Bidet vs Toilet Paper: Which is Better?
The importance of toilet paper in modern society (and the high demand for this product) was clearly shown when the pandemic began in 2020. However, even before packs of toilet paper were swept from shelves by panicking crowds, it played a significant role in people’s lives since the mid-1800s.
Frankly, it is no wonder that using toilet paper became the most popular and convenient way to clean up after using a bathroom: it is disposable, quick and effective. At the same time, the bidet, with a much longer history (its use began in France in the 1600s) did not gain the same popularity in Western cultures up until now. One of the main reasons,—besides the masterly marketed toilet paper,— is that American and Canadian bathrooms are not designed to fit an extra appliance. The second one is the habit of using toilet paper passed from generation to generation. Yet, times are changing and with more and more doctors bringing attention back to bidets and their health benefits, even devoted users of toilet paper are switching to a washing basin.
Moreover, the question still stands whether bidet is a more hygienic and gentle way than toilet paper. Another one is how much one can save by installing a bidet. And the third debate is which way is more environmentally friendly in a long run. Today, we are attempting to figure out whether it is worth a switch, and if developing a new habit of using a bidet would improve overall health and lifestyle.
Why Trust Us
Such a disputed topic of whether a bidet is better than toilet paper required thorough research. In order to acquire enough information about bidets and their benefits in personal, financial and environmental areas we found out what other publications say. For instance, Wirecutter had a chance to interview a doctor who discussed bidets from a health-related viewpoint.
Further, we analyzed what users of bidets had to say in reviews and personal blogs. Many of them reflected on the financial advantage of a bidet compared to toilet paper: in a long run a washing basin saved families a decent amount of money. Some others noticed an improvement in health concerns, be it skin irritation or hemorrhoids.
Finally, to be completely transparent, we learned about the downside of both, bidets and toilet paper. While the latter has more obvious cons (polluting production, risk of skin tear, and others), the former also involves a few factors you want to be considerate about.
The Way Bidet Works
For those who grew up in North America, toilet paper is the most familiar way to clean up as a bathroom ritual. Many Americans and Canadians find out about bidets only while travelling to places like Europe or Japan. Hence, a little explanation of how bidet works could provide a better idea of why using it can benefit one’s health.
Bidet uses a stream of water that sprays onto a butthole rinsing leftover fecal. Most modern bidets come with adjustable water temperature and pressure—an important factor to consider if you are worrying about a cold stream of water feeling too uncomfortable on your skin.
Bidets also require less effort to use (just push a button) than wiping with toilet paper. People with such conditions as hemorrhoids, arthritis, and anal fissures might find bites easier and less harmless to use.
In fact, as per some tests which independent users ran to compare toilet paper with bidets, the latter leaves cleaner results. Stream of water removes post-poop residue, rather than smearing it around the area with toilet paper.
Depending on your budget and expectations you can get any bidet from the simple, straightforward one to a new futuristic version. Those come with heated seats, multiple nozzles, blow drying, and even background noises.
Depending on the toilet paper you use and the pressure you apply while wiping, it can cause anal tears. Abrasive dry toilet paper and hard wiping are not the best combinations on thin and delicate anus skin, which results in bleeding and pain.
Meanwhile, a bidet is considered healthier than wiping based on the fact that water is less abrasive than paper. As per many reviewers who switched from paper to rinsing, the main difference was noticed in relieved irritation and discomfort on sensitive skin. (Especially during a menstrual period, pregnancy, hemorrhoids and for seniors.) However, the bidet might cause tearing as well, if not used properly. Keep in mind that blasting with a jet of water is more unpleasant than frequently wiping with toilet paper.
Speaking of health, bidet offers another advantage. Using a bidet reduces the risk of hand-to-fecal contact which is often inevitable while wiping with toilet paper. That works the opposite way as well: we constantly touch objects and surfaces, and keeping hands away from the anus helps to spread fewer germs. For instance, such bidet as Tushy comes with a nozzle wash feature that self-cleans outside of the nozzle so you do not even have to touch it. (Tushy is an attachment that gets screwed underneath your existing toilet seat, so all residue from butt washing goes straight into the toilet.)
Thinking of several rolls of toilet paper that every household in Canada uses, there is no question that bidet does not leave the same carbon footprint. The production of toilet paper causes deforestation and energy consumption. And if deforestation sounds like a significant issue, then cutting down ancient forests (mostly from the ancient Canadian boreal forest) to produce more toilet paper paints an even scarier picture.
According to Join Good Side, “around one-third of the pulp that goes into making tissue products comes from this area—and the tissue sector is the fastest-growing market in the paper and forest products industry.”
