disconnect occurred that has enabled humans to trick themselves into thinking that dry toilet paper provides a hygienic cleansing experience, but the disconnect is rampant and continues to plague our bathroom cleansing ideology.

So, on the wipes vs toilet paper battlefield, wipes win in hygiene and comfort point, by a long, long shot.

Wipes Are Multi-Purpose.  Many people use wipes for many different things and, as a byproduct, become addicted to the superior cleanse they provide.  For example, a parent may purchase wipes vs toilet paper for a baby, and, while primarily using the wipe for the baby, the parent may choose to enjoy the wipe in private as well.  Similarly, while I don’t recommend it, wipes that are typically meant to clean countertops can also double as makeshift toilet paper if you are in a pinch.  You may feel a sting, but at least the sting is temporary as opposed to the lasting feeling of discomfort all day.

Many outdoorsmen and military friends that I have spoken with pack wipes when they are "in the field."  This enables them to clean their entire body (a makeshift shower), and, if necessary, they can also use wipes post-restroom use to avoid discomfort on long hikes.

Once again, this versatility of the wipe is a direct result from the fact that wipes actually endeavor to remove bacteria from an area.  Wipes get the multi-purpose cleanser award in the wipes vs toilet paper rumble.

Scented Wipes Freshen the Air and Your Derrière.  When compared to an air freshener, wipes are lacking.  But in the wipes vs toilet paper battle, wipes certainly leave the air fresher.  Not to mention, if you are concerned with the air near your derrière, wipes will at least smell differently than your movement – and we both know that any fragrance other than your movement is a step in the right direction.

 Wipes vs Toilet Paper? Why are you trying to jam me up with only 2 options?

It's true that the wipes vs toilet paper debate should not necessarily be restricted to two options.  As consumer hygiene continues to increase, other post-restroom cleansing options have emerged.  We intend to devote an entire post to the "other" category in the wipes vs toilet paper debate.  This "other" category is growing quickly as consumers seek improved hygiene options, are not happy with the discomfort dry toilet paper inevitably causes, but are also not happy with the numerous disadvantages of wet wipes discussed above.  Some of these options include Pristine Cleansing Sprays (our product that we are very proud of, and that we believe circumvents many of the disadvantages of wipes and toilet paper above), bidets, and jumping in the shower.  As I mentioned, we will explore each of these alternatives in detail, but for now, we are limiting the debate to wipes vs toilet paper.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published