The Healthiest Way to Wipe Your Butt

Hands holding toilet roll
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Keeping clean after a bowel movement and washing hands 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 transmission of some microbes, such as the hepatitis A virus. Stool contains thousands of microbial species 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 ingest the bacteria. This can happen if someone who is ill with an infectious disease doesn't wash their hands properly after a bowel movement.

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 an arm around the body, behind the back, and then forward between the legs is often the best method. This is especially true for women, to avoid causing any stool to come in contact with the urethra.

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 of the close proximity of the anus and the urethra is a factor in the development of 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, handwashing 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 or Too Little

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. Not wiping enough, and leaving stool on the body after a bowel movement, could also lead to irritation in the anal area.

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 seen by a doctor. Possible medical reasons for the itch include yeast infections and 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. The use of wet toilet paper for gentle wiping and wearing loose clothing may also be helpful. Over-the-counter barrier creams (emollients) such as A&D ointment may also be used, but creams containing steroids (hydrocortisone) and Preparation H should not be used unless instructed by a physician.

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.

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