At the same time Canadian forests are essential in fighting against climate change, (it stores almost twice as much carbon in its soil as the Amazon rainforest), and collecting necessary pulp for toilet paper production creates a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Add to it plastic packaging, shipping and overall waste, and a realization that every roll of toilet paper comes at a great cost becomes evident.
Fortunately, modern technologies allow some solutions to this problem: not all toilet paper is made through the deforestation process. Such brands as No.2, Seventh Generation, PlantPaper, Naturally and others produce toilet paper from recycled and eco-friendly paper products.
At the same time, a bidet is not entirely a zero-waste cleaning way. However, the amount of used water still cannot be compared to toilet paper. (Think used resources.) For instance, it takes about 37 gallons of water to produce a single roll of toilet paper. Meanwhile, a bidet uses around 1.3 gallons of water per week, depending on the frequency of using a bathroom.
Bottom line? No method of cleaning up is completely carbon-free. Bidet uses water that has to be filtered, treated and delivered, and its extra features such as a heated seat and dryer require electricity. Yet, it does not even get closer to the polluting manufacturing process that goes into making toilet paper.
Price to Pay
“A new study has revealed that the average Canadian uses 630 km of toilet paper in their lifetime, putting the country in 11th place when it comes to global TP usage,” says DH News.
Hence it comes down to somewhere between 2-3 rolls per week, which makes it about 150 rolls per year. Even if each roll approximately costs 80 cents, the price for toilet paper at the end of the year for a family of four would be around $330.
Now to the bidet’s cost. In a long run, it can be a cost-effective investment as a gallon of used water costs much less than one roll of toilet paper. For instance, a toilet-mounted sprayer can be bought for around $100, thus the expense will be covered in less than a year (especially if you have a large family). Speaking of a larger family, if you decide to switch to a bidet you might want to consider installing it in every bathroom. In such a scenario, a high price for toilet-mounted bidets can seem intimidating. However, when compared to the previously mentioned cost of toilet paper per family, it proves, bidets are worth it.
Moreover, if you decide to upgrade and install a floor-mounted toilet bidet, that can cost somewhere around $2000. Those often come with extra features like warm water and premium finishes.
Before we continue to the downside of bidets, it is important to understand that based on the advantages they offer, it is obvious how much more superior bidets are compared to toilet paper. While it might seem like a novel way to clean up after going to a bathroom, many other cultures realized the benefits of bidets long ago and normalized their use in their lifestyles.
A Bidet’s Downsides
Surely, the bidet sounds convincing enough. However, before committing to such a step up in hygiene, (and a bathroom upgrade), keep in mind the following factors.
Issue 1: Strong setting
Several bidets, especially those without extra features come with a setting that is strong enough to penetrate the anus. “It’s possible that the warm water might irritate the urethra if squirted directly at it,” as per Wirecutter. The hot water directed straight at sensitive areas can cause a burn in the perianal region. Of course, it is unlikely to happen because most bidet seats heat water to a lukewarm comfortable temperature. Yet, it is recommended to use bidets with caution, and always make sure it has no defects.
As for health concerns, while using a bidet (whether personal or helping someone who needs assistance with cleaning), including hemorrhoids and fissures, as well as irritated skin, check with your physician before using a bidet.
Issue 2: Cleanness level
Although bidet companies claim that using a stream of water to clean up will provide better results by reducing germs, there is no solid evidence for that statement. Many users of bidets noted that a combination of both water stream and toilet paper delivers the best results. Besides, if there is no irritation or other health issues with your bottom, most likely it is in a healthy condition, perfectly fine with the level of microbes on it.
On the other side, if you have noticed an itching reaction after using toilet paper, talk to your doctor and avoid the main trigger (bleached or hash toilet paper). As a bidet might seem like a solution in case of an itchy butthole, keep in mind to use it only on a low setting, and blow dry after washing, instead of using cloth or paper).
Right here we also want to mention that an uneven nozzle may cause infections in the vagina’s microflora. That especially concerns bidets with viruses or bacteria in the nozzle. But more so bidets can aggravate and deprive normal microflora (that technically cleans itself), as well as bring in infection of fecal bacteria.
Issue 3: Installing
If you are going for toilet-mounted, seats or hand-held sprayers they are fairly easy to install. However, even such a simple process requires at least a general idea of plumbing. While it is possible to do it on your own by following a few steps, the installation of a standalone or floor-mounted bidet should be trusted by professional plumbers.
Issue 4: Wet clothes
For first-time users, a bidet might be tricky to use. If you are not careful, or the stream was set to high pressure you are risking getting your clothes wet. As it is a watery process, make sure to pull your clothes below your waste, otherwise, the stream can leave you with water stains after cleaning up.