Toilet Paper Ain’t Good for Sh*t

Here’s a stand you can take while sitting down.

Artwork by Joel Gunz

With the coronavirus pandemic creating chaos in the toilet paper aisle, now’s a great time to get our rear ends back to school for some potty (re)training. Why? Because of this number:


That’s how many trees are sacrificed to mankind’s bungholes — every day. And America’s the biggest consumer by far. Our TP consumption is literally wiping out the world’s forests. That was a poo pun. There will be more. Many more.

If you live in America, you might think that a wad of Angel Soft is the best, the cleanest, the only right way to battle the cling-ons. But the fact is, there are other ways to tidy up after the toilet, and our friends, the trees, would greatly appreciate it if you’d consider them. In fact, worldwide, most people don’t use toilet paper at all. And they’re better off for it: cleaner, more comfy and less guilty. Instead, they use water, along with a variety of tools that get it where it needs to go after they let go.

Filipino-Americans know that when their relatives visit from overseas, they need to keep a tabo — sort of a short-handled ladle — handy in the bathroom for a cleansing up-splash. Meanwhile, throughout the Indian subcontinent you’ll find the teapot-like lota. Pouring from their right hand, they’ll catch the water in their left hand and whisk away the remains of their lunch. It’s a time-honored practice: 4,000-year-old lotas have been dug up, ready to face our backsides again. Compare that to toilet paper, invented in 1857.

When it’s time for that private moment, many city-dwelling Asians won’t consider going number two without their number one friend — a health faucet or “bum gun” at their side. It’s basically a small handheld shower that hangs conveniently next to the toilet. One brisk water wipe is all you need to reset your rectum.

But you might prefer a bidet, common in Europe and Japan. Attached to the toilet (or in fancier homes, installed next to the toilet with its own basin), it produces a comfy, buttward jet that curiously resembles that of a drinking fountain. Some feature a simple on-off knob, while others resemble an airplane cockpit, with controls for temperature, spray pattern, intensity and only their engineers know what else.

This is the device that Americans everywhere should be switching to. Bountifully available online and offering a hands-free cleansing experience, it goes right along with our national germophobic avoidance of our own poopholes. And because everyone has to go sometimes, a fancy bidet in your bathroom can be a symbol of conspicuous consumption (not to mention evacuation). Or you can go cheap — it’ll still clean you up real good. And by wiping toilet paper off your shopping list, most any bidet you choose will pay for itself in a couple of months.

But, you may ask, what about all that extra water usage? Aren’t bidets a drain on precious water resources? Nope. A bidet uses a piddling 1/8 of a gallon per use (compared to a single flush, which averages four gallons) — while it takes 37 gallons of water, 1.3 kilowatt/hours of electricity and a pound and a half of wood to make a single roll of toilet paper.

Here’s another reason to rethink our bathroom behaviors. Toilet paper doesn’t work. (Environmentally, wet wipes are even worse.) Either way, at best, you’re merely smooshing that gunk around. Muslim countries, whose religion maintains bodily cleanliness as a religious practice, have a far more skid-mark-free track record than America. In fact, Westerners’ use of poop-smearing, finger-pokable toilet paper provokes an ick factor for them that’s hard to, well, shake off. Here’s how the Muslim writer Javaria Akbar puts it:

My ass is as hygienic as an intensive care ward. Why? Because, just like millions of other Muslims, I wash my backside after every visit to the toilet…. Using a lota is like a mini douche and, to be honest, a quick swipe of scrunched-up toilet paper seems a lot seedier than a lovely, water-based ablution (which feels pretty good).

Think about it: if you get poop on your hands, are you just going to wipe it away with a tissue? No. You’ll run to the sink horrified and scrub that shit off, with soap. Why not treat your derriere just as well?

Now that we’ve made great strides toward reducing paper use in the workplace, here’s a stand you can take while sitting down. Join the movement for the #paperlesspotty!

Writer, filmmaker and Alfred Hitchcock geek.

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