How often do you think about toilet paper? If you’re like most people in the United States, you don’t think about it much. You use it on a daily basis, but you’ve never really considered that there’s an alternative – or that the alternative is far superior.
Why is toilet paper such a bad method for cleaning up after using the bathroom? And what does the alternative look like?
The Problems With Toilet Paper
Let’s explore each of the problems associated with toilet paper, one by one:
- Volume: Understand that the problems of toilet paper are compounded by the sheer volume of this material used on an annual basis. The average American adult uses about a roll of toilet paper each week. That works out to roughly 50 rolls of TP per person, per year; a family of four goes through 200 rolls every year. Excluding young children who aren’t potty trained, that’s a collective 15 billion rolls of toilet paper used by Americans each year.
- Raw materials: Producing toilet paper takes a lot of raw materials. Accordingly, it’s hard to describe this product as environmentally sustainable. Toilet paper, like any type of paper, is made from trees. Tree harvesting has become much more sustainable in recent years, with companies intentionally growing trees, planting new trees to replace them, and harvesting them in a way that minimizes environmental harm. Even so, growing and harvesting trees, as well as producing paper, demands significant water output and energy. Transporting those rolls of toilet paper to your local supermarket costs even more energy, producing more emissions.
- Cleaning inefficiencies: Toilet paper isn’t great at cleaning you. The next time you eat sauce-covered chicken wings or a similarly messy finger food, wipe your hands off with a paper napkin. Chances are, you won’t feel clean afterwards; you’ll need to use a wet wipe, or better yet, wash your hands totally, to feel truly clean. The truth is, wiping with paper products just isn’t good enough.
- Rough texture: Many people splurge on toilet paper intentionally, since the cheapest toilet paper products tend to be rough and irritating. But even if you purchase the softest, most luxurious brand on the market, you still might be in store for a rough experience. Paper has a rough texture that causes irritation, making the cleanup process uncomfortable, and at times, unbearable. It can even stimulate the production of hemorrhoids.
- Clogs: Most of us have had the unpleasant experience of using too much toilet paper and suffering a toilet clog. These types of clogs can often be cleared with some quick work from a plunger and some elbow grease, but more advanced clogs can get into your sewer line and cause some real plumbing complications. Certain types of toilet paper are designed to prevent clogging – and you can always use a bit less toilet paper with each bathroom visit – but clogs will always be a risk.
- Costs: A year of toilet paper costs around $160 if you buy it as cheaply as possible, taking advantage of bulk sales and choosing a generic brand. If you want to splurge on higher quality toilet paper, you’ll probably spend a few hundred dollars every year. This is nowhere close to being your biggest expense, but it is a significant one.
What’s the Alternative?
So if toilet paper is so bad, what’s the alternative? We still need to clean ourselves somehow.
For most people, the best alternative is a bidet installed in your bathroom. This device is designed to clean your underside with a jet of water, which can usually be controlled in terms of intensity and temperature. When clean, you can pat yourself dry with a small bit of toilet paper or a towel.
These are some of the advantages of using a bidet:
- Low initial costs: How much do you think a bidet costs? It’s probably cheaper than you think. Certain luxury, decked-out bidet brands might cost thousands of dollars, but you can get an attachment for your existing toilet for around $100.
- Easy installation: Having a bidet installed by a plumber will be expensive though, right? In reality, you may not need a plumber at all. Modern bidets are often designed to be easily installed on an existing toilet or seat.
- A better clean: A stream of water will always clean you more thoroughly and more comfortably than a sheet of paper. If you like to walk away from the bathroom feeling totally clean, this is the best option for you.
- Less irritation: Switching from toilet paper to a bidet means you’ll experience less irritation when cleaning yourself. As a result, people who use bidets are less likely to experience hemorrhoids.
- Lower ongoing costs: Modern bidets don’t use much water or electricity. There is a cost in using this type of device, but it’s usually much, much less expensive than toilet paper.
- Higher sustainability: Experts speculate that on average, bidets are more sustainable than toilet paper. Even though they use a small amount of water for each cleaning session, they use less water overall, they need little energy, and they don’t produce extra waste.
Toilet paper may be a mainstay of our culture, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing for our health or bathroom comfort. If you’re willing to try a new device and a new method for cleaning yourself, you might be pleasantly surprised at the results.