The Healthiest Way to Wipe Your Butt

Carefully and completely wiping the bottom is important for eliminating bacteria

Hands holding toilet roll
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Keeping clean after a bowel movement is important for preventing the spread of bacteria and preventing odor. For most people who have solid bowel movements that are easily passed, this will mean wiping with toilet tissue. In other cases, it might help to use other products such as a bidet, a toilet sprayer, or wet wipes.

Hand washing after using the toilet is also a vital part of using the bathroom and can help prevent infection.

Stool contains a variety of bacteria and if a person is sick, the bacteria on their hands can spread to other items and eventually end up making someone else sick when they touch their mouth or face. This is called fecal-oral transmission and it can happen if someone who is ill with an infectious disease doesn’t wash their hands properly after a bowel movement or after caring for someone who is ill.

The Right Way to Wipe Your Bottom

After comfortably passing a stool, use some toilet paper to wipe the bottom from front to back while avoiding touching any stool with the hands. The paper can be folded or crumpled, whichever seems to work better to get clean.

Reaching around the body and through the back of the legs is often the best method, especially for women, to avoid causing any stool to come in contact with the urethra. However, people who are unable to reach around behind themselves may find that reaching between the legs from the front will work, as long as care is taken in wiping from front to back.

Wiping from front to back is important for women especially because it can help prevent urinary tract infections. Stool contains a variety of bacteria and while that is natural, some of that bacteria can cause infection if it gets into the urethra. Taking care to drink enough fluids and to empty the bladder on a regular basis can also flush bacteria out of the urethra.

There should be enough pressure to wipe any stool off the skin but not so much pressure as to cause discomfort. In some cases, more than one wiping will be needed. Looking at the toilet tissue can help in knowing how much more to wipe; if the tissue comes away mostly clean, more wiping probably isn’t needed. If the tissue is coming away with stool on it, wiping more might be necessary.

After wiping, washing up carefully with soap and warm water will help in removing any bacteria that may have gotten on the hands.

Wiping When Stools Are Loose

When diarrhea is a problem, keeping clean may be more difficult. In that case, using wet wipes, wet toilet paper, a washcloth, a bidet, or a toilet sprayer may be helpful. It might also be helpful to use soap and water to clean the bottom and pat dry if the perianal skin is irritated from frequent bowel movements and wiping.

Sitting in a bathtub of warm water for a few minutes can also help eliminate discomfort. Keeping hands clean after diarrhea is especially important to avoid infecting others, so hand washing should be thorough. In the case of taking care of someone else who is sick with diarrhea (such as a child), wearing disposable gloves and keeping the bathroom clean may also help.

It’s Possible to Wipe Too Much

There is a common condition called pruritus ani, which is anal itching. Wiping the anus too much could lead to dry skin or even small abrasions. It’s an irritation which can become chronic after wiping too much to scratch the itch or in an effort to stay clean and to eliminate the itching.

The use of soaps and other products on the bottom could dry out the skin and make the itching worse. Toilet tissue that is too rough may also irritate the skin further, which feeds into the vicious cycle of itching.

Extreme itching that doesn’t go away or is accompanied by pain or bleeding should be brought to the attention of a doctor, even though it is embarrassing.

This is because there could be a medical reason for the itching, such as a yeast infection or eczema. Home remedies to help heal the perianal skin and stop the itch include avoiding scratching, soaps or perfumes on the area, and spicy foods, as well as using wet toilet paper for gentle wiping and wearing loose clothing.

Using a Bidet

A bidet or a toilet sprayer can make bathroom trips more comfortable, especially for anyone who is coping with diarrhea or any problems with the perianal skin. A bidet is a fixture that uses water to clean off the bottom and is generally considered a better way to keep clean after a bowel movement. However, bidets are not common in the United States, but they can be installed either as a standalone fixture or integrated into a toilet seat.

A Word From Verywell

Wiping the bottom is taught during potty training, usually by parents who are training their toddlers. There are a variety of ways to wipe the bottom and keep clean after using the toilet and most people will find the method that works best for them. However, no matter exactly how the bottom is wiped, it’s important to keep the area clean and carefully wash hands after in order to prevent the spread of disease.

Wiping too little can leave stool on the skin and wiping too much could lead to irritation. Gentle wiping from front to back with soft toilet tissue should offer the best chance to keep clean and avoid causing damage to the skin around the anus.

Sources:

UNICEF. "International Year of Sanitation 2008: Overview." http://unicef.org. 2008.

The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. "Pruritis Ani.” https://www.fascrs.org/ 2017.

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